Choosing Bicycle Accessories

Once you’ve purchased the right bike, you’ll probably need some bicycle accessories. Accessories like helmets and puncture repair kits are essential, while others like child carriers, lights, and saddlebags depend on your particular needs.

Reasons to Purchase

Safety should be your number one consideration when choosing bicycle accessories. A protective helmet and cycling specific clothing are a good place to start. You’ll also want to consider comfort when choosing accessories. If you’re traveling long distances with extra gear, you’ll want to consider purchasing some saddlebags, so you don’t have to lug heavy equipment around on your back. In addition, bike shorts and comfortable seats can help make your ride more enjoyable. Finally, you’ll want to consider things like inner tubes, repair kits and bicycle pumps so minor mechanical problems don’t ruin your ride.

Tips Before You Buy

New accessories come out all the time and are not always designed to fit older model bicycles. Because the valve stem length and fittings of bikes can vary, it’s helpful to bring your bike with you when purchasing a pump, saddle bag, pedals, or any other item that attaches to your bike. Most bike shops will do the fitting for you.

Each type of accessory typically comes in a range of styles. While the more expensive items are usually of higher quality, this isn’t always the case. Additionally, some accessories may be on sale, so it’s important to ask the salesperson for advice. As a general rule, the cheaper versions of most accessories tend to wear out quicker, so investing in something a bit more expensive may save you dollars in the long run.

As noted above, safety should be an important factor when choosing accessories. For that reason, it’s best to start out with the basics—such as a helmet, repair kit, and bicycle pump—and buy additional items as needed.

Bicycle Helmets

Helmets are essential for your safety. Even if your local laws do not require bicycle helmets, you should purchase one and use it whenever you ride. When selecting a helmet, consider its safety aspects and how it fits, as well as its style and price. Also keep in mind that different riding styles require different helmet types. For instance, downhill mountain biking requires a full-face, motorcycle-style helmet. A good helmet should fit firmly.

Bicycle Clothing

If you’re just a casual bike rider, you might not feel theneed for bicycle specific clothing. However, even if you ride your bike in tennis shoes and a t-shirt, it’s important to wear bright, reflective colors in order to give yourself a greater chance of being seen on the road. This is especially true when riding in low light conditions, such as at dusk or in the rain.

If you find yourself biking more regularly, you might want to consider purchasing bicycle clothing. While you won’t need every kind of specialty biking attire, it’s nice to have some of the basics. Look for bike jerseys with breathable material and pockets on the back (pockets on the back are better suited to support the contents without stretching the jersey, since most bikes put you in at least a slightly forward leaning position). You should make bike gloves a high priority—not only do they protect the nerves in your hands from damage due to vibration and pressure, when you fall from your bike, you almost always catch yourself with your hands.

“When you fall!?! Surely, you meant ‘If you fall.’ Right?”

When you walk, you trip and stumble. When you carry precious objects, you drop them. When you have something of value, you loose it. When you ride, you fall. Not often, hopefully. Perhaps only once, but you’re better off planning for it rather than acting surprised that gravity and the other laws of nature don’t somehow stop when you ride a bike.

Bike shorts are designed without a big seam right where you don’t want it, and they are cut low in the front and high in the back to keep them from digging into you when you lean and to give following riders something to talk about. If you’ll be taking longer rides, consider purchasing some cycling shoes. They keep you in constant contact with the bike, helping you pedal more efficiently.

In general, bike specific clothing is designed to be practical. Once you start logging more miles, the wisdom (and necessity) of their design will become obvious. Contrary to the perception of many non-riders, most riders don’t wear cycling clothing as a fashion statement. They wear it because it makes riding more enjoyable.

Repair Kits

When you’re on the road, you’ll want a basic repair kit with a spare tube, puncture kit, tire levers, and a multi-tool for making simple adjustments. Consider keeping these in a bike bag mounted to your seat.

Bike Pumps

A surprising number of riders don’t see to realize that air-filled tires are a luxury that the early pioneers of cycling could not have dreamed of. Now, they are so taken for granted that many bike owners don’t even realize that air pressure must be maintained by pumping up tires before every ride. Riding under-inflated tires is a major cause of tube and tire failure, and it makes propelling a bike much harder to do.

There are two basic types of pumps. Floor pumps offer a fast and simple way to get up to pressure before to your ride  (don’t waste your time and the nation’s energy supply using some sort of mini plug-in automatic compressor), while smaller pumps should be carried with you  when you ride to re-inflate a tire after repairing a puncture. Floor pumps are too large to take with you when you ride, while small pumps are unfit for everyday use.

For roadside re-inflation, CO2 inflators offer a better alternative to hand pumps.  They will get you up to pressure in seconds.

Before purchasing a bicycle pump, you should check the valve on your bike tires to determine what kind of pump you’ll need. When inflating tires, you can often find the recommended pressure range printed on the side of the tire. Otherwise, ask your bike shop for the appropriate tire pressure.

Bike Locks

If you’ve spent a decent amount of money on your bike, you’ll want to invest in a good bike lock. Of course, the most expensive bike locks are also the most secure. In fact, the best are almost infallible. So, if you do spend the money on a really good lock, you’ll want to make sure you don’t lose your key.

Bike Mirrors

Do you commute to work by bike, cycle through traffic on a regular basis, or travel long distances by bicycle? If so, you might consider purchasing a mirror to help you see what cars are doing behind you. You’ll find mirrors that clip easily to your handlebars, glasses, or helmet.

Water Bottles & Water Bottle Holders

When you are standing in a climate controlled bike shop trying to resist spending any more money, it’s easy to think you can ride some distance without needing to carry a water bottle. But don’t ride without one. Even if the humidity is low and you don’t feel you are dehydrating from the effort of riding, you are. Water bottle in simple holders called “cages” are the most practical way to carry water when you ride. Some riders also use hydration backpacks, which work especially well for riding off-road, where letting go of the handlebars to reach for a water bottle could get you in trouble.

Bicycle Lights

If you plan to ride your bike at night or in the early morning, you’ll need lights. By law in Ohio, you must have a front light and a red rear reflector. But why risk not being seen by traffic approaching from behind just because there’s no law enforcing you? The new breed of LED flashing lights are hardly possible not to notice. In addition to lights, reflectors are a good idea to add more visibility.

Remember to check your batteries before you leave, and pack a spare set just in case. Many new lights have USB rechargeable batteries that can be charged by your computer with little hassle.

Small flashing headlights are great for being seen. They are small and should be kept on your bike at all times in case you end up in a situation where you get caught out in the dark.

For planned night riding, you’ll have a much safer experience with larger headlights that can throw a patch of light far enough in front of you to allow you to ride a normal speed.

Bicycle Fenders 

Fenders are very practical. When you ride in wet conditions without fenders, your chain, brakes, and derailers get sprayed with mud, dirt, and fuel-soaked water, causing them wear much faster than they would otherwise. Even if you don’t plan to ride in the rain there are many beautiful days where a quick rain shower leaves puddles on the ground. Without fenders, you’ll end up wearing some of those puddles.

Saddle Bags, Panniers & Baskets

While backpacks offer a convenient means of carrying supplies when walking, they can often be hot and uncomfortable when riding a bike—especially when biking over long distances. For this reason, serious cyclists often opt for attachments like baskets and racks with pannier bags when carrying gear. You’ll find attachments that bolt to your frame and others that can be removed with the click of a button.

Child Carriers & Tow Trailers

When you want to haul groceries, kids, and supplies by bicycle, it’s time to consider a child carrier or tow trailer. Both child carriers and trailers come in a wide variety of models. If you do load your bike down with equipment, you’ll want to make sure the gearing is low enough for you to handle the extra weight while powering uphill.

Bike Carriers

Bike carriers make an excellent choice when you want to take your bike with you on vacation or transport it over long distances. Bikes can get the inside of your car dirty and take up a lot of storage space. But with a bike carrier, your bike rides securely on the back of your vehicle.

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