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8 'Must Have' Cycling Pieces To Invest In

beginner tips Feb 09, 2021

Whether you've just started cycling or you're coming back after an extended time, it's important to have a few basics to make sure you have a safe and comfortable bike experience.

We can’t recommend more strongly the need to wear the right gear when riding your bike, because the biggest thing discomfort leads to, is discouraging you from riding your bike. We don’t want that!

These 8 pieces are essential to having fun on your bike - and remain the same no matter if you're on a hybrid heading for a casual loop around your neighbourhood or heading out on an off-road gravel adventure.

Don't skimp on these must-have basics!

1. Knicks that Fit Great

When people find out we are bike riding, oddly, the most common question is  “doesn’t your bum hurt?”. Let’s put aside the awkwardness of this exchange for a moment and be frank. The answer can often be a resounding yes – but delightfully, it can also be a big no.

If you haven't ridden bikes in a while - or even if you have - knicks are incredibly important to a comfy ride. Not only are they literally the closest things to your most sensitive areas, they are also the only thing between a great bike ride with friends, and feeling as though you've been horse riding bareback for roughly 3 weeks.

Knicks will make your cycling experience much more enjoyable in three key ways:

The chamois

What is a chamois? Well to start, it’s not the thing you wipe you car down with. A chamois in relation to cycling is a specially designed and crafted padded liner that is sewn into cycling knicks. It is deigned to be scooched right up against your body, to provide a smooth sitting surface for you as opposed to normal clothing which will likely have seams running through, err, uncomfortable places.  

Reduce the rub

Properly fitting knicks will reduce friction, by providing a snug fitting fabric that moves with you as you pedal, reduce rub against your skin and prevent nasty chafing.

Keep the moisture at bay

Cycling specific clothing is made from fancy technical fabric which was specifically designed to wick moisture from your body, and prevent your chamois becoming squelchy from sweat.  Far from just lycra, the technical fabrics used in cycling shorts promote the movement and evaporation of sweat away from your skin, preventing bacteria from building up.

Bib knicks are best

As a general rule, knicks with an elastic waistband are less comfortable than bib knicks. Bib Knicks are cycling shorts with straps that extend up and over your shoulders which hold them in place. They have a number of advantages.

Elastic waisted shorts dig into all the wrong places. No matter your size, the discomfort of having tight elastic around your mid-section while bent over and exercising is not ideal, and can restrict blood flow.

Bib-straps will hold your knicks up, keeping your chamois nice and close up against your skin, aiding comfort and helping to avoid dreaded saddle sores and chaffe. When the right size, they feel supportive and snug up against your body.

2. A Good Quality Drink Bottle

Riding bikes is thirsty work! If you've ever had a low quality drink bottle before, you'd know that they massively suck. You have to use your teeth to wrench the top open, it makes water taste like plastic, it's hard to clean and anytime there is a hint of heat they basically lose their shape and don't fit in the drink bottle cage anymore.

Nightmare stuff!

A good quality drink bottle is essential for a happy time on the bike. If you need one, grab one or two of ours which is made with Purist technology which shields the inside of the bottle from bad taste, mould or staining. Nothing sticks so your bottle stays clean and your water tastes pure.

3. Jersey with ventilation

This one is most important if you live in hot climates, if you use a hydration pack while you ride, or if you're just generally a heavy sweater.

Say it with us: It's never a good idea to wear cotton on the bike. Cotton is not sweat wicking and it will cause you extreme grief as soon as you start moving.

You'll find that most cycling attire is a lycra blend with sweat wicking properties. Wearing lycra for the first time can feel a little bit 'overkill', however you'll be a lot more comfortable than you'd be in your ordinary clothes (that is, if you're not just popping round the corner to the shops). If you're looking for the next step up, make sure you look for cycling attire that has mesh or ventilation for extra comfort on the bike. 

4. High Quality Lights

Visibility - not your only ability to see in dim conditions but the ability for everyone else to see YOU - is rule #1 of cycling.

You wouldn't drive your car at night without your lights on, right?! Same thing when you're riding your bike. It doesn't matter if you ride only on bike paths, it's important to get some lights on your bike if you're going to be venturing out at dawn or dusk.

There are A LOT of different lights on the market, but most fit into two main groups:

  1. Those to make you BE SEEN – these are also called emergency lights. They are often small and with multiple settings to flash at varying speeds, hold a constant light and have settings for brightness. Red lights go on the rear. White lights go on the front.
  2. Those that help YOU TO SEE – these are torch lights that will illuminate the road/path ahead and can have some side beam.

Bike lights are predominantly LED lights, and mostly rechargeable so you don’t need to worry about replacing a battery. Just remember to charge them!!!

What are you using it for?

It might seem like a funny distinction, but let's say you've decided to do some night riding on some local trails. You'll probably want some pretty strong lights to attach to your helmet so that you can actually see where you're going. But if you tried to use those same lights on the bike path with people coming toward you you'd probably blind them!

Do you primarily tootle down well lit roads to the shops, or do you detour through dimly lit back streets on your commute home?

You need to consider how much light you need, and where you need it to shine.

Brighter is often better, but look for lights with good side visibility if you're riding a lot in town: side visibility is very important when riding on roads and crossing intersections.

If you're primarily riding on the road, look for a light with a beam pattern that's not going to blind oncoming traffic. If you're mixing up your road riding with paths and single track, a light with a wide beam that has lower-power modes for use in traffic may be the one to go for.

In all instances – make sure your light is primarily pointing towards the path in front of your wheel and ahead, rather than upward and in the direct eye line of anyone coming toward you.

If you're going to be doing a lot of swapping between bikes, it’s worth considering how your lights attach, and therefore how easy it will be to swap them over.

Light the way

The strength of a light is measured in lumens. How many do you need? Well in short, the more lumens, the brighter the light. A lumen is a measure of the total quantity of visible light emitted by a source. If you are riding on dark roads and want to see ahead of you, then you will want a front light that emits over 500 lumens, but you don’t need that many lumens to be seen.

Small lights are effective to be seen – ensure you position the light where it will be visible to other traffic when you are bent over in cycling position.

While a rear light is most commonly put on the seat post, you can place additional lights on the back of your helmet, jersey pocket, or back pack.

Our favourite brands are Lezyne, Knog and BBB.

Grab yourself a decent pair of lights - one for the front with a steady white light and white flashing light, and one for the back with a red steady light and a red flashing light setting.

The easier they are to charge and use, the more likely you are to actually use them instead of realising you forgot them at work or on your desk at home.

5. Great Socks

Your feet sweat. It's what they do. But your feet are also one of the three contact points between you and your bike so they also need to be supported and looked after!

There are lots of different kinds of socks out there, from fabrics to design to height and size. All of that is personal preference (except for size which, we suppose, is genetic!), but we would recommend making sure the body of the sock (the part that goes around your feet) is breathable, sweat wicking and comfortable.

Whether you go with ankle socks or up-to-the-knees compression socks, keeo your feet in tip top shape by choosing socks that fit rather firmly. Similarly to the fit of your knicks, your feet do a lot of work while you're riding, irrespective of whether you're wearing trainers, flats or clip ins.

You DON'T want your socks moving around in your shoe every time you pedal as that's when blisters can form and bacteria from your feet and the environment around you can be introduced into your bloodstream (hello cellulitis).

6. Comfortable Gloves

There's definitely room for personal preference here, with fingerless and full finger options, as well as winter thickness and summer thickness. What you should be on the lookout for is the support the gloves offer you in the heel of your hand (the part that has contact with the handlebars.

Again, as one of the three points of contact on the bike, having gloves that support your hands and protect you if, heaven forbid, you have an impromptu lie down off your bike.

The other great thing about gloves is they come in a variety of colours and patterns, so you can for sure find a few pairs that match all of your riding gear.

7. Cycling Caps

These ones are more for the roadies among us (which is a shame as I'd love to see some gravity girls rocking the cap!!), but they're a great addition to your cycling wardrobe. The biggest benefit of wearing one is... comfort.

Cycling caps keep the sun out of your eyes while still fitting underneath your helmet. They absorb sweat and keeps it from dripping into your eyes while riding (ouch!!). Caps also keep your hair from getting in your face as well as keeps your scalp from getting burnt if you don't have thick hair on top.

They're also great in the rain if you wear glasses while you ride as it helps prevent drips and beads from forming on the lens...

Fog will still happen though. Damn you, fog.

8. Great Quality Helmet

In Australia, wearing helmets while riding is mandatory. It's therefore important that we spend money on one that feels great, will protect our noggin and look good.

Before committing to buying one, make sure you go into a bike shop and ask to try a few on to make sure you can adjust them to fit correctly. 

The key takeaways of a well-fitting helmet are:

  • The helmet needs to sit squarely on the head, with the front of the helmet a finger or so width above the brow. This will make sure the helmet protects the forehead
  • Side straps should be fastened securely just below and forward of the ears. There should be no slack in the system when the chin strap is fastened. If a helmet is worn too loosely, it slides back (exposing the forehead) or falls off in a crash
  • The adjuster at the back (if there is one) should be used to check the fit of the helmet on your head. Gently rotate the helmet on your head, front to back, and side to side, noticing the skin in your brow area. If the fit is comfortable, and the skin moves with the helmet, you have a proper fit. If not, your helmet is too loose – try the adjustment steps again.

And never forget: Replace any helmet that has been involved in a crash or is damaged!

(If you're in Australia, make sure it has a sticker showing it's compliant to AS/NZS 2063.