How to choose your accessories

Cyclescheme, 02.10.2014

How to choose your accessories

Mudguards and luggage capacity are essential for any cycle commuter. Here's what to consider when choosing guards and bags for your bike

Most bikes in the UK are sold without the accessories you'll want for commuting. The good news is that you can include accessories as part of your Cyclescheme package, and you can get an accessories-only package if you already have a bike. The best way to buy to choose your accessories is at the shop where you're getting – or got – your Cyclescheme bike. That way the staff can talk you through the options, advise on what suits your bike and your commute, and even fit the items. Here we're looking and mudguards and luggage; in future, we'll focus on other essentials.

Mudguards

Mudguards

Mudguards keep you and your bike clean. The most effective are frame-fitting ones that shroud a large arc of each wheel, attaching at the fork crown, seat-stay and chain-stay braces, and to threaded eyelets by the dropouts. Good examples include SKS Chromoplastics and Tortec Reflector Guards. These mudguards will fit to most hybrids, cyclocross bikes, and touring bikes. If the bike has disc brakes, it may be necessary to bend a dog-leg into one of the stays so that it clears the disc calliper.        

Road bikes can be equipped with narrow (35mm) frame-fitting mudguards if there's enough clearance between frame, fork and tyres. If the road bike has long-reach sidepull brakes or disc brakes, there will be. If the bike has standard, short-reach sidepull brakes, it's best to use special road bike mudguards. Examples include SKS Race Blade Long or Crud Roadracer guards.

Mountain bikes can sometimes be fitted with frame-fitting mudguards, if you choose the widest available (e.g. 60mm). A rear one will often fit a hardtail. Since few suspension forks are designed for mudguards, the front may need to be attached with cable ties at the fork bridge and P-clips on the fork legs. Frame-fitting mudguards work only on road-going mountain bikes; off-road, the mudguard can clog with mud or jam with sticks, so clip-on guards are better for dual-purpose bikes. Good examples include Crud RacePac, Zefal No Mud Mudguard, and any Topeak Defender with 'XC' in the name. 

Folding bikes are best equipped with mudguards from the bike's manufacturer. That way you'll know they won't interfere with the folding procedure. Brompton and Tern, for example, both offer suitable guards.

Luggage racks

Racks

On your back or on the bike? For short trips and lighter loads, a small backpack or courier bag is convenient. However, carrying the load on the bike is more comfortable and will make you sweat less.

To fit rear panniers, you'll obviously need a pannier rack. A standard pannier rack attaches to eyelets at the dropouts (it can share a set with mudguards; put the rack legs closest to the frame) and to eyelets high up on the seat-stays. You'll find these on all touring bikes, most hybrids, some cyclocross bikes, cheaper hardtail mountain bikes, and a few road bikes. There are versions to fit different wheel sizes and disc-brake specific models that avoid interfering with a seat-stay mounted disc calliper. Good examples include the Blackburn EX-1 and the Tubus Cargo; and for disc brakes, the Blackburn Central and Topeak Super Tourist DX Disc.

If your bike lacks the upper eyelets, don't worry: you can substitute P-clips, which wrap around the stays and provide a mounting point, and then fit a conventional rack. If your (road or mountain) bike lacks lower eyelets, there are alternative racks that fix to the wheel quick-release skewer. Examples include the Axiom Streamliner DLX Road Rear Rack and the Bontrager Lightweight Back Rack.

An alternative carrier for bikes without eyelets is the beam rack. This clamps around the seatpost. A beam rack will fit to bikes that might not accept other racks, such as a full-suspension mountain bike, a road bike, or a folding bike. Some beam racks have small side-plates but they're not designed for conventional panniers, rather for rack-top bags or trunk bags with small fold-down side bags. Good examples of beam racks include the Topeak RX V (and RX E), and the Blackburn Central Seatpost Rack. Be sure to attach either to a metal seatpost, not a carbon fibre one, which might be crushed by the clamp. 

Small wheeled folding bikes sometimes come with rear racks. These are best used for rack-top bags; panniers might clip your heels or hang too close to the road. Both Brompton and Tern offer dedicated, front-mounted luggage systems for their folders.

Bags

Bags

Once you've got your rack, choose your panniers. Two smaller panniers is a good option for commuting. The bike balances better and you can have bike stuff in one bag, office stuff in the other. A good-sized rack-top bag or trunk bag is better than a single pannier for smaller loads.

No rack? A backpack or courier bag enables you can carry a load on any bike, without modification. Comfort is key, so make sure that the bag has wide straps to spread the load across your shoulder(s); padding helps as well. It's also important that the bag is stable on your back. Backpacks benefit from a strap across the waist and/or sternum. Courier bags require a second strap, running either around your waist or across your chest from the main shoulder strap to one corner of the bag. Without this, the bag will swing around unless you sit very upright.

Whether you choose a backpack or courier bag, look for weather resistance, reflective details and, if you want them, pockets and dividers. Get the smallest bag that's big enough for your needs. That way you will only carry what you need, so it will be more comfortable. Good examples include the Ortlieb Velocity and Altura Grid 20-litre Backpack (backpacks), and the Scott Rush Shoulder Bag and the Polaris Aquanought Courier Bag (courier bags). 

Comments

More articles

How to: Cycle on main roads

How to: Cycle on main roads

Cycling is more pleasant on quiet routes but main roads might be the only option for part of your journey.

How to: Carry a laptop by bike

How to: Carry a laptop by bike

Protecting your computer takes on a different meaning when you’re cycling. Here’s how to transport one safely and comfortable.

How to: Handle the ups and downs of hills

How to: Handle the ups and downs of hills

Hills on the commute can become a daily grind, but it doesn't have to be this way. Here's how to conquer any 'fear of heights'.