Whether you’re commuting to work or riding your bike for exercise, having the right gear is essential. Besides aesthetics, certain items, such as helmet, lights and even eyewear, can keep you safe while powering those pedals.
The tricky part, however, is deciding on what is a don’t-ride-without-necessity as opposed to a gimmicky gadget that sometimes costs a fortune. And trust me, I found myself in that spot when I first took up cycling.
So, to help you push off on the right foot, I’ve put together a brief post with a rundown of all the essentials, plus extras.
Why You Should Bother With Bike Accessories
When I’m not out on two-wheels, I like to take a trip out to the outlets for some retail therapy. If I come across a stunning outfit that I cannot refuse, I know it doesn’t stop there—shoes and a purse are also must-haves.
And, cycling is no different—your ride also requires accessories. Although they’re labeled as such, many are necessities not to neglect.
Of course, if you’re using your bike to commute to work, the chances are that specialized fenders geared for the trails aren’t going to be top of your priorities. In contrast, a helmet, lights and a reliable lock would be the first items that spring to my mind.
As you start spending more time on two-wheels (and you will), you may wish to invest in more specific items.
Investing in the right gear can improve your overall riding experience. It could even help you go for longer.
Essential Bike Accessories (Plus Some Nice-To-Haves)
Below I’m going to run through the list of what I believe are the most called for bike accessories. I’ve also thrown in a few items, which you could argue are not-so-essential—but are still extremely useful for improving your biking abilities:
- Bike helmet.
- Bike pump.
- Bike lights.
- Bicycle lock.
- Spare tools.
- Cycling water bottle.
- Water bottle cage.
- Stationary bike stand.
- Bike computers.
If Baz Luhrmann were to write a song dedicated to cycling, it would start like this:
“If I could offer you only one tip for the future, wear a helmet, would be it.”
To give you an idea. Results from a bike crash case study revealed—37 percent of the riders would probably still be here today if they had worn a helmet at the time of their accident.
With any kind of headgear, ensure that it fits—the wrong size won’t do much during a mishap—it should be snug—not loose or too tight.
A bike pump is a simple device but has an important job of making sure your tires are inflated and ready to go. What’s more, If I get a flat when I’m out on the road, I have the reassurance of self-sufficiency—I know I’m totally prepared to get myself home.
You’ll come across four basic types:
- Stand foot pump.
- Floor pump.
- Mini bike pump.
- CO2 inflator.
Each has its purpose, which is why I’ve created my top five—so you can decide which works best for you. If you're looking for puncture-resistant tires to prevent the worst from happening, check out my guide to the 8 best road bike tires for puncture resistance.
If you’re going to travel in low-light or dark conditions, lights are crucial. These complete two jobs: first, they ensure that you’re visible, and secondly, they illuminate the road so you can see.
Another critical point to highlight is the fact in many countries, if you ride a bike at night without any form of lighting—you will be breaking the law. Check your local regulations for specifics.
Lights come in several types—some are stronger than others—and what you need depends on where you’re riding.
If you’re a city dweller, you may not need the brightest since you already have ambient streetlights. However, the illumination should still be enough so that other road users can see you.
Riders cycling along unlit roads or mountain bikers treading the trails at night may wish to invest in something more powerful.
To shed light on this topic, I’ve gathered some of the best retro bike lights available.
Unless you plan to never leave your bicycle unattended in the street, you need a lock—and a good one!
Bikes often fall foul to the opportunist bike thief. Carrying a secure lock is one way you can try to deter them.
Again, your choices are plenty—including foldable, chain and U-locks. Some of the best locks out there should be able to withstand power tools—giving the robber little chance to take your bike.
My advice—don’t become another statistic. Protect your faithful steed with the best bike lock you can afford. You can read more in my guide on bike locks.
Fenders are handy if you’re planning to ride no matter what the weather throws at you. Many bike manufacturers don’t include them as standard, so if you want to keep your butt dry, this accessory could appeal.
They sit around the rear wheel and sometimes front, preventing mud or water from spraying up your back or on the rider behind you. They’ll also help to keep your bike a whole lot cleaner—preserving the life of your parts.
To keep your biking buddies and your clothes clean, check out my post.
I find being prepared is never a bad idea. Carrying a few essential spare tools in your saddlebag enables you to recover from an on or off-road-mishap swiftly.
Tools to consider include:
- Tire levers.
- Spare inner tubes.
- Rain gear for if you get caught in a downpour (my guide to the best cycling rain gears should help).
This should cover any minor damages, helping you get back on the road. I have a full guide, listing a few more good-to-have tools.
Cycling Water Bottle
Whether you’re a serious cyclist or enjoy your occasional trips—topping up hydration levels during your rides is essential for performance.
However, many of us make the common mistake of waiting until we’re thirsty before chugging down the fluids. Instead, experts suggest, you should aim for 2-3 mouthfuls every 15 minutes—from the moment you hit the road.
I like to think of the water bottle as cycling’s answer to a camel's hump. It’s the simple solution for carrying your all-important beverages with you—on both long and short rides.
As it’s such a vital piece of cycling armory, I’ve put together a review of the best cycling water bottles for you.
Water Bottle Cage
Since you can’t carry your water bottle in your hand at all times, a bottle cage is an excellent solution.
Bottle cages vary—you have the affordable plastic or aluminum to the more expensive, carbon and titanium. However, performance mostly depends on the construction and style as opposed to material.
You can read more in my guide to the best bottle cages.
Getting a fly in the eye when riding during the summer isn’t fun. Not everyone likes wearing sunglasses when on their bike, and in such cases, in my opinion, protective glasses are great alternatives.
Bike-specific eyewear protects your optical area. I have a pair with interchangeable lenses that allow me to adapt to the conditions—clear for nights, yellow for gloomy days and dark for sunny days.
To help you see a little clearer, please check out my guide.
Stationary Bike Stand
A stationary bike stand permits you to take a ride, even when the weather outside doesn’t allow for it. You already know your bicycle, so you don’t have to familiarize yourself with a new machine. It also enables you to exercise while watching the kids.
You mount the rear wheel onto the stand, secure the front wheel and then simply pedal away—converting your outdoor bike to an indoor, fixed bike.
The best stands come with some type of resistance to mimic that of an outdoor bike ride. Four kinds are available to choose from:
- Direct drive.
Feel free to check out my full guide, plus my top 10 stationary bike stands.
Okay, this isn’t a live-or-die accessory—but for me personally, computers are great for motivation and they’re awesome if you want to keep track of your progress.
Bike computers are essentially small devices that provide you with various information while you’re out on the road. This could be a sat-nav map keeping you on-route. Others will indicate your speed and distance traveled.
More advanced computers can also link up with popular cycling apps. Some even monitor your heart rate, which could be useful if you’re trying to assess your fitness level.
I'll be the first to tell you that cycling with music blasting in your ears isn't the wisest decision, especially if you're commuting through traffic. However, the right pair of headphones can allow you to jam to your favorite tunes without risking your safety. Plus, music is a powerful motivator for those steep hills that are a battle to climb.
My guide to the best headphones for cycling will help you find an appropriate pair for you.
I love a new bike accessory—they can improve your riding experience and may even motivate you to stay on the pedals for that extra few miles. You have a large variety to choose from, and it all depends on what you find useful.
Some are essential, like helmets, bike locks and bike pumps. But something like mudguards or bike computers are perhaps more for the individual rider.
I hope you found my guide helpful and found your way to the right pages. If you have an accessory you always keep with you, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.