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Initial Thoughts On A Variety Of Biking Accessories
The world of bike related accessories is rather immense. It used to be that a bottle cage was really all you needed. Depending on the kind of bike, or riding you do, the level of safety, comfort, or convenience can be taken to several levels of complexity. I still think “keep it simple, stupid” is a handy guide. That is until a situation arises, and you wish you had that specific tool or accessory that could have bailed you out. Being prepared for every little mishap may not be feasible, but I searched for a solid list of components and biking accessories that could be very useful. This is by no means an all-inclusive list, but items that worked for me, my bike, and cycling adventures.
WTB Venture – Gravel Bike Tires – Grippy Biking Accessories
Let’s get started with some tires. Gravel is big, and it’s a lot of fun. A good gravel bike tire size that meets many of my needs is a 700 x 40mm wide. Once I got these, I immediately put them to the test for a big dessert race in Fruita, Colorado. The course was a diverse mix of surfaces including a little bit of road, a section of pure gravel, but mainly hard packed dessert sand with a few dinosaur sand traps thrown in. I would say these are ok for a bit of asphalt, but truly hit the mark for all of my other gravel escapades. And for this race, these tires were perfect for 97% of my ride.
The grip of the middle section was good to handle dirt and gravel. WTB’s Venture tire outer edges have a more aggressive tread with great grip for the deeper stuff. In addition, they were ideal for cornering to allow me to stay in control. Tire pressure is something that I played with throughout the day. I think I started at 45psi but went down as we hit the more bumpy parts of the course. All in all, a great tire for the gravel bike, and can certainly handle a multitude of surfaces.
Climbing mountain passes was on order in Crested Butte. I took these tires on some pretty gnarly and technical terrain. This was a carved out granite slab extreme 4×4 “road” with the potential for sidewall tire slashing. I wouldn’t recommend this type of terrain on this bike and these tires, but I survived for the small portion of the ride. Sometimes you have to put yourself into an uncomfortable position to get to some amazing waterfalls. For more information on the WTB Tire line please visit: WTB venture
Topeak Racerocket Pump
When it comes to biking accessories, a simple small item can really save the day. I carry both Co2 cartridges, and this pump to ensure I’m covered. The size of this pump is awesome. You do need to be prepared to pump hard for a minute or two to get the proper air in. Toepeak’s Racerocket came to the rescue on a couple of mountain exploratory adventures. I continually adjusted my air pressure to handle the ever changing road conditions, and was able to navigate the rough terrain without a flat. The rubber grip is nice, and actually helps the pump stay put in the back of the jersey, if that’s where you decide you want to place it.
The RaceRocket comes with an extendable hose that makes it much easier to attach to the valve stem, and pump it up without doing any damage there. If you do want to attach it to the bike, there is a bracket. The screws line up to be able to attach to any bottle cage position. I decided to put mine on my front fork. The pump snaps in quite snug. I barreled down some intense bumpy and wash board roads, and the pump stayed firmly put. One other little neat feature is the built-in tool that will tighten or remove two piece Presta valve cores. If you need to add some slime, and you don’t have pliers handy, the top lid unscrews and with that lid it allows you to remove the core.
This is a good solid investment, and I really like it’s size and power to inflate. Check out all the Topeak options at RACEROCKET
Topeak Headlux Helmet Light
Safety is key! This is a very bright flashing light. I like the ability to recharge it without batteries. My wife and I have both been using the Topeak Headlux light as our commuting schedule days fall on alternating days. I suppose there are a handful of ways to attach this light. I like the ability to have it on my helmet for a higher up visibility angle. It goes where my head goes, so hopefully that swivel effect is noticed by drivers. It can also go on your handlebars if that works better for you.
Double sided is a really good thing here. The way the headlights are positioned, the Topeak Headlux has 360 degree visibility. The approximate run times before having to recharge for High and Middle beams are in the 3-6 hour range. When you switch to blinking, which I think is the way to go, the run time increase to 28-33 hours. I have been commuting and totally forgot about how long I’ve used them. Hence, run time is long enough to not have to worry about it for a while. For more information please check out TOPEAK
Topeak Top Tube Tri Bag
I recently completed a Half Ironman, and this Topeak Tri bag was perfect for all my nutrition needs. Storage capacity is 0.6L, but two energy bars, several gel packets, and enough room for a couple of Co2 cartridges were plenty for my race. Depending on your journey, this can also be used on the road, gravel, or mountain bike. It’s about efficient storage and accessibility. I do think this is the best place for food and extra goodies, so I can keep going while adding the necessary calories.
It is sleek stylish and aerodynamic. And in the tri world, it’s all about aero. What I really like about it is the fact that the “frame” is made out of a solid yet flexible material (a hard rubber I would assume), with durable fabric. I’ve had some of these top tube feedbags that are flimsy. Not the case here! There are two outside pockets, a removable divider, plus another mesh side pocket on the inside. With 3 adhesive adjustable straps, I did not have any issues to secure this properly. One other key thing to note is that it does stay narrow and doesn’t bulge out. I really dislike it when my knees start rubbing up against the top tube bag, but all good here. Check it out HERE
Pirelli Cinturato Velo
This is for the road rider that does not like pinch flats, or small punctures on their ride. Alright, I can think of no one who actually likes those things! I have the 26c width currently to be able to go down in pressure to help absorb the slightly rougher roads going into fall and winter. The other option is to go tubeless. If you are not familiar or unsure of going tubeless on your road bike, it may be a bit of a leap getting all set up and comfortable. Tubeless requires a wheel rim that has the ability to take a tubeless tire, since it does need to clinch and seat properly. Talk to your LBS if you are unsure. This tire is good for either application.
The Pirelli Cinturato is a great tire to get you going. 23c and 25c widths are common for the road and racing. Going a little wider in the winter is probably a good idea. You could even bump it up a notch to 28c or 30c depending on your rim and fork setup. 26c is as wide as I can go on my road bike without the tires rubbing on my chainstay or fork. The tire thickness at the center of the tire is where Pirelli Cinturato Velo packs a punch. At 3.7 mm thickness it is nearly 20 – 40% thicker than most other tires on the market. See more information at Pirelli
Wahoo Speedplay Zero Pedals
Speedplay pedals have been around since their introduction in 1991. Back then, it took some time for this design to catch on. These days, I do see a fair amount of riders sporting this cleat/pedal set up. This is my first foray to give this system a go. They are really kind of a reverse system to many of the other pedal cleat combinations. The attached cleat clips on and over the pedal, whereas others have the cleat slide and clip into the pedals. The setup to get the cleats situated took me a bit of time to get them properly situated. This is in regard to how all the components and pieces worked together. Not all that bad, but it wasn’t as simple as screwing them on and hitting the road. The written instructions were quite small and hard to read, but I got it done.
Most pedals have some “play” in them. Meaning; you can adjust the range of float that your feet have on the pedals. Being locked in can certainly cause an issue especially for the knees. The Wahoo Speedplay pedals have an ample amount of float or lateral movement built in. I feel connected to the pedal and crank allowing me to put down maximum watts when needed. With that range of motion and/or movement, I do have a sense of freedom. I am able to confidently push some serious watts, while I can feel agile and float at the same time. The right verbiage doesn’t come mind, but “nimble” is the closest thing I can think of as I can dance on the pedals producing a quick cadence without losing power.
I spoke to several cycling teammates who ride with these. The main thing they said is that these will take some time to get used to. I was warned, and it was true. Once, I got a handful of rides in, the clip in / clip out process became more natural. These are definitely not meant for mountain biking or gravel riding. In that, they do not handle dirt very well. I had to walk around a construction zone one morning, and walked through some mud. It presented some issues trying to clip back in. Keep them clean and all will be fine. My criterium racing friends really like the Speedplay pedals as well. As mentioned, it took me some time, but now I am enjoying my rides on these Speedplay pedals. For the various options in material and design, please check out SPEEDPLAY
The USWE Outlander Pro Hydration Pack
The Outlander Pro is a pack that plays into the simplistic mindset I prefer. In my experience, a pack needs to fit properly, have a bladder that doesn’t leak or get fussy with use, and a tube or hose that is easily accessible. The USWE’s Outlander Pro does not have any other fancy pockets for food or gear, and that’s exactly how I like it for my gravel and mountain rides.
It’s a hydration system that has suited me on many adventures. I’d say it is made for the bike, but I even ran a 29 mile race and hiked several 14,000′ plus peaks with this pack. The Outlander Pro fits snug, but when I am mountain or gravel biking, that is exactly what I need it to be. Adjustments can be made, but I like how it functions with one simple click and you’re off. USWE is using an ultralight mesh-membrane harness with flexible straps to allow for flexibility and ventilation.
Ironically, until I put the final wraps on this review, I went to the website to get some basic information. This is what I found which basically summarizes my take on the pack. “The pack is being stripped off to go minimum on weight and to maximize the ventilation at the front.” Check out USWE-SPORTS for more info.
Osmo Hydration Drink Mix
I’ve enjoyed the flavor and hydration/electrolyte boost the Osmo hydration mix has provided. For my 40-50 mile group rides I take one bottle and dump a packet in. When going for a ride of that distance, one should probably have two bottles at a minimum. My rides are early and cool, and to be honest, they are too intense for me to take time to safely drink more than 1 bottle. In either case, I make it through my rides strong and with just enough hydration.
The flavor was good, and I always felt like I had enough hydration and electrolytes to go the distance. Cheers! See HERE for more details.
REI Link Handlebar Bag
The REI Link handlebar bag is nice and large. If a longer excursion is in order, this bag fits easily on the handle bars, and the room to carry many useful items is awesome. I don’t attach this when I’m racing, or on my shorter rides, but for my bigger days in the saddle, the Link is coming in really handy.
Made out of recycled nylon and Bluesign-approved fabrics, the repurposing element plays a good role. Food, layers of clothing, tools, maps, etc., the options are endless, but be assured that whatever you bring, the REI bag will suffice. I was surprised at how snug it fit, and didn’t bounce around on washboard gravel roads. Check out REI for more details.
Lizard Skins Handle Bar Wraps
I think this is my 3rd or 4th set of Lizard Skins Bar Tape on my bike. It’s a very durable bar tape which is something I really want to highlight. Usually, my tape gets the occasional dent, tear, or rip from a silly occasion. I ding it against something when bringing it up from the basement, it falls over in the garage, or rubs against another bike on my hitch rack. The Lizard Skin tape wraps on nice and tight with a glossier texture. Also, with heavy use, the tape hasn’t shifted at all. There’s been a time that once a slight opening presents itself, before long I need to do a re-wrap, but not the case here thus far. Lizard Skins has various thicknesses, and I used to think that thicker was better, but when riding on the road I like a thinner feel for control. Mind you, the thicker 3.2mm wrap is great on my adventure bike. Many colors and thicknesses to choose from at LIZARDSKINS
KOM Cycling has a multitude of very specific biking accessories. These cater to many of the newer technologies that have made a huge difference in our ability to bike better, longer, or without issues.
- Their indoor media display cycling desk is an item that was not really a must-have until we went the virtual indoor training route. Some rollers in the basement with a TV and VCR seemed to be all we needed. Now, we can sync with friends and race through a lava tube on some remote pacific island. Our very valuable computers need a place to go, and this stand makes it happen. This Media Display Cycling Desk can be set at the correct height no matter your set-up. With its rubberized top, there’s no slipping or falling for whatever device you may be using to watch your movies, or as you follow along on Zwift or Trainer Road.
- Tubeless repair kits can save a big hike-out if you happened to get a bigger hole or slice in your tires. A quick pop and pull, and the rubber plug repairs the tire, and the sealant inside seals it all up. The small size makes this kit an easy thing to bring along.
- Tubeless Sealant injector is something that I really need. I always make a real mess of getting all the sealant in. No matter how careful I am, the goo goes everywhere. This set-up has a nice pinch point on the hose which is a game changer for me and my mess.
- A Tire Lever Combo set is nice to have, and this is something we’ve been using for years. The thing with this one is that it incorporates a valve core tool that can be a life saver if you need to add some tubeless sealant. Plus the width provides better leverage especially when dealing with wider tires.
- Extra Tube frame holder are there for when all the fixes don’t work on a tire. Simply put the old fashioned tube in to get you back home. I was using the black electrical tape, but this is a much better solution. One Velcro strap for the frame and another for the tube. It works and it’s handy. Please check out KOM CYCLING for all of their accessory items
Axiom Flascheguard Fenders
The Axiom fenders have been a joy! We’ve had our fair share of rainy days in Spring and early summer, and that lovely rooster tail has been curtailed by these fenders. Mind you, they didn’t have the size for my commuter, but my wife has thoroughly enjoyed the Flascheguard on her bike. She has a hybrid bike that suits her well for getting to work, but after putting these on, she said “I feel and look like a real commuter now!” The fenders are extra long plus they have the ‘duck-bill’ for that extra little bit of protection.
The contact points for attaching are plentiful. Axiom focused on as tight of a fit as possible. No room for error, and once adjusted and dialed in, its precision at its finest. It comes down to use in the end. The bike and my wife were spared the water, dirt, and grime spray, so the times to thoroughly clean have been minimal. Axiom does provide numerous extra screws, clips, attachments, etc. to allow for most bikes to be fitted correctly with the fenders. Do take special note to pick out the correct width for your bike. Call them up to help guide you. For more information and ordering please see AXIOM
Axiom Oceanweave Framepack
The Axiom Oceanweave Framepack has certainly helped me this Summer when I go exploring and adventuring up and over some mountain passes. Guanella, Boreas, Georgia Pass, and Weston Pass are fairly gradual climbs up to 11,000 plus feet that provide grand views. Carrying the accessories, food, and especially gear is key. The bag did not hinder my ability to smoothly pedal through. It stays put as I hit my fair share of potholes, rocks, and washboard dirt roads.
For many of my 20-30 mile rides, I don’t really need extra storage space, but for the longer rides, this pack was spot on. Hence, it is easy to take on and off as needed. Multiple straps (6 total) allow me to adjust and tighten for a snug fit. The Framepack has 4.5 liter of storage capacity. I was quite amazed at how much of my gear I could fit inside. Two sided access is also nice. I have yet to take it on a bike packing trip, but this Axiom Framepack would be a very welcome addition.
The right side access pocket is slimmer, but has the key attachment and a smaller interior pocket for valuables.
Polar Bottle Breakaway Insulated Muck Guard
Now that’s a mouthful, for sure! This is the deluxe version of water bottles in my opinion. I have had insulated bottles before, but it’s been a while and I look forward to some cool hydration. The Muck Guard is a new one for me, but that is one exciting new component. I’ve been graveling the Rocky Mountain terrain for years, and have eaten my fair share of mud, silt, and clay.
The bottles are available in three different sizes: The 12 oz, the 16 oz, and the 20 oz. Pick your poison.
This bottle is perfect for my gravel rides. We’ve got some dusty roads, and the occasional stream crossing and mud will now give me a clean swig of water. The nozzle appears to be a much nicer quality from what I’ve been sucking from lately. Those are usually the first to go, so I’m excited about the long haul use for these bottles. Check out their website HERE for more information.
Smith Express with MIPS
Commute with confidence. You have to have eyes in the back of your head when braving the 2 ton world of texting while driving insanity. I find this helmet to be a beacon of safety. I liked the bright “Matte neon yellow Viz” color, and it’s got a handy light built-in that kind of acts as your backwards looking “eyes”. MIPS is the saving grace here. A wonderful technology that if you do go down, has proven to show dramatic decreases in injuries. I have a sported a MIPS technology road helmet for the last 5 years. And I have been fortunate enough not to find out its benefit, but it does provide a sense of safety.
- MIPS® Brain Protection System reduces rotational forces caused by angled impacts to the head
Sizing: I’d say true to size. The Smith Express medium has a 55-59cm range. Having measured my noggin several times, I am right around a 59cm head circumference, and I am right in between a medium and a large. I went for a Medium, and it fits without much room to spare. I don’t like helmets that are too big, so that was a chance I took. Works for me though?
No different padding options, but you can swap out the front section that comes with an attached visor. It’s sunny a lot here in Denver, so I will utilize that added feature. In addition, there are 13 vents for keeping my noggin cool. I don’t have the benefit of extra room, so on my colder commutes I won’t be able to add a layer underneath. Order one for yourself at SMITH
A Biking Accessories Final Roundup
I have merely scratched the surface on the myriad of things you can add to your bike to make life a little easier. That said, I’ve tested and compiled a nice variety of accessories and components worthy of adding to your wish list. Most of these products will add value to your biking life. In addition, many of these companies have more products to supplement your current biking accessories stash. This is a biking accessories guide, and I hope it helps to get you out on your bike more often for a better experience.