looking & feeling good

image description

Looking Feeling Good

Getting yourself kitted out with the right gear is essential for comfortable riding. We'll tell you where to buy, what to look out for, and let you know exactly what you will need for your type of riding.

Essential gear

What’s the minimum gear needed? Here are the BikeGal.com essentials…

Helmet

Why do I need one? If you have an image of yourself cycling without a care in the world, hair blowing behind you and no helmet – then get rid of that image right now.  You need a helmet.  Final. Nothing more to be said.  And just accept helmet hair cos it’s a fact of cycling life.

A bicycle helmet works by absorbing the impact of a collision. In the simplest terms, a layer of foam inside the helmet crushes on impact so your skull doesn’t. Given bicycle helmets have been shown to reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85 per cent and the risk of brain injury by as much as 88 percent, it became compulsory in Australia to wear a helmet in 1990 (and in Sydney there is a $66 fine if you are caught cycling without one).

Helmet size Buying a bike helmet in Australia will mean it already conforms to safety certification standards, so next is to make sure it fits comfortably and correctly. You want the helmet to stay on your head in a crash, so it must:

  • have a secure strap
  • sit snugly on your head rather than being tilted back or forward

What size helmet? Helmets come in a variety of different sizes, including women-specific designs, as well as a one-size-fits-all design.

Once you’ve determined your head size by measuring around your head just above the eyebrows, you’ll be ready to shop. Be aware, though, that sizes vary between manufacturers and all the measuring in the world won’t make up for trying a bicycle helmet on before you buy. Don’t be tempted to buy a helmet based purely on glowing reviews or recommendations from a friend. You want to make sure that a helmet fits right for your head shape.

Helmet fit The second key aspect to ensuring the correct fit is the retention system – or in more simple terms, the straps. A helmet with a custom fit adjustment enables you to easily make adjustments to the fit, often with just one hand, so you can even adjust the helmet while you’re riding.

The fit is critical. The helmet should fit flat across your head and not wobble. If it moves more than an inch in any direction, it doesn’t fit. Try a smaller size. If the smaller size pinches, use the next size up and attach the pads that come with the helmet to ensure it won’t slide around while riding. Also check the chin strap. It should fit snugly without choking you. It also shouldn’t be so loose that it slides off your chin or is easily unbuckled.

Once the helmet is fitted there should be no slack in the straps. Thinner straps are less likely to make you hot and are generally found on road bike helmets. Mountain bike helmets, however, should have thicker straps to ensure that the helmet stays in place no matter how rough and bumpy the terrain.

Helmet ventilation Ventilation is important in a helmet in order to keep your head cool during long bike rides. The more vents a helmet offers, the greater the airflow around your head, and the cooler it will be. However, it is important to remember that the more vents a helmet has, the more your head is left uncovered, and therefore unprotected.

Other features There are other features to look for on a bicycle helmet depending on your needs. Some offer a hair port at the back of the helmet to accommodate a ponytail. Other models come with removable snap on visors to shield your eyes against glare and to create more aerodynamic airflow. There is also the colour scheme of a bicycle helmet to consider, which isn’t just a matter of fashion – the brighter the bicycle helmet, the easier it is for cars and other cyclists to see you.

Other features such as washable wicking mesh or anti microbial fit pads make it easier to keep your helmet clean and fresh for every ride.

Just like finding the perfect pair of heels, a solid shopping plan for a bicycle helmet should include trying on a variety to ensure the correct fit and shopping around. Take a friend and make a day of it!

Front and rear lights

Believe it or not, by law you have to have at least one light fitted to the front and rear of your bike and (obviously) have them on if riding at dusk or in the dark.  Personally I have my lights on all the time (but I also drive with my lights on). I figure it can’t hurt?  Though by Australian law if you ride at night or in hazardous weather conditions, you must display all of the following:

  • A steady or flashing white light on the front of the bike that’s visible for at least 200 metres AND
  • A steady or flashing red light on the rear of the bike that is visible for at least 200 metres AND
  • A red reflector on the rear of the bike that is visible for at least 50 metres when illuminated by a vehicle’s headlight on low beam.

Types of bike lights For something as simple as a bike light, there are quite a few to choose from:

Standard lights Ideal for daytime use or when riding in conditions where the lighting is good. Make sure your chosen lights meet the standards set for Australia if you’re buying over the internet.

Flashing lights These lights flash constantly and allow for excellent visibility.  These are ideal especially for use on the rear of your bike for city cycling so you can attract attention.

Average run time: 30 hours constant, 50 hours flashing.

LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights LED’s are powerful lights visible up to a kilometre away and used in essential items such as traffic lights. Used on your bike they emit a wide beam of light that spans around you.  These lights can often be adjusted to offer various levels of lighting and can ‘blink’ for extra visibility.  Whilst LED lights come in a variety of colours, red and white are typically used for bikes.

Average run time: 120 hours

Low power LED lights Usually used on the bike’s rear, these are ideal for providing low levels of lighting but are not suitable for very poor weather, or low light conditions.

Battery based lights Whilst these lights are low cost and ideal for short trips unless they are rechargeable, battery based lights can be more costly in the long term. Be aware they are less powerful than LED lights, so will offer less visibility.

Dynamo lights Dynamo lights offering brightness levels from 2 to 3 watts, do not need recharging or any batteries, and are ideal if you ride frequently. These don’t fade on the go, so they’re ideal for long term usage.  They do however offer lower levels of brightness than a traditional LED.

LED dynamo lights LED Dynamo Lights are designed to combine the power of an LED light, on the battery free functionality of a dynamo.  However straight LED lights are still brighter, so a LED Dynamo light is best for the rear of the bike.

Bike light placement

Your lights need to be attached to the front and rear of your bike though you can also consider a helmet light and additional reflective triangles for extra visibility:

Handlebar mounted lights When you buy a front light it will include a one size fits all bracket to easily attach to the middle of your handlebars.  These lights specifically allow drivers to see you and your dimensions, such as your width on the road, as you turn. For daytime, consider a bright white, or white flashing light as these offer plenty of visibility, even in the sun.

Rear mounted lights Usually red in colour, rear lights mounted onto the rear of your bike seat have greater safety qualities if they’re flashing. (Many lights have a function where flashing, or ‘blinking’ can be turned off.) Blinking rear lights are ideal in the evening, whereas a standard reflective red light at the rear will suffice in the day.

Helmet mounted lights A light attached to your helmet gives you the advantage of almost being at eye level with car drivers as you ride. This can improve your overall visibility, and is particularly useful as you turn.

Safety triangles Attached to your bike, these are reflective and can improve your visibility, even during the day. Low priced, they are a simple, low weight attachment that can add extra visibility.

Spare bike tube, 3 tyre levers, hand pump

So technically this is not essential but if you have a flat tyre it will suddenly become very essential!

These are the basic essentials you will need to fix a flat tyre:

One or two spare tubes that fit the wheel of your bike Your bike tyre inner tube must correctly fit the wheel rim for the two components to be compatible. The dimensions of your inner tube are actually printed on your tyre. You can take these measurements to a bike shop to find an inner tube that will fit your rim. If the numbers on your tyre are not legible, you may have to work out the size of your inner tube yourself:

Step 1 Remove the wheel from the bicycle to make it easier to measure. Wheels have different release mechanisms depending on the bike’s manufacturer, so be sure to remove your tyre in accordance with the hardware of your bike.

Step 2 Lay the wheel flat on the ground and place your measuring tape on top of the wheel. Measure the distance from the outermost edge of the wheel to the outermost edge on the opposite end. Make sure your measuring tape passes through the center point of the wheel. Record this measurement in millimetres.

Step 3 Measure the width of the wheel between the two walls that contain the tyre inner tube. Ensure that your measurement is between the insides of the walls rather than the outsides.

Step 4 Typically, the size of an inner tube is expressed by the width of the wheel followed by a dash or an x and then the diameter of the wheel. For instance, a 23-700 inner tube will fit a wheel with a 700 mm diameter and a 23 mm width.

If you are not confident that you will measure accurately, bring the wheel or your old tube to a bike shop. They will be able to select an appropriately sized inner tube for you.

3 tyre levers to get the tyre off A tyre lever is a simple tool used to replace or remove tyres on wheel rims. Tyre levers need to be extremely strong and are often made from metal or thick plastic. There isn’t much to a tyre lever; it’s a pretty basic design.  It’s long and has a slightly curved, thick end and a straight, thin end which enable you to lever off the tyre and replace the tube.

Hand pump to inflate the new tube All cyclists are going to need a bicycle pump at some point in time. It’s just a fact of life that eventually tyres are going to either need to be re-inflated (all tyres slowly lose air over time) or they may get punctured and need to be repaired. Whatever the case, you are going to need a bike pump to inflate those bike tyres and it’s preferable the hand pump can attach to your bike (having a bigger, normal pump at home is also useful – as this is quicker than a hand pump and makes it easy to keep your tyres at the right air pressure all the time before setting out from home).

Before you get pumping there are a few things you need to figure out. First you need to know if the valve on your bike is Schrader or it is Presta. These are the two most common kinds of valves. Often bike pumps are made to suit both Schrader or Presta. A basic hand bicycle pump functions through a hand-operated piston. The piston draws air through a valve from the outside. The piston takes the air from the pump and it goes into the bike tyre.

To make life easier, consider buying a small saddle bag to put all these things into. Saddle bags are pretty small and strap in underneath your seat – so everything is there when you need it, but out of the way when you don’t.

Working bell or horn

Bicycle bells are a great tool for riders to let people know you’re there. Whether it be other riders, pedestrians or even cars, a bicycle bell will let them know you’re coming.

According to the New South Wales road rules (http://www.bicycleinfo.nsw.gov.au/downloads/bicycle_riders_handbook.pdf)  ‘your bicycle must be fitted with at least one working bell or horn, or a similar warning device.’

Most new bikes will come with a bell already and will be attached to your handlebar.

Lock

If you don’t want your bike to get pinched, then a lock becomes pretty important.

When buying a lock or chain make sure it’s manufactured out of tool-hardened steel ensuring that cutting, sawing and drilling tools will not penetrate it.

Cheap locks use a brittle steel that can be broken by a car jack. So look for a flexible, shatterproof steel which will yield, rather than break, under stress. The varieties include:

U Locks U-shaped bar and shackle locks are a very effective device for securing your bike. Its design and construction make it impervious to pry bars, hammers, hacksaws, and bolt cutters. High quality U locks only have enough space to fit your frame and front wheel to a bike rack, so that there is no room to fit prying tools or car jacks inside.

O Locks O Locks offer very high protection for your bike. The adjustability makes them great for snugly securing the frame and a front wheel to a bike rack. This helps prevent thieves from getting a prying device into the lock. Their locking mechanisms are also difficult to pick.

Chain locks With chain locks, the chain should be a heavy duty thickness; otherwise it can be cut with simple wire cutters. It should also be covered with plastic or an inner tube to prevent pinching or frame scratches.

Inexpensive chains and padlocks will not stop a thief with proper cutting tools, so the chain has to be both thick and case hardened. Be sure that the chain links are welded together; otherwise the chain links can be pulled apart with a chain spreading tool. Chain locks can provide an added deterrent when used beside a solid U lock, but they are heavy and cannot be passed through the seat like a cable lock.

Cable locks These are lighter than other locks and therefore more convenient, but they offer no real protection. Most cables and padlocks can be cut with bolt cutters, and are “easy pickings” for thieves.

The best cable locks are the ones that have the lock built-in, rather than relying on a padlock. The padlock is the weak link, easily cut with bolt cutters, the tool of choice for most bike thieves.

Nice to haves

Once you’re cycling regularly, you might want to add some of the following:

Water Bottle

What to look for Bicycle water bottles should be durable and hold a minimum of 500 mls. Make sure you buy a water bottle that comes with its own cage or bracket that attaches to your bike.  Being easy to drink from, with easy-to-open nozzles you can then open your bottle with your teeth while you’re riding.

Common pitfalls Try to avoid water bottles with multiple ridges, narrow necks and designs that can harbour bacteria, as these tend to be harder to clean. Water bottles should be smooth on the inside, with openings wide enough for a small cleaning brush.

Another common pitfall is a water bottle that is too rigid or stiff, causing the bottle to rattle in the cage when you are riding your bike. Also avoid stiff valves or caps that won’t open easily.

BPA, or “bisphenol A,” is a compound that has been used to make bicycle water bottles. Studies have shown BPA can cause developmental toxicity and is recognised as a carcinogen in some countries. Look for bottles that are labelled “BPA-free.”

Comparison shopping Consider spending an extra $5 and buy an insulated water bottle. You’ll appreciate drinking cold water on a hot day.  Also, if you have a choice between a dark or a light-coloured water bottle, remember that light-coloured water bottles reflect heat, keeping your drink cooler.

Gloves

Gloves are really useful in terms of improving your grip, keeping your hands comfortable, absorbing shock and are great for warmth.

What to look for Many cyclists have different gloves for different weather. In cooler months get full gloves while in warmer months, fingerless gloves are more comfy.

Most women have smaller hands then men, so look for gloves made for women as a preference and be sure to try them on before purchase.

Also, when buying fingerless gloves – look for those that have finger loops that make it easier to get them off. Just makes life a bit easier!

Actually, many cyclists find that gloves are an important part of their gear and wouldn’t be found on the bike without them. Here’s a quick snapshot of the main functions bike gloves perform.

Improved grip and control You know that being out on a bike can make you pretty sweaty – especially if it is one of those warm and humid days. And that means your hands are wet, too. Like clothes with wicking technology, a good pair of gloves will help keep your hands dry, which means that you can maintain a better grip on the handlebars.

Comfort and protection for your skin If you’ve ever spent a couple of hours or more on a bike, you probably realised that, somewhat surprisingly, cycling can be pretty hard on your hands. From the constant pressure on your palms, to the wear on your fingers from changing gears, it doesn’t take long for calluses or blisters to develop. A pair of bike gloves can give your skin the extra layer of protection you need to be comfortable, even on the longest ride.

Another reason many cyclists wear bike gloves is to keep hands warm. (Bike gloves are still gloves, after all!)

Shock absorption You’ll notice that many pairs of gloves on the market today have some type of cushioning, such as gel padding, built into the palms. The reason is that gloves with this padding serve a very useful function in absorbing shock from the road that would otherwise be transferred to the rider.

Think about it this way. When you’re riding, and you hit some bumps, the shock and impact from that carries straight up from the front fork through your arms and into your shoulders. That’s why you may be achy in that area or your neck and back after a longer ride. When wearing bike gloves, the cushions in the palms act as shock absorbers, helping to dampen some of the energy being transmitted up from the bike before it gets into your body. Not only will this help the ride feel smoother as you go, but it will also help reduce those aches you feel when you are done.

Grip The gloves should have some type of fabric or leather on the palm side of the glove, which will help you get a good grip on the handlebars.

You want your bicycle gloves to fit snug but not too tight that you can’t move your fingers easily. Be aware, though, that they do stretch out over time so you don’t want to get them too loose either.

Protection in case of a crash What do most people do as they start to fall? They put their hands out to try and catch themselves, to break their impact as they hit the ground. If you’ve ever fallen like this, you know that you can really tear up your palms when they go skidding across pavement or rocks. A pair of bike gloves can give you the protection you need to save your hands and keep the gravel and grit out of your hands and on the street where it belongs.

Style On top of all these other features, wearing a pair of cool bike gloves can make you look and feel pretty good. It’s like being a kid and getting a new pair of runners: instantly you feel like you can run a lot faster. And there is nothing wrong with buying a pair of bike gloves for this reason alone.

Bike pedals – flat, cages, cleats

Bike pedals come in three main types, cleats, cages, and platform. Each type has its place, but when you’re looking for new pedals or buying a bike, the bike pedals you get can make a big difference in how you ride and how your bike performs. After all, bike pedals make up possibly the most important connection between you and your bike.

Flat Flat bike pedals offer no attachment between the foot and the pedal – but if you are starting out this is what to get. These pedals are designed to provide a good amount of grip between the pedal and the shoe but that is all you get. As you might guess, with flat bike pedals, pedalling efficiency is compromised.

These bike pedals offer instant removal of the foot for any reason and with no obstructions. This makes these bike pedals ideal for beginners as well as for riders who want to be able to put a foot down often or very quickly.

Cages The second common bike pedal type is the toeclip or cage style bike pedal. Usually these are found on lower end bikes because they are cheaper for the manufacturer. With cage style bike pedals you slip your foot into a cage that has a strap adjusting around the top of your foot. Surprisingly when properly adjusted, cage style bike pedals are slightly harder to get in and out of than cleats and are not nearly as efficient.

Cleats For a smoother ride, consider investing in cleats. Although they take some getting used to, they both give you more power and speed (and you feel like a pro!!).

With cleats, you snap your foot into place on the pedal. A quick side rotation of the foot releases the connection allowing you to get off the bike or put a foot down. These bike pedals provide a very stable connection to the bike that allows you to pedal more efficiently. With cleats your leg muscles are utilised more in the upstroke giving you greater power.

Some riders also prefer these bike pedals because they hold your foot to the pedal even in the rougher terrain and they make it easier to hop over obstacles.

Fenders or mudguards on the front and back wheels

These can be purchased from a bike shop and they will fit them to your bike. They stop dirt, grit or puddles from the road splashing up onto you. Not essential but not a bad idea – particularly on the back wheel, but you can get them for both.

If you are a “fair weather” cyclist, you don’t need fenders, but if there is a chance you’ll be cycling in the rain you should invest in fenders.

The water kicked up by your wheels is much worse for your bicycle than the clean rain falling from the sky. If you ride in wet conditions without fenders, your chain, derailers and brakes will all get sprayed with sandy, muddy, scummy water, often mixed with petrol residue. This is very bad for these parts.

Even more vulnerable is the lower section of your headset (the bearing assembly that connects the front fork to the frame, and permits the fork to turn for steering and balancing). Headsets are designed to shed water like the shingles of a roof, and are basically rainproof…but the gritty spray coming up from the road below has easy entry to the bearing surfaces.

Rear view mirror

A rear view mirror can help you to see what’s going on behind you without having to turn your head. Sometimes when you are starting out, turning your head to check the traffic behind you may cause you to start veering that way – so if this is an issue for you, the rear view mirror may be helpful.

When purchasing a rear view mirror, look for the following features:

  • The mirror can attach to the horizontal plane of your handlebar or be mounted on the end of your handlebar
  • The best rear view mirrors and fully adjustable with at least 3 angle rotations
  • Your rear view mirror should fold on impact
  • The mirror glass should be as large as possible, preferably convex and be made out of an unbreakable chrome.  These features allow for better peripheral vision

Bicycle computer

Why we use computers Bike computers can be addictive and offer the rider a lot of information on their cycling and the bike journey. These computers work using a ring with small magnets that are placed over the axle and hub of the front wheel. A magnetic sensor is fastened to the fork in close proximity to the magnetic ring. As the ring revolves, the fork sensor notices each time a magnet goes past and tells the computer head. The functionality is based on the computer “seeing” the wheel magnet and knowing the wheel has revolved once. The computer is thus able to work out and provide a lot of information based on this mechanism.

Many computers are designed with up to 50 functions, whereas some simply have around 10 key functions such as speed, distance, calories burnt and your heart rate helping you improve your speed or stamina.

Personal computers fit to the bike via wired areas, and should come with full instructions for simple DIY fitting at home.

What personal computer to choose The best way to decide what to buy is to look at what your needs are.  The more features, the more expensive the device will be.

Interactivity with your PC or laptop is a new feature with many devices, whereby you can download your data onto your computer for analysis and tracking.  If you use this feature, then this could help your training and progress. However, if you are more of a fair weather cyclist, or if you lack specific goals, this could be unsuitable for you and will just cost more, for little gains.

What to look for in a bike computer
Buttons – Can you use them? How about with gloves on? Some cycle computers use a one button function that works like a PC screen, allowing you to choose multiple functions from within one button.

Display – Is the display clear and readable? Is there a backlight for night time riding?

Functions – How many functions does your computer have and how many do you need, or put differently- will you use them all?

Size – Bicycle computer sizes can vary, but most should fit in the palm of your hand. Your choice should be based on where you want to locate the personal computer, making sure it doesn’t hinder your movement. Systems do not vary much in weight, so choose based on functions, not a difference in grams.

Functions of a personal computer Functions you should be looking for vary on what device you choose.
Below are some of the features you are likely to find within a personal computer. (These can vary with price with less costly models containing fewer features.)

  • Current Speed ‘Speedometer’- shown in km per hour
  • ‘Odometer’ or trip distance – track how far you went in km’s
  • 12/24 hour clock or a digital clock – keep track of time
  • Average speed – measured by the revolutions of the wheels, an accurate way of measuring effort and motion
  • Cadence- how fast the pedal rotations are, measured by the crank.
  • Speed comparator- compares lasts week’s efforts with today’s
  • Riding time – overall ride times helps you measure progress
  • Re-set of trip distance – for return journeys
  • Heart Rate (HR) / pulse monitor – allows your to monitor your efforts accurately
  • Calorie counter- a way of measuring the perceived calories expended
  • Stopwatch for racing and timing – a great function for use when training
  • Temperature – measures weather in centigrade
  • Alarm clock- perfect for getting you up on a cycle tour
  • Illumination – for night vision
  • Heart rate indicator- helps you keep your heart rate at optimum levels
  • Save functions – to record information
  • Distance above sea level – allows you to calculate effort when on an incline with altitude considered
  • Downloading capabilities – allows you to download the information onto your home computer
  • Reset – reset of all main functions

Other considerations A few other areas to consider when buying a bicycle computer include:

  • Make sure you get a screen with the right font and screen size that makes it readable as you ride
  • Test your personal computer if possible for visibility, and also look at screens that can shield the device from the sun’s glare
  • Look for buttons that you can work with gloves on in the winter
  • Keep your eyes on the road and cars around you and not solely focused on your bike computer!

GPS device

Just like in your car, you can also purchase a Global Positioning System (GPS) device for your bike that attaches to your handle bars – makes navigating around a bit easier.

Like the version used in a car, the GPS unit will typically point in the direction of the next turn along the route, and then beep or flash when your near each turn. These small devices are especially helpful when exploring new territory.

GPS units come in two basic flavors: map and map-less.

The map-less units are least expensive, but they’re only useful if you follow a pre programmed route, or wish to record and download your route to your home computer after your ride.

However, the more efficient units are the ones that can also display a map. This becomes handy when you need to find an alternative route or go in search of other unexpected destinations such as shops selling food, water etc.

However, a word of warning. After you buy a map capable GPS unit, you may find you also need to purchase additional software in order to load detailed maps onto your unit. Then, you’ll need additional memory modules to hold the maps so the costs start mounting.

Lights, lights, lights

If you are going to be riding at dusk, before sunrise or night – lights, lights, lights. At the very least you should have one light on the front of your bike and one light at the back – in fact this is required by law. Add lights to a backpack or the back of your helmet. I’m of the opinion that the more you have the better. Change the batteries relatively regularly so your lights stay nice and bright.

Clothing

So you’re all kitted out with your helmet, water bottle and gloves.  Let’s take a look at some cycling specific clothing that you can invest in. Ultimately you can ride wearing anything, but if comfort is your goal some of these might be worthwhile.  Riding in light coloured clothing so you can be seen or even the type of stuff you may wear to the gym or to run in, can also be good when starting out. Choose light weight fabrics that wick away sweat and breathe.

Lycra Bike Shorts

If you only invest in one item of clothing for cycling, make sure it’s a good pair of lycra bike shorts. There’s one very good reason for wearing them: comfort. Anyone who’s ever ridden a bike knows that time spent in the saddle wearing anything other than a pair of padded lycra shorts will tear you to shreds. Tight yet unrestricted, the lycra short is designed to keep padding (or the chamois) where it’s needed the most, while working with your body to move moisture.

The tight synthetic materials keep things smooth and free from bunching up while also being aerodynamic, sweat wicking and fast drying. They’re meant to be worn without undies to minimise seams and excess where it might cause the most painful rubbing and chafing.

Women’s lycra shorts Women’s Lycra shorts generally have shorter leg lengths, narrower waists, larger leg openings and a slightly longer rise (the distance from the front waistband of the shorts, under the crotch and up to the back waistband) than men’s styles. The pads are also shaped differently – smaller overall, but proportionately wider at the rear and narrower in the centre. They also lack a bulky terry pad at the front.

Panels and fabric The more panels the better the fit, is the basic rule when it comes to buying bike shorts. Six is the accepted standard, with eight found on higher-end shorts. However, with the progression in fabric technology, manufacturers are now mixing panels of different fabrics and contouring their shape for improved fit and performance in the saddle

Stitching Make sure your shorts have flat stitching ensuring comfort next to the skin. There should also be no stitching near areas like the inside of the leg. Contrast stitching also makes the shape of fancy panels stand out and look good

Chamois This is the heart of it. Chamois made from synthetic materials provide padding for comfort while wicking away moisture to keep you fresh and prevent soreness. The chamois in your shorts should be ribbed and contoured to fit your body’s curves, and bonded into shape to eliminate the need for stitching around the delicate areas. A combination of wicking material and padding from gel and foams is often used to provide cushioning.

Leg grippers Elastic is used to keep the shorts tight at the base. Look for shorts that use silicone grippers to maintain the hold of the elastic against the skin and prevent the hems from riding up.

Cycling Jerseys

What’s wrong with wearing a cotton T-shirt? Cycling jerseys cut to a woman’s proportions with flared hips offer several advantages over casual wear such as t-shirts.  Here’s what to look for:

The jersey needs to be made out of technical fabrics providing moisture-wicking properties. They remove the sweat from your skin and bring it to the surface where it rapidly evaporates. This increases your comfort while riding and keeps you from becoming cold and damp when you come to a stop after a period of heavy exertion.

Look for a jersey with handy back pockets providing a convenient place to store keys, money, gloves, energy bars, or even a lightweight jacket. The pockets are located on the back instead of the sides to prevent them from rubbing against your legs while pedaling.

Long front zippers are great for allowing you to adjust the ventilation while riding and regulate your temperature.

Extended tails cover your backside when you are bent over in a “tucked” cycling position.

Snug fitting jerseys absorb and evaporate sweat faster, don’t flap in the wind, and won’t snag on obstacles (like tree branches) as easily as loose-cut garments.

A good safety tip is buying a jersey in bright colours with reflective piping as this makes you more visible to other vehicles on the road.

Cycling Jackets

Women’s cycling jackets come in several variations. The proper jacket for you will depend on the type of riding you’ll be doing. There is a trade-off between breathability, weight, packability, and water resistance. Fully waterproof jackets can be somewhat heavier and less breathable than their merely water-resistant cousins. For shorter rides where you might only get sprinkled on, a lighter-weight, more breathable jacket is often preferred.

Waterproof jacket features

  • Waterproof yet breathable membranes like Gore-Tex repel water droplets while allowing water vapor from your sweat to escape.
  • Pit zips allow for adjustable amounts of underarm ventilation when you start to overheat
  • Back vents and adjustable wrist closures create cooling airflow up your sleeves and out your back
  • A storable or removable hood sized to fit over (or snugly under) a bike helmet is a nice feature but not a must-have

Windshell features

  • Lightweight, thin fabrics breathe well and allow the jacket to be stuffed into a jersey pocket, pannier or handlebar bag
  • Reflectivity increases your safety when riding at dawn, dusk, or night
  • Rear pockets allow for storage that doesn’t get in your way while pedaling
  • Convertible jackets have zip-off sleeves and convert into a vest for added versatility

Cycling Vests

Vests are perhaps among the most under-appreciated items available to cyclists. Combine a vest with a pair of arm warmers, and you are ready to tackle almost any temperature variation you’ll encounter along your ride. Best of all, when the time comes to take the vest off, it’ll fit easily into your jersey pocket. Features to ask about when in-store include:

  • Good quality wind blocking fabrics to keep the wind-chill effect from sapping your body heat
  • Look out for vests with mesh back panels allowing you to vent excess heat when you are exerting yourself.
  • Back pockets are convenient for storing items or for self-stuffing the vest into when it is not in use.
  • Reflectivity and bright colors help you be seen and be safe on the road.

Beanie/Hat/Head band

A good ol’ beanie can make a huge difference in keeping you warm especially on those chilly mornings for under your helmet. Make sure you look for the following features:

  • Get a sculpted fit coming down over your ears without getting too low on your forehead
  • Specialised warm/windblocking fabrics will provide additional warmth and protection from cold winds
  • Should have low bulk and a snug fit allowing you to wear the cycling beanie underneath your helmet.
  • A great feature is a ponytail port allowing your hair to pass through and results in a more comfortable fit.
  • Alternatively a stretchy head band can also be pretty comfy under your helmet – but it won’t keep your head as warm.

Arms/Leg Warmers

Arm warmers and knee/leg warmers come in handy when the weather starts out cold but warms up during the day. You can easily strip them off and stuff them in a jersey pocket, handlebar bag or pannier.  What to look for include:

  • Gripper elastic keeping the warmer them from sliding down your arms or legs
  • Specialised warm/wind-blocking fabrics provide additional warmth and protection from cold winds
  • Look for the smaller sizes for women with shorter lengths and smaller openings at the upper arm and leg.

Long pants/skins

In cooler months, wear longer tights or skins under your bike pants or buy a pair of long bike pants. They will keep you snug as a bug.

You’ve probably seen cyclists wearing Skins. These close fitting garments are typically comfortable, protective and supportive. The engineered gradient compression will also improve your circulation, naturally getting more oxygen to your muscles to help you power on.

Leggings also work but don’t breathe as well.

Booties

No, not booties for your baby – for you!! These are like big socks that go over your shoes and keep your feet nice and warm.

Bicycle shoe covers are available in several forms and most models will incorporate heel and cleat cutouts. Common booties or shoe covers include:

  • Lycra shoecovers – these offer some wind resistance and keep your shoes in pristine condition. These bike overshoes generally come as one size fits all
  • Neoprene booties – this technical fabric is100% windproof and rainproof keeping your feet dry and warm.
  • Windtex booties – these are 100% windproof and offer reasonable water resistance. They are semi fitted and have a decent stretch. They do keep your feet warm. Whilst not as waterproof as neoprene booties they are very popular as they are quite warming and “feel nicer” than neoprene.

Socks

Not essential, however you can buy cycling specific socks. If you run, you will know the benefits of running specific socks – they tend to prevent blisters, let your feet breathe a bit more and offer a level of comfort. Cycling socks are the same.

It’s understandable that a lot of riders might be taken aback at paying over $20 for socks.

However like many cycle clothing products, underneath their simple styling bike socks are sneakily technical. A good pair of cycling sock are very comfortable. They should offer a supportive, but not constricting fit and the material should feel smooth and soft against the skin.

As you’d expect cycling socks should wick and breathe very well and offer a reinforced toe and heel area.

Carrying stuff on your bike

You can actually carry quite a bit of gear on your bike. 

Fitting a rack and panniers, or saddle bag or even a basket can completely alter your perception of carrying loads on your bicycle. A lot of cyclists tend to carry loads in a backpacks round town, but for longer distances this will leave you sweaty backed and uncomfortable. The further the distance you ride, the stronger the case for a carrying feature on your bike. However in some circumstances, there is still a role for back packs.

Panniers
 Conventional fabric panniers often have multiple pockets and compartments. This makes it easier to keep tomorrow’s shorts and yesterday’s socks separate. Fabric panniers can eventually get saturated in heavy rain, so it’s a good idea to organise your cargo in stuff sacs (or plastic bags) before packing your panniers. Better still, spend a bit more and opt for bike bags that are 100% waterproof.

When buying panniers you’ll also need to invest in racks which secure your pannier to the bike.  Look for racks that are welded together (no nuts and bolts to shake loose) with triangulated rear sections, as these tend to be strongest. Also note how the rack fits to the bike, to avoid fouling your brakes. Tell the shop assistant what type and size of bike you have, to ensure a good fit. Knowing what type of brakes you have will also help. If you don’t know, take your bike with you.

Backpacks Packing gear on your back can be an ergonomic option for hauling around the necessities. The versatile nature of a backpack makes it the ideal choice for someone who needs to take their gear with them, when they get off their bike.

Bike backpacks usually have all of the benefits of a regular backpack, but are amped up with detailed comfort features and helpful organisational capacity. These details are what separate the good bags from the great bags.

A good bike backpack should fit well and utilise weight distribution in the most efficient manner for your body.  Additionally a bike backpack can incorporate helpful features such as an integrated hydration reservoir making it easy to sip on your water while riding, helmet holders that pack your helmet out of the way while walking, or small pockets and loops which offer quick access to important items.

To reduce the common sweaty-back phenomenon look for a backpack with a system which pushes the actual backpack off your back for full, flow through air venting. Other backpacks include mesh cooling vents on the back and shoulders to maximize air flow at contact points.

Saddle bags Saddle bags are small and sleek and don’t call much attention to themselves. They are an important item for a multiplicity of cycling styles, from the weekend warrior to the hardcore commuter, as they generally accommodate all of the necessary items you would need to change a flat tyre, make minor repairs on your bicycle, or stash your spare cash, phone, purse, or maybe a small snack. Not to mention, saddle bags are located conveniently underneath the rails of your saddle (i.e. bike seat), where you have easy access to your tools and other small necessities, while their mounting systems prevent them from bouncing off your bike no matter how bumpy things get.

They are very easy to mount with either integrated velcro and buckle systems or brand-specific mounting hardware. Last but certainly not least, saddle bags don’t impede your leg movement for cycling.

Bike saddle bags come in a range of sizes and variety of materials, which provide different levels of water-resistance. Standard saddle bags are generally constructed from canvas and are lighter-weight and more pliable than their foam or plastic counterparts.

Beyond carrying the bare necessities, saddle bags are convenient to use in combination with a variety of other bags. They also provide a great option for cyclists who are looking to add a little cargo capacity on their bicycles without having to install a bike rack. For even more “rackless” capacity, the combination of a handlebar bag and saddle bag provides a good amount of easy-access space.

Other handy features of saddle bags include brands which offer expandability allowing your saddle bag to increase its carrying capacity. Some saddle bags come with a light built in and reflective logos or piping for added visibility.

Child seats
Children love cycling. It’s time spent with you, talking together, discovering things and enjoying fresh air and exercise.

Child seats provide a safe seat for a child that can be attached to a bike so they can come along for the ride. Depending on the type of child seat, the most common place for them to be attached is at the back of the bike so the rider’s vision is not compromised.

Child seats come with padding, a seat belt buckle to keep the child secure as well as leg restraints so the child cannot get out.

To understand if your child is ready to come cycling with you, consider the following:

  • Your child must be strong enough to support their own head while sitting upright.
  • By Australian law they must wear a helmet, so make sure they can bear that extra weight and will tolerate the unfamiliar headgear.
  • They’ll also need to be able to cope with the bumps and bounces experienced when riding, and with acceleration forces as you speed up or slow down.

Generally, most children are ready at about one year old and will continue to fit into a rear child seat till about four years of age (or when they reach about 20kgs).

After fitting the rear child’s seat, it’s a good idea to accustom yourself to the bike’s compromised handling by taking a trial run with a heavy bag in the seat. And practice getting your leg over the top-tube without swinging it over the saddle – or you’ll kick your child in the head!

Front seats can also be used and though these affect the handling less than rear seats, they force you to ride bow-legged so they’re not used as often.

When fitting the child seat, ensure the base of the seat back is above or in front of the rear axle. Weighted further back can significantly compromise handling otherwise.

Baskets If you think baskets are just for kid’s bikes, think again. For a lightweight, versatile solution for carrying all your stuff, consider bike baskets.  They come in a variety of sizes and materials and nowadays are pretty stylish looking.

Baskets can be mounted to the front or rear of a bicycle. Rear bike baskets tend to be deeper to accommodate larger items like groceries and, unlike most panniers; they have no lid, allowing you to carry taller items. Bike baskets mount to rear racks and typically hang on either side of the wheel.

Front baskets, on the other hand, tend to be smaller, wider and shallower and mount to either the handlebar or front fork.

When shopping for a bike basket, look for ones that you can quickly detach and take with you, preferably with handles or shoulder straps.

Whilst wicker baskets offer a retro appeal, they tend to hold less and are not waterproof.  Wire baskets are generally the way to go.