Now that you’ve bought your first new bike in years, or maybe your first ever, it’s a great time to find ways to make the experience even better. It’s super fun to spin around the neighborhood on two wheels, but if you’re going to ride more frequently, or travel a little farther, or if you just want to enjoy the ride a bike more, we’ve got some ideas to help you out.
Shoes: Did you even know there were bike specific shoes out there? Indeed, finding the best mountain bike shoes for your needs can make a huge difference. As with any sport that you’re going to take a little more seriously, finding the right footwear for cycling will really improve your experience.
The best shoes for cycling have a stiffer sole than your typical sneaker or street shoe. The stiff sole prevents pressure points from irritating your foot on the pedals. Also, the tread on the soles is durable and grippy for giving you a solid, safe contact with the pedals.
Finding the best mountain bike shoes starts with fit. Cycling shoes should fit securely in the heel and midfoot but offer plenty of toe room. Find shoes with a comfortable amount of padding in the ankle area plus easy adjustment. You’ll note that many of the best cycling shoes do not have laces. In general a hook and loop, ratchet buckle, or dial closure is both easier to adjust and safer.
Bike seat: For many new bike riders, finding the right bike seat is the first order of business. Because as you know, it’s right up in your business! An uncomfortable bike seat can quickly ruin a bike ride, so let’s help you find the best bike seat for your needs.
The bike seat, also known as the saddle, is shaped to support your weight mostly on your sit bones. That’s why the best bike seats are available in different sizes or widths, to fit your body type. A good bike shop can help you find a narrow, medium, or wide saddle so that most of your weight is comfortably resting on your sit bones.
If you find that there’s too much pressure between your legs (on the area known as the perineum), it could be one of several issues that need to be fixed.
- If the saddle or bike seat is too narrow, your sit bones are not supported and your body sinks down too far. Try a bike seat with a wider tail.
- If the saddle is too soft, you’ll sink into it too deeply. Ironically, this can create more pressure where you don’t want it. Just like a bed pillow, you need the perfect amount of softness plus support.
- If the handlebars are too low or too far forward, your posture on the bike will be slanted too far forward. This can rotate your hips and cause pressure between your legs. Ask your bike shop to confirm your position and posture on your new bike.
- Many bike seats have cutouts in the nose or front area. This can help relieve pressure. Another solution is a divot or depression in the nose, rather than a full cut out.
No question about it, the best bike seat is the one that fits right and feels good for an afternoon cruising under the sun!
Gloves: Just as your feet are obviously the point of body contact with your pedals, your hands are in contact with the handlebar grips. A comfortable pair of gloves not only helps with pressure relief on your hands, they also can protect your skin in case of a minor accident.
Gloves for cycling come in many varieties. Most gloves for road biking are fingerless, meaning that your fingertips are exposed. This is nice for dexterity and control when it comes to braking, shifting gears, or even just zipping a jacket or using your phone. Look for a padded leather palm and a breathable mesh backing. And not too tight!
On the other hand, mountain bike gloves are usually full-fingered. Long finger gloves offer more protection. Sometimes the back hand and knuckles are even padded or armored with scuff guards for more protection from the elements. Long finger gloves don’t always have a padded palm. It’s a matter of your personal preference.
Helmet: Hopefully a helmet was suggested when you first bought your new bike. If for any reason you don’t have a helmet yet, PLEASE go and get one, NOW. Keep in mind, the best bike helmet is the one you wear EVERY time you ride. So spend whatever it takes to get one that looks cool, fits great, and feels good.
Fit is paramount with a helmet. Make sure it’s the smallest size that you can wear comfortably without any pressure points. If your helmet is too big, it’s not going to protect your head in an accident. Different manufacturers have different helmet shapes. Some are wide and round, while some are narrow and long. Try different helmets to find one that feels good. Adequate padding on the interior is also helpful.
After the shape and padding are set, be sure the straps and retention system are snug and adjusted correctly. Move the chin buckle and strap yokes under your ears until the helmet can be snugly clipped under your chin without irritating your ears, temples, or neck. And the helmet needs to be level on your head, not tipped back.
Safety lights: One increasingly common yet overlooked accessory is a set of safety lights. Small, flashing, rechargeable LED lights on the front and back of your bike will greatly improve your visibility to vehicles. If you’re going to ride on streets or around town, definitely consider adding safety lights to your bike.
Blinking LED lights for biking come in many shapes and sizes. If you’re going to ride in low daylight situations, definitely go big with your safety lights. On the other hand if most of your riding is during daylight, you probably need smaller safety lights.
Rechargeable LED safety lights are slick and don’t require fresh batteries. If you forget to turn them off and the battery runs down, it’s as simple as plugging them into the wall. However, you do have to remember to charge them up before or after your bike rides.
The best LED safety lights are super bright and easy to attach to your bike. Fortunately they are a low-cost accessory that can greatly improve your safety while riding.