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.
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.
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!