Start Cycling - Essential Accessories
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Whilst some people get into a new sport, hobby or pastime and use it as an excuse to buy as much gear as possible, most will want practical advice on which items are essential. So while there's a whole garage full of paraphernalia that you could buy, here's the stuff that you'll really need.
Though not a legal requirement, we'd advise that you buy a good quality helmet that complies with European Standard EN1078. Buy your helmet from a bike shop that sells a broad range of helmets and allows you to try various sizes. Helmet shapes vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer, so try plenty until you find a comfortable one. A good quality bike shop will advise you on proper helmet fit.
While most people's vision of cycling clothing is tight fitting Lycra, fear not, for it doesn't have to be that way. You can ride your bike in pretty much any clothing. Only when you're embarking on longer rides (3 or more hours in the saddle) will cycling-specific clothing begin to pay-off. One piece of advice is to wear clothing made of fabrics which wick sweat away and dry quickly - avoid cotton items if you can.
Be Safe, Be Seen
Bright colours and reflective materials are always a good idea when you are purchasing clcing clothing and equipment. If you've got the choice, always go for brighter kit and particularly in winter, when light levels are low, think about enhancing your visibility to other road users with bright and reflective clothing.
If there is one essential item, it is a decent waterproof, breathable jacket. Available from around £40 upwards, a proper jacket that keeps you protected from rain, while allowing perspiration to escape, is a real bonus. You can generally cope with your legs getting wet if you get caught in a downpour, but getting your upper body soaked is a miserable experience.
Cycling specific jackets tend to be cut longer at the rear and shorter and the front. This cut, whilst looking a little odd off the bike, prevents the jacket from bunching at the front when you're in ‘bike position' whilst keeping your lower back covered. A cycling specific jacket will also have pockets in the right place (usually at the rear), plus high visibility fabrics to help you stay safe on the roads.
From around November through to March, a good pair of gloves is a must. Your hands are in the front line against the assault of the wind and rain and they'll get cold and painful quickly. Remember, you can't put your hands in your pockets when cycling! A good pair of cycling gloves will keep your mitts warm and dry, whilst allowing you to use your brakes and gears effectively.
Get a set of front or rear lights that comply with BS6102-3 - this should be clearly indicated on the packaging. LED lights are currently the best bet, offering lots of light and longer battery life than filament bulbs. Good quality front and rear light sets start at around £20.
If you intend to leave your bike unattended anywhere, a good quality lock is a must. Look for a lock with a Sold Secure rating - this is the industry standard for lock security testing. There are three levels, Gold, Silver and Bronze, with Gold being the most secure. Prices start from around £15.
Tools and spares
Tools are only any use if you know how to use them but a few small inexpensive items and the knowledge of how to use them can save you a long walk home.
Pump - a good quality mini pump will weigh next to nothing in your bag but be on hand when you need it. Look for aluminium rather than plastic pumps and look for pumps which lock onto your inner tube valves, which make tyre inflation much easier. A quality local bike shop will be able to give you further advice on makes and models. From around £15 will get you a good quality pump that will last.
Multitool - a folding pen-knife-style tool with Allen keys of various sizes plus a flat blade and Phillips (cross-head) screwdriver will deal with 90 percent of situations that you're likely to tackle. £10 will get you a good quality basic ‘multitool'.
Spare Tube - a spare will cost you around £4 and will allow you to deal with a puncture without having to start fiddling with puncture repair kits. Make sure you get the correct size for your bike (refer to the writing on your tyre's sidewalls or ask at the bike shop if unsure).
Tyre Levers - unless you've got fingers of steel you'll need a set of tyre levers to remove your tyre in the event of a puncture. Like buses, they come in threes and the best type are reinforced plastic, which won't snap when you're prising your tyres off, but won't damage tyres and rims either. Prices start at around £2.
Chain Lube - a small bottle of chain lube will keep your bike running sweetly. Many argue that the best are synthetic oils, which don't degrade like mineral oil and often contain PTFE (the stuff that lines your frying pan) which helps your chain and other moving parts to stay slick. Around £5 buys you a bottle that will last for about a year.