What Gear Do I Need for My Road Bike?
When you invest in a new road bike, you'll want to get the gear that goes with the bicycle for the optimal cycling experience. A road racer may refer to her gear as a "kit." It typically consists of a skintight cycling suit, a set of cycling shoes, gloves, a helmet and some accessories for turning an everyday ride into a serious training regimen. Road cyclists care about cutting down weight, so an item has to be particularly useful to make the cut.
Spandex, The Miracle Material
The first piece of gear commonly associated with a road cyclist is a cycling bib and jersey. These two clothing items are usually made from Spandex, which uses elastic material to hug the shape of your body and prevent any flapping that would increase drag. A cycling bib has a chamois sewn between the legs to provide a cushion for soft tissue. This is essential for serious riding; not wearing a chamois can be very painful after a few miles. The cyclist's jersey is also designed to enhance comfort; zippers allow ventilation during intense pedaling, and pockets along the lower back easily store small items like a phone or a pair of arm warmers for quick access.
If The Shoe Fits
Cycling shoes or cleats allow a cyclist to clip into the pedals of the bicycle, which provides several advantages. A rider using clipless pedals can pedal at a higher cadence without slipping, which ultimately improves efficiency. In addition, you can use your muscles on the upstroke as well as the downstroke, allowing more power while climbing or sprinting. Cycling cleats for road cyclists use a three-hole clipless system known as the "Look" system, which spreads contact with the pedal out over a slightly larger area than the two-hole system used on mountain bikes, allowing greater transfer of power. The cleat connects to a stiff plastic or carbon fiber last in the shoe, distributing pressure along the entire foot for comfort.
Protect Your Head
A helmet is arguably the most important piece of gear for a road cyclist. 70 percent of all fatal injuries sustained by cyclists in a crash involved head injuries, reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2008 paper "Traffic Safety Facts." Helmets for road cyclists are heavily ventilated for comfort, and can sometimes feature a visor to keep sun out of your eyes during the middle of the day. The best helmets are compatible with high-end cycling sunglasses; competitive cyclists use this compatibility to keep their sunglasses out of the way when not in use.
Other optional gear for a road bike includes accessories designed to enhance cycling and training. A bike computer comes in a variety of iterations, from a standard wired computer for speed and a stopwatch to an advanced computer that provides biometric data and GPS. Other gear might include a repair tool and bicycle pump, which gives you options if you're stranded with a flat tire or broken chain. Overall, these items are not strictly necessary like a helmet and a chamois, but they can make your ride much safer and more enjoyable.
- Department of Transportation: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Traffic Safety Facts, January 2008
- CycleHelmets.org: Cycle Helmets - An Overview
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