19th February 2018

Cycling at 50: My essential tools and accessories

Bike rear cassette

Cycling at 50 is a series of guest blogs written by Alan, a cycling fan who got back into riding his bike at the age of 50.

So after leaving nuggets of fashion wisdom liberally sprinkled over the interweb we move from the clothes on your back (and front!) to other stuff.

Stuff not to leave home without

You only really need some essentials to get you out of mechanical trouble, and some wet stuff to quench your thirst. Some people can cram this into the pockets of their cycling top or into a pouch on their bike and grab a bottle. I grab my keys, phone and reach for my trusty Osprey Raptor hydration pack, fill it with some water and I’m off, no messing around looking for bits and pieces! I love this pack and won’t hesitate to buy a replacement when it eventually dies.

Osprey hydration pack

My trusty Osprey hydration pack and tool kit

In there are spare inner tubes, (26”, 29” and 700) as it’s way quicker swapping a tube than to repair one at the roadside, do that back home. There are some basic tools; tyre levers, a multitool, puncture kit, emergency money (for emergency coffee and doughnuts!) and still room for additional food/clothing if needed but for shorter runs, it’s largely empty. The waist and sternum straps stop it flapping around and it never gets too sweaty on my back. The hydration part of it means I end up drinking more frequently, no reaching for a bottle, just get the bite valve in your mouth and sook. Also less chance of a pile up as I fumble with putting bottles back in cages… Again, this is my preference. You might be a dab hand with juggling bottles or prefer the weight of tools etc on the bike, whatever works best for you.

Bike stuff…

I have some single sided SPD pedals, these have a normal cage on one side and SPDs on the other and they are great. You can wear ‘normal’ shoes or clip in your bike shoes for better efficiency. Also having a cage helps in the scramble for power sometimes. I understand the fear of being clipped in to SPDs, I have some war stories there too, but the fear soon passes as it becomes second nature. The road bike has double-sided SPDs as you clip/unclip much less.

My bikes are pretty pared back most of the time, just a tail light for use on roads, a ‘bike computer’ for keeping an eye on my average speed and that’s about it. Oh, and a bell, not very cool but it’s essential when riding shared paths to alert pedestrians that you are there and to maybe bring their dog under control. A couple of ‘tings’ about 20/30 metres away works wonders, highly recommended! Watch for the ones that don’t react, they probably have their headphones in and will jump as you pass them. I used to be a little jealous of my brother who had a Barbie hooter on his bike, noise like an asthmatic goose – a total head turner!

Night riding stuff…

Wow, lights have progressed in the past few years! I used to have a dual halogen, lead-acid battery, £25 quid from Edinburgh Bicycle back in 2003. It still works fine but it’s been retired now for a 1000+ lumen, USB rechargeable, LED beast – these lights are amazing! Other than my usual bike clothes, which have reflective trim, I put on a pair of reflective slap straps on my ankles (seeing them bouncing up and down screams ‘cyclist’ to car drivers) and if on roads a lot then a reflective vest. Good lights have certainly opened up night riding for me, I love going out on a nice, quiet, dark and cool evening; it transforms your ride.

Cycling at night

There’s nothing quite like a bike ride at night.

Workshop stuff…

I’m not a hugely competent bike mechanic, tending to leave the tricky/expensive things to the experts at my Local Bike Shop, but I do clean, lube and fettle my bike as best I can. I mainly use household DIY tools but you will need some specialist tools depending on how far down the maintenance rabbit hole you want to go. You can soon get into the realms of pedal spanners and chain whips… Again, your LBS can advise on what’s worth buying. The only thing I would strongly recommend is a good track pump. Keeping tyres at the right pressure used to be a pain, now it’s 10 seconds work!

My cleaning routine is to get the bike on a stand then give it a soft brush and low pressure hose to get the gunk off, towel dry then skoosh everything that moves with water dispersant (like GT85). Then wet lube everything that moves, including brake and gear cables, and that should keep things running nicely. Note: If you skoosh or lube your braking surfaces then your next ride will be quite exciting – don’t do it! Check out Muc-off for all your cleaning needs.

At some point you will need to degrease your chain, and although an old toothbrush and degreaser will get the job done eventually, one of those chain cleaning tool thingies does the job better and in a fraction of the time ready for re-lubing.

We’ll that’s it for ‘stuff,’ next article, when things go wrong!

Shop Tools and Maintenance

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