Essentials

Beyond having a bicycle, there’s a few things that just make life that little bit easier. Whether you want to keep your steed in tip-top shape; carry more stuff or stay that little bit warmer during the winter, here are some ideas. You could also point some of your friends or family to this page if they are looking for gift ideas…

The links to the products below are affiliate links, so we get a small kick-back when you click through and buy something. These include Amazon, Evans Cycles, Etsy and others we may choose to partner with in future. However, the products are ones we have personal experience with and can wholeheartedly recommend.

Security

New york lock.jpgBefore we go any further, if you don’t have a good lock, your bike won’t be yours for long. A good Sold Secure Gold-rated D-lock is absolutely essential. Cable locks can be cut with some garden secateurs; chains are also quite easy to cut. Go for a lock that has been tested, such as this one.

This is the Kyrptonite New York FAHGETTABOUDIT Lock. It’s pretty short, pretty heavy, but it’s hard as nails and has the highest rating one could bestow upon a lock. You can get it from Amazon here.

Hiplok Gold.jpgIf you are looking for something a little easier to carry, perhaps for short stops to the local shop, there are some wearable locks such as the Hiplok Gold. We have used the bronze-rated Hiplok Lite extensively, as it is sturdy enough for a trip to the shops, but the Gold-rated version is an excellent bet.

It can be worn comfortably around your waist, which helps to spread the weight and can put up a considerable fight against a would-be thief. The belt-loop doubles as a padlock, with the chain hidden behind a canvas sleeve, which incorporates a velcro fastener to fit around a variety of waist sizes. You can check out our review of the lite version here, or pick up a Gold-rated one at Wiggle here, or at Amazon here.

Maintenance

Bicycles are relatively simple machines that are often quick and painless to repair (bottom brackets and freehubs aside), but there are a couple of items that everyone should have in their armoury to prevent bigger problems in the future, or to fix them when they do happen.

Topeak Joe Blow.jpgFirst up is a track pump. A good track pump will make it easier to keep your tires at the correct pressure, helping to stave off punctures from under-inflated tires, or a really harsh ride from too much air.

This is a Topeak Joe Blow. It incorporates a pressure gauge and a connector for both Presta and Schrader valves. It’s a relatively inexpensive purchase, but one that’ll pay for itself in no time.

You can pick one up Wiggle here, or from Amazon here.

Whilst we are on the subject of tires, sooner or later you will have a visit from the puncture fairy. You can pick up a cheap puncture repair kit from Evans, which will include a couple of patches, some glue and the all-important tire levers.

With the tires out of the way, the next most important part of your bicycle to look after is your chain. Chains are really cheap to replace, but they do wear out and, if left unchecked can prematurely wear out your chainrings and your cassette, which can get expensive. Fortunately, a chain wear gauge is really cheap.

Chain tool.jpg

As your chain ages, the links no longer fit quite so snugly over the teeth of your chain rings and cassette. Over time this will cause the teeth to take on a more shark-like appearance and eventually start to slip. We’ve got a more detailed article on chain care here, but suffice to say, a chain wear indicator tool is a sound investment. You can get one from Amazon here.

Lights

Cateye Volt 1300.jpgFor roughly half the year, many of us office dwellers see little daylight. It’s dark on the way to work, it’s dark on the way home. So, we need lights, but more specifically, we need lights that are rechargeable. There’s a lot of choice for USB-rechargeable lights these days, but we’re going to recommend a couple we’ve been using for a few years now. First up, the front light is a Cateye Volt 1200 (now 1300…).

Bright enough for the near-pitch-blackness of the Taff Trail north of Hailey Park and with enough battery capacity for a week’s worth of 30 minute commutes on its mid-brightness setting, it also has a quick-release mounting so you can easily remove it from your bike when you are parked up somewhere. It’s not cheap, but we wouldn’t be without one. You can get it from Amazon or from Wiggle.

Cateye X3.jpgFor the rear, the CatEye Volt has a sister in the CatEye Rapid X3. As with the Volt, it’s easily removed from the bicycle, but with a strong rubber band instead of a sturdy mounting. However, it is USB-rechargeable and can keep going for about a week of 30-minute commutes.

It offers a few levels of continuous light, a rather trippy undulating light, as well as the extremely annoying-yet-battery-conserving strobe effect.

You can pick one up from Wiggle or from Amazon here.

Cameras

GoPro Hero 5.jpgIt is regrettable that many of us are choosing to ride with a camera to protect themselves from careless or aggressive motorists. However, cameras can also be used for entertainment, vlogging and for documenting our adventures. Whilst there are many varieties of action cameras on the market now, arguably the best known is the GoPro.

The GoPro range has been around a little while now and, like most annual revisions, they change little from year to year. Fortunately the Hero 5, whilst a little old now, is still available new and is more than enough for most people’s needs. It shoots 4K at 30FPS, is waterproof and has a removable battery. The newer Hero 7 range has a few models with non-removable batteries, such as the Hero 7 Silver and Hero 7 White. Given how long the batteries last (not very long) and how batteries degrade slightly with each charge, being able to swap them is a must. You can pick up the Hero 5 Black on Amazon here.

However, if you plan to mount your camera onto your head, you’ll probably want something a bit lighter, such as the GoPro Hero Session. It’s a small cube barely bigger than the lens on the GoPro pictured above. It’s 50% smaller and 40% lighter than a full-fat GoPro.

A camera is of little use without a memory card to store your video on, so you’ll want to budget for one of those. You’ll also be wanting a bracket to mount it to your handlebars or seat post.

Carrying things

Whether you are carrying a change of clothes to work with you, or you are heading to the shop to stock up on groceries, a good bag is a worthwhile investment. A bag with a large capacity and the ability to keep the contents dry are two traits worth paying for.

img_1521We’ve been using the Restrap Commute Backpack for a few months now. It’s a 32-litre roll-top backpack with a waterproof construction, a laptop pouch and with zip pockets on the front and side. We actually wrote a post about it a little while ago and have been very impressed with how cavernous it is, how well it is put together and how it looks.

You can either pick it up from Evans Cycles, or from Amazon.

Clothing

There’s nothing worse than feeling cold on a ride, well, apart from maybe feeling wet and cold. First thing on your shopping list should be a good base layer. We’re big fans of Merino wool, particularly as it is naturally deodorising and doesn’t feel like you are wearing a wetsuit.

dhb-Merino-Long-Sleeve-Base-Layer-M_-200-Base-Layers-Dark-Grey-NU0469GREYXXL-0.jpgDHB is Wiggle’s own-brand clothing range, but far from being Asda Price or Tesco Value, this stuff is actually really, really good. From their base layers to their bib shorts they’re consistently good and consistently well-priced.

This DHB Merino base layer is a fine place to start. It’s a mid-weight, 200gsm Merino base layer for around £40. You can grab it from Wiggle here.
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