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 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.