The Essential Road Bike Must-Have Accessories

When you start out on a solo bike ride, it’s just you and the road or path ahead for as long as your route takes you. Ideally.

While solitude can be great for your cycling progress (and your mental health), it’s always riskier to ride solo than to ride with others.

Riding solo doesn’t have to be a dangerous proposition, though.

A well-outfitted cyclist can travel alone or in a group, around the block or around the world, safely.

The key is preparation.

So, whether you’re a solo spinner or a pack pedaler, these are the essential road bike accessories we think you should always carry to be safe and smart on the road.

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1 – Water Bottle Cages & Bidons or Hydration Pack

Who needs it: All cyclists all the time

If you are setting out on a bike ride, you need a supply of water, regardless of the planned time and length of your ride.

More than 20 minutes of riding, and you should start drinking.

But even if you’re planning only a 10 or 15-minute bike ride, things happen.

You could have a flat or an accident. You could simply get delayed by  chatty passersby.

There’s simply no good reason to leave your house on a ride without water.

So, stick a bidon (or three) in its cage or strap on a hydration pack.

Better smart than sorry.

We recommend:

2 – Bike Bell

Who needs it: All cyclists, but especially those riding where pedestrians walk

Bike bells have one main purpose on a bike, to let people know you’re there.

If you are sharing a path with pedestrians (this includes the street), you need one on your bike.

Bike bells are also excellent safety devices when riding solo.

If you have an accident or need help, a bell can be used as a signal.

So even if you only ride on completely desolate paths with no pedestrians in sight, a bell is a good thing to have at your fingertips.

And if you don’t want a bell, you should carry some other form of noisemaker in case you need to attract attention.

We recommend:

3 – Lights/Reflectors

Who needs it: All cyclists, but especially those riding on the street or shared paths

Bike lights and reflectors, like bells, are mostly to let other people know you’re there.

They are absolutely essential when riding on the street, especially between dusk and dawn, but are also smart accessories to have when riding on paths shared with other bikers/pedestrians.

Also like bells, lights can be used to signal for help if the unexpected should occur on your ride.

You need lights and reflectors on both the front and back of your bike when riding at night and reflectors all the time on the road. (But carrying an extra safety beacon or two in your bike kit is never a bad idea.)

We recommend:

4 – Road Bike Tool/Inflator/Repair Kit

Who needs it: All cyclists who don’t want to have to call someone to come pick them up when their bike has a minor malfunction

When you’re cycling, things happen. Many of those things (like loose parts and maladjustments) can be quickly repaired or corrected if you have the right tool – namely, a bike multi-tool.

More serious issues, like flats, can take a little more effort, but can still be patched enough to get you back on the road and to your next stop.

While not everyone is comfortable working on their own bikes, if you’re the sort of cyclist who would rather patch up and roll on than have to call in reinforcements, you’ll want to keep a complete road bike tool bag with a multi-tool, patch kit, and mini-pump inflator on board at all times.

And, if you’re going out on trails where it’s hard for someone to reach you, it becomes a necessity.

We recommend:

5 – Bike Lock

Who needs it: Anyone who makes stops during their rides

If you’re going to leave your bike’s side for anything during your ride, you need a quality bike lock.

While bike locks are a good means of protecting your financial investment, they serve an even more important purpose, especially on long rides and tours.

They keep you from ending up stranded.

So, whether you’re biking to work or biking the Virginia Creeper Trail, if there’s any chance you’ll need to park your bike for a meal or bathroom break, you need a bike lock to secure it.

We recommend:

Other Road Bike Accessories to Consider

While we think the five things above are the most essential cycling accessories, there are loads more road bike accessories you can add to your cycling gear to make rides more comfortable and convenient.

Here are a few bike accessories that are non-essentials to us, but that might prove essential to you:

Saddle Cover

Non-padded ones protect your bike seat from the elements.

Padded ones add comfort to your ride.

Why it’s not essential: While it will help protect your bike seat/make you more comfortable, you can certainly ride without it.

We recommend:

Saddle Bag

Provides convenient onboard storage.

Prevents you from having to carry supplies in a backpack, which can put stress on the back.

Why it’s not essential: Some cyclists don’t mind (or actually prefer) a cycling backpack.

We recommend:

Gloves

Essential in cold weather, bike gloves can protect the hands from friction with the handlebars (eliminating blisters) and reduce shock to the hands (reducing numbness and overuse injuries).

Why it’s not essential: While they will help protect your hands during a ride, you can ride without them and some cyclists prefer full contact with their handlebars.

We recommend:

Onboard Bike Computers

A highly-accurate means of keeping track of your cycling time/distance/routes/workouts/performance.

Why it’s not essential: While an onboard bike computer is typically more accurate than a smart watch for tracking distance, miles, etc., for many casual fitness cyclists a smart watch will suffice.

We recommend:

Gearing Up For A Great Ride

When it comes to gearing up for cycling, there are all sorts of gadgets that can make your ride better.

But, for us, the most essential accessories  are those which enhance safety and encourage smart riding.

A well-equipped, well-dressed bike ride is a safe bike ride, so if you’re trying to keep expenses to a minimum as you outfit your bicycle, we recommend starting with safety first and branching out from there.

And if you’re new to riding and need some help getting dressed, check out our cycling attire guide at What to Wear Cycling.

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