Bicycling basics: A brief discussion of all the tools and equipment one should consider having available with a bike
The big list of equipment used for bicycling
Bicycling is a hobby and mode of transport that many people enjoy. Some advocate it as an alternative to personal automobiles, especially in metropolitan areas. The benefits for both the individual and the environment are easy to see: aerobic exercise – with little of the joint shocks that jogging can cause; conservation of fossil fuels; and reduced congestion on the roads.
When one considers becoming a so-called serious bicyclist, whether just taking long pleasure trips or replacing one’s car with a bicycle for their daily commute, it is useful to set up a list of the equipment that is useful to own. It is also prudent to determine what equipment should be carried while bicycling. Some items that should be owned can’t be carried and other times it is useful to own two versions of the same kind of gear: one for use on the road, and one for use at home.
The first piece of equipment a bicyclist should own is the bicycle itself. Depending on what kind of riding the owner wants to do, the bicycle may be one of many different styles. For the purposes of this article it is going to be assumed that the reader is interested in a touring style bike, or a mountain style bike. Both of these are good general purpose bikes able to be ridden on the roads and at least some trails. The touring bike can’t handle all the trails that the mountain bike can, but unless one has a desire to seek out challenging trails most touring bikes can be used on well groomed trails, such as those that follow the Erie Canal in New York State. Both of these styles of bike use two chain de-railers to offer a wide range of torque or power ratios. The standard these days seems to be 15-18 ‘speeds’ or different gear combinations. The biggest difference between the two styles is that the touring bike is a lighter bicycle, with narrow tires that have a slightly larger radius (27 inches) while the mountain bike is has a sturdier and heavier frame and uses a somewhat wider tire, with a marginally smaller radius (24 inches). There are, of course, bicycles that blur these distinctions.
After choosing a bicycle for the owner’s taste the next thing to consider is a helmet. There is a push in many areas to make wearing a bicycle helmet a law, similar to seatbelt or motorcycle helmet laws. Those who support this push point to a number of studies that claim that most of the bicycle accident fatalities may have been prevented had the cyclist been wearing a proper helmet. Needless to say there isn’t universal acceptance of this reasoning. If one’s local laws require helmet use, find a good helmet and use it. Personally, I have a horror of brain/head injuries so I’ve been using a helmet for 20 years now. One more fact about helmets, most helmets are designed to protect the wearer ONCE: Since the way that they absorb energy in a crash is by deformation (This is the same thing that crumple zones on a car do.) once they have been hit in a crash, they’ve deformed and no longer offer the same level of protection.
The bicyclist also needs to have proper reflectors, and if considering any kind of night or twilight riding a bicycle headlight and rear lights are highly recommended. Since most bicycle accidents on the road involve automobiles, often automobiles that didn’t see the bicyclist, anything to improve the visibility of the cyclist is a good idea. In the same vein a reflective vest is another good idea, day or night. A good, sturdy bike lock is also recommended. Chains and padlocks are acceptable, but the best security comes from the tempered U shaped locks available.
Tools that the bicyclist needs include a bicycle pump. I recommend having two of these actually: One large one for use at home, where the size is only an issue in that it makes for less work when having to use it, and one to be carried on the bike, where the small size and weight are key concerns. At least one, and preferably two, small screwdrivers for adjusting the set screws for the bike’s de-railers and brakes – one to be kept at home, and one for use on the road again. Likewise the bicyclist should have two wrenches for tightening the nuts holding the seat and handlebars in place – box wrenches, not adjustable, whenever possible. Most bicycle manufacturers have taken the time to make sure that all user serviceable nuts are the same size, allowing for a single box wrench to cover most, if not all, needs on the road. Again one wrench is for use at home, and one on the road. Finally a pair or two of pliers should be included in both the road tool kit, and the home tool box.
The road tool kit should also have a spare inner tube for the bicycle, so that there is the chance to fix a flat, should it occur. To keep the road kit on your bike a small under seat bag is one option, or putting on a rear rack and using a pocket in a pannier or saddlebag is another option.
Above all, when riding one’s bicycle remember that avoiding an accident is always better than fixing the damage from one, or having to depend on one’s helmet to protect one’s head. Stay alert and avoid trouble.