A Common Sense Guide to Bicycles

What Bicycle Accessories Do I Need?

Published: 07/15/2009 by eBicycles

Whether you already have a bicycle or just purchased one, you should consider accessories to go with it. Some of these are essential such as a helmet, basic safety gear or a repair kit. Others should only be considered if you have the budget or are doing enough riding to warrant their use.

Touring bicycle with accessories
© Brandon Kelly

Touring bicycle loaded with accessories.

Why Outfit My Bicycle?

Safety should be your first consideration when riding a bicycle and this may therefore require outfitting yourself with gear that protects you and is clearly visible to other motorists. A helmet and bright fluorescent clothing is a good start.

Comfort is another reason to outfit your bicycle. If you are touring, it is far more comfortable to put your gear into side panniers than carry it on your back. Similarly, bicycle gloves, bike pants (knicks) and comfortable seats go a long way to making the ride more endurable even if itís just a few miles to work and back.

Common sense is another factor in outfitting your bicycle. Thereís nothing worse than getting stuck by the side of the road 50 miles from home with a flat tire and no means of fixing it. It could be a long walk to a phone, let alone getting back. If youíre using the bike to commute to work or school you need to make sure you get there on time. You should carry inner tubes, a repair kit, bicycle pump and other basic repair gear for every ride. A cell phone and a bit of cash certainly can't hurt either.

Will Any Accessory Fit?

The short answer to this question is no. New accessories are coming out all the time and are not necessarily designed to fit older models. If youíre purchasing a pump, saddle bag, pedals or any other item that will attach to your bike it is always best to bring the bike with you when making the purchase. This is because the stem length and fittings of bikes can vary. Most bike shops will do the fitting for you, hopefully at no extra charge.

Tips for Choosing Accessories

Most bike shops have a range of styles within a particular type of accessory. Usually the more expensive items are of a higher quality but not always, some might be on sale or old stock and on sale. Ask the sales people or other riders for advice. Reviews online and in magazines can give you comparative feedback.

The cheaper versions of most accessories will wear out quicker so itís probably worth investing in something better that might last longer for important items such as bike pumps.

Which Accessories Should I Buy?

Safety should be high on your list for considering what gear or accessories to purchase. Below are some common accessories for your bicycle, but only you can determine what is necessary for the riding you are doing. Itís probably best to start out with the basics and buy additional things as you need them.

Reflective cycling jacket
© illumiNITE

Highly reflective cycling jacket that helps motorists see bicycle riders easier.

Clothing

Visible or reflective gear is very important, particularly if you are riding in low light conditions (dawn, dusk, night, rain) or in traffic. Bright, reflective colors like orange or yellow will give you a greater chance of being seen. It is possible to buy road safety gear from varying outlets including bike shops, department stores and road safety shops.

The range of clothing available for the cyclist is astounding and sometimes rather specialized. While you might not need every kind of jersey under the sun, specific bike shirts with a carrying pouch for food, a phone or other equipment are very useful and the material used is breathable. Similarly, the lycra shorts provide a lot of comfort on the bike as do gloves to prevent chafing and wear. Your budget and the climate of where you live will probably dictate how many bike shirts you want that are sleeveless, with short sleeves, long sleeves, rain proof, etc. You can also ride in a simple T-shirt.

If youíre only popping down to the store or around the corner you can jump on your bike in ordinary tennis or running shoes. But if youíre going out for longer rides you may want to consider cycling shoes. These shoes provide constant contact with the bike allowing you to transfer more of your riding effort when you are pushing and pulling up hills or on the flat.

Bicycle mirror
© Omar Omar / flickr

Bicycle mirror mounted to the handlebar.

Mirrors

If you are commuting or touring at length you may find a mirror useful so you can check on what cars or other traffic is coming up behind and move appropriately. These clip easily onto handlebars or to your helmet.

Bicycle locked to parking divider
© Brandon Kelly

U-shaped lock securing a bicycle to a parking divider.

Locks / Security

If you value your bike you will want to invest in a good bike lock. The better these are the more expensive they get, and the really good ones are pretty infallible so donít lose your key.

Bicycle multi-tool
© Crank Bros

Multi-tool, an important part of a repair kit, is used for repairing and tuning a bicycle.

Repair Kits

When you cycle you should take a basic repair kit with you containing a puncture kit, tire levers, spare tube and a multi-tool for making basic adjustments. These things can be fitted into bike bags that mount to the seat. You might have other tools for bike maintenance that you have at home, but when youíre out cycling the basic repair kit should be all you need.

Bicycle pump
© istockphoto.com / A-nik

A portable bicycle pump, handy for fixing flat tires, usually clips to your bicycle frame.

Bike Pumps

Bike pumps today are very user friendly, although the kind you need depends on the valve of your tires. Ensure you check this out before purchasing a pump. Traditional models require an extension tube screwed in at one end of the pump but newer models fit directly to the valve and itís possible to use the same pump for both mountain bike and road biking tires. Check with your bike shop about the appropriate tire pressure to use when inflating your tires. You may also find the pressure range printed on the side of your tire.

Bicycle helmet
© Uvex Sports

Bicycle helmets protect your head in case of a fall or collision. The air vents help keep you cool.

Helmets

A bicycle helmet should be a mandatory purchase and used whenever you ride, even if laws do not require them. When choosing a helmet consider its safety aspects and how it fits rather than style or price. There are helmets available for different riding styles, for example, downhill mountain biking requires a full face motorbike style helmet. A good helmet should be firmly fitted with no gap between it and your head.

Water bottles mounted to bicycle frame
© Brandon Kelly

Your bicycle can be equipped with one or more water bottle holders.

Water Bottles / Water Bottle Holders

A water bottle holder is the best and most common way of carrying water long distances, you may even want to fit a second or third one on your frame. Alternatively you may consider using water bladders in a backpack or saddlebag.

Touring bicycle with panniers
© Brandon Kelly

Touring bicycle setup with front and rear saddle bags. The bright colors and reflective patches help motorists see you more easily at night.

Saddle Bags / Panniers / Baskets

If you are doing a lot of travel, attachments to the bike that will carry gear for you will be more comfortable than lugging it in a backpack. Most people stop using backpacks before long as they are often hot and uncomfortable. Baskets can also be attached for shopping to carry smaller items or even pets. A rack or basket can also be good for carrying a change of clothes or books to school/work. Some have quick release capabilities so you can remove them, while others bolt to your frame.

Bicycle with front and rear LED lights
© rhurtubia / flickr

LED lights mounted on the front and rear of your bicycle help motorists see you at night.

Lights

If you plan to do any riding at night you should use a front and rear light, or at the very least install reflective lights. Lights are used more to make you visible to others than actually illuminating your way, although if you are doing night riding through forest you will need a strong light. Always check your batteries before heading out, recharge them or take a spare set so you wonít run out. Some lights come with a generator that pushes up against your front or rear tire (when turned on), that generates electricity as you pedal. This eliminates the need for batteries.

Towable child carrier
© Howard N2GOT / flickr

Towable carriers like this are great for taking your child riding with you.

Child Carriers or Trailers

If you want to head down to the store, pick kids up from school or tour then you should consider a child carrier or tow trailer. There are a number of models available. Child carriers attach to the rear of a bike on a carrier, others are in front of the rider, or you can even get a small towable carriage. If you do load your bike with gear or with a trailer make sure it has enough low gearing for you to be able to cope with it going uphill.

Rear wheel / Fender
© Brandon Kelly

Rear wheel with full fender and reflector installed. Fenders come in metal and plastic, for many types of bicycles.

Fenders / Mudguards

These wheel covers are particularly good to protect your bike from mud and water and you from getting extra wet or dirty. You might be particularly glad of this if youíre heading into work or riding through the rain.

Tow hitch bicycle rack
© Saris Cycling Group

Bike carriers mount to your trunk, or to the tow hitch. Pictured is a tow hitch type bicycle carrier system.

Bike Cargo Racks / Bike Carriers

Bike cargo racks install on your bicycle and provide cargo carrying capacity when you're riding. Here is our complete guide to bicycle racks.

Bikes take up a lot of room inside the car and can get dirt and grease on your seats. So if you need to transport your bike or take it away with you on vacation, a bike carrier attached to the roof rack or a tow bar is essential.

Cycling Computer
© Jeremy & Taylor / flickr

Cycling computers provide valuable information during your rides, especially useful for touring and statistic junkies.

Cycling Computer

If you're serious about your riding and want feedback on things like your speed, cycles per minutes, time, distance, etc. you might consider a cycle computer. These attach easily to your handlebars and wheel and can help with training programs.

Back: Guide to Buying a Bicycle

Photo Gallery

Bicycle fender and integrated stop light
© Brandon Kelly
  • Touring Bicycle
  • Cycling Jacket
  • Cycling Mirror
  • Locked Bicycle

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