Here is the low-down on essential upgrades.
To enjoy cycling you do not need anything else other than a bike but what would life be like without luxuries?
Bike shops do not just sell bikes, the best ones are also crammed to the rafters with exciting add-ons, cycle accessories in all shapes and sizes. Some are vital (tools, lights, a lock), others a matter of preference (mud-guards, helmet, speed-measuring computer) and others are just sheer indulgence (fancy, branded bits to make the bike look nicer). It is possible to spend as much, if not more, on kitting yourself out with all the latest accessories as on the bike itself. The right accessories can enhance the performance of your bike and make cycling easier, safer and more pleasurable.
Puncture repair kit
This will be your first purchase. You may not need one for a long time (it is possible to go years without a puncture) but you will be left stranded should the worst happen. It is always best to pack a spare inner tube so you don’t have to sit by the side of the road mending a puncture.
A puncture kit consists of patches, glue, tyre levers and emery cloth for roughening the tube surface. Mending a puncture is not difficult, especially with modern ‘feather’ patches which once stuck, stay stuck.
Naturally, a pump is also essential and modern bikes rarely come with one fitted. Micro pumps are short, slim and pack a punch when inflating. For home use, consider investing in a floor-standing ‘track pump’ for even quicker inflations.
There are two types of valve for inner tubes: Presta (traditional thin valve) and Schraeder (thick, car valve). The best pumps will have fittings for both either in a dual-head type or with a clever head that can fit either type of valve.
It is against the law to ride a bike on the road in the dark without lights, so these are essential items if you intend getting around at night. There are a wide variety of cycle lights, front and rear. LEDs (light emitting diodes) are now the most common: small, lightweight, very cheap to run and surprisingly bright. More light info
Mountain bikes were developed in the 1970s in California. Not much mud there so the most common type of bike available today rarely comes with mudguards fitted as standard. So, unless you like getting wet and muddy (or you NEVER go out in the rain) you may want to invest in mudguards. As well as the standard sets it is also possible to buy clip-on ones which can be fitted or taken off at speed. Mountain bikers often fit a front, frame-mounting mud flap which won’t gum up with mud but will prevent the worst splashes reaching the eyes.
As you get more confident, you can fit attachments to your pedals preventing your foot slipping off and adding to the efficiency of each pedal stroke i.e. it is possible to pull as well as push!
The most common attachments used to be toe clips – plastic clips secured by straps which tie your feet to the pedals. But the best form of attachment system for when you are an experienced bike rider is a ‘clipless’ pedal set. There are a number of different types available, the oldest of which were developed from skibindings. All types work by clamping your shoe to the pedal via a cleat on the sole of the shoe. The foot is then locked in until you twist your foot free. They sound dangerous but once you’re used to them they can make your pedalling much more efficient. And for mountain bike riding they can improve off-road handling skills. In effect you are one with the bike.
The more you get to know your bike, the more you’ll be able to fix small problems yourself. The basic tool kit should consist of a number of Allen Keys (hexagonal keys that all bikes use), a Phillips screwdriver, adjustable spanner and a chain rivet extractor (for separating chain links). You can buy ready-made kits and combination tools which fold out into needle-nose pliers, knife, screwdriver, ruler and so on.
Many and varied are the ways and means of transporting loads by bike. From exotic rickshaws and purpose-built delivery bikes to the humble bumbag, great ingenuity has been exercised in loading up both bikes and riders. Wicker baskets bolted to the handlebars were once a common sight. They’ve been replaced by featured-packed barbags with quick-release systems that hold them securely in place and allow them to double as shoulder bags.
Saddlebags have been replaced, largely, by panniers, both front and rear, again with fail-safe attachment systems that keep them attached to their bolted-on racks, but are easily removed as required. Rear racks can now also sport expandable shopping pannier bags and panniers that double as smart briefcases.
Smaller items, such as tools, spares and light clothing, can be stowed neatly into zipped pouches that fit under the saddle or inside the frame boundaries. The days of never carrying anything on your back when cycling have disappeared with the development of light, stable rucksacks packed with features designed for cyclists: lock pockets, helmet storage, pump loops, waterproof covers and small mesh pockets for gloves and windtops.
If your load-carrying needs exceed the capacity offered by luggage, then a cycle trailer could be the answer. Easily attached and detached, they range from shopping trolleys to flat-bed monsters capable of bringing home everything including the kitchen sink!
LOTS MORE ON ACCESSORIES HERE