First Impressions: SKS Raceblade XL Fenders

It’s no secret that fenders make riding in the rain a hell of a lot more tolerable. But what if your bike doesn’t have the necessary mounting points, or clearance for traditional full-length fenders? Thanks to SKS-Germany’s Raceblade XL fenders, you can add wet-weather protection to nearly any bicycle.

SKS offers a staggering array of fenders (or mudguards, if you prefer). The company’s Raceblade line, originally intended for racing machines, has expanded to include the full-length Raceblade Long, and the model that we tested–the Raceblade XL. While the three models offer varying amounts of coverage and protection, they all feature mounting systems designed to accommodate hard-to-fit frames and forks.

GRAVELBIKE.com SKS Raceblade XL H+SON Archetype Kenda Kriterium Endurance Black Mountain Cycles CamelBak Shimano microSHIFT Speedplay Frog

No additional toe/wheel overlap, even with winter shoe covers.

The Raceblade and Raceblade XL share the same quick-release mounting system. Once configured, the fenders can quickly and easily removed or installed simply by unhooking the rubber fixing straps (no tools are required). If you don’t wish to remove the Raceblades, the included cable ties can be used for more permanent mounting. Even with the rubber fixing straps, the Raceblade XLs held securely over rough pavement and bumps. Whichever attachment method you choose, be sure to protect your frame and fork’s finish by using the included protective film.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel grinder SKS Raceblade

A single rubber strap can be wrapped “candy cane” style for additional security.

How much protection do the Raceblade fenders provide? While they don’t offer the coverage of a full-length fenders, the Raceblade XLs are more than adequate for fending off light rain, road spray, or snow melt. In those conditions, your feet and backside will stay dry, but because the rear fender doesn’t extend past the brake, expect some slop to make its way onto your bike’s seat tube and bottom bracket area. Our XL test samples easily accommodated 28mm tires, and weighed 350 grams for the pair (including rubber spoilers and mounting straps).

GRAVELBIKE.com SKS Raceblade XL H+SON Archetype Kenda Kriterium Endurance Black Mountain Cycles CamelBak Shimano microSHIFT Speedplay Frog

Silver Raceblade XL shown with rubber spoiler (mudflap) for additional protection.

 

Disclosure: SKS-Germany provided product samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.

First Impressions: Showers Pass Elite Pro Jacket

For yours truly, rain jackets fall into the Goldilocks category of cycling apparel. Some jackets are waterproof, but don’t breathe enough to keep you comfortable. Others offer superior breathability, but don’t offer enough protection for extended downpours. Showers Pass of Portland, Oregon, knows a thing or two about riding in the rain, and the company’s Elite Pro jacket succeeds in delivering the just-right blend of waterproofness and breathability.

GRAVELBIKE.com Showers Pass Elite Pro gravel grinder

Showers Pass constructs the Elite Pro from elite™ fabric using what they refer to as their trim cut. The end result is a fitted, lightweight (250g for men’s XL) jacket that still has some room for extra layers. The drop tail provides plenty of coverage when you get caught riding sans-fenders, and the shortened front hem reduces bunching when you’re in the drops. I would describe the jacket’s cut as form fitting, but certainly not Euro-Pro-tight. If you have long arms (like me), you thankfully won’t need to size up to get the proper sleeve length.

My first few rides wearing the Elite Pro jacket took place in mild weather (low- to mid-40′s) with light drizzle. On those rides, I made extensive use of the jacket’s core and exhaust vent zippers to stay comfortable. While I was initially skeptical of air flow cuffs’ capabilities, I found them superior to elasticated cuffs for increasing ventilation. The real test of the Showers Pass jacket, however, would be how it performed during extended periods of hard, steady rain that I often encounter on my evening commute. I’m pleased to report that the Elite Pro jacket came through in those conditions with flying colors. My torso remained dry in downpours so heavy that my cycling shoes would remain wet for several days.

Showers Pass offers the Elite Pro jacket in black or goldenrod (pictured above), and both colorways feature 360-degree 3M™ Scotchlite™ reflective material. Seams are taped for maximum protection, and the jacket can be packed into its ample rear pocket. Suggested retail is $230.

Disclosure: Showers Pass provided product samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.

First Impressions: Louis Garneau Bimax Shoe Covers

There’s a saying here in Colorado: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.” While our weather can–and sometimes, does–pull an abrupt about-face, I’ve found that the large daily temperature-swings can be even more challenging. In the fall, it’s not uncommon for morning commute temperatures to be in the low-40′s (or colder), with late-afternoon temps reaching 60° or higher. Unless you want to lug around your entire wardrobe, selecting versatile clothing and accessories is key. To keep your feet dry and comfortable in those unpredictable conditions, Louis Garneau’s Bimax shoe covers are ideal.

LG Bimax shoe covers

Bimax shoes covers ($39.99 MSRP) are constructed from 3mm neoprene and Louis Garneau’s Wind Dry fabric. The latter features 3-ply construction for protection from wind and rain, while still remaining breathable. A seam-sealed rear zipper offers improved water resistance, and the reinforced rubber sole makes walking easier while fending off rain and road spray. Available in five sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL), Bimax shoe covers can accommodate shoes from size 36 up to 50. The large size (43.5-45) was compatible with 44.5 SIDI Dominator MTB shoes without requiring any special gymnastics or contortions.

One of the first things you notice about the Bimax covers is their compactness and light weight (153g/pair), which makes it easy to store them in a jersey pocket. Louis Garneau recommends the Bimax for moderate weather, and I found them comfortable down to approximately 40° (4.5°C). The Wind Dry fabric proved to be very effective at combining breathability with water resistance (dry feet are happy feet). Despite having only a rear zipper, they could be pulled on and off quickly and easily (even when yours truly was not 100% awake). While the uppers do feature reflective accents, I would like to see visibility improved with additional reflective material.

Disclosure: Louis Garneau provided product samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.