Monday 28 February 2011

Stuff Which Is Not Essential, But Which You May Wish To Consider, Part the Second

9. Rack pack

Highly useful if you have a luggage rack. A rack pack is a single bag which straps onto the luggage rack and can be used to carry cycling essentials such as the lock, puncture repair kit, pump, etc. Crucially, unlike a set of panniers, it comes with a shoulder strap and is small enough to sling over your shoulder and carry around, meaning that if you are locking your bike up outside, you can strip anything removable (lights, water bottle) off the bike, stick them and your helmet in the pack, and off you go.

10. Gloves

Essential in cold weather – thermal ones are ideal. Handy in warmer weather as they provide an extra layer of padding between you and the bike to absorb jolts and knocks. You can buy cheap padded cycling gloves from just about any sports shop or Wilkinsons for about £5. You may like to buy some bright yellow / reflective / fluorescent ribbon (haberdashery shops often sell it) and stick it across the knuckle area of the gloves; this means you can give hand signals at night and drivers behind you have a better chance of seeing them.

11. Cycling jacket

Not essential, but purpose-made waterproof cycling jackets are usually better at keeping you warm and keeping the rain out than an ordinary jacket. Be aware that if you buy one that does not have a lining, it will have all the insulation properties and comfort of wear of a crisp packet. This is not a reason not to buy one – my own jacket is unlined and does a fantastic job of keeping the rain and wind out – but it does mean that you’ll need to wear something with sleeves underneath it.

12. Balaclava

Not fashionable but invaluable in cold / rainy / windy weather. You are a bit more exposed on a bike than you would be walking: the extra speed increases the windchill factor (although the exercise will warm you up nicely on longer rides, hence the popularity of wearing layers for ease of temperature control!). You can buy thermal skiing-type balaclavas for less than a tenner on Ebay, which are warm but thin and fit nicely under your helmet. Ski caps are also popular for keeping the cold off. Important safety tip: if you wore a hat or balaclava the last time you wore your helmet, and you’re not wearing one this time, take a few seconds to adjust the helmet so that it fits snugly. A helmet that slips around on your head might as well be made of chocolate for all the good it will do you if you fall off the bike.

13. Waterproofs

See note above re: being more exposed. Depends a bit on the sort of cycling you intend to do, and whether you mind being damp or soaked when you get there. A full head-to-toe set of waterproofs includes the following: rain cover for your helmet, possibly a balaclava, waterproof jacket, waterproof cycling trousers (standard hiking waterproofs can have an unfortunate tendency to leak when cycling, and can catch in the chain or wheels if you don’t clip them around your legs), waterproof Sealskinz gloves, and “booties”. These latter are neoprene covers that fit over the top of your shoes. They are not very fashionable, but keep the rain out like nothing else. I have tried waterproof Sealskinz socks with mixed results: fine for a short ride or mild drizzle, can give you soaking wet feet over a long ride as the water runs down your legs. Unfortunately, proper cycling waterproofs tend to be on the pricey side. If you are limiting your spends, I’d recommend that gloves, a waterproof jacket and raincover for the helmet are the priorities.

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