Before you roll off on your new steed you’ll need a few essential safety accessories. Obviously, protecting that gray matter while ensuring you’re equipped with a good-fitting helmet that allows for breathability should be a prerequisite for every cyclist. The gold-standard is a MIPS helmet (which stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System). It uses two layers in the helmet and helps mitigate the rotational force of an impact, which often results in a concussion or brain injury. Although a bit more expensive than regular helmets, you can’t afford to NOT have one. If you’re not thrilled with toting a clunky, full-face helmet onto the train or into the office, there are several folding helmet options. It also isn’t the safest move to strap your helmet onto your handlebars when you’re OFF the bike, as it makes it easy to steal. Folding helmets are easy to store and in most cases weigh less than a regular helmet, while still affording your brain sufficient protection. Pairs nicely with a Folding bike!
For commuters who typically ride in daylight or at dawn and dusk (when the light is low), a simple front and rear blinking light set should suffice. For cyclists who take to the road in the hours before sunrise and after sunset, a more powerful front headlight is mandatory, as is a blinking tail light. A good rule of thumb to remember is the brighter the ambient light, the brighter the lighting system required for maximum visibility. Rear blinking lights that give off 15 lumens might seem bright after dark but are difficult to spot in full sunlight. For daylight-only riders on a budget, you should at least start with a rear blinker, which will make you more visible from behind. Purchasing the front and rear lights at the same time (as a bundle) will often be cheaper than buying them piecemeal.
Pedals and Pedal Upgrades
The type of riding you do will dictate whether or not you decide on clipless pedals or flat-platform pedals. If you’re looking for more control and efficiency, you may want to consider clipless pedals and the special cleat-like shoe that attaches to them. Keep in mind shoe-pedal compatibility as you mull over your decision, however. Some cleats are sold with the pedals, or separately. If you need to take your foot off the pedals, or just prefer walking in shoes that don’t have cleats, flat pedals are your best bet, but again, consider and gauge the type of riding you’ll be doing. Commuters who prefer wearing their shoes off the bike as well as on will find flat pedals or mountain bike pedals a good choice, while road cyclists might want a three-hole cleat (SPD and SPD-SL are the most common names) for the most power transfer and therefore energy efficiency for those who care about their times and will ride longer distances.
For the avid cyclist wishing to track multiple statistics like distance and fitness data in real time (and after the fact), a bike computer can be a very useful purchase. A couple of popular brands include Garmin and Wahoo. Constructed to withstand water, dust and wrecks, these purpose-built pieces of hardware attach directly to your bike, have low energy displays, and easily rechargeable, replaceable batteries. Although an inexpensive bike computer is nice to have, kids and beginner riders don’t really need one. While your battery will drain down substantially on longer rides, a modern smartphone with GPS is one piece of hardware that pretty much everyone already has, and can be mounted on your handlebars or stashed in a pocket during pleasure or shorter workout rides, and you can even run popular cycling apps like Strava on your phone. There are plenty of other apps available that have soared in popularity in conjunction with the growth of performance software, and can do just about everything a bike computer can do, including tracking the whereabouts of a stolen bike, but for anyone planning to do serious road cycling, a smartphone isn’t a good option as the battery will run down, risking your ability to communicate, use the map in an unfamiliar location and of course be able to buy that critical coffee w/ it during your mid-ride break.
Because all bike locks are not created equally, first decide how much security you’ll need, as well as considering the location and duration of lockup. A bike thief carrying the right tools can break any lock within a few short minutes, leaving you with only fond memories of your two-wheeling days. The bike thief will have a more difficult time cutting through a hardened-steel U-lock or chain with an angle grinder, making them more likely to go after a cheaper, lightweight cable lock with a set of bolt cutters. Once you decide on a quality lock, you’ll need to actually use it correctly by locking according to value; the frame (the most expensive), the rear wheel, then the front wheel. Aim for locking your bike in well-lit places, and never leave your lock against the ground, as thieves might get the necessary leverage to pry it open. For those with more expensive bikes over $1,000 or so in value, a rule of thumb is don’t leave it unattended, even with a lock, for any extended period of time, and that even includes in nice suburban areas, especially at train stations where thieves often target.
For comfort and speed, form-fitting water resistant and sweat-wicking materials are hard to beat. These fabrics moves when the rider moves, so it minimizes chafing from continuous pedaling movements. Close-fitting Lycra jerseys usually have a full or half-length front zipper, and a high neckline with built-in pockets in the back designed to stow essentials. As with cycling jackets, most cycling jerseys will have a dropped hem at the rear to keep the rider’s back covered when leaning forward on the bike. A lightweight and/or waterproof jacket are essential for riding in inclement weather. Long-sleeve jerseys provide extra warmth in cooler conditions, and some will have water-resistant coating for added protection. Remember this last bit of advice before you ride off into the sunset: comfortable riding starts and ends with your bum, so a good-quality pair of bicycle undergarments, or chamois, are worth investing in for those who plan to start putting the miles in.