Tuesday, March 01, 2016

WW4M: Planet Bike Cascadia ALX Fenders

Cascadia ALX fenders as mounted to my Black Mountain Cycles "Monster Cross" bike.
WW4M stands for "What Works For Me". This is a review of a product I found extremely useful, that lives up to its billing, and provides a good value. Your mileage may vary.

I used to think fenders were kind of dorky and a waste of time. I wasn't about to use them, that is, until I reviewed a set of Planet Bike Cascadia 29 fenders for my old web gig. I liked them so much, I didn't take them off the Karate Monkey until the bottom bracket went bad, then they lived on my Gen 1 Fargo for a bit, then they finally died after being put on the 1X1. They were a plastic constructed fender, and I thought they worked really well. So well that I bought a few sets of the Hardcore fenders for my gravel bikes as well.

So, yeah......you could say I am a fender convert. Mudguards are cool! Well, when you need them, that is. I basically was okay with the idea as long as they were necessary, but the second that they weren't, I was removing them. They clattered and made various noises all the while as I rode. The Cascadia and Hardcore designs in their original forms are very functional, but they had their drawbacks, and along with the noise, a lack of coverage was also one of my main nits with the fenders. I noted how that the front Hardcore fender would allow spray to coat my drive train, and I thought that coverage a little further down the wheel would save me from that. So, while they did a decent job, they weren't something I was willing to live with if I didn't have to.

Planet Bike Cascadia ALX fenders come in a variety of sizes. These are the 700c wide version.
So, when I was asked if I wanted to give the new Cascadia ALX fender a go, I agreed. I was told that these would be all aluminum and steel construction, and I was very curious as to what that would do to the feel and performance of the design. The $64.99 fenders were not only made from metal, but also had a new "V" stay design instead of separate stays like the regular Cascadia amd Hardcore fenders had. The hardware is all stainless and preinstalled, so installation was a snap, unlike other, "boutique" aluminum fenders which can take hours to install. The 100mm rubber extension flaps are double riveted for secure fit and function. They even meet EN Standards for fenders, so I guess someone "officially" gave these a stamp of approval, which is somewhat comforting to know.

I had these installed in about 10 minutes and the fit on my Black Mountain Cycles "Monstercross" bike was spot on. I allowed a bit of "breathing room", not running them right down on my 40mm tires, so that mud and gravel had an "escape route" if either should come around the top of the tire. My BMC is a cantilever equipped bike but these fenders are also compatible with disc brakes and the hardware to fit these to a disc brake bike is included. The BMC looked sharp with the new, metal fenders, and they weren't really a whole lot heavier than the previous ones I was using. Okay then.....on to riding with these things! 

Clearance and plenty of adjustability. Those are 40mm Maxxis Ramblers. 

The extra long rubber extensions are nice for that little bit of extra coverage.
The rides I have had with these fenders on are remarkable for the lack of any evidence that I have fenders on without having to look at them. They are quiet. Dead quiet. No rattles, no sideways motion that causes contact with tires. The "V" stays and the more rigid overall design of the aluminum fender helps keep the Cascadia ALX from flapping around like the plastic Hardcore or Cascadia fenders have a tendency to do. There is definitely more coverage as well. I noticed far less splash up onto my drive train, and I tried running through every mud hole and water puddle I could find.

I know I posted this image Sunday that you see to the left here, but it is a great example of how tough these fenders are, and how rigid they are. The mud jammed so hard between the fender and tire when I hit the Level B it stopped me dead in my tracks, but the fenders stayed rock solid. Even with all the mud and snow packing in between the fender and tire, the stays held and the fenders never buckled or gave any sign other than that of a solid component.

Now I am convinced- these fenders are the ones to get. They beat the other plastic fenders hands down and are priced competitively with the other metal fenders of this type. They are easier to set up than the other metal fenders out there like these, but maybe are not as "customizable" as those are. I'm fine with that, I'm not running a custom made, "garage queen" bike, I'm riding something that I need to be easy to set up and deadly functional. Those other metal fenders are cool and all, but I also need the flexibility to adjust these to the tires and intentions of my rides as I see fit. This isn't a "one and done" set up here.

So, while the Planet Bike Cascadia ALX fenders won't garner you any "NAHBS points", they are easier to set up, easier to adjust after installation, and work at least as well as the competitions at a comparable price. I'll take that and the quiet, solid performance I have gotten so far. They may not be your cup-o-tea, but they work for me. Oh......and I just may leave these on all year.

Note: Planet Bike sent the Cascadia ALX fenders to Guitar Ted Productions at no charge for me to try out. They weren't expecting a review, and I wasn't paid, nor bribed for this post.


Andrew Jones said...

Hi Guitar Ted,

are the PlanetBike Cascadia ALX fenders still your go-to? I have a 2016 Raleigh Tamland with 40mm MSO tires and am looking to get some fenders on it. I was planning on the VeloOrange 52mm Zeppelin but am hoping to get your thoughts as you have been riding a Tamland for number of years now.


Guitar Ted said...

@Andrew Jones- Yes, I do still like using those fenders and they have been on the Black Mountain Cycles rig since this review.

Be careful on the Tamland. 40mm tires do not leave much room underneath the fork crown. I would be surprised that the 40mm Clement tires don't leave a lot of room underneath that crown and with metal fenders that are not very conducive to modifications, I would be hesitant to buy in to any fender without trying something first. I had to cut the front section of Planet Bike's plastic/aluminum fenders off because I could not pass the fender under the crown without it rubbing on the tire.

So, that has been my experience and I did not put the ALX fenders on the Tamland I have due to my wanting to be able to run big tires.