In the pre-pandemic era, I used a combination of gym and exercise time to stay in shape. Abasketball, pickleball and soccer adequately complemented a handful of . When the swallowed the United States, however, my and social distancing protocols put the kibosh on many group sports.
In April 2020, I took my old Lemond Tourmalet bike out of the garage and started riding again. I have since added a 2010 Specialized Roubaix Pro and a 2018 Specialized Enduro to my arsenal. And even though the vaccine has opened the door to some of my old sporting hobbies, I still ride a bike.
As such, I have experienced a variety of cycling clothing and accessories, cycling gear and technologies that have made the ride safer and more enjoyable. Note that I have not exhaustively tested most of these product categories; this is just a sample of my personal best picks and favorite cycling gear. I update this article regularly as I try new equipment.
Having now tested a variety of hydration backpacks and fanny packs, I opted for the Camelbak Chase for mountain biking. It has the right storage capacity – 70 ounces of water plus a fair amount of gear – plus plenty of handy pockets and other bells and whistles. (Literally, it has a built-in safety whistle.) It also has a built-in protective impact panel, which could come in handy if you fall off your bike and land on your back. At $ 200, it doesn’t come cheap. But if you’re an aggressive rider, the extra protection is well worth it.
That said, if you’re looking to spend less, I use the Osprey Syncro 12 on family hikes and actually prefer its water bladder to the Camelbak system. Plus, the Syncro has a good balance of storage capacity and accessibility, a built-in rain cover, and it costs $ 130 more reasonable.
There are plenty of people riding around to leave emails, texts and calls behind, but I prefer to keep my phone handy when I’m in the saddle. (Obviously, I stop completely on the side of the road before engaging the screen.) Until recently, I slipped my phone into my jersey pocket, which was often under a jacket, which made the difficult – and dangerous – task to access it while driving. Then I got this Quad Lock case and my mount. It has totally changed the game.
The Quad Lock mount sits on top of the bike stem and I’m pretty confident in its ability to keep my phone safe, even when traversing rough terrain. When the trip is over, or I have left the road to take a picture, it is very easy to release; simply pull up on the locking mechanism of the holder and turn. The Quad Lock phone case is heavy – there’s a raised bump on the back that fits over the holder – and I would trust it to effectively protect the phone in a crash. But when I finish my ride, I switch to my favorite Catalyst box.
I tested a bunch of bike lights, but two of them outdid themselves. The NiteRider Lumina Dual 1800 is light, bright and easy to mount on a helmet or handlebars. At the second brightest setting (1500 lumens), I was able to squeeze almost two hours from the rechargeable battery. (I also like NiteRider’s Omega tail light.)
That said, if you are looking for something more shiny or that lasts longer, I highly recommend the Gloworm XS. It’s expensive – almost $ 300 – and requires a significant battery to carry around, but it casts an incredible amount of light. When set at 2,500 lumens it basically turns from night to day and I was able to get over two hours of light per charge. When I lowered it to just under 2,000 lumens, my legs always gave way before the light.
The third version of Chrome’s famous Cobra hoodie hits the sweet spot. It’s the perfect weight for the cool Maine spring, and the merino-poly blend strikes the right balance of durability, warmth, and resistance to wind, water, and dirt. And there are a few thoughtful design details – including two front zip pockets on the front and a long zip pocket along the lower back – that make it just as well suited for rolling as it is for hanging out. One of my most loved and worn clothes.
Endura’s Luminite line has become my go-to choice in wet and / or cold weather thanks to its lightweight construction, protective waterproofness and comfortable fit. The pants – currently on sale for $ 91 – feature ankle zippers and adjustable snap-button cuffs, for on-the-fly adjustments, and feature four reflective panels. And the Luminite 3-in-1 Jacket has proven itself in a wide variety of riding conditions. The waterproof hooded shell and removable and reversible insulated gilet can be combined or worn separately, depending on temperature and conditions, and have pockets in the right places.
Comfortable, grippy and stylish shoes suitable for mountain biking as well as for the rest of life. The reinforced toe prevented my foot from getting stuck several times between a rock and my pedal. And while I like the new “Spruce / Berm brown” style, I have the old navy and orange model, which is currently on sale.
My favorite headwear without a helmet.
This summer, I added the Hiplok Z Lok Safety Tie to my little bike bag. Weighing 2.5 ounces, it’s almost imperceptibly light and while that doesn’t deter a professional bike thief – I wouldn’t trust it in a dangerous city like San Francisco – the steel core is strong enough to give me the peace of mind when parking my bike at the beach.
I also loaned the combination-based Hiplok Spin to my kid, who found a four-digit code easier to manage than a key. It has everything I want in a lock – and a few things I didn’t know I wanted. It’s sturdy but not too heavy, reflective and portable.
David Carnoy / CNET
If you’re looking for an affordable water bottle that will keep your water cool, Polar makes excellent insulated squeezable 20 and 24 ounce water bottles in a few different color options. Just add a little ice and your water will stay fresh, even on long trips. Starting at around $ 14, they’re BPA free and have a lifetime warranty.
I had worn the same bicycle helmet for a long, long time. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends replacing your helmet at least every 10 years, and mine was at least as old. After some research, I opted for an MTB helmet for extra protection and, in my opinion, a cooler look. After trying several, I decided on the Smith Forefront 2 MTB helmet. I love it.
Most importantly, it features MIPS architecture, which can mitigate the force of an impact on your brain. It’s relatively light and breathable, and it has Koroyd on the inside – a layer that provides extra crash protection as well as a way to filter out bugs.
Appropriate shades are essential for riding in all weather and all seasons, and I have a few to recommend. In the high end, the HiPER sunglasses from Speedtrap are really good: the adjustable frame is light but sturdy and the interchangeable and scratch-resistant lenses, which are easy to change and remove, offer 100% UV protection. And they fog up a lot less than most other glasses I’ve tested.
For night outings I use the Adidas Sport SP0001, which comes with two lens options, one of which is optimized for low light levels. And, finally, there are the Smith Optics Tempo ChromaPop, which are comfortable to wear and feel secure. I found a pair for $ 35 on Backcountry.com, although they’re more often listed at $ 100 and up, depending on the color.
Sarah Tew / CNET
I’ve been using Strava to track and share rides (as well as runs and hikes) for years. But in March, I switched to Strava’s subscription service which costs $ 8 per month – or $ 60 if you prepay for a full year. I did this primarily for security reasons: the app’s Beacon feature lets you choose a contact that can monitor your whereabouts during each ride. But there are other great features as well, including advanced training metrics and rankings.
I wouldn’t say it’s the safest choice to listen to music while riding a bike. Many cyclists frown on wearing headphones while cycling, arguing that all of your senses should be on alert if in danger. I think that makes a lot of sense and I’m not going to pretend otherwise.
However, if you listen to music while riding (or running) you can mitigate the risks with headphones that don’t completely cut you off from the outside world. A pair that has a version of see-through mode – like the Apple AirPods Pro – is a good bet.
Otherwise, I highly recommend the Adidas FWD-01. They are comfortable to wear, easy to control with one hand, and loud enough to be heard even in very windy conditions. They have a built-in microphone, so you can make a call when needed. The water resistant, knitted fabric cable is lightweight and does not tangle. And the battery life is superb.
More training essentials
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended for health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have about a health problem or health goals.