The popularity of cycling started out as a lockdown trend, but this has been sustained remarkably well as we approach the new year. Yes, the demand for quality cycles is still very high and most cycling converts still have to wait for months before they can get their hands on a bike of their choice. However, if you already have a cycle, here is a list of accessories that would help you get the most out of your bike, improve the ride quality and make the sport more enjoyable. You might find some of the stuff at shops like Decathlon, but if you want top-of-the line gear, your best bet would be to check out specialty cycling stores like Pro Bikers in Chennai, Athelin in Gurgaon and Bums on the Saddle in Bengaluru. For this checklist, we are assuming that you already have a good helmet, a puncture repair kit and glares.
A pair of gloves should be among the first things you buy, along with the cycle and a helmet. Ideally, you ought to have a pair of half-finger gloves for moderate and warm weather as well as a pair of cold-weather gloves. Gloves are the most overlooked accessory that most new cyclists pass on to save some money. They are a crucial investment, however. Apart from protecting your hands from calluses and bruises, the main purpose of a pair of gloves is to dampen the vibrations of the cycle frame while riding. The jolts can be a lot more violent if you go on off-road tracks and those gloves would really go a long way in ensuring a less jarring ride.
This is a tiny piece of equipment that even seasoned cyclists often forget about. Though most cycles come with pre-installed reflectors, it is best to have a flashing red light on your seat-post or helmet, especially for those early morning and late evening rides. As a rule, no matter how much high-visibility gear you possess, do not go riding in foggy conditions. You could get a basic flashing light from Decathlon or rechargeable LED ones; both do the job of alerting vehicles to your presence.
It is simple strip of a fiber sheet not unlike something you might have cut many moons ago in your school’s craft class. This is extremely useful during the wet months when all cyclists return from a ride covered in backsplash from their rear wheels. Slip one ‘ass-saver’ under your seat or on the seat post and your clothes and helmets will be much cleaner.
Rear view mirrors
Only a handful of people in India really ever use rear view mirrors even while driving cars. Those rest are potential road hazards. Just ask any cyclist who has been car-doored. So, in order to be less of a hazard on the roads and to keep yourself safe from those who love overtaking from the left, rear view mirrors that fit onto your helmet are a wonderful addition, especially if you use your cycle for your daily commute.
What a difference a proper pair cycling shorts and a jersey makes! While there is no getting around the initial saddle burn, cycling shorts reduce that burn and eliminates any chafing from your daily rides. The jersey, meanwhile, is useful with its rear pockets that give you easy access to your phone, energy bars or anything else you need ready access to during a ride. A good cycling jersey also ensures proper ventilation and wicks away sweat while drying up quickly, leaving you comfortable during the ride. Now, there are two hurdles to buying cycling apparel. One, they are expensive. Two, they are body-hugging and a lot of men and women have apprehensions about how they would look in tight lycra. But remember to prioritise comfort to looks and make the investment. Castelli, a brand worn by top riders in the world during the tours, is worth looking at.
Clipless pedals and cleats
Owning clipless pedals and cleats are a clear sign of how serious one is about cycling. Clipless pedals with special cleats that snap into pedals improve a cyclist’s power output from every push of the pedals. Since the shoes are snapped into place, your legs essentially become an extension of the pedals and make the motion more efficient. The pedals and cleats system are different for road and mountain bikes, so make sure you get the right one. Also, there is a wide range of pedals to choose from. You could opt for entry-level alloy clipless pedals or for all-carbon ones, which come with an inbuilt power meter. Pedals from Shimano, S-Ram and Look set the benchmark. The top end ones might cost you as much as a decent entry-level cycle though. Then the cleats themselves cost quite a bit, around $100. Some of the brands you could look at are Specialized, Pearl Izumi and Giro.
Doesn’t matter whether you get yourself a Wahoo or a Garmin; a bike computer makes tracking and analyzing your rides a walk in the park. When paired with a power meter, a heart rate monitor, and cadence and speed sensors, it gives you data that will help you analyse your strengths, weaknesses and how hard your heart is working. It also gives you information on calories burned. Through their app, or by syncing the data to Strava, you can also add a social angle to your rides and compare notes with other cycling enthusiasts from around the world.
Chain cleaning tool, degreaser and lubes
In India, most people tend to send their cycles to the shops for ‘servicing’ as it costs next to nothing. However, anyone who rides three to four times a week should know how to clean their bikes, especially the chain and drive train assembly, once a week. Because dust is an enemy. All it takes is 10 minutes, warm water, soap, brush and a degreaser. So, get yourself a good degreaser (Finish Line, Muc-Off are good), chain cleaning tool (Park Tool), and a decent scrubbing brush and you could keep your chain clean and shiny. After the cleaning, just apply some lube (Finish Line) to the chain and drive train and your bike will be race-ready.
Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.