Cycling: Learn About the Gear


It is a good idea, and in some states the law, to wear a helmet. L.L.Bean strongly urges you to wear a helmet every time you ride. We want all your cycling miles to be safe ones.

  1. Your helmet must fit properly to work properly. Many helmets include special fit pads that can be installed in the helmet to achieve proper fit.
  2. Helmets are generally constructed of lightweight, air-filled foam covered with an impact-resistant plastic shell. Vent holes throughout the helmet help keep you cool as you ride.
  3. It is important to treat your helmet properly between uses. The foam used to construct the core of the helmet loses its ability to absorb shock over time. We recommend purchasing a new one every three to four years to ensure maximum protection.
  4. Be careful not to expose your helmet to excessive heat, such as storing it in an attic or leaving it on a car seat on a hot day.

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Whether riding on the road or on the trail, padded cycling gloves help prevent hand, wrist, arm and shoulder fatigue by absorbing shock. They also provide a better grip on the handlebars and help prevent blisters.

  1. Mountain bikers benefit from added protection against brush and thorns.
  2. Installing padded handlebar tape can also add comfort to your ride.

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Sport Shields

Eye protection is an essential, often forgotten, piece of cycling gear. Sport shields keep dust, dirt and other debris out of your eyes. They also provide better visibility in low-light conditions and help keep the wind from making your eyes tear up when you're traveling at high speeds.

  1. Sport shields are available in many styles, including ones with polarized lenses that reduce glare. Some have interchangeable lenses so you can adapt to changing road or trail conditions. Prescription eyeglass wearers can choose from styles that accommodate special prescription inserts.

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Cycling Shirt

High-performance synthetic fabrics make cycling apparel much more comfortable than garments made with natural fabrics, which tend to be heavier and retain moisture.

  1. Cycling shirts are available in a variety styles and performance fabrics.
  2. Recreational cyclists may choose a cycling shirt styled like a traditional T-shirt or polo shirt. They have the benefits of being constructed of performance fabrics, yet have the look and comfort of a casual shirt when you're not riding. Many riders find them practical for day touring and sightseeing, when they are apt to spend as much time off the saddle as they are on it.
  3. Fitness riders and racers generally prefer tighter-fitting cycling shirts specifically designed to maximize aerodynamic performance and the moisture-wicking properties of the fabric. Performance cycling shirts also have deep front zippers for additional ventilation.

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The same high-performance fabrics that make cycling shirts more comfortable also make cycling shorts more comfortable.

  1. Cycling shorts are also available in several styles for recreational and fitness riding.
  2. Recreational cyclists may choose looser fitting shorts that double as casual shorts when they are not riding.
  3. Fitness riders may prefer shorts constructed of LYCRA® or other fabrics that offer extra muscle support and aerodynamic performance.
  4. Mountain bikers may enjoy the best of both worlds by choosing shorts with a Lycra liner and an abrasion-resistant, casually styled outer short that will stand up to rough use.
  5. All styles of cycling shorts have a seat pad built in for extra comfort in the saddle.

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Cycling Outerwear

Some of the best items you can have with you on any ride are a wind- and rain-resistant cycling jacket and pants.

  1. Extremely lightweight and compactible, these garments can make a significant contribution to your cycling comfort if the temperature drops or a storm starts brewing.
  2. When choosing cycling rainwear, look for garments that are constructed of breathable fabric and incorporate features that help you ventilate effectively, such as mesh vents.
  3. Store your rainwear in a handlebar bag or under your saddle with your tool kit so it will be there when you need it.

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Cycling Shoes

The more you ride, the more you will appreciate cycling shoes. Cycling shoes are constructed with a hard sole that prevents aching arches which are often caused by soft-soled athletic shoes. Clipless pedals also offer increased efficiency.

  1. Recreational and fitness cyclists generally prefer lightweight, low-cut cycling shoes.
  2. Mountain bikers prefer shoes with an over-the-ankle design for added stability and protection on the trail. Mountain bike shoes also have an aggressive tread for when you have to walk sections of a trail.

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Water Bottle/Cage

Staying hydrated is critical to cycling performance. You should always have water close at hand when you ride.

  1. Most bikes have "braze-ons," special fittings designed to accept one or more water-bottle cages. Bikes without braze-ons can be outfitted with bottle cages made specifically for the job. Water bottles are easily accessible once they are placed in the cages.
  2. Some riders like to carry their snacks, tire-patch kit and other essentials in a fanny pack and their water in a hydration pack instead of on their bike. Some styles have one or more water-bottle holsters built in.

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Bike Bags

It is handy to have a bike bag or two on your bike for carrying tools, snacks, clothing or other essentials. Bike bags come in several styles.

  1. A handlebar bag can keep often-needed gear accessible when you are stopped, straddling the top tube. (You won't have to get completely off your bike to look at a map, for example.)
  2. An under-the-seat "wedge bag" is a compact case for carrying a set of tools. Many riders prefer this style of bag because it is lightweight and out of the way.
  3. Bike panniers are designed to work in concert with a rear rack. These large-capacity bags are favored by bike tourers because they will carry the clothing and gear needed for extended travel. Panniers are usually installed on both sides of a tire for the best balance as you ride.
  4. A rack trunk also works in conjunction with a rear rack. It sits on top of the rack to carry a modest amount of gear for day trips or commuting. Rack trunks are hard-sided to offer extra protection for cameras and other fragile cargo.

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Tool Kit

If there is one absolute rule of cycling it's that "sooner or later you will get a flat tire."

  1. The best way to avoid a flat is with preventative maintenance. Check your tires regularly for tread wear and keep them properly inflated at all times.
  2. When you get a flat, you will be glad you have a tool kit along. Tool kits are available in a wide variety of price ranges and include an equally wide variety of implements.
  3. Tool kits usually contain individual implements. An option to a tool kit is a cycling tool, which is constructed like a multitool, with several interconnected implements.
  4. At the very least, make sure your tool kit includes tire irons and a patch kit for repairing holes in the inner tube. Familiarize yourself with the procedure for changing a flat.
  5. Two other items to include in your tool kit are a strip of duct tape (lining the inside of a tear in your tire with tape may help get you home or to a bike shop).

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You should always be prepared to inflate a flat by having a few CO2 cartridges in your tool kit or by carrying a bike pump with you.

  1. Portable, or "frame" pumps are available in a long size to fit on your bike frame or a short size to fit in your bike bag. Frame pumps are designed to dispense the air required to fill a flat and get you to a bike shop, gas station or other location where you can fill the tire to proper inflation levels.
  2. A floor pump is designed to consistently dispense the air required to fill a tire to its proper inflation. Road bikes, in particular, often require inflation to well over 100 p.s.i. (pounds per square inch.) To get the most life out of your tires and as a preventative measure against "flats," a floor pump is a worthwhile investment.

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Bike Mirror

Installing a mirror will keep you looking forward and help prevent you from constantly having to turn around in the saddle to check for traffic.

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Head- and taillights are essential safety gear for all cyclists.

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Bike Lock

You can protect your investment by locking your bike whenever you aren't on it. The cost of a lock is far less than the cost of the deductible on most homeowner's insurance policies.

  1. Bike locks are available in many styles, including cable locks and U-Locks.
  2. When you purchase a lock, consider the fact that you will be riding with the lock either stowed in your bike bag or mounted on your frame.

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Bike Computer

Many fitness and recreational cyclists use a bike computer to keep track of their time, distance and speed. A computer will also gauge cumulative miles logged over an extended period.

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You can help ensure you are visible to motorists by wearing brightly colored apparel and installing head- and taillights on your bike. You can also enhance your cycling safety by always following the rules of the road and choosing cycling routes that take you away from heavy traffic.

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If you would like more information about cycling gear, please call out Outdoor Hotline at 800-226-7552, any day between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. EST.