If you’re new to riding bikes, the world of bike gear can be a complicated and overwhelming place. And the more you hear about supposed must-have bike accessories, the more expensive cycling seems to be.
Trust us, the cycling gear rabbit hole is deep, complicated, and pricey. But for those who are new to the sport or just want to make sure they’re equipped for the occasional ride on a rental bike, there’s no need to drown in accessory research.
Here’s a list of actual “must-have” bike accessories. This equipment is essential for your personal safety and the longevity of the bicycle. When you’re ready, you can look into tricking out your ride. But if you have these nine items, you’re off to a solid start.
1) Helmet – Bike Accessories
The bike accessories that follow are all essential. But this one is absolutely, positively non-negotiable.
Even if cycling without a helmet is legal in your city, it is your responsibility to protect your noggin. The most experienced riders do wipe out from time to time. Not to mention, you can’t control the choices made by motorists, pedestrians, and animals you encounter on your ride.
When selecting a bike helmet, be sure to match the helmet to your head size and your style of riding. Recreational bike helmets can be an affordable option for casual cyclists. Mountain bike helmets offer great ventilation and rear head coverage to keep you safe in a backward fall. And road bike helmets are lightweight, aerodynamic, and well ventilated for swift travel.
2) Cycling Gloves
Gloves qualify as must-have bike accessories for a number of reasons.
The third, lesser-known benefit is that cycling gloves protect your ulnar nerve. This nerve runs through the palm of your hand. When you place ongoing pressure on the ulnar nerve, you can experience pain or numbness in your pinkie, ring finger, or throughout the entire hand. Cycling gloves come with padded palms to prevent those issues.
Pro tip: When choosing cycling gloves, check the webbing between the thumb and index finger. It should be loose enough for you to grip the handlebar comfortably, but not so loose that the material scrunches.
3) Quality Riding Shorts Bike Accessories
If you’re picking up a rental bike for a long day of riding, consider investing in some quality riding shorts. These shorts are designed to move with you, so you don’t deal with chafing and rubbing after miles of repetitive exercise. Cycling shorts are also padded to give you a little more cushion between your backside and the saddle.
Don’t consider yourself the “riding shorts type”? Don’t sweat it. Cycling shorts come in a variety of styles for men and women – so you don’t have to commit to the full cyclist look if you’re not ready. From sporty bibs with built-in support to casual, loose-fitting riding shorts, you’ll find something that fits your look.
4) Water Bottle or Hydration Pack
Just like helmets, hydration gear is a must-have bike accessory simply from a staying alive standpoint. Running out of water mid-ride isn’t just an inconvenience. It’s a real danger . . . especially if you’re seven miles in on a mountain trail.
The standard rule of thumb is to take three big gulps every twenty minutes at least. Your need will vary depending on how strenuous your ride is, but the bottom line is: don’t be stingy. If you’re a casual cyclist, have an insulated water bottle and water bottle cage. If you plan to head out on a mountain bike, grab a reservoir.
When purchasing a hydration pack, choose a size that’s a little bigger than you expect to need. You never have to fill it all the way. But you will regret buying too small when you’re ready to start challenging yourself with long-distance rides.
5) Multi-Tool Bike Accessories
Whether it’s a city street or a dusty path, the road is an unpredictable place for a cyclist. Even the fussiest bike owner can be caught off guard by a bolt loosened by vibration. This is why a multi-tool belongs on your list of must-have bike accessories.
Multi-tools vary in size, quality, and function. Some of the bulkier ones are designed to be kept at home. However, we recommend finding one lightweight enough to carry in your pocket or saddlebag. A portable cycling multi-tool is not only easy to tote along for the ride; it also travels well if you plan to pick up a rental bike on vacation.
6) Bike Pumps
Speaking of unexpected disasters, you need a pump. Keep a track pump at home and use it weekly to keep your tire pressure up. Good tire pressure prevents punctures on the road.
It’s also smart to tote a mini pump along on your rides. A pocket-sized pump isn’t ideal for long-term maintenance. But if you have a flat tire while you’re on the go, a mini pump provides enough air to get home.
7) Chain Lube
Show your bike some respect with a quality chain lubricant. A good chain lube ensures your safety and the longevity of your chain, which saves money in the long run.
The trick to chain lube is knowing which type of lube is best for your local climate and typical rides.
Wet lube is oily and harder to wash away with water. This makes it the ideal option for rainy conditions.
However, if you’re riding in a dry, dusty climate, skip the wet lube. That oily substance traps dust and sand, and you wind up with a gunky chain. Instead, opt for dry lube. This lubricant goes on wet but should dry before your ride. It washes off easily in wet weather, but it keeps your bike chain cleaner in the long run.
8) Bike Lock
You put a lot of money into your bike. Don’t play it fast and loose with security. No matter what kind of ride you have, a lock is a must-have bike accessory.
Which kind of lock you choose depends on how concerned you are about bicycle theft. Cable locks are convenient but only advisable in low-crime areas. For a tougher steal, try chain locks or U-locks.
And if you don’t own a bike but do use a lot of rental bikes, make sure you’re prepared with a lock to guard that ride as if it were your own. Many bike rental shops provide a lock with the bike, as do our listers. But be sure you check ahead of time so you don’t get stuck with the cost of bike replacement.
9) Lights and Reflectors
Look up bike lights and bike reflectors, and you’ll discover there are countless ways to illuminate your bicycle.
Whichever options you go with—from tire spoke reflectors to pedal strips to LED rear lights—make sure you’re in line with local bike laws.
Then, don’t be afraid to add more light and reflection than the law requires. You know what your typical night ride is like, including the balance of shadows and ambient light. Err on the side of safety.
The world of gear is vast and complex. You can find countless bike accessories to make your two-wheeled adventures safer, easier, and more fun. These are just the bare essentials.
And if you rent a bike through Spinlister, you can likely find a lister whose bike is already compliant with safety laws. Many even come with optional cycling accessories like bike helmets, baskets, locks, and lights.
However you find your wheels, just make sure you’re ready to hit the road or trail safely.