Fenders are an integral part of my own personal riding preference. Of the 10 or so bikes that I own, better than half of them have fenders on board. If they are ones I have built or have had built, I make sure there is room for fenders before I ever build them. The bikes that I own that do not have fenders on them typically do not have room under the brake bridges to include fenders as part of their daily appearance. For those bikes, I keep a set of SKS Race Blades (strap-on fenders) around so that if the weather has been unpleasant or wet, I can still keep the road grime off me and my drive train.
Why the fixation with fenders?
1. Protection from road grime and objects. I personally hate have road grime, small pebbles, and other garbage sticking to my legs. In the summer, I sweat enough that dirt and small stones stick to my legs and leave me looking as if I have unreasonably dark legs and nothing else. I also just don’t like feeling that sticky, if I can help it. Additionally, I don’t have to worry about the skunk-striped appearance of the back of my jacket or jersey if I have fenders on the bike.
2. Protecting paint and drivetrain. Fenders are good protection against things jumping into the drivetrain of your bike and also from keeping larger objects from impacting your down tube, fork crown, fork legs, and other areas. Fenders also will funnel water away from you and also your drivetrain should you be bicycling in foul weather. Instead of having wet, clammy feet that are uncomfortable and also having a wet and then rusted drivetrain, you will be some drier if you have fenders on the bike.
3. Appearance. Some bikes just beg for fenders. For instance – I have a late 70’s – early 80’s Kabuki Bridgestone HT that just absolutely begged for a set of fenders in chrome. I obliged, since I had an old set, and it really added to the vintage look of the bike, as well as adding the functionality of protection against the elements. I also have three touring bikes that wear fenders constantly (a giant OCR touring, custom-built Nashbar frame, and Salsa Fargo) and, to my eyes, wouldn’t look right without them. I’m also putting fenders on my Surly Troll just as a matter of personal preference.
Types of Fenders
I’ve ridden with many types of fenders. I’ve used everything from SKS Raceblades to Cascadias and multiple narrower styles on various types of bikes. Some were better than others. For instance, the Cascadias I have on the Fargo are some of the best I’ve had as far as coverage and prevention of wearing mud and objects. They were also some of the easier ones to install, even over disc brake mounts. The hammered Velo Oranges I have on the Nashbar touring frame, on the other hand, are quite attractive and get many compliments. Once they were properly fitted, they were fine, but they were hard to put on and required a lot of fiddly work to get them right. There have been several other types and styles, but they were close enough in type and size that those areas were non-issues. For the most part, if you have the proper size fenders for your brake bridge and tire size, the fenders will offer protection from the wet and also from dirt and other objects.
As far as added weight, most fenders are light enough that unless you are a road racing sort, or doing serious downhill, the weight is really a non-issue. If your bike has appropriate attachment points, you should consider adding fenders to your bike. For a minimum trade-off in weight, you can have reasonable protection from dirt and other elements while you ride.