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Bike Accessories Buying Guide

by Levi Bloom

Another not already covered in its own section will be here...

Helmets

Wearing bicycle helmets is sort of like wearing your seat belt. You know it will protect you from serious injury, but you think an accident won't happen to you. Unfortunately, if one does, and you are not wearing a helmet, the consequences can be devastating.

You don't wear it to protect you from little wrecks, you wear it because if you ride enough, you are likely to have the one bad crash. Not likely, but it could happen.

If you plan to ride with clubs.. or in events.. or with experienced riders.. or go with travel groups.. you won't have to make a choice. No helmet.. No ride!

In addition to life-saving potential, bicycle helmets have many other benefits. You will keep cooler with helmets because of the way the vents are designed to keep a continuous flow of cool air driven over your head like a cool breeze. Some helmets come with a removable visor, especially good for off-road riding by blocking sun rays flashing through trees and keeping your head protected from low branches.

Bicycle helmets normally come in 3 different sizes. To get an accurate sizing, measure your head right above the eyebrows, where the helmet is supposed to be worn. Bicycle helmets come with fitting pads, so if you measure accurately, you will be able to adjust your helmet to fit perfectly. After you purchase your bicycle helmet, please read the instructions very carefully, as they provide you with precise fitting instructions, both for comfort and for safety!

More expensive helmets do not equate to safer helmets. The added benefits you get are lighter weight, more advanced strapping systems, more vents for cooling and are constructed to hold up under much heavier use.

The average life of helmets are 3 to 5 years. If you do crash, it is highly recommended that you get your helmet checked to see if it needs replaced.

Check out Giro and Bell helmets.

Saddles

Before you spend big bucks on new bicycle seats, you should check to make sure that you are riding with the proper seat adjustments. The following are some simple guidelines for you to consider:

Bicycle seats, today, come in many shapes and sizes, but in general, there have been tremendous improvements over size, comfort and performance. It is important to note that if you are new to cycling, you will experience discomfort. Normally, this numbness and discomfort will go away as you begin to ride more consistently and longer distances. If the discomfort continues for a long period of time, then you should consider replacing your seat.

"The bigger the better" does not mean the most comfortable. Seats with big pads might fit the beach cruise or social riding, but the high tech seats are best for road and mountain biking. Seats are constructed with a shock-absorbing base, proper layers of foam for comfort and support, channels to alleviate pressure in soft tissue areas and designed to fit you sit bones for cycling comfort.

Pedals

There is no doubt that Clipless Pedals have had an enormous effect on the speed, stability and comfort that cyclists experience today! Getting the proper cycling shoes will make a huge difference in your riding... it is that simple.

Buying the proper shoe is first determined by which pedal system you will utilize. This pedal/shoe combination is determined by what type of riding you will do. In general, the three types of shoes are:

Road Riding - road shoes are lightweight, have an easy fastening system and have very stiff soles. The stiff soles help transfer power efficiently from your feet to the pedals and also to protect your feet. Higher end racing shoes have the stiffest soles, are made of material making them very light and have an extra-secure strap system for confidence when jumping out of the saddle when sprinting. The only negative with road shoes are that the cleats are not recessed, thus walking with them on can be a little awkward.

Off-Road Riding - off-road shoes provide the same power transfer through the shoes to the pedals as road shoes do. The primary differences are that the soles are a little more flexible, the cleats are recessed and they have an aggressive tread patterns. Off-road riders often times have to dismount from the bike and carry it across unridable sections of trail. The uppers of these shoes are designed to protect the foot from brush, tree limbs and an assorted aray of nature that off-road riders ride through!

Casual Riders - casual shoes have been designed with comfort in mind. They are more flexible, have recessed cleats and look more like tennis or hiking shoes. These shoes are just as comfortable to walk in as they are to ride in, and you get all the benefits of clipless pedals.

When buying shoes, make sure the shoes fit snugly so your foot does not move around. Cycling socks are thin, have moisture wicking qualities and will prevent the stretching of you shoes. The beauty of the velcro fastening system is that on longer rides, when your feet tend to swell, it is very easy to loosen the fasteners for immediate relief.

Compatability - when shopping for shoe/pedal combinations, you need to pay attention to make sure you buy equipment that will work together.

You will often see cycling shoe descriptions state they are "compatible with SPD, SPD-R, SPD-SL and Look pedals". This means that the shoes come equipped with cleats that will work with the above pedal systems. Look pedals are high quality and becoming very popular.

SPD stands for Shimano Pedaling Dynamics, and is an integrated shoe and pedal system that provides the pedaling performance along with the ability to walk comfortably off the bike. The SPD cleat system is available in two types and was originally developed for off-road and recreational cycling.

The SPD-SL system (which has replaced the SPD-R) was developed pursuing the further weight saving, the superior entry and release mechanisim, and the enhancement of pedaling efficiency.

Pumps and Inflation Systems

There are four basic inflator systems... the floor pump, frame pump, mini pump and CO2 inflator. Most experienced riders will find themselves owning three or four of them. The floor pump is used to inflate your tires prior to riding, is easy to store in your garage or toss in to the car. The frame or mini pump is used when you have a flat tire while riding, or to add some air in to your tires on longer rides. CO2 inflators are a quick, easy way to fix a flat tire, and can easily reach full inflation in seconds. (great for racing.)

When buying a floor pump, make sure you buy one with a gauge register so you properly inflate your tires to the recommended pressure. The proper pressure is usually printed on the tire sidewall. Also, it is important that you know which tire valve type you have, either Schrader or Presta. Make sure any inflator product you purchase will fit both valve types.

The newest generation of CO2 inflators uses a system to control the rate of inflation, and are becoming very popular with all types of riders. They use either threaded or non-threaded cartridges and are very easy to operate. Toss one, with a few extra cartridges, in your bag and you will be happy you did!

 

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