Thursday, March 28, 2019

A Fender Bender in San Jose

Note: Please donate to help send my yoga teacher's stepdaughter to NASA Space Academy - and ask your friends to do the same. Like the rest of you I am thoroughly embarrassed the all-women spacewalk was cancelled due to a lack of properly sized spacesuits to go around. Let's send Zhea to Space Academy and we'll make sure there are EVA suits that fit her when the time comes. Thanks. 

Sticking with my promise to ride a bike home from work - about 11 miles away - at least once a week hasn't been the easiest thing to stick to this Bay Area winter. My city bike has put up with a lot of abuse being out in the rain - and apparently I have too.

I have a Pearl Izumi rain jacket I bought quite a few years ago for the Five Boro Bike Tour in New York. Even in the slightest amount of San Jose rain I look as though I was commuting from my office to my home by being dragged by a wild pig.

For the longest time I assumed the rear rack on the city bike was doing double duty as a fender. It was not. The Novara bag on the back also persistently looked like I had picked up on while beachcombing at low tide. 

So I needed a fender, and as usual I thought the clearest path to get one consisted of rummaging through boxes in my shop until I found the one filled with them. In the past - either when I misplaced the box or was inspired by a piece of found material - I've made fenders.

I do hope the Tesla driver whose car droppings I found swept into a pile on Santa Teresa Boulevard wasn't hurt badly when he or she crashed, but the I-am-good-for-the-planet-hear-me-drive-off-silently 'brag tag' I found was put to good use on my California Cargo Bike

Good job, Elon Musk: those really are made from high quality plastic. 

Anyway: despite my assurances this past weekend that a large box of fenders existed, it did not - but my shop has been in such sorry shape lately it still seems possible to be in there somewhere.

What I did have was a piece of 1/4" foam PVC about 4' long and almost three inches wide. Foam PVC is a useful material that is available at Tap Plastics on The Alameda (not far from ACE Hardware). Its pretty strong for its light weight and can be bent into different shapes with the aid of a heat gun.

I reached for my coping saw. Unable to find it (the shop really is in bad shape) I used my ornery single-speed jigsaw to make the sloppy-looking cuts you see before you.

Stuck in the tab behind the kickstand, I found a screw that would hold it in place. With that done, I tried bending the PVC into more of a fender-shape.

The brake was in the way so I notched out a space to make the fender thinner so it could fit underneath. When I did this I was careful to make sure it wouldn't affect the brake in any way once it was finally in place. 

A spring clamp held it in place on the aluminum rack while I carefully drilled through it with a rather dull drill bit. Not wanting to break my year-plus long streak of not getting a flat on the city bike, I put another scrap of PVC between the fender embryo and the tire. 

Next was the bending. My $40 heat gun sprang to life for this bit. I protected the tire from the heat with a shop towel as I waved the gun a few inches from the PVC - focusing on the top section where the mounting point was. 

Before long I had something that looked kinda almost maybe like a fender. I finished the look with a few red reflective stickers and felt like I was done. 

Granted the rain has been spotty this week - and I was caught in the space between annoyed and amused when I rode home the other day and it started raining thirty seconds after I pushed the bike into the workshop. But there have been enough puddles for me to ride through to test the fender out. Here are the results.

And there we have it. So the moral of the story is if you have a box of fenders, try not to lose it. Otherwise, you may be forced to make a fender yourself. Ride on - and help send Zhea to space while we wait for the weather to improve. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 


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