THE CONVENIENT CYCLIST

What accessories do you need for biking?

So you’re getting into biking.  Now what? How can you make your biking experience as smooth and positive as possible?
new bike
You’ll obviously need a bike of some sort, and maybe you’ve already gotten your hands on one.
Thanks to some great discussions this week with research-savvy Flatbike customers Julia and David, here is our prioritized list of the four biking accessories you’ll really need, others that are useful…and where to get them all.

THE ESSENTIALS

The items in this list are here because they will save you from significant hardship as a cyclist.

 

Giro helmet
This one device can turn a life-altering crash into an embarrassing little incident.

1) A Good Cycling Helmet.

  • Why get one: Bikes can take you quickly from one place to another, which is great, but you’re also moving quickly near pavement (or rocks, if you’re an off-pavement mountain biker). If you ever do take a spill, you don’t want to be in the position–mid-accident–of having to decide what part of your body to sacrifice to protect your noggin for future use. It’s the cheapest insurance you’ll ever buy, and it’s a one-time purchase.
  • What to get: Today’s best helmets have a ratcheting fit-adjustment knob, wind vents for ventilation comfort, and MIPS (Multi-directional impact protection system) to redirect energy away from your brain during a crash. Here are two good choices:

 

 

Vibrelli floor pump
Pumping your tires in the garage is a good habit that reduces problems on the road.
2) A Floor Pump.
  • Why get one: At some point, an underinflated tire makes you work harder for the same mileage. Let your tire deflate more, and you run the risk of a self-inflicted flat, fatally pinching the tube between rim and road; Not surprisingly, it’s called a pinch flat. A good pump, particularly one that you use before you head out on a ride, keeps your riding smooth and enjoyable.
  • What to get: A pump with a readout (so it doubles as a pressure checker) and the ability to handle both types of valve stems–Schrader and Presta. If you don’t know which type of valve stem you have, Presta is the type that changes–you unscrew the top before pumping–so if that’s what you’ve got, just think “Presto Changeo” and you’re mostly there. Two good choices:
U-bolt lock
A U-bolt lock is your best bet. If your bike folds in half around it like a CHANGE bike, that’s even better.
3) A Reasonably Theft-Resistant Lock.
  • Why get one: The ugly truth about bike locks is that no lock works against a determined bike thief with the right tools, such as a battery-powered angle grinder, which can get through any lock in 15 minutes or less. (So the best option for overnight or day-long storage is simply a full-size bike that folds in half to come inside safely and easily). For all other security situations, you want a lock that protects against thefts of convenience from people armed with low-tech tools like wire cutters, bolt cutters, or hacksaws.
  • What to get: A U-lock offers the most security. These both have pretty good reviews (the OnGuard one, in particular, has a Sold Secure Gold rating) as well as cables and mounting brackets so you can attach them to the bike (which means you’re more likely to actually have them with you):

 

Bad weather lights
The worse the weather, the more your lights matter. Pick strong ones.
4) Strong, USB-rechargeable lights
  • Why get them: Notice this is plural. A bright, blinking red rear light is your best weapon for grabbing the attention of a texting-obsessed distracted driver to keep rear-end collisions from happening. A bright headlight, on the other hand, is so that you can see and never overrun your headlights no matter how fast or dark the ride. And USB charging means you’ll never, ever go out the door with a half-dead light because you didn’t have replacement batteries at home. Just plug your light in anywhere. Both of these are bright (over 1,000 lumens), rechargeable, and waterproof:
    • Wastou Bike Lights. Super Bright Bike Front Light 1200 Lumen, IPX6 Waterproof 6 Modes Cycling Light Flashlight Torch with USB Rechargeable Tail Light (USB Cable Included)
    • Best Mountain Bike Lights for Night Riding. 1000 Lumens Bike Headlight, USB Rechargeable, Front & Back Bike Light Flashing Light.

NICE TO HAVE

The items on this list can make your riding more productive, convenient, and fun.

bottle cage
Carbon fiber isn’t just light weight. It also keeps your water bottle (and your hands and clothes) cleaner.
1) A Good Water Bottle Holder.
  • Why get one: If you’re out and moving around, you’re exercising. And if you’re exercising, you’ll need rehydration. A water bottle holder keeps your water handy and convenient.
  • What to get: First, what to avoid–unpainted aluminum. Before you know it, you’ve got gray stains on your water bottle, hands, shorts, forehead, etc., looking like you’ve rubbed against your chain when all you’ve done is stay hydrated. Go with painted aluminum (which may wear away to unpainted aluminum or, better yet, carbon fiber like these:

2) A Rear Bike Rack (and Pannier).

  • Why get one: Eventually, you’re going to want to carry something.  And when you do, you’ll want to do so comfortably and safely, not balancing with an overloaded backpack or, worse, trying to balance while riding and braking one-handed.
  • What to get: There are a lot of good racks, but we’re partial to the Axiom Streamliner series, which are designed to fit further back on your bike, keeping your pannier bags (if you have them) out of reach on your heel on the back stroke. They are available for both disc brakes and caliper brake bikes, so get the right one for your bike.
3) A THINstem.
  • Why get one: Now that you’re riding more, your bike is out and in the way more. A THINstem folding stem folds your handlebars 90 degrees when your bike is at rest, making your bike flatter so it takes up 50% less space. Park it conveniently beside your car or even in the hallway!
  • What to get: If you have newer handlebars, the kind that are wider in the center, you’ll want the 1.25″ THINstem. If you’ve got older bars and a threadless stem (a stem with screws on the back), then you’ll need the 1″ THINstem. And if you’ve got an even older bike, maybe circa 1980’s, with the 1″ bars and a “quill” stem that goes down into your frame, then you’ll need both a THINstem and a quill stem adaptor.
pop-off pedals
Pop-off pedals consist of a latch and a pedal. The latch screws into the crank arm like a standard pedal. the pedal itself comes out as needed, quickly and easily.
4) Pop-off pedals.
  • Why get them: When in riding position, pop-off pedals are every bit as secure as regular pedals. And yet, they can be removed in seconds, leaving only the latch, saving inches over a set of folding pedals.
  • What to get: MKS offers a set of pop-off pedals, but we stopped carrying them once we found a family of totally interchangeable Wellgo pop-off pedals. There’s also a seat bag designed specifically for these pedals.
5) Some type of flat protection.
  • Why get it: When you think about it, you’re riding around on air-filled balloons. Sooner or later, you’re going to get a puncture. Either you harden your tires against flats before hand, or you plan ahead for a way to deal with a flat tire after it happens.
  • What to get: Basically, something that’s less likely to get flat (a tire insert, sealant solution, or solid tire) or either a tire repair kit and portable pump.
    • Armour inserts. These sit between your tube and tire wall and protect your tube against anything from goat head thorns to glass shards.
    • Airless tires. Solid tires have come a long way. These simulate different air pressures with no air to lose.
    • Portable bike pump with patch kit. Small and effective.

 

shock posts
A shock post keeps every pothole and road vibration from rattling up your spine.

6) More comfortable seat or seat post.

  • Why get them: People are all different shapes. And we’re still going to have a range of hip sizes, even if we get into in fabulous riding condition. So adapt your bike to your body.
  • What to get: In our bike sales to different types of riders, we often include a wider seat, sometimes a more padded seat, and sometimes an anti-shock seat post.
    • Trucker seat. Wide and ergonomic. (Use the variation without the tail light, because you’re not going to stock up on coin batteries.)
    • Anti-shock post. You can spend upwards of $300 on a shock post, and the more expensive ones usually have higher ratings. But for under $40, this one with all 4- and 5-start ratings is a good start.

 

cell phone mount
The modern cycle computer is a cell phone.
7) Cell phone holder.
  • Why get one: Nowadays, a cell phone is a pretty good cycle computer, offering a combination of GPS, distance-tracking, speed display, and uploading to map-my-ride or Strava. All you need is a way to affix it.
  • What to get: You’ll want something that adjusts to different sizes of phones, doesn’t come off, and doesn’t cover anything on the phone that interferes with operation.
SKS fenders
When the weather is bad, these are really good.
8)  Fenders.
  • Why get them: If you’re a fair-weather rider, you don’t need these; your bike is like a sporty coupe with no top–ridden only on sunny days to great enjoyment. But if you commute, ride on occasionally muddy trails, or live in Seattle, you’re going to want to protect against that wet stripe up your back and the spray off your front wheel.
  • What to get: Something that’s rugged, yet easily removable for those days when you want to ride as free as the wind. None of these assume anything
What about a bell?
While the little ding-bell is a classic bike accessory, and in some cities it’s even required equipment, I’m personally not a big fan, because there’s a tendency to use it to implicitly say this:  “I rang my bell (without slowing), so get out of my way!”  Not exactly the way to gain pedestrian advocates for cycling.
That type of interaction is actually dangerous. Even at the frequently posted trail speed limit of 15 mph, you’re traveling at 22 feet/second; at that speed, one briefly confused walker reaction to a suddenly approaching threat, like moving left before dodging right, can be deadly.
Far better to slow down to near walking speed, and use a calming voice to say which side you’re passing on. Which, now that you’ve slowed down, also provides another sprint opportunity on the other side. Best of both worlds.
But if you must have a bell, then here’s a must-have. The Hamburger Bell from Lexco.

 

And that’s our accessories list. Anything we missed?

Bob Forgrave,
President, Flatbike

Biking made easier.

425-985-6219

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