Twenty-six suggestions to make your cycling journeys more reliable, more practical, and more comfortable.
Bikes are seldom supplied with everything you want for cycling to work. Fortunately, you can get accessories through Cyclescheme too. Whether you’re after a bike plus accessories or just accessories, you’ll save 25-39% on RRP. With a few exceptions, you can include whatever you need for cycle commuting. Here’s an A to Z to help you draw up your shopping list.
Punctures are rare if you keep your tyres pumped up firm but can be made rarer still. Solid tyres spoil bike handling and reduce rolling performance and comfort. Instead, choose puncture resistant tyres with a layer of Kevlar (tough) or thick springy rubber (tougher) underneath the tread; the latter have the word ‘plus’ in their name. Expect to pay from £30-£40 per tyre (RRP). Alternatively, use sealant in your tyres. This automatically plugs most small punctures. Innertubes pre-filled with sealant cost under a tenner. If your bike has tubeless rims and tyres, you can dispense with tubes entirely and just use tubeless sealant (£15-£20 for 500ml).
Courier bags and backpacks (from £50) are convenient for shorter journeys. For heavier loads, hotter days, or longer trips you’re better off with the luggage on the bike. You’ll sweat less and get fewer aches and pains. Bikepacking bags (from £30 each) can be fitted to the saddle, frame, and handlebar of most bikes. But for commuting convenience and more capacity, a rack and panniers (from £75/pair) works better. For smaller loads, a rack-top bag (from £30) may be sufficient. Whatever luggage you choose, look for waterproof fabrics or a rain cover.
Favoured by sportier cyclists and fixie riders, clip-in pedals fasten your feet in place, allowing higher pedalling cadences and higher peak power outputs. The pedals have sprung jaws that a cleat on the sole of the shoe clips into. For commuting, mountain bike style clip-in pedals work best: the pedals are double sided so are easier to engage, and the cleats are recessed into the sole so you can walk properly. The pedals cost from £40 per pair, the shoes from £75.
Your bike needs to be shackled to an immovable object whenever it’s out of your sight and not behind a locked door. D-locks offer the best compromise between protection and portability. As a rule of thumb, spend at least 10% of your bike’s value on the lock(s), and get one with a Sold Secure rating of silver or, ideally, gold. Shorter shackles are more secure as there’s less room for a thief to fit a big pry-bar or jack, but they’re fiddlier to fasten to street furniture.
E-bike conversion kit
If you need bit more oomph for the hills on the way to work or just fancy a no-sweat journey, you can add electric assistance to a bike you already own to make it an e-bike. Front wheel hub motors are the simplest and cheapest option, but conversion kits exist with rear hub motors and crank motors as well. Make sure the kit doesn’t breach e-bike legislation: the motor can’t be more powerful than 250W and the assistance must cut out at 25km/h (15.5mph). Prices from £500.
Your bike likely came with these. They’re ideal for stop-start urban commuting as you can easily put a foot down and back onto the pedal. You can also ride in any footwear. If you want more grip but don’t want to be fastened in place by clip-in pedals or toe-clips, try mountain bike flat pedals with pins (from £30). With soft-soled footwear (e.g. trainers) your feet won’t slip even in heavy rain.
Fingerless cycling mitts (from £15), usually padded, are part of the road cyclist’s uniform. They’re useful for wiping sweat (or your nose) and add a little hand comfort. Commuter bikes are usually comfortable enough without mitts. Full-finger gloves for colder weather (from £25), however, are essential for year-round riding. Your extremities can get really cold on a bike.
Unlike motorcycle helmets, bicycle helmets are not a legal requirement. But many recreational cyclists choose to wear them and so do many commuters. Any helmet you buy in the UK will have passed the EN1078 safety standard. More expensive helmets tend to be lighter, better ventilated, more comfortable, and better fitting. Fit is key: if it’s not worn correctly, a helmet won’t do its job. Don’t perch it on the back of your head. The brim should be only a couple of fingers’ width above your eyebrows. Prices from £25.
Always carry a spare when cycling further than you could walk back. If you’re unlucky enough to puncture, fit your spare and you can be on your way in a few minutes. The punctured tube can be repaired at home at your leisure. Make sure your spare innertube is the right size and has the right type of valve. It’s worth carrying a spare tube (prices from £3) even if your bike is tubeless as the sealant doesn’t always work.
The first piece of cycle-specific clothing to buy. Waterproof cycling jackets are lighter and more breathable than ordinary raincoats, so you’re less likely to overheat. They’re cut for cycling, with longer arms, a longer back, a high neck, and a more tailored fit that won’t flap in the wind. Many also have reflective details to make them stand out in headlights. Waterproof jackets start at about £30, with more fully featured ones nearer £100. To keep your legs dry, you’ll want either waterproof trousers (from £20) or a poncho-style cycling cape (from £30).
A kickstand (from £10) lets you park your bike anywhere without having to find something to lean it against. It’s great for nipping into shops, and also prevents paint being scraped – either the bike’s or the support’s. Some bikes have a frame mount for a kickstand. If yours doesn’t, check with your local shop that fitting one won’t damage the tubing.
It’s a legal requirement to have a white front light and red rear light whenever you ride on public roads in the dark. Lights powered by a hub dynamo are excellent for commuting, offering always-available lighting that won’t run flat. But if your bike doesn’t come with a hub dynamo, you’ll need a new front wheel (from £80) as well as the lights (from £50). Rechargeable battery lights range from little blinky lights for being seen around town (from £10) to ones as powerful as car headlights (from £100) designed for nighttime mountain biking. The right lights for you will depend on where and how you ride.
A bike without mudguards is like a car without a roof: horrible in the rain. On a wet road your wheels will spray dirty water over you and the bike. Any mudguard is better than nothing, but for commuting, full-length frame-fitting mudguards (from £30 a set) are best. If your bike doesn’t have the necessary frame eyelets for bolting the mudguards in place, you can fit them with P-clips. Some bikes (mainly road bikes and fixies) don’t have enough clearance around the tyres to fit standard mudguards, so you’ll need special ones (e.g. SKS Raceblade Long).
While your commute will quickly become familiar, SatNav style navigation is useful when you want or need to take a different route. Assuming you already have a smartphone, just download a suitable app and buy a handlebar phone mount (from £30).
Oils & lubricants
You need at least three lubricants to prevent bits of your bike from rusting or seizing. A light spray oil (from £3) is primarily useful for getting rid of moisture on your chain after a ride in heavy rain. A small bottle of a bike oil (from £4) is for lubricating the chain properly, as well as occasional oiling of pivot points on derailleurs, rim brake callipers, etc. Grease (from £10) needs to be applied to seatposts and bolt threads when installed to stop them seizing in place. It’s also used to service bearings.
Smaller pumps are easier to carry but harder to inflate tyres with. Get a pump that works properly. Those designed to stand on the ground in use, like mini track pumps, take least effort. (Prices start at £30.) Some pumps are compatible with all tyre valves, while others are Presta or Schrader only.
Quick release replacements
Quick release levers are commonly fitted to wheels and seatpost clamps, allowing tool-free removal or adjustment. That also applies to thieves, who can walk off with your wheels or saddle when your bike is parked. Allen-bolt wheel skewers (from £10) and seatclamps (from £5) should prevent this. If you want even more security, you can buy security skewers (from £30 each) which require a special key to undo.
To attach one or two panniers or a rack-top bag to your commuter bike, you need a rear rack. Fitting one normally requires a frame that has threaded eyelets at the rear dropouts and high up on the seatstays, and that’s long enough that your heels won’t hit the bags – although there are workarounds. Frame-fitting racks are inexpensive (from £20) and will typically carry a 20-25kg load. Beam racks that attach to the seatpost (from £20) are only suitable for a rack-top bag.
Like pedals, the saddle (from £20) is a component you may want to change. Saddle discomfort can be caused more by the saddle’s angle or your overall riding position, but often it’s the saddle itself: you need one that suits your bum! That means one that’s wide enough for your ‘sit bones’ and that won’t put pressure on your soft bits. That’s the reason for the grooves and holes in many saddles. What works for one person won’t suit another, but for commuting sitting more upright on a wider saddle will solve a lot of problems.
As well as a pump, tyre levers (from £3), and a puncture repair kit (from £3), a good starter kit should include: a selection of Allen keys (e.g. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8mm); a T25 Torx; a Phillips screwdriver; and a chain splitter. There are plenty of multitools (from £20) that include all of these tools, and a multitool is easier to stash in a saddlebag or pannier than separate tools.
Padded Lycra shorts are designed to be worn without underwear. If you’re commuting in baggy shorts or normal clothes and your saddle isn’t comfortable enough by itself, you could try padded underwear. This ranges from padded undershorts (from £30), which look much like Lycra shorts, to padded boxers (from £30) and even padded cycling knickers (from £35). Padded underwear tends to have a thinner, less obtrusive pad than Lycra shorts, so it’s better suited to commuting and shorter recreational rides.
Urban cyclists are increasingly using action cameras mounted to helmets or bikes to collect evidence in road incidents. It’s easier than ever to submit footage to the police. Action cameras (which aren’t available on the Cycle to Work scheme) cost from £50.
A water bottle (from £3), fitted into a cage on the bike’s frame, is an essential addition for longer or warmer rides. Unless you’re racing, don’t bother with sports drinks; water is fine. It can also be used for cooling yourself down or cleaning your hands.
If you park your bike in public anywhere where cycle theft is high (London, Oxford, and Cambridge in particular) or store it in a garage or shed at home, it’s worth investing in a second lock. When you’re out and about, a second lock will further deter a thief. It can also ensure that both wheels are secure, as well as the frame. At home, you can use a heavyweight chain (from £50) attached to a ground or wall anchor (from £35) to beef up garage security.
Your own workshop
Even if you’re not mechanically minded (yet?), there are some workshop items it’s worth having for home use. Top of the list is a track pump with a pressure gauge (from £25). Tyres slowly deflate so you need to keep them topped up. A workstand (from £40) holds your bike off the ground. It makes all maintenance easier and enables you to check that your gears and brakes work properly. Buy additional tools as required.
Zinc oxide cream
As used on babies’ bottoms to prevent nappy rash. There are lots of chamois creams for cycling, designed to prevent undercarriage chafing, saddle sores and rashes. Zinc oxide creams such as Sudocrem (from £3) are also effective and are cheaper. You’re unlikely to need any cream for riding to work but if you’ve got a long summer ride in Lycra shorts planned, this might just save your day.
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