Bike gear: Is it worth the money?
If you know a keen cyclist then you will also know how keen they are about their kit. From super lightweight bikes to GPS gadgets to waterproof jackets, padded shorts and clip-in pedals, cycling allows people to reach new heights of super geekiness.
Perhaps you are new to cycling and you are wondering if all the gear is necessary. Would you like to know which items are essential and which ones are more about joy than need?
This blog considers six (and more) cycling products for need and geekiness.
Carbon is lightweight and stiff. This is great news if you want a fast and responsive bike but it also means paying a lot more for a product. Most carbon bikes are in the £1000 upwards price bracket and you could easily spend more than £3000 on a branded bike.
If you want to go even further you can buy carbon cranks, bottle carriers, seat posts, wheels, pedals etc shaving ounces off the weight of your bike and adding £000s to the overall bike buying budget.
However, there are some downsides to carbon, if the price hasn’t put you off. A carbon bike can be more easily damaged if you crash or if you are taking it on a plane. Carbon doesn’t offer the most comfortable ride when cycling long-distance on rutted and uneven roads.
It is also worth thinking about your own weight before splashing out on all-things-carbon. Losing a few pounds yourself will give you just as much of a weight advantage, if not more, than always choosing carbon.
There are plenty of bikes, too, that are not made of carbon but are still relatively lightweight and great for churning out mile after mile of cycling. Most mechanics will tell you that you are better to spend your money on good quality components and worry less about the frame of the bike.
So, if you have a budget of £1000, look for the bikes with the best components in that price bracket.
There are those that swear by GPS gadgets and those that prefer an old-fashioned approach to mile counting and map reading. If you really only want to record distance travelled and speed, then you can buy a basic cycling computer for as little as £5.
Add GPS to the gadget and you will pay more but the usefulness of the gadget will then extend to many other helpful features as height gained, exact location, navigation, heart rate and all sorts of 21st
century hi-tech wizardry.
David, who works for Macs Adventure and is a new Garmin owner, is a bike gadget fan. He says: “I absolutely love my Garmin. Being able to record a distance and a time, plus having it all relayed to my smartphone to keep a record of my rides and performance is super cool in my eyes.
“I have also found it really useful this winter. When the weather doesn’t allow me to ride outdoors I can use the Garmin to add some fun and competition to my turbo training sessions. The Garmin gives me a real boost to my motivation for cycling.”
Gore-Tex waterproof jacket
[caption id="attachment_18827" align="aligncenter" width="500"]
Women's Gore Bike Wear Gore-Tex Active Shell jacket.[/caption]
You can choose to stay indoors when it’s wet outdoors or you can buy a waterproof jacket. You can also choose to buy a cheaper jacket that promises to be water resistant or a pricey jacket that is both waterproof and breathable, that is, one made of Gore-Tex or a similar hi-tech fabric.
It’s that difference in price that might make you stop and question the necessity of “the Gore-Tex waterproof jacket”. But there are a few things to think about when considering how much to spend on a jacket.
The fabrics that are better at keeping the rain out but also allowing your sweat to evaporate (breathability) are also the most expensive. They require more research, development and design and this hikes up the price. If you then add in the need for lightweight fabrics the cost will rise still further. That's why Gore-Tex is more expensive.
However, if you are a cyclist who wants to be out all year round a jacket that keeps you dry and is lightweight will be a huge bonus. A Gore-Tex jacket will also last you for years and it can be worn for other sports, too.
Padded sorts and saddles
You will have heard people say that there is no need for a good quality pair of shorts and a decent bike saddle because you simply have to grit your teeth through the initial pain and know that in time your nether regions will “toughen up”. But that is an old-fashioned view, in my opinion.
These days padded shorts (buy male or female specific) offer good comfort levels. Buy bibbed versions if you want to keep your mid-drift warmer while riding. And, women, if you like the idea of bibbed shorts, a zipped back access will help when you need a toilet break.
If you find you are still getting sore down below then a saddle that is designed to suit men or women will improve matters even more. For women, a saddle with a cut-out in the centre is truly superb. Trust me on this!
Both padded shorts and a gender specific saddle are good value for cyclists. They do not need to cost a great deal but both will help immensely in terms of cycling comfort.
If you want to enjoy a more efficient pedal stroke and create more power through the whole pedal revolution, clip-ins are brilliant. These pedals do take a little bit of getting used to and prices can seem crazy for high-end carbon versions but there are cheaper to mid-range alternatives.
Remember what I wrote about carbon above. The difference in weight between cheaper pedals and carbons pedals could be the cup of tea that you consume before going out on your bike!
All those accessories
Arm warmers, leg warmers, gilets, buffs, beanies, merino wool baselayers, gloves, cycling socks etc. Take a wander through a bike store and see all the many, many wonderful looking items that you could spend your money on.
In truth, the only product that is fairly important is gloves because they will stop you getting rubs and sores on your hands over longer distances.
But when considering the rest of the accessories you don’t need
any of these. You most likely already have a few similar items for other sports.
However, it’s up to you. If you have the money and you want to look the part/have kit that is specifically designed for cycling then go for it. You can even buy cycling socks that feature mini bikes on the cuffs!