If you’re one of the many people who are newly discovering, or even re-discovering, cycling then here’s a simple guide to help you get going.
The amount of kit and choice available can be a bit intimidating but all you really need is a bicycle and a positive attitude - anything else is a bonus (although we do think a helmet is a bit of a given, we are an insurance company after all).
Padded Cycling Shorts
The first thing you’re going to notice, once you start riding further and more often, is some soreness as your bum gets used to it. So a pair of padded shorts should be near the top of anyone’s list. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from fitted lycra to baggy outer shorts with a lining or full ‘bib’ shorts most associated with road cycling. They all have a soft and spongy pad inside which is traditionally called a chamois. The amount of padding varies and obviously you can choose what you feel most comfortable with. They’re designed to be worn without underwear as that can contribute to chafing and the pad absorbs sweat away from the body (and if you become a truly obsessed cyclist just think of the weight you save by going commando).
Speaking of comfort, a pair of cycling-specific gloves are well worth considering. You don’t need to be doing anything aggressive (like attacking an alpine mountain stage) to benefit from the extra comfort and grip they provide. You’ll find they come in many weights for summer or winter use and can include things like gel pads on the palms, for those who find the pressure on their hands can make them sore.
Bicycle lights at the front and rear aren’t just for those who want to ride when it’s dark. In the same way that many cars now have daytime-running LEDs for better visibility it can be a great idea to use them at any time on a bike too. Relatively inexpensive LED front and rear lights, rechargeable via a USB connection, have various flashing patterns designed to maximise your chances of being seen.
These types of lights are less able to light your way should there be no street lighting so, if you need to see as well as be seen, you should look for something with a high lumen count. As you’d expect the more lumens then the higher the price tag but we’d suggest you’d want at least 400 lumens, though something closer to 1000 is probably the minimum to ride off-road when it’s pitch black. We swear those trees jump out at us sometimes!
Bikes and punctures go together like [insert any cliché you care to think of]. But with the right kit on your bag you can remove the faff and get you riding again sharpish (your riding buddies will thank you). Pumps are available in small but powerful sizes so it’s no bother to have one attached to your frame or in your pack. You’ll also need something to repair the puncture of course. Remember those puncture repair kits we all used to use - weird rubber patches and that messy glue that you never really knew when it was dry or not? Well they’ve been consigned to history by little self-adhesive patches that simply stick straight on to the inner tube and stay there. It’s a good idea to carry a spare tube too just in case you have a really bad morning - like riding just after the council have been pruning all the hawthorn bushes (can’t they vacuum them up or something?).
Punctures aren’t the only ‘mechanical’ you might encounter while you’re out and about and a multi-tool has been the saviour of many a day. Think of one as the Swiss Army Knife of bike tools. They come adorned with the essential sizes of allen key and spanner, plus chain tool and one random thing no-one ever uses because no-one knows what it does.
Saddle or frame bag
You don’t need to be carrying so much stuff that you need a backpack on every ride. A neat little bag that fits under your saddle or inside your frame is often enough to carry the basics. The great thing about something like this is that you can just leave it on the bike and it’s one less thing to think about when you’re preparing to go out.
If you’re thinking of buying a new bike then it follows that you’ll pick up a new lock while you’re at it. 80% of bike thefts actually happen at home so you should do as much as you can to deter thieves by storing yours as securely as possible. When you’re out and about you should always lock up your bike when you leave it, even if only for a few minutes. Cable-style locks are the lightest and if you get one with a combination, rather than a key, they’re very convenient too. However, being lightweight can make them a little vulnerable to being cut so you could always opt for a ‘U-lock’ type. These are reliable and strong and come in a variety of sizes that can be quite portable. If you want something really heavy-duty you can go for a chain in conjunction with a U-lock but that’s something you won’t be able to carry too easily (unless you employ the cycle courier/hipster method of wearing one around your waist like a belt).
Let’s end on a positive! Although we’d never underestimate the restorative power of the ‘I just want to be alone’ solo session, the fact is the single-most essential thing anyone should take on a bike ride are friends. The joy of cycling is in its sociability, it’s an activity that is as much an excuse to meet like-minded mates as it is a sport. The added bonus of making sure you ride with friends is that you can be sure they’ll also lend you the tools and spares you’re bound to have forgotten (though borrowing someone’s shorts mid-ride is not to be recommended, no matter how much of a friend they are).
If you do invest in a bike and extra kit you might wish to insure it, get a quote here or read more about our policy. Our customer support team is always on hand too, to chat through any questions you might have just give us a call on 01653 916642.