Bicycle, Gear, Reviews

Review: PDW Full Metal Fenders.

It turns out that bikes work in the rain- who knew!?

Portland Design Works.  That’s who.

When you live and ride in the Northwest, you have to be prepared to get a little wet sometimes.  For me that has meant switching over to the porteur bike for the winter, giving up the faster road bike for 32c tires, full fenders and a bike that weighs 10+lbs more.  Maybe I’m a wimp.  Though better than nothing- fenders like Raceblades™ and seatpost mounted fenders are far from ideal.  They reduce the “racing stripe” up the back, but your feet still get soaked.  Like my mom always said “Sometimes you just have to be a man and shit in your pants.” Sorry Mom, but it’s downright uncomfortable to ride in the wet without full fenders.

Anyone that has tried to fit full fenders on a road bike knows that it can be a challenge.  Clearances can be tight and most performance oriented road bikes (whether it be steel, aluminum or carbon) don’t provide braze-ons.  The process can be frustrating indeed.  Many people choose to have a shop install their fenders- preferring to have someone with more experience get crafty with saws, pliers, clamps and a bit of luck.

I asked Facebook a question about fender options for my Raleigh Record Ace and got a lot of responses.  Honjos, Planet Bike, Crud, Raceblade XL; then Kevin from Portland Design Worksblew my mind by posting a link to their new fenders.  Long story short- I made the phone call and the fine folks at PDW took care of me with a bit of a discount.  (I only had to promise one bottle of Night Train and to tattoo a picture of Kevin’s face on my inner thigh.) We got them ordered and they showed up in two days along with a sweet cap and some office printed stickers of Freddie Mercury that now adorn the walls in my shop.

Portland Design Works– started in 2008 and has been consistently bringing innovative new products to market that fill gaps in what is currently available.  They now offer what I feel is the best looking option for folks that would like to ride their performance road bike in the rain.  Enter the Dragon PDW Full Metal Fenders™.  At $120, they may well cost more than other fender options.  But I think this is one example of getting what you pay for.  Read on.

I’ll admit- I was nervous about how the install was going to go.  I enlisted the help of Bryan Clark- GMG contributor, owner/founder of Emerald City Bicycles and possessor of soft, silky, luxurious red hair.  He was interested in the fenders  from a technical/installation standpoint- so as the rain fell outside, he broke into the project and I took some photos and drank his beer.

PDW is about design.  I mean you can’t have Portland Design Works without “design” right? From the product itself to the packaging- the Full Metal Fenders are impressive.  The instruction book is informative and gives you some nice blank pages to take notes or draw dirty pictures in the back of it.  I chose the latter.

Made of anodized aluminum- they are a sort of a gunmetal grey- real classy and they look amazing on the Record Ace.  They are stiff & structurally sound- which in comparison to some of the competitors, is a good thing.  Many of the plastic fenders are floppy and seem like they would rub or hit the tire when going over bumps.

Bryan made short work of the installation- he got it done in 2.5 beers time. The only customization he had to do was bend the figure eight washers around the coping on the rear dropouts.  Being stainless steel they were pliable and formed around well.  I haven’t had a flat in the near 200 miles I’m approaching with the fenders installed.  That’s a good thing because the only (seemingly unavoidable) drawback- if you can even call it that- is that when you remove the wheel- you must remove your skewer- as the other part of the washer is attached to the fender struts.  Definitely not the end of the world- and it does keep everything tight when your wheel is in place- it’s just a trade off that you make if you want fenders on your road bike.  It is a fair trade when the alternative is P-clamps or some weaker fastening method.


If you want stout fenders that look good, work well and you are prepared to pay a little bit for them- the Full Metal Fenders by Portland Design Works are your ticket to ride.  Are they worth $120?  With close to 200 miles mine- I’m going with a firm “Yer darn tootin’!”

I’ve heard that they’ve been running low on supply- so get them while you can.  We are just pulling into winter here in the Northwest and yes- your bike DOES work in the rain.  Thanks to Bryan and Emerald City Bicycles for the installation and beers.  If you are looking for a guy that’s good with a wrench, loves bikes and is really friendly to folks that may not know everything there is to know about bicycles- holler at him.  A real straight shooter, that guy.  Thanks PDW for the love and also thanks for continuing to make great products.  If you could just have been Seattle Design Works- I would love you forever.

They’ve even got a handy-dandy video to help on installation:

Full Metal Fender installation from PDW on Vimeo.

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