a journal of cycling, adventure, and photography
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To Be Determined Journal

To Be Determined is a journal of cycling, adventure and photography, curated by a NYC-based cycling team known as TBD Racing or Team TBD. From criteriums to cyclocross to bikepacking and gravel it is all part of the TBD Journal.

Portland Design Works Fender Review & Winter Bike Setup

A few weeks ago I previewed the planned conversion of my Garneau Steeple CX race bike into what I considered at the time to be my ‘ideal’ winter bike setup. At the time I wasn’t entirely sure how all of the bits and bobbles were going to come together (were the fenders even going to fit?). But a month or two later I am happy to report that everything fit, everything works, and the bike looks, in my personal opinion, great:

And as far as on the bike performance and comfort goes, I couldn’t be happier. Even relative to the beefy 27mm and 28mm tires that I raced all year on the road, switching to the Compass Bon Jon Pass is like riding on pillows. And despite their size and the low pressure that I run them at, they don’t feel slow. But when I’ll get into all that below as I review the various bits of what I consider my perfect winter training rig.

Portland Design Works Full Metal Fender Review

In short, the Portland Design Works Fenders are the first fenders that haven’t driven me at least partially mad with either installation or actual use (not yet at least). I went with what PDW calls their ‘City Size’ fender (35mm clearance) and while frame clearance is tight, it all fits. TL:DR the fenders are great, I would buy them again. If you want the full review, read on…

Portland Design Works Full Metal Fenders: Construction

In my opinion the PDW fenders are pretty much the ideal when it comes to construction. Sure, the all metal design isn’t exactly light (568g according to PDW). But this setup is meant for winter training and watts per kilo only matters when race season arrives (and even then, it hardly matters with New York City’s mostly flat riding and racing). What the all metal construction does provide is durability - the fenders are absolutely rock solid on the bike - and good looks. Given my Steeple frame color I went with the matte black option but there are also polished silver and gunmetal colorways available. Absent the Whiskey Parts Co Fender Mounts discussed below the PDW Full Metal Fenders come with all of the mounting hardware required for installation on my Steeple. And the built in safety tabs and adjustment points on the fender are both well designed.

I’ll will note that the first set of fenders that I ordered (directly from PDW) were damaged in shipping when the box was utterly trashed by UPS. PDW replaced the damaged fender no questions asked. It took them a few days to get the replacement shipped in the midst of the pre-holidays rush but I appreciated their customer service efforts.

Construction: 9/10

Portland Design Works Full Metal Fenders: Installation

Once I figured out that the Whiskey Parts Co Fender Mounts were the perfect accessory for mounting the fenders based on the location and style of fender mounts on the Steeple, installation was perhaps a forty five or sixty minute process all in. In fact one of the most time consuming elements was just clearing away some excessive paint on the frame mounts that initially made it difficult to tighten the fork bolts. The Whiskey Parts Fender Mounts were key for reversing the mount alignment to match the fender, and for the brake bridge attachment point on the top of the rear fender (I needed 3 of them in total). With built in threads the Whiskey Parts Co Mounts worked better than the stock bolts that came with the Steeple - hence the swap. Otherwise, installation was a breeze and all of the required parts for my particular installation were included.

Installation: 9/10

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Portland Design Works Full Metal Fenders: Performance

There is no need to overcomplicate things when it comes to performance. The PDW Full Metal Fenders provide excellent coverage and even on rainy days like in the pictures for this post they absolutely do the job. If it’s raining and we’re riding in a group, chances are you want to be on my wheel. And thanks to the silencing tape that is applied strategically on the fenders there is minimal rattling, even on rough pavement. Sure, they add a bit of heft, but that’s not something I am focused on with the current bike setup.

Performance: 10/10

Portland Design Works Full Metal Fenders: Overall

This is far from an extensive comparison test or a 30-page DC Rainmaker review complete with unboxing videos and thirteen photographs of the packaging. There may in fact be better fenders out there. But nothing I have used has looked as good or worked as well as the PDW Full Metal Fenders. After a month of use I remain totally stoked on the setup and have no hesitance recommending them. The $120 price point may be a slight knock, but given the quality of the construction I see them as reasonably priced (for reference I paid retail for them from https://ridepdw.com/)

Overall Rating: 9/10

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The Other Bits and Bobbles

Compass Jon Bon Pass Tire Review

There are seemingly more opinions on tires than there are tires in the world today. All it takes is one quick question on our team Slack about “what tire should I use” for XYZ and you are guaranteed to get a recommendation for a dozen different tires from a half-dozen different brands. In that sense I make no claim that the Compass Jon Bon Passes are the end all and be all when it comes to winter rubber. In fact, with just a couple hundred miles on them I don’t yet have a full sense for their durability.

But what I can say is that they look great (in my opinion) and thus far I am totally happy with their performance on the road. Since these are meant for winter training I went with a standard casing (rather than the ultralight) and paid $62 per tire buying them direct from Compass. They are tubeless compatible but I was admittedly feeling a bit lazy when I set them up so for now they’re just running in clincher form. I have been running them at ~55 psi per the HED tire pressure guide. This feels ‘good’ so far but I may experiment a bit with different pressures over time.

I’d like to get more time with the tires to develop a better sense of their durability before assigning an overall rating, but at least thus far I am totally satisfied with the purchase.

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Road Runner Burrito Handlebar bag Review

The Road Runner Burrito Handlebar Bag is pretty straightforward. It’s a modestly sized handlebar bag that I use to carry an emergency rain cape, a few snacks and a multi-tool for quick and easy access. The construction quality is good relative to the $40 price point. My only complaint would be that the design of the elastic strap that goes around the headtube to restrict excessive movement seems… not great. I am not sure exactly what I would change to fix it, but my bag does have a tendency to shift toward the right slightly during rides. That would be my only, very light, critique. Otherwise the construction is solid and the bag does exactly what you want it to do. No regrets on the purchase and I would buy again.