A new bike should always come with reflectors and you must have lights.
- Dynamo lights are always available, but they increase pedalling effort and go out when you stop.
- Battery lights need to be carried with you or they will be stolen: so compact ones are good.
- LED lights are small, light and very effective for additional visibility and back-up.
- There is a variety of higher priced systems, especially rechargables.
- Whatever system you choose, get halogen bulbs for the front. These are very much brighter.
A pump, tyre levers and spare inner tube are essential. The size of inner tube you need is moulded onto the tyre, and there are three different valve types, so if you’re not sure which to buy, take your bike or an old tube when buying a new one. Whether you carry them with you depends on how far you are prepared to walk on the rare occasions when you get a puncture.
Depending on your bike, you’ll usually need about three spanners (often 8, 10 and 15mm on more modern bikes): to get the wheels off to replace the tube, to adjust the brakes, to tighten up loose mudguard stays and to change brake blocks. Some bikes use hexagonal headed allen keys instead. A screwdriver and some hand wipes complete the kit. Bike shops can deal with anything more complicated.
We recommend ‘composite’ brake blocks – usually grey rather than black. Though a little more expensive, they are much more effective, especially in wet weather, and brakes are your primary safety aid.
Consider a rear-view mirror. This isn’t a substitute for looking over your shoulder, but improves your awareness. If you wear a helmet (see ‘what to wear’), mirrors are available to attach to it. Brake lever or handlebar-mounted mirrors are also available.
If you don’t have mudguards, you’ll end up with a muddy stripe down your back.
Material dated: July 1997