Mudguards (fenders) and saddlebags are two subjects that are sure to get our collective ire up as Cyclists. When I wrote in one of my columns for Cyclist that saddlebags should never be used, my editor told me that he received a record number of emails threatening to cancel their subscription on the basis that my column was a “black eye” on an otherwise sterling publication. I don’t disagree with the premise; but the fact that it was this statement that brought it about brings to light how much people love their saddlebags. The Pros use them in training, so how dare I claim that we should not.
The fact is, we’re not trying to look like Pros; we are trying to Look Fantastic at All Times and just because the Pros do it doesn’t mean it looks good. In fact, the Pros often look as rubbish as the typical cyclotourist; they just go faster than us. But Fournel’s Theorem is not commutative; just because you’re fast doesn’t mean you look good.
And so, saddlebags are banned on the premise that they are ugly, no further discussion required. Mudguards, on the other hand, are banned for the fact that are ugly, noisy, and are an implied contravention of Rule #9. The Nine is about submitting to the deluge, about embracing the misery of training in the cold and wet; it is about dedication and discipline above the creature comforts found at home. Post-ride, the bicycle is carefully and lovingly cleaned and made ready for the next ride. Rider and machine bonded together through mutual commitment.
Mudguards protect the frame and bottom bracket from road grit, it is true enough. But I don’t care. They also deflect the grime cast up by the tires as they carve their solemn trough over the wet tarmac. Still don’t care. On group rides, Fendangelists preach to anyone who appears to the ride without mudguards about how rude they are, forcing the others to chew on their rooster tail while riding in the bunch. To this I suggest that if you’d like to avoid a rinsing with Belgian Toothpaste there is usually an open spot for you on the front of the bunch..
Half the satisfaction of a hard Rule #9 ride is your appearance upon your return home, further mystifying The Cyclists to the rest of the world. I lovingly admire my mud-spattered bicycle and take in my flemish tanlines as I remove my kit. To ride with noisy mudguards would not only be a violation of the Principle of Silence, but more importantly I would be depriving myself of this greatest of pleasures.