No bike or cyclist is complete without some accessories! Whether to complement your style or provide additional functionality, accessories can add to the fun, safety, and comfort of your cycling adventures.
One of the most, if not the most, essential accessories for cycling is a helmet. I remember as a kid, we never wore helmets… nobody did! But times change and as studies have shown, wearing a helmet is the smart thing to do and can save your life. One study states that helmets “provide a 63 to 88% reduction in the risk of head, brain and severe brain injury for all ages of bicyclists.” (source here)
Helmets come in all sorts of makes and sizes; it’s not just about safety, but also about style! Some individuals go so far as having multiple helmets of various types and colors to match their bike and clothing for that particular day. The helmets of today are lightweight, provide plenty of air circulation, and best of all, protect your noggin. When searching for a helmet, make sure you get assistance in getting one that is properly fitted. Also, make sure it is comfortable for you so that you’ll actually wear it.
You may not plan to ride at night, but even day running lights can add to your safety. A simple red flashing tail light and white flashing front light can help distracted individuals notice you while you’re cycling. Many of today’s lights are USB rechargeable and have simple mounting options that make them easy to put on and take off. Several electric bikes come with pre-installed headlights, which provide a great option in case you stray a little further than you initially planned and need that extra bit of light to make it back to your LTV.
Hydration is an important component of cycling. Studies show that just losing two percent of water volume in the body can affect your performance by 10 percent. (source here) Now, I know most of us aren’t out to win any races, but the point is, dehydration can cause serious muscle fatigue, cognitive delays, and even worse, heatstroke. The issue is also that by the time we begin to feel thirsty, it might be too late.
There are many options for carrying fluids while cycling. Some prefer water bottles attached to the bike via bottle cages, while others prefer the backpack style of a water bladder, which many people refer to by the name of popular brand CamelBak. The advantage of a CamelBak is that, depending on the style, it may also provide backpack capabilities for carrying other items of interest, and you can keep both hands on the handlebars while taking a sip.
Flat tires on a bike are inevitable. Though it may not happen often, it will eventually happen. A small repair kit is essential to carry with you, otherwise, you may be hitch-hiking or calling Uber to get you and your bike home.
Patch kits are inexpensive and typically come in two styles: one that comes with a liquid glue-like substance to apply patches and the other with self-stick patches. I prefer the self-stick patches. These are easy to apply and seem just as reliable. To find the puncture, remove the tube using some tire levers and add some air, listening or feeling for the hissing air. Once you’ve found the problem, seal it with your patch kit and reassemble your wheel.
A simple bike multi-tool is a good addition to any bike kit. Bike multi-tools will have the proper wrench and hex sizes necessary for just about any bike on the market today. Many will also include a chain tool, though hopefully you never need to use it. A bike tool will allow you to adjust the seat if necessary, re-adjust handlebars, or fix anything else that comes out of alignment or loosens up while riding or during routine maintenance. As mentioned earlier, a set of tire levers is also good to have for that inevitable flat.
Bike bags can serve the purpose of carrying those items that always need to be with the bike like tools, a patch kit, CO2 cartridges, or whatever else. Bike bags come in many different colors, styles, and sizes.
If you prefer to be a minimalist, many bags are designed to fit directly under the saddle. These are perfect for the items that always need to be with you. But, if you prefer to carry more, like an extra jacket or that newly purchased stuff you found while out cruising, you may also want to consider a basket or satchel style bag, or small day pack in addition to your tool essentials bag.
One of the best maintenance tips I can give you to extend the life of your bike’s drivetrain is to keep it clean and properly lubricated. You don’t want to use plain WD40 or some other random lube, but an actual lube designed for bikes. Chain lubes come in many different brands and types – wet, dry, with Teflon, wax, etc. If you ask any bike mechanic, they will most likely have their preferred lube, but in my experience, dry lubes tend to collect less dirt.
A good rule of thumb is to clean and lubricate the chain about every 100 miles of use, or if your bike has been sitting for an extended period of time or out in the elements. An un-maintained chain can cause issues with shifting or excessive noise, and will wear down the components more quickly.
A good bike pump is a necessity if you own a bike. Keeping the tires properly inflated will add to your enjoyment of riding and extend the life of the tires. Trust me, you want the tires to last – good bike tires can be as expensive as automobile tires!
A good floor pump with a gauge is nice to have and takes less time and effort to fill the tires. There are also smaller handheld pump options available that are easy to carry while on the bike. If you prefer to minimize what you carry, you may wish to look at the CO2 options, but these pumps are really best for your essential bike bag option.
The maximum tire pressure is typically printed on the sidewall of the tires. Depending on the type of surfaces you plan to ride on, those pressures will differ. Make sure to adjust the pressure to match the surface and tire size.
Nobody wants to spend a fun excursion worrying about whether their bike will be there when they return from a lunch outing or some shopping. Even though we’d like to think we can trust everyone, bikes are a hot commodity and can disappear in the blink of an eye. The best option is to bring the bike with you at all times, but that is not always possible. To deter the potential bike thief, a simple bike lock can give you peace of mind.
Locks come in all styles. For your bike ride outings, get a lighter-weight, compact lock that you can easily carry. When not in use, many can be attached to the bike itself or carried in a pocket or bike bag. Save the big hefty lock for when the bike is attached to your RV or at your campsite.
Much of what I have listed here is what I consider the essentials for bike riding. Your essentials may be different from mine, and may change as you ride and figure out what works for you. In Part II, I’ll cover what I call optional items, such as bike clothing, cycling computers, and possible upgrades that can enhance your cycling experience. Regardless, any bike shop should have the items I listed and can help you make the proper choices for your needs. These items should make your cycling journeys more enjoyable.
Find some of my advice for choosing the right bike for you here.
Be safe, and keep the rubber side down!