A Roundup of Bike Accessories
At a Glance
Bike accessories can be just as important as the shiny new bike you’re buying. Here’s a quick breakdown of the categories we’ll cover. Keep scrolling for all the details!
–Stuff to Wear When You Ride
–Hydration Supplies and On-Bike Storage
–You Break It, You Fix It
–Electronics and Safety Gear
–Other Bike Accessories You Might Need
You’ve spent tons of time test riding bikes, asking questions, reading and generally obsessing over getting your first good bike. You’re ready to make your decision and you’re glad that’s all over.
Except it’s not.
There’s more to getting into cycling than just buying your bike. There’s a wealth of other stuff you need. And not just gear — knowledge, too.
Let’s talk about what bike accessories you need to be thinking about as you head to the bike shop ready to swipe that credit card.
Keep in mind, you might not need these NOW. But they’re worth thinking about as your rides get longer, you start working harder, and you want to get faster.
If going farther and/or faster doesn’t interest you, this probably isn’t the list for you. That’s totally OK. We all ride for different reasons.
Stuff to Wear When You Ride
I can’t even fathom getting on my bike with street clothes. Even for a short ride, I’m still wearing at a minimum:
I’m used to wearing something with a chamois (that’s the butt pad you see that separates stretchy shorts from bike shorts). There are some bike shorts that have baggy shells over them. Those are pretty handy for the pockets, which can be pretty nice.
It’s funny that so many mountain bikers love baggy shorts. I find that the excess material gets in the way. The might be because I don’t use a dropper seatpost to keep it out of the way, which so many newer mountain bikes have.
I don’t ride anywhere without one. It’s not just good for protecting you in a fall — it also keeps the sun off your head and protects you from branches, bees and all sorts of other stuff that can whack you. I’m serious about bees; you wouldn’t believe how many bees have donked off my helmet.
For me, it’s really the sun that’s the big deal aside from crash protection. The sun here in Arizona is angry. I’ll add that this item makes certain minimalist cyclists go apoplectic for some reason.
Yes, there are circumstances when it’s safe to ride w/o a helmet; still, that’s not the way I roll. There is absolutely zero downside to wearing a helmet, so I do. Simple as that.
Indispensable. One fall without them will convince you. Smart people won’t need that fall to convince them.
You probably have sunglasses. You’re good to go. If you live in a desert climate, you already know the value of good shades.
Not necessary. You can get by in a sweat-wicking t-shirt. A good jersey can be awesome, especially since many of them have pockets in the back that come in handy. If you decide to wear jerseys, get good ones.
These are a must for people using clipless pedals. If you’re sticking with flats, I still advise avoiding shoes that are super-floppy. Something with a stiff sole works better. If you’re determined to use clipless pedals, buy good shoes. My Sidi shoes typically last 10 years. I seldom got more than a year out of other shoes — we’ll see how my backup pair of Vittoria shoes holds up over time. If you’re going to ride flats, I can’t offer any good advice.
I like them. They fit in my shoes better than my regular socks. But I could do without them in a bike apocalypse.
Hydration Supplies and On-Bike Storage
These two types of bike accessories go hand-in-hand, and I’ll show you what I mean.
On all of my rides, I carry water bottles filled with electrolyte mix. Some cyclists from cooler, wetter parts of the world disagree about electrolyte mixes. They’re welcome to join me for 60 miles in July here in Phoenix — then we’ll see how quickly they’ll change their minds.
On certain mountain bike rides, I’ll also use a Camelbak — this is especially true of night rides when I might carry a spare battery.
I avoid the Camelbak since it’s a vector for sweat and weight. I suppose I could use a hydration pack for electrolytes, which I used to do — but I let it in my car with a little leftover electrolyte mix too many times and wound up with a gross science experiment in there. And it wasn’t fun to clean out.
The Camelbak helps when I know there’s no place to refill my bottles.
But I also need to carry stuff with me — food, tools, etc. That means I need some form of bike storage when I don’t use the Camelbak. My go-to method is a Topeak saddlebag. For really long rides, I’ll add a BeerBabe bag right behind my stem along the top tube. This bag is awesome for races when I want quick access to food without fooling around. It saves several minutes, for sure.
For bottles, I use insulated Camelbak bottles. I haven’t yet found the perfect water bottle cage. I break ‘em regularly.
You Break It, You Fix It
I carry a pretty solid arsenal of bike-fixing tools on every ride. I’ve saved myself a few times … and saved other people on more than a few occasions.
Here’s my complete loadout of my bike accessories for handling repair. A caveat: My bike is different from yours, so I’m not suggesting you run out and grab all the same stuff. My list just gives you an idea of the problems that can arise during a ride and what tools I use to solve them.
One Innovations in Cycling Bacon Strips kit
I roll with tubeless tires, so this is how I fix the bigger holes. I also love its built-in valve core remover, as well as the spare valves contained within.
One Stan’s Dart
Another method of fixing flats. Mostly for races since it’s the fastest way to fix them.
Multi-tool with Allen Wrenches, Screwdrivers, etc.
I have multiple brands I’ve collected over the years.
I also carry a specific chain tool, even though many multitools include them. I find the dedicated type easier to use.
2 Pedro’s Tire Levers
If I need to use these, I’m having a bad day. If I don’t have them and need them, I’m going to have an even worse day.
1 Small bottle of Stan’s Sealant
Another potential ride saver for those who ride with tubeless tires.
If your bike uses tubes instead of tubeless tires, you should always carry a patch kit.
It should go without saying that all of this stuff is useless if you don’t know how to use it. The good news: YouTube can demystify quite a bit of this for you. Spend some quality time checking out videos and practicing what you learn before you need to do it on the trail. Still stumped? Get advice from your local shop or other riders.
Electronics and Safety Gear
If you’d told me back in 1996 how much electronic shit would be on my bike in 2021, I wouldn’t have believed you. Here’s what I’ve got:
A GPS Computer
Brilliant for tracking miles. Connect it to Strava for all sorts of great data about your progress, speed, calories burned. Hook it up to Trailforks for more fun. The possibilities are endless. It’s especially amazing and fun for tracking your rides in new-to-you places. I’m glad to have some real idea of where I meandered around while riding in places like Santa Cruz!
A Cycliq Fly12 Light/Camera Combo
This is expensive, but invaluable for road rides. It actually makes drivers behave differently around me. The flashing light has dissuaded many drivers from making a right turn in front of me and running me over in the process.
Also handy for riding in traffic. I don’t need it as much for the mountain bike unless I’m riding at night.
This sounds irredeemably dorky. But it’s super-handy for both road rides and mountain biking. It’s a friendlier way to warn people than shouting at them. It’s also a nice “how’s it going?” signal to other cyclists.
I also use a heart rate monitor. But that’s hardly necessary unless you’re training and racing.
Other Bike Accessories You Might Need
There’s a good chance you’ll need a rack for transporting your bike on your car. Great news: I have a nice little guide all about that.
You should also ride with food if you’re going more than 90 minutes or you’re riding in extreme temperatures.
I mentioned electrolytes earlier. The hotter your climate, the more important electrolytes are. Even if you’re a casual rider, why make life any harder than it needs to be?
As for actual food, experiment. See what carries well and feels good during a ride.
Final Thoughts on Bike Accessories for New Cyclists
Lists like these always get certain cyclists in a huff. It’s inevitable. That’s because they have a hard time seeing outside the sphere of their own riding. They think their goals, climate and cycling infrastructure are YOUR goals, climate and cycling infrastructure. They somehow think mentioning all this stuff drives people away from cycling.
On the other hand, I’d rather have you overprepared for the possibilities. I know you’re smart enough to handle an abundance of information and discern what makes sense for you.
Now, go ride. Have fun. Ask questions. Ride your way.
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Your list of ‘essentials’ is absolute rubbish. A bike is needed for cycling. That’s it. I’ve been riding 40 years and build my own bikes so I know what I’m talking about.
That may work for you, Bill. It wouldn’t work for me. I suspect many of the people who read this will land somewhere between our viewpoints.
I’m interested in seeing your bikes. Got a few photos to share?
UPDATE: Still haven’t heard from Bill. I was looking forward to seeing his bikes. Make of that what you will.