Joe Bike

Becky Jo’s Carfree Life: Deep Dive 2 – Fenders and Pedals

Posted by on March 24th, 2020 at 2:27 pm

dirty high top Vans

Becky Jo’s Vans after 4 months.
(Photos: Becky Jo)

In the Pacific Northwest it looks like we’ve hit that time in spring when we alternate sunny weeks with rainy weeks, which gets me thinking about what changes are in store for biking in spring. Does anything even need to change?

For example, you’ve helped me join the biking community in winter, arguably the worst time of year to commit to being car-free. I took your advice and got a bike rack, water-resistant panniers, better suited clothing, and bike fenders. It took me a bit to figure out the wet-pedal situation. I was thiiiiis close to replacing my pedals, when for my birthday in January I got myself a pair of the snazzy all-weather Vans. These have been a life-saver. They have enough tread grip I no longer noticed my stock-pedals being slippery, and the water resistance and high-top saved my feet and ankles. As you can see, in less than 4 months, they look like they’ve been around. I found out later the Bike Shop Girl in Colorado recommends them too for winter cycling, which made me feel like I’m getting this bike thing down.

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However, high-tops during summer do not sound like a good idea. Anticipating sunnier weather, what do you do? Do you find low-profile, grippy shoes? Do you prefer a more grippy pedal? My regular Vans slip off the pedals, and I changed out the pedals on my kid’s bike to grippier ones so she could pedal in her low-tread shoes. What’s your school of thought here? And maybe this is a vapid question, but what do you wear as shoes on August days? Sandals?

Signs of spring on a grocery run.

While we’re talking spring, what about your fenders? I really thought fenders come off in the spring, but maybe that’s not true? I had the bike shop put them on, and I don’t trust myself yet to take them off, but come to find out many people don’t take them off. What do you do? Do you leave them on? Why or why not?

As always, thank you so much for hanging out with me here.

— Becky Jo, @BeckyJoPDX
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41 Comments
  • Avatar
    David Hampsten March 24, 2020 at 2:44 pm

    Fenders look dorky, so I leave mine on year-round to discourage thieves, plus I live in a hot humid climate where we periodically get heavy rain in the summer.

    I find Keens ideal as rain shoes/sandals – they’re super stiff, waterproof, OK for walking, and comfortable with or without socks. I periodically powder them with talcum to help eliminate odor, but I also scrub them with soap and water once in a while too.

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 24, 2020 at 2:52 pm

      OMG David did you really just say fenders look “dorky” and then say keens are “ideal”.. hahaha LMAO over here!

      (just having some fun. no offense meant to keen lovers.)

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      • Becky Jo (Columnist)
        Becky Jo (Columnist) March 24, 2020 at 3:08 pm

        David, as I type here at my standing desk in clogs, I’m not too proud to look dorky. ^5

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        David Hampsten March 24, 2020 at 3:20 pm

        Even when I lived in Portland, I always found that the more dorky-looking the bike, the less it gets molested by would-be thieves, which is still true here in NC. Dorkiness reduces the stylishness of any item without reducing it efficiency or intrinsic value.

        And yeah, I dress like a total dork, right down to my size 52-EEE shoes (16 US).

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    John Lascurettes March 24, 2020 at 3:05 pm

    I don’t take off fenders in good weather. First off, my fenders are metal and look nice, plus they’re integrated with my dyno and lighting system wiring. But I DO switch to my fender-less, “more fun” bike in good weather. 🙂 So I guess I have an all-weather bike and a fun, dry-weather bike.

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    • Becky Jo (Columnist)
      Becky Jo (Columnist) March 24, 2020 at 3:10 pm

      goals! hopefully by next winter I can get an ebike and just keep my little miata (what I’ve come to lovingly refer to my road bike as) for dry days.

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        John Lascurettes March 24, 2020 at 3:34 pm

        Heh. Names for bikes. My all-weather workhorse is named Nigel because he “goes all the way to 11” with his Alfine 11 internal-gear hub. And my fair-weathered bike is Felicia, as in “bye, Felicia!” because she’s a very fast-accelerating, lightweight single-speed. 😀

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        • Becky Jo (Columnist)
          Becky Jo (Columnist) March 24, 2020 at 5:19 pm

          I love it! Maybe we need a light hearted, easy post where we all tell our bike name(s). 😀

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      Johnny Bye Carter March 25, 2020 at 2:17 pm

      Agreed, that I’m not going to take the fenders off my bike with the dyno. Integrated lighting is great in the summer when you’re traveling light in the cool nights and don’t have a pocket to put a bunch of lights in.

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    Jesse R March 24, 2020 at 3:12 pm

    To quote Bike Snob NYC – “See, it’s not that getting wet is a big deal. Really, it’s what you’re getting wet with. Even on the sunniest days New York City is awash with fluids, and these can range from benign substances like water from opened fire hydrants and spilled Snapple to more distasteful ones such as hot dog water and coffee spilled out by taxi drivers to the really horrific ones such as urine, garbage water, and vomit.” Fenders stay on for my in town bike year round. Full fenders, with flaps.

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      Michael Rioux March 24, 2020 at 5:46 pm

      A thousand, million, times this. Fenders aren’t for the rain, they’re to keep road smut off of your clothes.

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        El Biciclero March 25, 2020 at 10:30 am

        “they’re to keep road smut off of your clothes”

        …and off of your components, e.g., downtube-routed cables, front derailleur and road brake calipers.

        My trouble with fenders is “blow-back”; any speed over 10mph results in water thrown out the front and sides of my front fender blows right back on my feet and lower legs.

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          Jason March 25, 2020 at 10:48 am
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            El Biciclero March 26, 2020 at 2:18 pm

            Right. I have a DIY extra-wide mud flap made out of that plastic/nylon floppy 3-ring binder material. The stuff that gets me is from out of the sides of the fenders higher up, and the stuff thrown out the front at the top. All that blows right back on me unless I keep it under about 10 or maybe 15, which is hard to do on some of the downhills—and when I want to get where I’m going so I can get out of the rain. I went for a ride on Tuesday after the rain stopped, and came home with a dry down tube, wet shoes, and shins speckled with that slate gray road barf.

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      Johnny Bye Carter March 25, 2020 at 2:15 pm

      This is what I came here to post. The fenders aren’t for rain in the summer, but for all the other liquid grossness in the city that you don’t want splashed onto yourself.

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    I wear many hats March 24, 2020 at 3:42 pm

    Anyone that ever slipped off a pedal in flip flops knows to NEVER ride a bike in sandals unless you want road rash all over the top of your toes and foot.

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    • Becky Jo (Columnist)
      Becky Jo (Columnist) March 24, 2020 at 5:22 pm

      school of hard knocks! having had many mouthfuls of gravel and grass, a black eye from a laundry pole, and barbed wire scaring on my chest… it seems I never learn. 😀

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    David R Burns March 24, 2020 at 3:47 pm

    I’ve recently come to know the luxury of a shoe/glove drier. Shoes (and gloves) get wet, in the wet. But starting each trip dry helps a lot. For about $50 on Amazon, you can go from soaked to dry in 20 minutes, or moist to dry in 10.

    (Thanks to Clever Cycles and Tina in the Burbs).

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    Jrdpdx March 24, 2020 at 3:51 pm

    Any skateboard show year round. Get boot dryers. Fenders off. Junk wagons squeak and they are heavy, stash your lights too. Flat composite pedals for MTB bikes like the ISSI stomp or Race Face Chester are cheap durable and grippy.

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    • Becky Jo (Columnist)
      Becky Jo (Columnist) March 24, 2020 at 5:15 pm

      oh…. those Issi pedals are purty… but the others are more my tax bracket…thank you! those little spikey things on there will do it, eh?

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        Jrdpdx March 24, 2020 at 8:10 pm

        Buy the plastic ones on sale can get for less than $40 in your color. Last for years and stick to your shoes. I also wear Vans or adidas skate shoes

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    Jim Lee March 24, 2020 at 4:07 pm

    Never thought a Hampsten could look dorky.

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    Jason March 24, 2020 at 4:28 pm

    I prefer to use mudguards, or fenders if you will, year round. We live in Oregon and it rains here year round. Also, once you take fenders off, they can be difficult to keep from getting warped. If they are metal, no worries. Unless they get crushed or dented. But plastic ones are prone to getting misshapen if you stuff them under the couch. I mean, where would you store them if you live in an apartment?

    I’ve gone around the world on pedals. Started with flats, migrated to toe clips and eventually landed on clipless. Ever since I adopted clipless, I haven’t been able to go back to flats. Although, I’ve tried. My bias is to have a free connection with the “ground”. I’ve learned that while walking you want your foot to shift and flex through your stride, pedaling is not very different though. The reason bike shoes fix your foot is for stability, since (the theory goes) the pedal stroke is perpetual mid stride. Having excessive flex in a pedal stroke can cause injury in your legs, knees and hips.

    Although, I’ve been eyeing a pair of these:
    https://gearjunkie.com/shimano-vibram-bike-shoe

    In the summer, I wear Gyro Rumble VR shoes. Plenty of air flow, a softer sole and shank, but decent connection to pedal. You can get various sandals that accommodate an SPD cleat. SPD is probably the most forgiving, yet has good efficiency cleat. If you wanted to try clipless.

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    • Becky Jo (Columnist)
      Becky Jo (Columnist) March 24, 2020 at 5:13 pm

      I already have cutting mats under the couch.. lol. and yes, I do have metal fenders but I don’t trust I wouldn’t muck ’em up anyway if I took them off.

      I’m trying to avoid going clipless, although I see the points and it’s half dozen of one, six of the other, right? I have big feet for a woman and have actually hit my own front tire with my feet more than once – which wouldn’t happen if I was always placing my feet correctly as in a clip…

      but mom/kids/life doesn’t make specialized shoes very appealing either. tough call!

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        John Lascurettes March 24, 2020 at 10:29 pm

        I really enjoy a SPD hybrid pedal: SPD cleat clip-in on one side, flats on the other. Its actually surprising how fast you develop a sense of which side you’re accessing without even looking. The SPD side of the pedal tends to weight it one way or the other depending on crank and speed position. You kind of develop an intuitive sense after a while how to access the side you want without looking. Shimano has several models that have only gotten better over the years.

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        Jason March 25, 2020 at 5:57 am

        What you need is a pair of Don Martin shoes.

        https://pencilholder.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/completely_mad_don_martin_p038.jpg

        I can mildly relate, for me it’s heel kicking the paniers. I’ve had to keep an eye for that fit metric when buying rear racks. Another way to spend your way out of the front kick is get shorter cranks. But your probably just better off taking note of all the little issues you find. Then, the next bike you buy, remember those things while you test ride, and maybe list them out to the sales rep.

        Eventually, you’ll become familiar with the relationship between you and bike shapes.

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    dan March 24, 2020 at 4:39 pm

    I’ve used these or a similar product on my commuter for years. They’re great because you can wear pretty much any shoe you want but you still have a much improved connection to the pedal: http://www.rei.com/product/145000/eclypse-strapless-toe-clips

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    Cooper Williams March 24, 2020 at 5:38 pm

    I find Converse All-Stars great for summer because they are nice and thin but still high-tops.

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    • Becky Jo (Columnist)
      Becky Jo (Columnist) March 24, 2020 at 6:08 pm

      my feet are too wide for Converse…which is why I’ve been a Vans girl for almost 30 years. I fit a men’s 8.5 in Vans perfectly….but they do have thinner versions… but, to the point, are you saying it’s a good idea to keep high tops year-round? I could def see the argument for that…

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        John Lascurettes March 24, 2020 at 10:31 pm

        I’m an Adidas > Nike fan for my walking shoes for the same reason.

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        • Becky Jo (Columnist)
          Becky Jo (Columnist) March 25, 2020 at 2:35 pm

          I found I can wear Men’s NIKE runners…but I tend to run like a goofy ostrich (strong over pronate on right leg, less so on left), so generally go New Balance wides… which is partly why I was catching my fenders (mentioned elsewhere) because of the extra wide tread on over-pronator shoes, but still snag them every once in awhile with my Vans because I have zero grace. Is what it is I guess. I’m glad I opted for the mid-sized panniers because I rarely kick them.

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    Matt March 24, 2020 at 6:53 pm

    The Five Ten Freerider is a great cycling sneaker with plenty of grip, that has a similar aesthetic to Vans. Comes in a variety of colors. And my wide feet love ’em.

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    Doug Hecker March 24, 2020 at 8:26 pm

    I use the same shoes year round, some decent Pearl Izumi MTB clips and use neoprene socks exclusively. Why, because nothing truly is waterproof and the neoprene socks keep the toes warm even if the water penetrates them. Also, the Showers Pass waterproof socks are nice too.

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      John Lascurettes March 24, 2020 at 10:33 pm

      My wife bought me some neoprene socks for Christmas in 2018. I never ended out wearing them more than once. They were so tight and hot that I just sweat as much as I would have gotten wet. Unless it’s really cold, I find that it’s better (for me) to just wear wool socks for light rain and no socks for heavy rain (my shoes drain rather well).

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    GlowBoy March 25, 2020 at 9:43 am

    Definitely have moved *away* from clipless pedals over the last few years, except for actual technical mountain biking when it’s critical to keep your feet connected to your bike.

    Like Grant Peterson, I like the idea of being able to bike in normal shoes and clothing when practicable. Having to wear special shoes just to get on my bike was an impediment to riding.

    The other problem I was running into with clipless was that when I biked to work, I usually didn’t bother changing into normal shoes during the day, and wearing ultra-stiff-soled shoes all day was causing my feet all kinds of problems with planar fasciitis.

    Switching to flat pedals, I have also found it important to have as large a platform as possible. If I ride with the little pedals that come standard on most bikes, I find that hurts my feet too. Larger-platform pedals are much, much better. They’re also cheap, with a huge selection available under $25. Personally I like the plastic ones, which tend to have molded-in plastic studs that grip your shoes well, but don’t hurt anywhere near as much as metal studs if you bump your leg against them.

    For shoes, I’ve also found it to use moderately stiff-soled models like skateboard shoes: flexible enough to walk around in, but not too flexible so you spread the load out across your foot. I’d look for skateboard or BMX shoes if you’re looking to replace the high-tops you’ve been using through the winter.

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    GlowBoy March 25, 2020 at 9:46 am

    Fenders year-round. I ride a mountain bike with slicks anyway so it doesn’t look that dorky, as if I’d care. I swear by the SKS Shockboard/Shockblade/X-Blade series, which I’ve used for nearly two decades. Durable, featherweight, effective, easy to install (and remove, if you’re so inclined)

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    Johnny Bye Carter March 25, 2020 at 2:39 pm

    I bike in whatever shoes I’m wearing, usually something comfortable to walk in. Right now I’ve been wearing some SWIMS brand shoes. They’re great because they’re weatherproof, so just wear the appropriate socks. If they get dirty I hose them and scrub them off and set them on the heater vents to dry.

    For pedals I like the platform ones with rubber on top that I picked up from a LBS, like these City Platform Pedals: https://www.purecycles.com/products/city-platform-pedals

    They will grip anything, even bare feet, comfortably. The ones I have are a little more round and thus larger and more luxurious.

    I wouldn’t recommend wearing open-toed sandals with new pedals as you’ll likely be stubbing your toe on them a lot as you get used to where they are. But yes, wear anything you feel comfortable in. I probably wouldn’t wear loose shoes on a long ride.

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    Carrie March 25, 2020 at 2:47 pm

    I don’t like to ride in sandals in the summer because my feet still get too grimy. I have a pair of Ked-like shoes that I wear with the thinnest socks possible most summer days. Yes, they are a soft sole and not firm and yes you can feel the pedal though the sole, BUT they ‘stick’ to my pedals and when it’s a gazillion degrees I’m doing my best not to ride fast anyway, so it really doesn’t matter that my power transfer isn’t great.

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    Alan 1.0 March 25, 2020 at 2:56 pm

    I subscribe to Grant Petersen’s views on pedals, including that if you like clips, by golly you should use them. My one exception is a 70’s vintage roadster with contemporary toe clips. I ride in Crocs, sandals, tennies, hiking boots, and whatever else I might be wearing.

    I also have fenders on all my fleet except for a tandem. It’s for sunny days, and it has the fattest tires I could stuff in the frame (2.35″), so fenders might not fit anyway. I don’t take them off; one set has been on for about 40 years. They weigh next to nothing, they carry reflective tape, they’re there when I need them, and there are things I’d rather do than take them off and on.

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    Jason March 25, 2020 at 9:21 pm

    These are very perceptive points. I instinctively recoil from Joe’s word “withholding”, but I can’t rationalize a counterpoint. How you’ve explained the excruciating details seals the deal though. I can’t disagree that these are shortcomings. And you provide constructive framework to develop the conversation. Thank you.

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      Jason March 25, 2020 at 9:23 pm

      Wow… I bet you can’t fail as hard as me.

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