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Biking Stuff

Thursday 3 May 2012

Biking Stuff:  Some information about riding clothing, Hi Visibility/fluorescent gear, helmets, shoes, food and drink, cellphones.



Make it comfortable, but avoid baggy stuff - you don’t want material getting caught in the turning bits, or to snag when you’re getting on or off. 

“Do I need to wear those hideous lycra shorts and tops?” Actually no, unless you’re happy to, or feel you look especially flash all lycra-d up! The good thing about proper cycle shorts is the padding (artificial chamois) which helps cushion your rear, and the material helps reduce chaffing from the seat as you pedal. (OK, here it is: with cycle shorts you don’t also wear underwear. Just so you know. Wash after each wear to avoid nasties setting in.) 

If you start to go for longer rides, especially in the cooler months, take a compact windbreaker with you and wear gloves - a lot of heat gets lost through your hands. In warmer weather or once you start to feel comfortable pushing the pace and effort along it’s worth looking at clothing made from some kind of ‘wicking’ material. Most sportswear will use this material as it’s specially designed to draw sweat away from your skin and to dry out quickly, so you avoid that ‘wet rag’ feeling that you can get with something like a cotton T-shirt. Clothes made from wicking material also ‘breathe’ better, so you stay cooler as exercise heats you up, and they tend to be more comfortable because they’re lightweight and they generally use flat seams to avoid chafing. 


Hi Visibility/fluorescent gear. 

Lots of people ride with a Hi Vis/fluro vest or jacket (or even a pack cover), especially when they’re riding on the road. It’s not compulsory but the research tells us that riders wearing Hi Vis/fluorescent clothing have a lot fewer ‘unhappy events’ with cars. As a rule, being seen by other road users is a good thing, so bright clothing is safer than black or dark colours. On cycle paths it also helps others to notice you, since bikes often move really quietly and can surprise walkers and runners expecting to hear someone coming. Having and using a bell is a good idea for the same reason.



Get one that fits, and that’s new or at least not damaged. To get your size either try some on to see what’s a snug fit, or measure the crown of your head (around the widest part, above your ears).  Getting this measurement will speed up the process of finding something to fit your head - most helmets will be sized in centimeters. 

Trying a helmet on.

1. Pop it on your head (check it’s not back-to-front, with some helmets it’s not that obvious) and position it so the lower front edge is about two fingers width above your eyebrows.

2. Adjust the fit at the back of the helmet – there should be something you can tighten to make the fit snug against the back of your head. The side straps should then buckle together under your chin.

3. Adjust all the side straps so they’re firm, but make sure you can move your chin enough to talk. Most helmets will have Y shaped straps on each side, with one strap on each side in front of your ear and one strap running behind your ear towards the back of the helmet. When all the straps are properly adjusted your ears should sit in the middle of the V shape of the straps, and the bottom of that V (where the straps join) sitting just below your ear.

4. Grab the helmet and wriggle it forwards, backwards and sideways. It should stay pretty much in place. If the helmet moves back to uncover your forehead, forward to cover your eyes or can be rolled off to one side of your head it either needs more adjustment or is the wrong size or shape. Different brands do tend to be a better fit for different head shapes, so try several. If the helmet moves enough to leave your head unprotected in the shop it won’t be much use when you need it on the road or trail.

If you’re still unsure, check with a bike shop, or an experienced cyclist. 

Don’t bother with old helmets which have had years of use (and years of knocks) and stay away from ones with any visible damage; helmets protect your head by absorbing an impact (which damages them). Guess what gets to absorbs the impact if your helmet’s pre-damaged? 

And finally, wearing a helmet that hangs off the back of your head may look ultra-cool, but it won’t protect you unless you can guarantee that you’ll only fall off backwards.

If you download the Road Code for Cyclists for free from the link below you’ll find some more advice on buying a helmet on pages 70 - 73;



Wear shoes that are also good to walk in, that your feet won’t slip out of, or that won’t slip off the pedals (e.g. no jandals.)

If you decide to get fairly serious about riding you might look at getting pedals that clip to special riding shoes. While the idea of being fastened to your bike might seem a lunatic option to a beginner cyclist, it does help you to use all your legs power as you pedal and it keeps your feet on the pedals when riding on uneven ground. Definitely not your first step after taking the trainer wheels of though, so get comfortable with basic bike handling first, and ‘clipless’ pedals just won’t be necessary for lots of riders.


Food and drink

Any exercise can be surprisingly thirsty and hungry work, but be careful about eating a lot just before you ride, or during a ride. Snack/museli bars are good to take along in case breakfast was a long time ago or you need an energy hit. 

Keeping the fluids up is a good idea, and stopping for a drink is an excellent excuse for a rest. What you drink will depend on the length and intensity of your exercise. It seems that up to one hour or so of exercise there’s not that much to gain from sports drinks (unless you sweat a lot). However, if you’re exercising for longer and/or sweating more heavily, you’ll be losing not only fluids through sweat but also important body chemicals like sodium, potassium, and chloride. 

In essence, a sports drink can replace all that, and it’ll help keep your energy levels up without the side effects of digesting and absorbing a meal. If you take fluids along with you, try to start drinking early in your exercise, and gulp fluid - apparently this works better than sipping - at regular intervals. Remember that even a shortish hard ride or a ride on a hot summer’s day will get the sweat going and dry you out.

You can buy sports drinks ready made, or a cheaper option may be to buy it in powder form from the supermarket or chemist - just mix it up before you go. You can carry your drink in a bottle and slot this into a cage that fits on your bike, or a bum bag or small pack. If you sweat a lot or otherwise need quite a lot of fluids check out a hydration system that uses a plastic bladder which fits in a backpack. Sometimes bike shops or events will have the proper riding bottles to give away, but most of those bottled water bottles you get in the supermarket should fit your bottle cage.

If you’re training for an event, check these links out for food tips;



Useful if things go wrong, or to boast about your progress. Don’t use one while you’re riding - it’s illegal if you’re on the road and it’s a good way to severely reduce your control over the bike. (And yes, that does usually have a painful ending!) Some smartphones will take apps (third-party applications) that will turn your phone into a cycle computer (how far/fast have I gone etc) or a GPS system that maps your ride - if you want that sort of thing. Be careful of riding with a phone or iPod playing music through ear/headphones - this can be really unsafe on the road.