How to choose your accessories (part 2)

Cyclescheme, 05.11.2014

How to choose your accessories (part 2)

Turning the typical UK bike into practical transport involves purchasing extras. Here’s what to consider in terms of lights and locks 

Got mudguards and luggage for your commuter? To ride it any time and park it anywhere, you’ll still need lights and lock. You can include these in your Cyclescheme package, either with a bike or on their own. Exactly what you need, or want, will depend on where and how you ride. 

Lighting

Lighting

Without lights, you cannot legally ride your bike on a public road after dark. It must have a working white front light and red rear light. The Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations are so out of date when it comes to cycling that it’s difficult even to purchase lights that conform to the BS6102/3 standard specified. So the police sensibly don’t enforce this requirement; they just want you to have easily visible lights of the correct colour.

If you’re buying lights separately, the chances are they’ll be battery ones. Dynamo lighting is an excellent solution for commuting, but it’s non-trivial to add afterwards. That’s because dynamo lights are powered by hub generators these days, and a new hub means a new front wheel.

Battery lights range from tiny little blinkers the size of a USB stick through to high-power ones brighter than car headlights. Whatever you choose, make sure it uses efficient LEDs rather than bulbs (most do), and that the front light at least is rechargeable; regular commuting will burn through disposables uneconomically quickly.

Lights have two jobs to do: to make you be seen; and to light your way. If your commute is exclusively under streetlights, it’s more about being seen than projecting a beam of light. Visibility from the sides is important. Cateye’s Volt 100/Rapid X USB RC set (£49.99, zyro.co.uk) ticks the boxes for urban use.

On unlit lanes, it’s tempting to go with a high-power front light designed for mountain biking. Such lights are like car headlights stuck on full beam; they’ll dazzle other road users. A better option (unless you really are commuting off-road!) is a light that focuses its beam on the road ahead. High-power lights that do that include the Supernova Airstream 2 (£175, amba-marketing.com) and the Exposure Strada Mk5 (£269.95, use1.com), which can be ‘dipped’ from high to low beam at the press of a button. If these seem overly expensive, a simpler 200-lumen light like the RSP Asteri 3 (£79.99, raleigh.co.uk) will still light your way effectively.

Many lights have flashing and steady modes. Flashing is better for attracting attention but makes it harder for other road users to judge your speed and distance in the dark. If there isn’t enough ambient light, stick with the steady mode - or use two sets of lights. 

Security

Security

The best way to keep your bike safe is never to let it out of your sight - a realistic option only with the most compact folding bikes - or to store it behind a locked door. Failing that, you need one or more locks. Bear in mind two facts: any lock can be breached, given enough time and the right tools. But any lock is better than no lock.

Sold Secure is a rating by the Master Locksmiths Association. Locks are rated Bronze, Silver or Gold, indicating their resistance to increasingly time-consuming and tooled-up attacks. Many cheaper locks won’t pass even the Bronze standard. These can be useful as ‘café locks’ for weekend rides where you’re nipping inside momentarily, but are a poor choice for a primary lock that you’ll use in town. Get the best lock you can: a) afford; b) easily carry.

The toughest locks are heavy chains or shackle locks, known as D-locks or U-locks. Chains make it easier to lock your bike to street furniture but are more awkward to carry. D-locks, particularly ones with a shorter shackle, offer similar security at a lower weight. Longer D-locks can usually be fastened to the bike frame with a bracket, while mini D-locks will just about fit a back pocket. You don’t have to carry your lock with you; you can leave it work, locked around a bike stand. If you do carry it, beware grime or oil being transferred from bike to lock to your other belongings.

One of the best D-locks available is the Abus Granit X-Plus 54 Mini (£79.99, zyro.co.uk), while the Squire SS50S/G3 (£89.99, raleigh.co.uk) is a secure chain-and-padlock combo. Whichever type of lock you use, lock it around one of the frame tubes to a solid piece of street furniture. Wrap and wind a chain so that it’s taut to make it harder to bolt-crop. With a D-lock, leave as little accessible space in the shackle as possible, as it makes it harder (or impossible) for a thief to use a pry-bar or bottle-jack.

A single lock isn’t the be-all and end-all of security. If you park your bike in high-theft areas, it’s wise to use two locks - ideally one chain, one D-lock. This requires any thief to have a greater range of tools and to take more time.

Consider also what could be stolen from your bike - and not just lights, cycle computer, pump, or bags. Anything that’s quick release can be gone in seconds. At the very least, use Allen bolt skewers for the wheels and seatpost. Better yet, use security skewers. The Pinhead 4-Pack (£54.99, raleigh.co.uk) locks the wheels, seatpost and fork to the bike. Pitlock's 4-Piece Skewer Set (£64.99, zyro.co.uk) does the same job.

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