Shoes, pedals, backpack, headlights, oil and stem: each component has its own strategic importance. Every detail can make a difference, both on performance and safety.
Let’s have a look at the most important technical accessories for racing bikes and how to choose them.
Shoes and pedals
The pedals are our bike’s accelerators: the more we push, the faster we go. In order to push at maximum efficiency, the right pedals and the perfect shoes are needed. Let’s start with pedals. Among amateurs, some choose to go for classic pedals instead of quick-release. In this case, to improve pedalling and to make the movement more comfortable and efficient, you can use adapters which allow shoes to better adhere to the pedals. You may also opt for pedal straps, which help the feet to firmly hold onto the pedals, especially during maximum strain, for example during a steep climb.
It is an entirely different story if your pedals of choice are of the quick-release kind, which allow the shoe to latch onto the pedal, merging into one single element. These are clearly the pedals which give maximum performance, both uphill and on flat trails; the cyclist becomes one with the bicycle, increasing riding security and confidence.
They are mainly classified by material and weight:
- Titanium and carbon are the lightest and most expensive materials
- Aluminium is slightly heavier but less expensive.
For those who are getting started with racing bikes, it is always a bit difficult to start using quick-release pedals, since it’s hard to overcome the idea (and the fear) of having your feet stuck to the pedals. However, after trying them for the first time, most people find it impossible to go back to classic pedals, because comfort and pedalling performance are vastly and undeniably improved.
It goes without saying that the right shoes must be paired with the pedals of choice. If you use classic pedals, we recommend you wear a comfortable, light shoe, with the best possible adherence to the pedal. If, on the other hand, your pedals are quick-release, specific shoes are required, which have a system to latch them onto the pedal. To insert the shoe in the pedal, all you need to do is rotate and push with the tip of the shoe. To remove it, rotate and push the foot outwards.
As with pedals, shoes also vary depending on weight and material:
- Shoes with a lighter, more rigid sole in materials such as carbon are more expensive but also more stable and safer
- Plastic shoes, on the other hand, are heavier, more flexible, but less costly.
Comfort and safety
Comfort and safety are the two most important details to keep in mind when cycling. In order to have both, your racing bike has to be perfect. But what does perfect mean? It must be the right size (depending on your height) and must be taken care of and well-maintained.
Concerning size, an essential component is the stem. There are two elements to keep in mind:
- Material (and consequently weight)
For material and weight, as previously mentioned for shoes and pedals, carbon and titanium are lighter and safer (with a higher price tag), while aluminium is heavier but easier on the wallet. Length, however, is strictly linked to the cyclist’s own height and their position on the bike. For this reason, it is of the utmost importance to consult an expert and verify the correct position of the stem on the bike as well as its ideal length. If you pedal with a stem that is too short or too long, pedalling will be neither comfortable nor efficient, and it may also have unpleasant physical consequences.
For perfect bicycle maintenance, a crucial element is chain lubricant. The chain must be perfectly oiled, never too much, never too little. Correct lubrication guarantees fluid pedalling and better longevity of the chain. What is the best product to oil the chain? We suggest avoiding sprays, which can be damaging for other bicycle parts that the oil might come in contact with, especially disc brakes. Our recommendation is a product delivered via dropper, which is easy to apply exclusively to the chain, on each individual link. It is important to also remember that the chain must be cleaned before lubricating, so you will also need a degreaser.
If you ride during the night, it is best to see where you’re going… and be seen! Sometimes our ride continues into the evening, when the sun has already set. In this case, it is vital to stay safe, maintaining visibility of the road and our own visibility to others; headlights and taillights are certainly a valuable addition. Headlights can be white or yellow, must be fixed and can be positioned on the handlebar or on the fork. Taillights must be red, positioned onto the saddle or on the frame itself and may be fixed, alternating or blinking.
The brightness of racing bike lights is calculated in lumen, and modern lights are almost exclusively LED, with lithium batteries. Prices vary, as expected, depending on brightness, therefore on the amount of road that they can illuminate, as well as on battery duration.
Saddle bags, backpacks and fenders
If you’re planning on a longer outing than usual, maybe even lasting a few days, these three racing bike accessories can prove to be fundamental.
Saddle bags come in different sizes. Amateur cyclists usually have smaller ones to carry all the supplies needed to repair the inner tube in case of need. Larger ones may be used to carry more accessories, such as a change of clothes, food or small objects such as phones and keys. Two saddle bags, one small and one large, can be used at the same time, as long as they are attached one above the other, under the saddle and on the seat post.
For backpacks, the offer is undoubtedly much wider. To pick the right backpack, here are some tips:
- It shouldn’t be too large, so it doesn’t negatively affect posture and pedalling quality
- It should be very comfortable; try it before you purchase it, otherwise after a few kilometres you’ll already find yourself struggling
- It should adapt perfectly to your body
- It should be waterproof
Make sure you are extra selective when deciding how many accessories to carry with you: avoid bringing superfluous items and learn to distribute weight efficiently between backpack, shirt pockets and saddle bag.
Lastly, for longer journeys where you never know what the weather will be and where you might find yourself pedalling through dirt roads, a fender can be a great asset. Generally, they are made out of polypropylene, plastic, steel or aluminium; some are made for any type of bike, while others have different lengths and therefore must be picked depending on tyre dimensions.
These accessories are elements that complete your racing bike, making it safer and more efficient. That is why you should choose them with absolute care, get expert help and… pedal on!