Tuesday, July 21, 2020

For New Riders: Essential Bike Accessories

An interesting side-effect to the ongoing COVID19 pandemic is the increased interest in cycling for exercise and for transport (a lot of people are working from home or working reduced hours... or are out of work altogether, and have surplus spare time which they would like to spend outdoor at a distance from other people). Bike shops all around town are selling bikes and accessories like hot cakes, and there are weeks long waiting list to get any repair done.

But, what else, aside from a bicycle and a helmet, do you need to have on your bike before hopping on and pushing off for a ride?

Short answer: head and rear lights, water bottle, and a saddle bag full of roadside repair gear.

Water bottle or Camelbak backpack.
Most bikes (aside from many full suspension mountain bikes) come with at least one set of screws on the downtube and/or seattube for water bottle cage attachment. Be sure to get at least a bottle cage attached to your bike before leaving the bike shop with your new ride! Even if you aren't going long distance, it's better to have some water handy than not.

Full suspension mountain bikes these days tend to not have any bottle cage attachment simply because most mountain bikers ride with a Camelbak backpack that holds their water as well as trail-side repair tools.

Head and tail lights.
Even on short rides during the day when you expect to be back home well before dark, it is always handy to have lights on your bike. Here in sunny California, the bright and sunny days tend to make us bicyclists very invisible when passing through tree shades and dark underpasses. The brighter the sun, the darker the shades (and the longer time it takes for drivers' eyes to adjust when moving from one to the other).

Go for good quality lights that are very bright, with good batteries life and sturdiness (especially when wet). They are worth the extra cost. I've been through many lights since my first ride in 2012. Nowadays I'll swear by the Cygolite headlight (have had the Metro 500 on my bike for 4 yrs now, and it's still going strong). I like to turn the headlight on flashing mode during the day when approaching places where I think a driver waiting (or approaching) on the right might not see me very well before pulling out, and when I have to ride closer to parallel parked cars than I'd like. I'm always far enough away from the doors to not be hit should they suddenly open, but I might instinctively swerve left if one does, and that might be the last move I ever get to make... depending on traffic condition. So, anything to improve my chances of those doors staying nice and shut until I've passed, I'll do.

Unless I'm riding in the desert in the light of day, I almost always keep my rear light on in flashing mode to ensure that I am visible to drivers when riding in shaded area or thru an underpass.

A saddle bag and road-side repair gear.

My adventure trip saddlebag is almost a mini-bike-shop.
Even tubeless tires aren't immune to flatting! It's always good to have the tools handy just in case. Since I go out on solo adventure rides out in the mountains a lot, my saddlebag is almost a mini-bike shop (and even backed up by a little backpack containing more spare tubes, food, and first-aid kit).

My commuter saddlebag.
My commuting saddlebag for riding in the city, on the other hand, is more to the point. What you really must have with you are:
- Spare inner tube that fits your tires (even if you are running tubeless tires, if those get flat and won't reseal itself, you'll still need to put a tube in to get home).
- A pair of tire irons/levers.
- A way of inflating the tire (a frame pump or a CO2 system). I use CO2 for roadside inflation, that constitutes the little green valve/nozzle and the 16g CO2 cannisters. If you use CO2, remember that the gas is lighter than air and will leak out faster so you tire will go flat again within a day or two. So, after inflating with CO2, remember to let the gas out of your tire when you get home, and re-inflate again with proper air pump.
- A multi-tool that is equipped with a chain tool (even if you don't know how to use it to break and reattach the chain, someone else may come riding along who does, and they would still need the tool).
- Throw a patch kit in there, while you're at it. They come the size of a nickle these days, and they are dead useful when you get more than one flat on a ride.

If you ride in the city, and plan on stopping at shops or restaurants, a good bike lock is a must.
I'm a big believer in riding with a rear-view mirror, preferably attached to either the helmet or your glasses (so you only have to turn your head a little to see the entire road behind you.. without having to move the handlebar or to take the eyes completely off the road ahead). Not only are they great for letting you know what speedy drivers are approaching from the back, they also detect those stealthy and silent fellow cyclists who would pass within inches of you without ever saying a word (don't be that guy. Give a warning!).

Also, if you are in the city, get a really sturdy lock that is long enough to lock both the frame and the wheels of your bike to a sturdy pole/bike rack. Shell out the buck for it. It's worth not having to buy another bike and all the accessories all over again!

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Thanks for stopping by. Be safe on the roads!