For those of you who’ve been at this bikes for transport thing long will probably find me stating what seems obvious, but hopefully there will be some useful bits here and there.
For those of you are more interested in racing, than transport by bike, I hate to break it to you, but most of my recommendations aren’t going to make you any faster unless you’re riding on roads strewn with glass, thorns, and all kinds of nasty grime jonsin to take out your tires and drivetrain.
On with the show…
-Full coverage fenders (Stainless steel berthouds are my fav, although among plastics the PB Cascadias do pretty well)
Its hard not to look on my first winter commuting 25 miles each day with no fenders whatsoever and laugh. Its hard to believe there was a time when I would actually willingly ride that far through all the nasty stuff that winter produces, turning myself and my bike into a sandy mudpuddle on wheels. There’s nothing quite like getting to your destination looking like you saw a pile of slush on your way and couldn’t help but take a little wallow in it, or the fun of doing a thorough drivetrain cleaning every week. Now I never give the road conditions a second thought, as it all runs out the end of the fenders onto ground doing little to no harm to me or the bike
Why do I use Berthoud’s stainless fenders specifically? There are a couple reasons. For one thing, they don’t break near as often as the plastic or plastic/metal counterparts. I’ve had top of the line plastic fenders like SKS’ break in less than a year from fatigue. The second main benefit I find from them, is that once mounted up, they might as well not be there in the good sense. They don’t rattle, they don’t move, they don’t go out of alignment all the time. Surprisingly if you’ve never held a set in your hand, I also don’t think they’re any heavier. Lastly it doesn’t hurt that they look da bomb. If you want to give a bike some class real quick, these will do wonders.
-Mudflaps (real ones, not those vestigial types you see on many off the shelf fenders)
Real mudflaps were a bit of a revelation for me on a couple levels. My wife and I ride everywhere for transportation, and that rear flap makes group riding on wet roads an entirely different experience than otherwise. While full coverage fenders may keep her clean, they do little to keep me clean riding behind her without mudflaps. Now what I find to be the real strength of mudflaps, particularly the front, is that they keep 95% of spray off your feet AND your crank/bb area. These days between, full coverage fenders, mudflaps, and dumonde tech, my winter drive train maintenance is scarcely different than in summer. That is a beautiful thing. You don’t need a beater for winter riding, you just need good fenders and flaps and lube.
-Brooks saddles (we use the champion flyer, and B67) fair warning, big diatribe to follow…
Like most who’ve ridden extensively I’ve logged many miles on plastic shelled ti-railed race saddles (which if you’re still die hard set on that route, give koobi a look). Those saddles were light, I won’t deny that, but for regular high mileage, padded bike shorts were a non-negotiable. To me from a purely pragmatic standpoint, that combo is a little like putting lipstick on a pig. It doesn’t address the primary problem, the saddle is by design uncomfortable.
I, like many folks over the last few years decided to give a brooks a go on the recommendation of another. Man am I glad I did. These saddles truly are remarkable. My experience and that of folks I know first-hand who’ve tried them is that they are more comfortable right out of the box than any saddle previously. And after a couple thousand miles, it doesn’t even occur to you that it’s there because your interface with your bike is so seamless. I haven’t used padded shorts since I bought my brooks, even on tour where 5-6 hours of saddle time a day was common. There’s simply no need.
Now there are two things about brooks that I’ve found as faults, one they are admittedly heavy so if you’re a weight weenie, its gonna be hard to swallow unless you are willing to spring for one of the ti-railed variants. The bigger con in my book is the tendency to leach die if you don’t take certain measures. What this means is if you ride in khaki’s and use a brown saddle it can look like you have some bowel troubles. What I’ve done to combat this took me some research and testing to figure out, but now consistently does the trick.
I got some of this stuff , Obenauf's Saddle Goop, and use an application method I learned from someone in the military. I use a heat gun to get the leather toasty warm, then rub in a bunch of the goop. I repeat this procedure a few times until the outer layer is well saturated. I then let it dry and cool, then give it a good rub down with a cotton cloth. Ride it a couple times with something black that wont stain. At this point the saddle is good to go for at least a couple thousand miles before needing to repeat the procedure. I’d imagine you can probably accomplish this with a blow dryer on high heat. If any part of the saddle starts to lose its polished look after a couple thousand miles repeat the procedure especially in this area and you’ll be stain free even in the lightest of pants.