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Opinion: 10 Products I Can’t Live Without on the Bike

By Andrea Champredonde

Other than a bicycle, cycling requires an array of products to keep the activity safe and enjoyable. The ones you carry may vary by type of riding, weather and even the time of year. But despite certain variables, there remain a handful of products most cyclists can’t live without when out on a ride.

Everyone has their favourites, but the following is my list of the 10 cycling products I cannot live without on the bike.

1. Quality bib riding shorts

The only thing between you and your saddle is your shorts. There are many price points on the market, and I understand the temptation to choose the most economical option, but if you go less expensive, you may regret it. Let me tell you why.

The higher the price tag (within reason, of course), the more time, sewing and quality materials go into the garment. Think of a tailored article of clothing that fits well and feels good. The same principle applies to a quality pair of bib riding shorts. The more panels, the better the fit.

The chamois, or seat pad, doesn’t have to be thick and bulky, but needs to be made of a high-density material designed to provide comfort for the duration of your average ride. Some product tags even show the number of hours the product is designed for use, so look beyond the price and read the details.

You can’t go wrong with a quality bib riding short. It will outlast a more economical choice, fit better, provide superior comfort and prevent any painful chafing. If you want to get the most out of your cycling-clothing investment, don’t use any fabric softener when washing and hang dry only.

2. Merino wool base layer

Merino wool is nature’s original technical fabric. Professional cycling gear was made of wool prior to the development of technical fabrics popular today. But get the idea of an old itchy wool sweater out of your head. Merino wool is soft, machine washable, and a delight to wear.

It has excellent wicking properties, dries quickly, and doesn’t get smelly with time. You can find merino base layers in long, short and sleeveless variations not flooded with logos so you can wear them both on and off the bike.

Rapha merino base layer
Base layer made by Rapha

3. Helmet

Anytime I’m on my bike, I wear a helmet, and you should too. Many of today’s models come with an integrated Multi-directional Impact Protection System (a.k.a. MIPS) to protect riders’ heads from potential brain injury over more than a single plane of contact. The inner MIPS mechanism moves with your head in the event of a crash or impact.

Whatever type of riding you do, you can find an affordable and fashionable-looking MIPS helmet to match any sense of style that protects and keep your head dry and cool (or warm) as you ride. Remember that most accidents happen because of external factors, so use a helmet to protect your head.

4. Glasses

I only know a few cyclists that don’t ride with glasses, but I need mine. In bright sunlight, cycling sunglasses protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. In low-vision conditions, the right-coloured lens helps see the road more clearly.

And how about dust, bugs and road debris that fly up into your face and eyes? Or have you ever got caught riding behind another cyclist in the rain who doesn’t have a fender? Yikes. Glasses keep debris and flying objects out of your eyes. You never know what may happen on a ride.

5. Drink tablets

Plain water doesn’t cut it for me. I need a touch of flavour to satisfy my taste buds. I purchase ready-to-go drink tabs that drop right into my water bottle. It took me a while to find the right one and dose for me, but with a bit of experimentation, you can too.

When I’m out on a long ride, I bring a few extra along for refills. They are small and take up minimal space. I use a small reusable plastic bag for them on every outing. Mix up the flavours for a touch of variety. Most tabs contain valuable electrolytes to keep you hydrated, or even carbohydrates to provide fuel when traditional bars or gels aren’t enough or upset your stomach.

6. Sleeveless, packable vest

When your core is warm, chances are the rest of you will be too. A sleeveless, packable vest provides the protection you need from wind, light rain or the early morning chill during the change of seasons. And since it’s packable, you won’t even notice it when it’s stored away, usually in its own convenient pouch.

7. GPS computer

GPS technology isn’t just for motorised vehicles. Having an onboard navigation system on your handlebars or wrist makes it possible to venture onto roads unknown with the confidence you’ll always find your way home.

They also add a spice of life to your regular riding routine since you can use associated route-building programs to pre-plan rides and coffee stops in unexplored areas near you or when you travel. Many riders may have already done the hard work for you too. Peruse the vast library of online published rides you can easily amend or add to your collection.

8. Sunscreen

Sunscreen isn’t only required when the sun is shining bright. UV rays bombard our skin 365 days of the year, and the body’s largest organ needs adequate protection. 15 or 30 SPF isn’t enough. Cyclists need at least 50 SPF in a formula that is resistant to sweating while remaining ocean and environmentally friendly.

Take some with you on the road. Fill an old travel-size container with your brand and re-apply during the coffee stop. Don’t forget the back of your neck and even your back if you’re wearing a lightweight perforated aero jersey made of fabric with no SPF protection.

9. Mobile phone

Most people have their mobile phones with them at all times. But, if you prefer to leave yours at home, think twice about your decision. It’s a lifeline for you and others in the event of an emergency or an unrepairable roadside breakdown. And if your GPS computer runs out of battery, your smartphone most likely has a navigation app to get you home if you’re in foreign territory.

And if you ride alone, your smartphone probably includes some type of SOS function in the event of a fall. If an impact or crash is detected and you’re unresponsive, it dials a pre-entered emergency contact phone number to alert your loved ones or get help when you can’t. Set yours up today.

10. Portable battery

On rides longer than four hours, I bring along a small portable battery and a short cable to recharge my phone or bike computer. Battery packs come in compact sizes, from super slim to round, and take up little space in your saddle bag or jersey pocket.

GPS battery life is more reliable these days, but if you’re running Strava or another ride tracking app on your phone, navigation is in constant use, which drains the battery faster. If you’re caught out without a low battery, turn off your Bluetooth and Wi-Fi toggle buttons to save battery life.

What are the favourite products you won’t leave home without when out on a ride?