The 5 Best New Pieces of Equipment for Cyclists
Cyclists are used to thinking — dare we say over-thinking? — about equipment. There is no end to the list of possible bike mods, moisture-wicking clothes, smart tech and lightweight gear that you can buy to enhance your rides.
But there are a few must-have cyclist products that often go overlooked, even by experienced cyclists. Some of them are new, but others have just grown in popularity in the past five or 10 years.
Your bike shop salesperson might not mention these when you pick up your new bike. But if you ask longtime rider and trainer Coach Darryl MacKenzie, these items are essential for any cyclist. Here are his top five best new pieces of equipment for cyclists, from least to most important.
5. Red Rear Flashing Light
Yes, lights have been around for a while, and many cyclists have used them. But only in the last few years have they become effective for all-day use. Modern bike lights are easy to recharge by USB and incredibly bright, making them useful for both day and nighttime riding.
This is thanks largely to the Bontrager Flare R, which is visible for over a mile (up to 2 kilometers) in the daytime. Bontrager CEO John Burke was inspired to make the original Flare R rear light by two things: the effectiveness of daytime running lights on cars and the fact that some of the most dangerous car-bike accidents happen from the cyclist’s rear. At the time, rear cycling lights were far less popular than front ones, as most thought the primary purpose of lights was to help the cyclist see ahead in the dark.
We now know that lights are made as much to be seen as to see. And one major benefit of these newer bike lights is the ability to select different lighting modes to make the cyclist more visible. As Coach Darryl notes, a steady light is much less noticeable than a flashing one. And many of these newer lights have several flash modes to allow for irregular intervals, which is even more attention-grabbing.
One important consideration for your rear light is placement. Because they are so bright, they can cause issues for other cyclists approaching from the rear. Darryl’s location of choice is on the seat post, just below the saddlebag. From there, the light is plenty visible from afar but blocked from view up close.
4. Ultraviolet Arm Covers
Many cyclists are used to wearing arm warmers in the wintertime. They’re usually black to absorb sunlight and, well, keep your arms warm in the cold. But we’re talking here about arm covers, which are made to protect you from the intense summer sun.
Darryl points out that you can generally assume you’ll spend about an hour outside for every 10 miles you ride. So a cyclist who rides 100 miles a week is spending 10 hours a week outside. Much of that, depending on where you live, is in the sun during warmer months. Without coverage, your arms are dangerously exposed. So, unless you want to burn through bottles of sunscreen, UV-blocking arm covers are the way to go.
The most effective arm covers are white (to repel rather than absorb sunlight), thin and moisture-wicking. They fit snugly under the sleeve of your jersey so your arm is fully covered and you don’t have to stretch them out. Coach’s cover of choice is the Bontrager UV Sunstop, which he washes after every ride or two.
A bonus of these white, reflective arm covers is that they make your turn signals more visible. Even skinny arms will shine in the sunlight when you’re pointing for that left turn.
3. Garmin Cycling Computer
Few things make a cyclist’s life easier than a Garmin. If you want to be free to enjoy your rides without stressing about where you are, it’s essential.
“I train people to do centuries for 16 weeks, twice a year,” says Coach Darryl. “And, quite often, the rides that we go on are parts of our county that we don’t know the roads very well. So we predefine the route, circulate it to everybody, and they are able to download it to their Garmin.”
With the map in place, all you can focus on your training goals instead of worrying where to turn. Seated right on your handlebar, the Garmin keeps the map in front of you at all times and can give you audible instructions about where to go.
These are more than navigational tools, though. This essential cycling item can be used to monitor heart rate, pacing, distance, elevation and more.
2. White Front Flashing Light
The rear light may have risen in prominence in these past few years to rank among the five best new pieces of equipment for cyclists, but that doesn’t make the front light any less important. Even though some of the most dangerous accidents happen from the cyclist’s rear, some of the most common ones come from the front of the bike.
“In my humble opinion, this one reduces more accidents than the rear red flashing light does,” says Darryl. “It saves a lot of heart racing.”
Modern, high-lumen lights not only enable you to see much better, but they make drivers much more aware of your presence on the road. Whether it’s the dangerous left turns or drivers opening doors in passing cyclists’ paths, Darryl sees fewer of these incidents when cyclists are using front lights all day.
A general tip on lights: They’re no good if the batteries run out, so be strategic about where you put your charger. Coach keeps his right by where he stores his bike, which makes it easy to remember to plug them in after a ride and grab them before he sets out.
1. Rearview Mirror
This simple, inexpensive tool can prevent many a wreck. It helps you keep your eyes forward instead of craning your neck — and swerving your bike — to see what’s behind.
There are several options for rearview mirrors, from handlebar to helmet placement, but Darryl prefers the kind that attaches to your sunglasses. It’s the only type that makes it easy to see across multiple lanes of traffic behind you. Further, even though you place it on the left side, a tilt of your head is enough to see behind you to the right, as well.
When Darryl first began using one of these, it only took two rides for it to feel essential. Suddenly he was looking to his rear three times more often. Recalling when he left it at home on his third ride, he says, “I felt naked and exposed. I was just shocked at how much this little, $15 piece of equipment allowed me to feel more comfortable on the road.”
These mirrors help not only with rider safety but with keeping groups of riders together. When everyone can easily keep track of the riders behind them, no one is as likely to sprint out ahead.
There you have it: Those are our five best new pieces of equipment for cyclists. No rider is complete without these vital pieces of equipment. If you’re missing any of them, then what are you waiting for? Stock up, suit up and get riding.
You can find more insights from Coach Darryl over at his website.