Buying Right: Road-Bike-Worthy Accessories

Outside magazine, May 1994

Buying Right: Road-Bike-Worthy Accessories
By John Lehrer

Don't swing a leg over the top tube of your new road bike just yet--there are some accessories you shouldn't be without. Browse the aisles of the shop while your bike gets its final check-over; in most cases, the extra gear shouldn't total more than $100 or add many ounces to your lightweight machine.

Include flat tires in the tally of life's inevitablities--and add a good frame pump to your shopping list. I prefer a full-size pump, one that wedges in between your frame's tubes, because it's got more volume and thus takes fewer strokes to bring your tires to maximum pressure. My favorite is Zéfal's hpX ($25): The aluminum casing is sturdy, the valve can be easily modified to work with any tube, and a thumb lock keeps air from escaping during inflation. The Blackburn MaxPump ($30) pumps air on both the push and pull strokes and is another excellent choice. If you want to save a few ounces or keep your pump out of sight, consider a mini-pump, as they're known in the shops. Such pumps are less than half the size of frame pumps and can be easily stowed in a jersey pocket. Both the Zéfal hpr Graph ($26), with its built-in pressure gauge, and theBlackburn MiniPump XS ($30) are competent enough to reach 80 psi easily, but their small size makes it hard to get the leverage to go much higher--and most skinny tires work best at over 100 psi. From Zéfal, 516-586-5300, and Blackburn, 800-776-5677.

You can shove keys, money, bike-repair tools, and whatnot into your jersey pocket until the shirt sags, but an under-seat bag is a much better idea. Your stuff will never stick you in the back, a big concern should you go down. In my opinion, smaller is better; most of what you need for daily riding--and nothing that you don't--will fit into a 50-cubic-inch bag. I like two that have quick-release mounting mechanisms: Specialized's Express Pak II ($12), which quickly detaches and will latch on to an elastic waistband, and Cannondale's Comp Wedge Flat Fixer bag ($20), which comes with tire levers and a patch kit. From Specialized, 408-779-6229, and Cannondale, 800-245-3872.

The tools you'll need for roadside repair boil down to two. The Finish Line Chain Pup ($16) features a chain tool, a spoke wrench, and 4-, 5-, and 6mm Allen keys in a single, one-ounce device. The Pup is incredibly compact and easy to use. My favorite tire lever is made by VAR ($7); the wishbone design effortlessly pulls recalcitrant clinchers over the rim. Add a spare tube ($5) and a patch kit ($2) and you should be set. From Finish Line, 516-666-7300, and VAR, 503-482-1750.

All water bottles and cages are not equal. Specialized's Comp Cage ($6) is made of a tough, light (47 grams) plastic that grips your bottle tightly; the Specialized Racer's Edge water bottle ($7) has a self-closing valve to keep out dirt and grime (and you never have to actually touch it with your lips) and a large top for sticking in ice cubes. If your taste runs to designer water, Blackburn's B-10 Bomber Jr. Cage ($15) holds most one-liter bottled-water bottles.

Maybe bike computers aren't essential, but they're good for measuring your effort, and thanks to ever-expanding chip technology they're inexpensive and reliable. Check your local shop for Vetta's HR-1000 ($100), the Univac of such devices. It combines a wireless heart-rate monitor and computer into a compact unit. Watch your current heart rate--or time spent above, in, or below a preset target heart rate--while also tracking current, average, or maximum speed, trip distance or total distance, and elapsed time or time of day on the large dual display. The Avocet 40 ($50), on the other hand, is extremely small, with a dual display that offers many of the same distance and stopwatch features as the HR-1000. The water-resistant Avocet also lets you know whether you're traveling above or below your average speed. Trek's Radar computer ($40) is waterproof; a thermometer and a stop/start feature, which conserves battery power, set it apart. From Avocet, 800-227-8346, and Trek, 414-478-2191.

Finally, it's a good idea to carry a taillight, because time can fly when you're having a good ride. Specialized's Hot Dot ($10) weighs less than an ounce, but its bright LEDs can be seen for 2,000 feet. The Hot Dot can be attached to your helmet, your bike, or any garment.

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