Aluminum Fender Installation Tips

Installing rigid aluminum fenders is a process that differs more than you would think from the installation of plastic mudguards, whether they be of modern variety or vintage.  In fact, setting up fenders and racks can take more time than ALL of the other steps involved in making a bicycle mechanically sound and rideable, or building up a frame from scratch.

There are only a few resources on the web that will help with this process, and one of them is from the Jitensha shop in San Francisco. The guidance at Jitensha is helpful to anyone setting up aluminum fenders.  While Jitensha’s advice deals specifically with Honjo fenders, it translates across most other aluminum fender installations.

In addition to the other tools you might need (drill, punch, hacksaw or dremel, and file), a deburring tool shown above is also helpful.  You’ll also need stays and a set of fender hardware, plus you’ll need to consume a few bottles of Belgian Ale or Champagne (see below).  Yes, this is a very difficult task.


If you are working on a bike with newer dropouts, they may not be designed to allow for the fender stays to clear the wheel axle nut. The eyelets on the dropouts shown above are from my new Rivendell Appaloosa frame.  While these eyelets look robust, and it is nice to have two on the front and the rear, their position is in stark contrast to dropout eyelets on vintage bicycles, as you can see from the example below.

Properly positioned dropout eyelets allow the fender stays to clear the frame, thus making set up of the fenders much easier.  Such eyelets allow the rider to change tire widths without having to replace the stays.  In the case of my new Rivendell, it was necessary to cut the stays to the exact length necessary to accommodate the tire size I’ve chosen for this bike.  That means that if I want to change tire width, I’ll have to install a new set of stays.  That is just one example of the difference between modern plastic fenders and their aluminum counterparts.  Plastic fenders have the stay adjustment at the fender, and not at the dropout.

Recessed brake nut instead of 10 mm lock nut – adds additional length to the daruma bolt

Plenty of room for a large cork spacer.

My Rivendell is the rare bike with HUGE clearances front and rear. I will be using 38 mm tires for my build on this bike frame (which can accept up to 55 mm tires). That means that my fender line is going to need some large spacers (of the Champagne and Belgian Ale cork variety – life is hard!).  Even on a bike with regular clearances the front fender daruma bolt is often too short to provide the length needed for the width of the spacer at the fork crown.  The solution is to use a recessed brake nut to extend the length of the daruma bolt.  The photos above show how this works.

For the front fender installation, it is easiest to turn the bike upside down.  You can see from the photo above that the cork spacer consumes almost the full length of the daruma bolt.  That’s where the recessed brake nut comes in handy.

The champagne cork spacer is shown above, as installed.  The extra width helps to set up a proper front fender line for my chosen 38mm tire size.

I also used a Velo Orange leather flap on the front fender, as shown above.  The flap sits low to the ground and will help to keep debris off my frame and bottom bracket.

Rear fender line in excellent shape, thanks to the cork spacers.

Champagne, anyone?

Porteur rack has fender attachment – a nice feature.

Belgium Ale cork spacer

With the front fender now properly spaced, the rear fender set up proved easier.  Again, because of the positioning of the eyelets on the dropouts, it was necessary to cut the stays to the exact length needed for my 38 mm tires.  Champagne or Belgium Ale corks respond well to a metal file, so they can be shaped to follow the curve of the fender.  My porteur style rack allows for a fender attachment, as shown above.  I’ll wait to set that up until I’ve test-ridden the bike and adjusted all of the accessories and components.  Meanwhile, I’m going to enjoy a glass of Champagne!

8 thoughts on “Aluminum Fender Installation Tips

  1. I’m glad to see that the Studio Jintensha is still in business. I had them sort out issues with my 1985 League Fuji. (I was getting wobble at 25 mph. Turns out to be me causing the wobble.)

  2. Nicely done, and thanks for the resources I check out Jitensha/Honjo before I attempt a fender install. Aluminum fenders look fantastic but what a PIA in install and get the proper fender line. Like you I plan for it to take a loooong time.

  3. Very good info and nice work. Timely too as I’m just starting on an aluminum fender install on a 1970’s Peugeot UO-18 mixte. The issue I’m having is it’s a conversion to 700cx35c and the “proper” fender line wouldn’t allow me to remove the rear wheel due to the semi-horizontal dropouts. It’s also an IGH with a rollerbrake so there’s lots to unhook already. Any suggestions for a clip-on arrangement at the chainstay bridge?

    • Interesting problem. Deflating the tire is necessary when clearances are tight on the rear triangle with a fender installed. Beyond that I think there is a spacer called a “spring thing” which might work at the chain stay bridge. Try Velo Orange.

      • Great idea Nola! As stated in VO’s blog post, it’s not an original idea, but should work perfectly for my project. I’m sure I can come up with one between my parts stash and the hardware store.
        Really love your blog and restorations. I am not as pure with mine and satisfy myself with a retro look along with some modern conveniences mixed in. “Neo-Retro” is the term I believe. I also do a live show on teaching basic bicycle mechanics and was wondering if you would have any interest in being interviewed?


  5. The recessed nut and cork idea is brilliant! I’m fitting some Honjos on a Motobecane that I’ve converted to 650, and I was stuck until I read this post. Thanks!

Leave a Reply