Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bruce Freeman Rail Trail and SKS Longboard fenders

The days in July are just long enough to go for a ~60km (40mi) ride after work. I need about 3 hrs to complete such ride and if I leave my work at 5pm, I should be back home shortly before it gets dark.

With this in mind, I decided to explore my northern neighborhoods and visit the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail connecting Lowell with Carlisle. The trail is fully paved, so no off-road riding this time. We had a cloudy day yesterday, but we didn't get any rain. Well, at least not until 5pm, so knowing my luck this week, it started raining shortly after I left my office and pretty much didn't stop until I got home, 60km later. Having said that, I was very happy I didn't take my rain shell with me. Wearing it would just make me sweaty and even though my wool shirt was completely wet after a while, it didn't matter at all. The day was hot, very humid with no wind. The rain was misty and mild. My shirt was wet but I didn't even realize it until I took it off at home.

Since the rain felt more like a gentle water spray, the water falling down from the sky didn't matter that much. The bigger issue was the water on the ground. That's why I was really happy that I installed fenders on my bike recently. When I was looking for fenders, I wasn't sure which model would work best for me. Aluminum fenders are durable but heavy. Chromoplastic ones are relatively lightweight, but may be flimsy and short-lived. I decided to buy something inexpensive first, just to see how I would like having fenders on my bike, knowing that I may have to buy more durable fenders in the future.
I bought SKS Longboard that cost just $35 but as their name indicates, are long. And this is good. As you can see in the picture above, the coverage is excellent and rubber mud flaps are greatly reducing chances of being sprayed. Fenders are very lightweight, being made out of plastic, and the only metal parts are the steel stays. Installing Longboards was relatively easy, although I had to make some adjustments with the rear one. The frame on my  Lemond Poprad has mounting points at the brake bridge and the dropouts, but no chainstay bridge. Plus, there was not enough space between the chainstays to fit the fender. I purchased the 45mm wide fenders to go with 35mm tires on my bike. The chainstay space was only 40mm. I had to cut the fender a little bit on each side. Since the fender is plastic, that part was easy.
A bit more complicated was to figure out how to secure the bottom end of the fender. After playing with different p-clamps, I decided to use the easiest solution and simply zip-tie it to the frame. May not look too pretty, but it works. Nothing rattles.

In general, Longboards work quite well. My feet stay dry, my bike was clean. The only parts of the bike I had to clean after the ride was the chain and the cassette. If I had to complain about these fenders, I would say that the biggest problem with Longboards is their stiffness. Or the lack of it. The fenders don't rattle, but they are not self-supported. The plastic is flexible and that's why plastic fenders need 2 stays on each side of the wheel instead of just 1 as you would see on aluminum models. There is an advantage of flexible fenders, though. In case of a collision (as if some object gets between the fender and the wheel), the plastic fender would simply deform. That may save you from falling. On the other hand, because these fenders are so flexible, my front rubber mud flap once got caught between the fender and the tire and as a result got torn a bit. Next time SKS, stiffer mud flaps please. Having said that, for $35, the Longboards are a decent choice.
Now going back to the Bruce Freeman Trail. Since this bikeway was built in place of railway tracks, you can expect it to be flat and straight. It really feels just like a long sidewalk. Reminds me our local Minuteman Trail a lot. Not surprising - the Minuteman was built in place of the railway as well.
What I did like it a lot, and it is something I didn't see on Minuteman Trail anywhere, was the bike repair station. Self-repair, of course. I loved the idea of a bike rack, with a bunch of handy tools and a pump anyone in need can use.
Tomorrow is time for another bike ride. Let's hope the muggy weather goes away soon.


  1. In the spring of 2013 is when I started riding a bike. I discovered the Bruce Freeman tail and rode it at least 3 times a week. I have rode it at various times of the day and always find it a real pleasure. If you are just starting out bike riding I highly recommend this trail.
    Thanks for sharing this post!
    Pamela Stevens

  2. The third picture is good. How you can capture it? I want to learn how to do one or the other. Thank for your post!

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