Cycling is a fantastically rewarding way to get from one place to another. After a modest investment in equipment, you’ll have a means of propulsion that’ll trim your waistline and allow you to explore in style.
Cycling Gear Essentials
If you’re just starting out, the range of options can be a little dauting. Just what are these gadgets, items of clothing, and protective equipment about, and which of them do we really need? If you’re confused, then fear not: our cycling gear guide has the answers.
With a sizeable portion of fatal accidents the result of cranial trauma, you’re sure to be grateful of a proper helmet should you ever be involved in a collision. While cyclists in Paris and Amsterdam might get away without one, our city centres tend to be a little more hazardous – and so head-protection becomes a sensible choice, even if it isn’t one mandated by law. Expensive helmets offer greater comfort – though EU regulations ensure that cheaper ones still meet a basic standard of safety.
How should a cycling helmet fit? Ideally, as snugly as possible. Should your helmet be called into action, it’ll have to absorb a considerable impact – and thus being fixed into position is crucial. Moreover, a helmet that slides down over your eyes while you’re hurtling down a mountain pass will probably do more harm than good.
Given the choice, most of us would probably prefer to cycle during the day. But if you’re finishing work late, this isn’t always an option. A headlamp fixes this problem. Night-time cycling is more dangerous, largely because visibility is reduced. But almost as important is your visibility to other road-users. A good torch will provide a strong white beam – but not one that’s likely to dazzle incoming motorists.
How should a headlamp fit on your bike? They tend to come with their own mounting, typically a rubber strap that can be adjusted to any frame. A headlamp should attach securely to the frame of your bicycle – the last thing you want, after all, is for your headlamp to fall off and break, leaving you stranded in the dark. Pair it with a red rear-light so that motorists approaching you from behind won’t be taken by surprise.
Getting caught in the rain isn’t much fun when you’re cycling in winter. Being soaked to the skin isn’t just an inconvenience; it can be a serious health risk, particularly if you’re far from shelter. For this reason, a waterproof coat is an essential piece of wet-weather kit– and you’ll likely be grateful of a thin thermal layer underneath, too.
So how should you wear a set of cycling waterproofs? Like, all cycling clothing, you’ll want it to fit tightly to reduce drag – clothing that flaps in the breeze is sure to prove exceptionally irritating, and so it’s worth trying several options to get the snuggest fit.
While you might think of a cycling jersey as a luxury item, it’s one that’s sure to quickly prove its worth. Cycle around in a jumper or a t-shirt and you’ll find yourself buffeted by freezing winds – and if you’re constantly in motion, you’ll be constantly cycling into new, cold air. These conditions are hardly likely to endear you to the activity.
An ordinary jumper won’t repel wind anywhere near as effectively as a purpose-built cycling jersey. Moreover, we should consider that exercising in this sort of jersey will cause sweat to rapidly build, resulting in an incredibly uncomfortable experience.
Like your waterproofs and thermals, a cycling jersey should ideally be as tight as possible without causing discomfort – too loose, and it’ll act like a sail, hugely increasing the amount of work required to move forward.
Cycling gloves help to soak up excess sweat, keeping your hands dry. This isn’t just a matter of comfort; excessively slippery hands will struggle to safely grip your handlebars, making accidents more likely.
The best gloves of this sort are exceptionally lightweight, with holes around the fingers and the backs of the hand, and Velcro straps to secure them into place. They’ll also be padded around the palm, helping to deaden the vibrations that pass from your handlebars into your forearms. If you’re prone to hand injuries, a pair of gloves is a worthwhile purchase.
Like all sports socks, specialist cycling socks are excellent for wicking sweat, and thus keeping your feet nicely dry and comfortable. Go on a five-hour ride without a decent pair, and the smell when you remove your shoes is sure to be seriously objectionable.
Specialist socks of this sort also provide a snug fit, which prevents dirt entering and persists even after repeated washing. They’ll also dry more quickly than running socks, as they’re thinner and don’t need to provide the same cushioning.
Finally, we arrive at perhaps the most important item a beginner cyclist can invest in; a toolkit. Riding a bike and maintaining one are disciplines that go hand-in-hand; you’ll be grateful that you brought the right tools along for the ride when your chain slips off in the middle of the woods. With just a little attention with the right kit, and you’ll be able to avoid a humiliating walk.
A good toolkit should comprise a series of rugged Allen keys, spanners, and screwdrivers. You’ll be able to buy them ready-assembled, in a form compact enough to be easily stowed into your rucksack. A basic puncture repair kit will be small enough to keep on you at all times and could help you out of some sticky situations. You’ll also want a bicycle pump; strap it to the frame of your bike and you’ll be ready to go!
If you’re to get the most from your cycling adventures, you’ll need a few choice items – to say nothing of the bike itself. Whilst none of this essential gear is mandatory (though we would argue that a helmet is), this kit, clothing, and gear will certainly help you on your way to becoming a cycling enthusiast.
Know someone who loves to cycle, or is perhaps just getting started? The Cycle Choice gift card is the perfect gift for the cycling enthusiast in your life. Buy your Cycle Choice card online or in-store at Tesco and Morrisons today.