Bike Equipment and Parts
Cycling is very much a sport dependent on equipment. The type of bike you have and its parts greatly influences how fast you'll go and how efficient your ride will be. If you're struggling to go fast because your bike isn't streamlined or appropriately sized, then you won't get the most muscular and cardiovascular benefit. Your ride should be challenging because of the course, not because your bike is old or broken down.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and that is exactly how aerobars came to be born. Since drafting (following closely behind another rider to avoid wind resistance) is not allowed in triathlons, triathletes and bike manufacturers came up with a legal way to cut down on wind resistance. Aerobars are U-shaped handlebars (or a handlebar extension device) that position riders more aerodynamically, with less air resistance. To use aerobars, the bicyclist leans forward and rests the forearms in the aerobar pads. In this position there is less air and wind resistance than in upright riding. They are best used on flat, smooth courses.
In addition to reducing wind drag, aerobars offer a greater level of comfort. They give the arms, shoulders, and hands a better feel as compared to riding down in the handlebar drops (the lower curling portion of the handlebar) or on top of the hood levers (the area on top of the brake levers). What is sacrificed in the aero position is dexterity and handling ability, but because riders can move freely in and out of the aero position as needed, it's still worth it to use aerobars. Aerobars can be used effectively on road, touring, and mountain bikes.
Toe clips are metal or plastic pieces that partially cover the feet and help keep each foot attached to its pedal. After the rider inserts his foot into the toe clip, he tightens the toe strap to secure the foot in place. Toe clips keep the foot from coming off the pedal. They allow the rider to pedal efficiently because, with the foot secured on the pedal, the rider can pull up with forceful tension to create equal resistance through the entire circular range of motion of the pedal stroke. But toe clips have two major drawbacks. The first is that they can cause the feet to go numb. The second drawback is you need to remember to get out of them. To release a foot from a toe clip, the rider must loosen the toe strap first before pulling the foot up out of the cleat and out of the toe clip. Many riders either forget to loosen the strap, or can't react fast enough and fall over to the side, still attached to the bike at the pedal! Usually these falls happen at slow speed or when the rider is just barely moving, so the greatest injury is usually to the ego and not the body.
These are safer, faster, and more comfortable! Clipless pedals mimic the downhill skiboot-binding system, yet with a sleeker, lighter, bicycle-specific adaptation. These funny-looking devices keep the cyclist's foot firmly in place on top of the pedal. Some even allow for wiggle room while the foot is attached to the pedal. To get into a clipless pedal, the rider steps into the cleat until a clicking sound is made, indicating that the pedal has received the cleat. To exit a clipless pedal, the rider simply pulls the foot up and out, away from the bike. The exiting, pulling action starts with leverage from rotating the heel out and continues with pull coming from the rest of the leg. The learning curve for getting in and out of clipless pedals is short, and cyclists can easily practice on the bike without worrying about injuring themselves. Once mastered, cyclists enjoy the freedom and strength they get from using clipless pedals.
Clipless pedals provide for efficient, comfortable pedaling because the rider's foot, shoe, and cleat are securely attached to the pedal. The clipless system makes getting the feet in and out of the pedal easier and safer than with a traditional toe-clip system.
Absolutely, positively wear one. Even if you are an experienced rider, you can't control the other entities that could force you off your bike unexpectedly. Hard shell ANSI or Snell-approved helmets are recommended, and when it comes to quality, you do not want to skimp here. Most helmets are designed as one-crash helmets. That means they have a life of one crash. Some of the reputable companies will replace your helmet if you send the raked helmet to them along with your crash story. (Sounds odd at first, but after all, it is their business.) The biggest error made by novice cyclists is not wearing the helmet properly. It should fit snugly enough so that even before you tighten and secure the straps, it should firmly grasp your head without moving around. The helmet should rest toward the front of the forehead, should not slant up at an angle, and should cover the entire top of the head.
Even if your helmet has an attached visor, you'll still want to protect your eyes from the sun, wind, dirt, dust, and other airborne particles by wearing sunglasses. Sport-style glasses are designed to be lightweight and somewhat flexible. This means they will be comfortable even after many hours of wearing them. They are also highly durable, and as with most glasses, they will last a long time — as long as you keep track of them.
If you are going to ride, you will want to get bicycling shoes. They have a very firm, inflexible bottom and a place for a cleat. The cleat provides added resistance against the pedal and adds strength to your pedal stroke. Shoes and cleats for mountain and road bikes are different, so make sure you specify which you want.
These resemble the rough guys' knuckle covers in the old movies because the fingers are covered up only to the first set of knuckles. This allows for finger dexterity and ventilation. The padding on the inside reduces the friction that comes from prolonged riding or unexpected bouncing and jarring. Gloves help prevent blistering and reduce the overall stress in your hands. They protect your skin from road rash in the event of a fall. The least publicized (until now) but much appreciated role the glove fills is being a convenient handkerchief. You may wish you had a real handkerchief (remember necessity
Once you ride in biking shorts, you won't want to ride without them. That's because of the strategically placed seams and padding. The old-style shorts featured a chamois, soft pliable leather used for padding. But with today's high-tech fabrics, the leather chamois is nearly history. Synthetic chamois, as they are now known, will delight your personal parts with added support, comfort, and durability. Aside from the chamois, the shorts are made from a stretchy type of material such as Lycra, spandex, and Supplex, which offers support to the hips and leg muscles. The shorts also help to prevent chafing along the leg and groin area.
Why are bike shorts usually black?
You are riding along and your chain comes off. You stop and easily put it back on the chain ring. Then you notice the new “artwork” on your hands and gloves made from black dirt and grease. Since you still don't have a handkerchief with you and you have to get the dirt off your hands, your shorts are the most logical place to rub the dirt off. Now, aren't you glad your shorts are black?
Bicycling is all about being practical and self-sufficient. The bike jersey serves that purpose with its multipocketed back. Riders can fit most items in their back pockets, such as bananas (the cyclists' “meal in a peel”), sports foods, money, cell phones, identification, clothing, and many other items. All are within an arm's reach. Whereas experienced riders can reach behind them and retrieve the desired item from their pocket while riding and not lose control of the bike, novice riders may want to stop riding before retrieving these items. Bicycling jerseys are also designed for aerodynamic efficiency and safety. A proper fit is a snug yet comfortable fit. Wearing a baggy shirt while bicycling is dysfunctional and dangerous because it can get caught in your knees and even your chain (if you lean over or down).
Biking isn't cheap. Here are some sample costs: bikes ($300–$1000), aerobar ($40+), a helmet ($30–$150), shoes ($60–$200), toe clips/strap ($6), gloves ($12–$30), clipless pedals ($50–$160), sunglasses ($40–$150), tires and tubes ($4–$50), biking shorts ($25–$80), a biking jersey ($21–$70), saddle bag ($6–$12), and a patch kit ($10).