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Sunday, August 11, 2013

5 Reasons Why I Need A New Rear Fender

Just over a year ago, I finished reworking the back end of my Sportster after my homemade sissy bar finally snapped.  One of the biggest changes I made was going to a swingarm-mounted fender.  Here are some links to some of my fabrication steps (here, here, here, here, and here).  I made the brackets and mounted the fender nice and close to the tire.  Here it was when it was still a work-in-progress:

The fender is secured to the two braces using bolts and locknuts (two bolts per bracket) with metal and rubber washers sandwiched in between.  The brackets were flat and the fender has a subtle curve so the rubber washers helped join those surfaces and I hoped they might provide some vibration relief.

A year later, I've got problems...
  1. The fender hits the frame when the shocks are fully compressed resulting in chipped paint and a minor dent on the right side
  2. Paint has bubbled up near one of my mounting holes on top of the fender
  3. The fender has cracked on the left side (I just noticed this today)
  4. I never took the time to properly sand and buff the clearcoat of my rattlecan paintjob so it's had an "orange peel" finish the whole time
  5. Even though it's strong enough, I can't safely carry anything on it
Here is the chipped paint / dent:

Here is the bubbled up paint and "orange-peel":

Here is the crack (wide enough to get my fingernail in there) but the crack does not go all the way across (not even halfway):

I also mentioned that I can't carry anything.  Back when I first made it, I drilled holes in the top of the main fender brace to allow to me to put bungee nuts on there but I never really thought "two" was an adequate number of mounting points to secure anything so I never installed them.  The only way I can carry any gear on this bike is by wearing a backpack.

My best guess is that the fender whacking the frame multiple times (stupid Minnesota potholes) caused most of this damage.  It was made worse by the mounting decisions I made where the brackets did not follow the precise curve of the fender and the fact I chose not to weld the fender and used rubber washers instead.

I have some theories regarding how to do it better next time:
  • Purposefully dent the fender before painting it in the spots where it is most likely going to hit the frame
  • Ensure the braces follow the curve of the fender
  • Weld the braces to the fender instead of using bolts
  • Sand and buff the fender like I recently did to the tank
  • Make a sissy bar if I really want to carry anything but keep it short so it doesn't vibrate apart like the last one
I'll be tackling this as my main winter project this year.  I welcome any other suggestions that don't involve hardtailing the frame.

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