Q: I’m just beginning to get into cycling. What accessories should I invest in?
Amy Marsh answers
A: First of all, welcome to the cycling club! Whether you’re a beginner cyclist or seasoned veteran, the most important accessory is a helmet. Once you have the bike and helmet, you’ll want to invest in a few more components that will enhance your riding experience. Note: You don’t have to spend a fortune (the bike is expensive enough!). So, I’ve narrowed it down to only the items you must have to ensure both safety and efficiency.
Lights — These are essential if you plan on riding at dawn or dusk. Be sure to place a light on the back of your bike for rear-approaching vehicles. A light on the front of your bike or helmet is also a good idea, as the glow in front of you will illuminate your path and any opposing traffic will see you coming.
Bottle cage/aero-hammock — Hydration is crucial while riding, which is why there are a variety of ways to carry water on a bicycle. The most common bottle holder is a cage that attaches to the frame’s down tube. These are light-weight and hug the bottle in place. Another, more aerodynamical option, is a hammock or cage that attaches to the aerobars of a Time Trial bike. You’ll see most professional triathletes using a water system between their aerobars. For more casual riders, a simple hydration pack worn on the cyclist’s back works well (think CamelBak).
Saddle bag/repair kit — Every so often, your bike will require basic repair, and you might be stuck on the side of the road. It’s not uncommon to get tire punctures while cycling, as debris often gets pushed into the bike lane from cars, wind and so forth. To make these repairs while out on the road, you’ll want a small pack that hangs underneath your saddle. In this repair kit, be sure to have a spare tube, tire levers and a pump (or, instead of the pump, a CO2 cartridge and an adapter to save space). It may also be helpful to carry a tube patch kit in case you get more than one puncture. Many cyclists carry Allen keys, as well, to make any minor adjustments to their seat post, handlebars, etc.
Bike computer — Whether you ride for fun, for general fitness or for competition, a bike computer is useful for everyone. For the more serious rider, a computer will feed you distance and speed data. Even if you’re just a casual cyclist, it’s fun to know how far you have gone and your average speed for that distance. There are advanced computer systems, which offer functions such as GPS tracking, heart rate, cadence and wattage. However, I would recommend starting with a basic computer model. If later on you find that you want — or need — more “fancy” features, you can always upgrade.
There are a ton of add-ons you can buy for your bike to make it better, faster and more comfortable. Once you start riding, you’ll be figure out what you really need, but this list is a great starting point. Keep in mind, less is more, so avoid over-accessorizing!
Amy Marsh is a four-time Ironman champion, two-time IronDistance champion, and was named the 2010 USAT Long Distance Triathlete of the Year. Brandon Marsh has been competing in triathlons since 1988, and can be counted on to be a top-10 contender in every event he enters. Got a question about swim-bike-run or sports nutrition for Team Marsh? Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. ‘Like’ them on Facebook or follow on Twitter: Brandon @BrandonMarshTX and Amy @AmyCMarsh.