One of the great draws of cycling is the simplicity of the bike itself. Once you know how to ride, it’s nothing to hop on and pedal your way to an exhilarating speed.
All you need is your body and a bike, and you’re good to go — or are you?
If you want to ride safely, the answer is no. There are several items that are essential for cyclists to take when they ride, for the sake of their safety and preparedness.
But, don’t get the idea that you have to weigh yourself down with a bunch of burdensome kit, or that you need to break the bank chasing cycling fads. We’re talking about the essentials only here.
What follows is a list of 10 must-have items for each cyclist, complete with a recommended product in each category that is both affordable and proven to be effective.
Some of these items you likely already have. Procure the rest, and you’ll be ready for anything.
Table of Contents
- 1 | Helmet
- 2 | Bike Lock
- 3 | Multitool
- 4 | Mini Pump
- 5 | Patch Kit
- 6 | Spare Inner Tube
- 7 | Water Bottle
- 8| Saddle Bag
- 9| Bottle Cage
- 10| Front & Rear Lights
- Final Words
1 | Helmet
When it comes to bike helmets, the phrase “must have” can be literal. In many places, the law requires riders to wear a helmet, or face hefty fines.
Yet, the primary reason to wear a helmet is safety. Of all the injuries suffered by cyclists annually, 47% of them are head injuries. A whopping 70-80% of cycling fatalities could be prevented by wearing the right headgear.
Helmets can also prevent the accidents that cause those injuries.
A brightly colored helmet increases your visibility to motorists and other riders, and the absorbent inner lining can keep your eyes free of sweat for a clear view of the road.
Schwinn Thrasher Bike Helmet
Veteran cycling brand Schwinn has taken all of the above into account. Their Thrasher helmet aims to safeguard your head while being comfortable and stylish to boot.
The Thrasher’s lightweight, microshell exterior comes in a variety of bright, high visibility hues.
It’s slick, aerodynamic design features well placed air vents to keep your head cool, and washable moisture wicking pads that trap sweat.
Designed to suit everyone, this helmet has models for kids, teens, and adults. The Schwinn 360 Comfort adjustment system allows for anyone to find the perfect fit by simply turning a dial.
It provides effective protection while remaining easy to wear and use. With a helmet like this, there’s no excuse to take the risk of riding bare-headed.
Schwinn Thrasher Bike Helmet: Check Price on Amazon!
2 | Bike Lock
There is nothing quite as gut-wrenching as having your bike stolen, but it is an experience you’re likely to have if you ever leave your bike unsecured in a public space.
In North America alone over 2 million bikes are stolen annually — roughly one every 30 seconds. A bike lock is a must. The variety of bike locks on the market is staggering.
Cord style locks are popular for their convenience, but they are by far the least secure option. Better options are chain and folding locks, and a u-lock provides the best balance of security and versatility for the price.
Via Velo 2-in-1 Heavy Duty Bicycle Lock System
Via Velo decided to take the most effective style of bike lock and pair it with the most convenient for a 2-in-1 system sure to deter thieves looking for an easy mark.
The system includes both a U-lock and a cable lock. The U-lock is the true star of the show. It’s 14mm thick shackle and double-bolt cross bar lock resist cutting, prying, pulling, drilling, and picking. The shackle is coated in rubber to protect your bike from damage as well.
Use the sturdy cable to provide another layer of protection. An included frame mounting bracket means you don’t need to carry the locks separately, and at 3.2 lbs, they won’t impact your ride.
Via Velo 2-in-1 Heavy Duty Bicycle Lock System: Check Its Price on Amazon!
3 | Multitool
No matter how scrupulous you are about maintaining your bike, you’ll inevitably find a need to deal with adjustments or problems in the middle of a ride.
Carrying a whole toolbox with you to deal with such eventualities is out of the question. Instead, you need a portable collection of those tools essential to bike repair.
Enter the bike multi-tool. This portable, all-in-one gadget contains everything you need to make the most common repairs on the go.
Beyond the standard tool outlay, such as screwdrivers and wrenches, there should be bike specific elements, like the chain tool, or spoke wrench.
PRO BIKE TOOL Bike Multi-Tool
For many cyclists, PRO BIKE TOOLs multi-tool is the ideal choice. With 17 tools in all, it’s like a workshop you can fit in your pocket.
Among those tools are a full set of Allen/Hex keys, a star shaped/hex tool, and a Phillips screwdriver. Need to remove or replace a bent spoke? This multi-tool includes a spoke gauge and a Mavic spline.
Chain popped? There’s a chain tool that lets you swap the bad link for a good one.
The tool’s pocket-sized dimensions and paltry 4 oz weight make it as portable as it is useful. Durable all-metal construction means it will be there to help you in a pinch for a long time.
PRO BIKE TOOL Bike Multi-Tool Kit: Check Price on Amazon!
4 | Mini Pump
Any avid cyclist knows that when it comes to flat tires, it’s not a question of if you’ll get one, but when. Flats are unavoidable ride killers, and can leave you with a very long walk home if you’re not prepared.
Thankfully, carrying tire patches is almost second nature, but they won’t do you much good if you can’t inflate the tire once patched. When there’s no floor pump on hand, a mini pump can do the job.
Mini pumps come in a variety of form factors, generally small enough to fit inside a saddle bag. However, there are also frame pumps that fit snugly against the bike frame for convenience.
BV Mini Bike Pump Portable Frame Pump
This frame pump from BV can easily be adapted to any rider’s situation. Its valve head is compatible with both Schraeder and Presta tire valves, so it can be used on every bike tire. It can achieve a maximum of 120 PSI, more than enough for even a beefy flat tire.
The pump attaches to the bike frame at a variety of points via an included mounting bracket, seamlessly integrating into the bike’s profile.
It’s adjustable length can make pumping easier and more efficient than using a hand pump. It even includes a ball needle, so you won’t need to worry about flats ruining your ride or your game.
BV Mini Bike Pump Portable Frame Pump: Check Its Price on Amazon!
5 | Patch Kit
Most flat tires are the result of small punctures. You ride over a bit of wire, a sharp rock or a nail that gets through the tire and damages the inner tube. This sort of damage is easy to fix, provided you have a patch kit on hand.
Patch kits contain a variety of items. The patches themselves are usually either pre-glued or dry. Dry patches require the application of adhesive, which is also included in the kit.
Other helpful tools, such as tire pry bars and metal files are often included as well, to make the patching process as simple as possible.
Maifede Bike Inner Tire Patch Repair Kit
This kit has all of the above included, and in ample supply. The tire pry bars and metal files should last you forever, while the 11 vulcanized patches and 6 pre-glued patches will make quick work of the common flat.
Adhesive is included in the pack, along with a handy case to keep everything organized and together. The kit can be used on any inner tube, and the process takes just a few minutes with the vulcanized patch.
The pre-glued patches provide a faster fix, and are meant to be used for emergencies when every moment counts. If a flat can be patched, this kit has all you’ll need to do it.
Maifede Bike Inner Tire Patch Repair Kit: Check Price on Amazon!
6 | Spare Inner Tube
Sometimes, a patch simply won’t be enough. In the case of a serious tear, pinch, or blowout, there’s no saving the inner tube. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a replacement on hand.
There are no “one size fits all” inner tubes. Be sure to get tubes that fit the measurements of your bike wheels, and that feature the same style of valve as the ones you’re replacing.
To reduce the frequency of flats and tube changes, you can opt for self-sealing inner tubes as well. They contain a sealant that automatically repairs the sorts of small punctures most commonly encountered, so you can pedal on uninterrupted.
Bell Standard and Self Sealing Bike Tubes
Bell brand inner tubes are consistently among the top ranked, and for good reason. They are made from mold cured rubber, giving them tough sidewalls more resistant to blowouts, and they come in all sizes.
This particular model features the Standard, or Schrader, valve used on the vast majority of bikes. It is also self sealing, so only serious damage will result in a need to change it out or patch it.
Installing the new tube is a straightforward process, laid out with step-by-step illustrations on the packaging. It’s not the most glamorous bike accessory, but you’ll be happy to have a quality back-up on hand when you need it.
Bell Standard and Self Sealing Bike Tubes: Check Its Price on Amazon!
7 | Water Bottle
Cycling makes for a great workout. One of the main reasons people take up the hobby is because it’s a fun way to work up a sweat and keep up your health.
Yet, on a hot day, or a long tough ride, it’s dangerous to go on without replenishing that lost hydration.
Your body is the engine that keeps the bike going, and if it’s running low on fluids, that engine could start to break down.
Increased pain, cramps, increased heart rate, blurry vision — all of these are symptoms of dehydration that could result in a bad spill. Every cyclist should carry a water bottle.
Polar Bottle Breakaway Insulated Bike Water Bottle
The Polar Bottle has everything you want from a water bottle while cycling. First, it’s triple insulated, so your drink stays cold even during a long ride.
The cap is easy to seal and unseal with your mouth, so you can knock back a few gulps one handed, keeping the other hand on the handlebars.
It has a 24 oz capacity, making it the perfect size for most bottle cages and providing enough fluids to support you on mild to moderate rides. Unlike many other bottles, the Polar Bottle is easy to keep clean. The cap breaks into two parts for full access to the inner spout.
This is as convenient and functional as water bottles get. ( Check Price on Amazon )
8| Saddle Bag
As your collection of cycling accessories grows, the question of how to transport them all becomes more important. While some riders will need greater amounts of storage for running errands or taking long trips, for the everyday essentials, nothing beats a saddle bag.
Saddle bags are, as the name suggests, bags that are secured under your bike saddle.
They have enough space to carry things like your multitools, extra inner tube, and hand pump, as well as your wallet or cellphone, and other small items.
Saddle bags allow you to carry things without the discomfort of a backpack or fanny pack, letting your bike shoulder the burden.
BV Bicycle Strap-On Bike Saddle Bag
BV’s saddle bag might look like an attractive, but standard offering at first glance. It’s a low profile black and gray nylon saddle bag that fits just right beneath the saddle.
However, the already ample carrying capacity of the medium and large sized bags can be increased with the pull of a zipper, adding an additional 2 inches of height and depth.
The gray exterior stripe isn’t just for show either.
It’s 3M Scotchlite reflective trim for high visibility when riding at night. The bag has more than enough room for your cycling essentials, and can be removed simply thanks to the velcro mount.
BV Bicycle Strap-On Bike Saddle Bag: Check Its Price on Amazon!
9| Bottle Cage
While it’s possible to store your water bottle in a backpack, cage or pannier, none of these options is as streamlined and convenient as a bike bottle cage.
Bottle cages can be mounted to your main frame triangle, and most bikes these days have holes to facilitate this on the top side of the downtube.
The beauty of the cage is that it holds the water bottle securely while keeping it in easy reach, and doesn’t throw off your bike’s balance. The more readily you can access water, the more likely you are to stay hydrated, which is the ultimate goal.
USHAKE Water Bottle Cages
USHAKE sells their water bottle cages in packs of two, and manages to keep the price comparable to buying a single cage from other brands. With 2 cages you can affix both and carry two bottles for longer trips.
The cages themselves are high grade, lightweight aluminum alloy. A smooth, durable coating allows them to firmly hold a variety of water bottles without scratching or damaging them.
While 26 oz bottles fit ideally without adjustments, the cage arms can be manipulated for a snug fit around smaller and larger containers. They come with screws made to fit your standard mount holes.
USHAKE Water Bottle Cages: Check Price on Amazon!
10| Front & Rear Lights
Night riding is many times more hazardous than riding during the day. It is harder for you to see obstacles in time to react safely to them, and drivers in particular might not see you in their path before it’s too late.
Front and rear light attachments completely change this situation. With headlights you can maintain your view of the road or trail, and remain visible to vehicles you are following. Tail lights make sure motorists are aware of you, and that they can maintain a safe distance behind you, or navigate around you.
Ascher USB Rechargeable Bike Light Set
Ascher’s front and rear light set has an impressive set of features. Their 80 lumens intensity makes them super bright, great for both seeing and being seen.
Yet, they can be dimmed in less dark environments, more than doubling their battery life, from 2.5-3.5 hours on highest setting, to 9-10 hours when dimmed.
These lights also sport fast and slow flashing modes, useful for ensuring you are noticed.
The batteries can easily be recharged at any USB port, and the installation straps allow the lights to be mounted not only to your bike, but your saddle bag, helmet, backpack, or practically anything at all.
Ascher USB Rechargeable Bike Light Set: Check Its price on Amazon!
Choosing what to label as essential for a cyclist depends in part on the specific needs of the individual rider.
For instance, some people may be unable to ride without certain eyewear or footwear, or may require extra storage because they intend to haul cargo. There are many ways to ride, and each requires its own set of accessories.
Yet, the things listed here should be considered the basics, essential to all riders. There is plenty that you might want to add to the list, but, if you want to be as safe and prepared as you can, these items will do the trick.