Monday, August 8, 2011

How to Make a Dress Guard/Skirt Guard/Coat Guard for your Bicycle

If you want to outfit your bike with a skirt guard (or for the guys, a coat guard), there are increasingly more options for North American riders.

These options include metal netted guards or bright and colourful woven/crocheted dress guards that you can purchase online, or DIY projects that range in level of difficulty.

I chose the DIY route for a few reasons:

1. I couldn't figure out whether the metal guards sold online would fit my bike, or how I would attach them to my bike (there was minimal info available on these mostly European websites).

2. The bright and lovely crocheted guards require you to drill holes in your fenders to attach them (wasn't willing to do any drilling) while others come with clips that you can snap onto your fenders, but require a certain amount of space between your fenders and your tires to fit properly (didn't have enough space allowance to use this option).

I ended up consulting a tutorial on Instructables (the link seems to no longer be working) and made adjustments to fit my needs.

The tutorial and other DIY projects I've seen make use of tulle--that frothy net-like material used for weddings and ballerinas--but, I wanted something a little more sturdy, easy to clean, but just as affordable. Window screening was my answer!

Materials: Some old newspaper, black window screening (get a roll at your hardware store, or if you have old screens, you can use those! If you buy a roll, you'll spend from $8 to $13, but will have enough to last you several replacements should the need arise), cable ties, tape, scissors, and a marker.

Step 1: Template and Positioning

  • Using the newspaper, make a rough template of the guard, cutting and taping as necessary until you get your desired shape/coverage.
  • Decide where you want to attach your guard. This will depend on how much coverage you want, but also on where your bike will allow you to attach cable ties. I've used the bars from my rear rack, the seat stays, and the chain stays as my main attachment sites.
  • This part is like a dress rehearsal. Mark where you want to put your cable ties right onto your newspaper template. Use cable ties to visually represent where you will attach your ties and how far apart you want them to be. Make sure that your cable ties don't interfere with any brake lines, or shifting cables. At this point, I reverse-looped my cable ties (slid them through the way you're NOT supposed to) so they didn't lock and I could slide them out easily to readjust as needed.
  • Do a visual check. Make sure your template isn't interfering with any of the moving parts of your bike. Now you're ready to cut out the real thing!

Step 2: Cut!

  • Roll out some window screen and tape your template onto its surface. I chose black screening because its actually less visible than the traditional silver screens and I thought it would look better with my bike.
  • Now, cut. Leave about an inch of extra screening around the template (even a bit more is better). I cut my template to fit my bike exactly, and if you do the same, then you should cut out your screening leaving this extra bit around the edge. You can always trim excess later, but having that extra bit allows for more freedom when positioning the guard onto the bike and is necessary to correctly attach your cable ties.

  • For the guard on the other side of the wheel, I just flipped the template over, taped it down, and cut. (Note: clear tape does a bad job of sticking. I'd try sewing needles, or masking tape next time).

Step 3: Fit

  • This is probably the most finicky part of the process--it helps to have someone else hold the screening as you poke your cable ties through, but no fear! It can be done alone, as I sadly learned.
  • Place your guard on the bike so everything is positioned as correctly as possible. I placed my guard over everything (I did not weave it under the seat stays and bars). Select where you want to attach your first cable tie. I started in the middle (with my seat stay), thinking it would be easier to position. I highly recommend starting on one side (either the chain stay, or the bar from the rear rack) and working your way over to the other side.

Step 4: Attach

  • Start attaching your screening from one end and work your way to the other. In the picture above, you can see that I have folded the edge of the screening over the bar (that's why we left that extra bit!) and have poked my cable ties through the fold and pulled it snug to hold everything in place.

  • When working on the middle (for me, it was the seat stay), you'll poke your cable tie through and then you'll reach through the spokes (it's a tight squeeze--get someone with small hands to help you) to pull the end of the cable tie around the stay. Then, poke it back through the screen. One advantage with starting in the middle is that you have more space to maneuver your hand without the screen in your way...ah, well.

  • In the picture, I have just left the ends of the cable ties hanging (haven't looped them through to lock) so I can reposition if necessary. The screen is more likely to move if you do it this way, but if you tie (lock) at least one of the cable ties, there will be less movement of the screen and you can leave the rest of the ties undone until you're absolutely ready to lock 'em in place.

  • I fold the other edge over the chain stay and loop the cable ties through the fold and make sure there is enough slack to allow me to pull the cable ties in the middle (over my seat stay) snug, before I pull the ties on the chain stay snug.

  • As I pull each cable tie snug and lock it into place, I make sure I avoid any cables.

  • Or, if I have to go over cables or brake lines, I make sure my tie isn't super tight. It's not hanging loose, but it isn't squeezing the white cables either.

  • I chop off any excess screening from the edges.

Voila! This is what it looks like almost complete (I haven't chopped off the excess length on my cable ties yet.)

I've done a few test rides and it's been superb so far, although I'm still trying to figure out a way to attach the curved part of the screen to the fender so it doesn't hang out as much. I may try hot glue, but have avoided it thus far because (1) I can't find my glue gun and (2) I'm going for a method that isn't permanent and won't mess up the paint job on my bike.

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