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Taking Care of Yourself: What do I Need to Ride?

By Patrick Brady

For most folks, cycling is most fun when it is both comfortable and safe. There are a few items that can make your riding more enjoyable and increases the chance that you’ll return home in one piece.

Helmet: Next to your bike, nothing is more important in your cycling experience. It used to be that helmets were heavy, offered little protection and had all the style of a moldy slice of bread. Helmets today combine low weight, amazing impact protection, and a stylish design that is not only attractive but concentrates airflow over the head to keep you cool.

Shorts: Cycling shorts are important for both men and women alike. Their first mission is to provide padding for your hindquarters exactly where you sit. Shorts also provide support to sensitive tissues while offering relatively unrestricted movement, thereby reducing the possibility of chafing. The best quality shorts will be made from six or more panels to better conform to your body and shorts worn by racers will include bibs to keep the shorts up for narrow-waisted riders.

Blinky: Everyone gets caught out in failing light at some point and many of us choose to ride near sunrise in the morning. At minimum, you need a red blinking LED light on the back of your bike or clipped to your jersey. It’s a good idea to have a white blinking light or headlamp mounted on the front of your bike if you know you’ll be riding in low-light conditions. Blinking LED lights have been shown to be visible up to a mile away and while nothing can guarantee your safety, a good set of lights can help make sure you are visible to drivers.

Gloves: The bad tan lines are gone, but the protection they offer your hands has only improved. A good set of cycling gloves improve your grip on the handlebar, increasing your control when you need it most. They also provide protection to your wrist and for people who have had carpal tunnel issues, a good set of gloves can reduce pressure to that region of the wrist. In the event of a crash, many riders will extend their hands to break their fall and a set of gloves can keep you from running your hands over the asphalt like a belt sander. Oh, and they usually have a strip of terry cloth to give you a place to wipe your nose.

Eyewear: Bats and cetaceans can use sonar to navigate but we need our eyes just to tell the difference between the open road and a brick wall. Quality eyewear will do more than just keep dust and bugs out of your eyes, but really, that's reason enough to invest in some. Good eyewear will increase contrast, helping you to pick out road hazards. Most pairs of glasses offer greater eye coverage than more traditional sunglasses which will help prevent your eyes from tearing up at higher speeds. Many lenses are made with distortion-free optics in order to maximize your field of vision. Some manufacturers offer polarized lens to reduce glare while others offer Adaptalite technology to adjust lens tinting in changing light conditions.

By looking after yourself with these items, you can increase your control, improve your comfort and maximize your safety. These details can help you make sure that each and every ride is as enjoyable as possible.