In theory, riding should be as simple as grabbing a helmet, hopping on any old bike, and going for a pedal. But quality equipment often takes the simple experience of riding and makes it even better. While manufacturers are continually coming out with new improvements in these areas, every rider has a few favourite items they return to time and again.
These are mine: Products I keep purchasing again and again. For interest’s sake, I’ve included some completely problematic and somewhat arbitrary estimations of what each item costs per ride.
1. Hikenbiker Merino
I reviewed Hikenbiker Merino thermal wear for a magazine about five years ago, and have purchased several more of these Australian made woollen goods since. They’re flattering enough to wear off the bike, keep you warm through the mid and cool seasons. They go well as pyjamas too. Best not to do all three things in one day.
I tend to buy two new thermals every year or two, rate their versatility, and love that when they finally get too worn out for off bike use, they still go well under a winter jersey. The company’s ‘Snippit’ beanies add extra warmth on the colder days, fit under your helmet without having to adjust any straps and stop you snap-freezing at mid-ride coffee stops. Found online and at weekend markets in the Sydney area, they cost less than many competitors’ products too.
Cost per item: ‘Carrie’ long sleeve women’s base layer: $80 / ‘Snippit’ beanie: $25
Cost per ride: 1 long sleeve / 3 rides a week x 26 weeks a year x 4 years: 26 cents 1 Snippit beanie / 4 rides a week x 13 weeks a year x 8 indestructible years: 6 cents.
2. Local Bike Shop Kit
A good local bike shop supports the experiences we want from our riding in more ways than I can count. They can help you troubleshoot equipment choices and they keep your bike working smoothly when your backyard mechanic skills cannot. They’ve got your back for warranty claims and they make your neighbourhood a better place.
Supporting them back by buying some shop kit is a no brainer. It also makes you feel like part of something and like you’re doing a very small thing to help them back. With custom kits runs being a lot more affordable than they used to be, designs are looking fresher than ever and are often available in a women’s cut now, too.
Cost per item: Custom printed Tineli women’s short sleeve jersey: $110
Cost per ride: 1 jersey / 2 wears a week x 45 weeks a year x 2 years before the design gets updated again = 61 cents. This is surely offset by discounts on parts.
3. Trendy Maxxis Rubber
I should preface this one by saying I predominantly ride XC trails in South East Australia, in dry conditions. While most tyre manufacturers offer one or two (often excellent) treads for dusty, loose-over-hardpack surface, Maxxis offer several. And there’s always one that’s the most trendy. The Larson TT was the first to really capture my attention, soon followed by the faithful Crossmark, and far more recently, the wide bag Ikon. There’s often something more aggressive to match the latest fast rubber for the front of your bike too.
I like that this is a brand stocked by almost any shop I walk into. And Maxxis ride qualities will always be a point of comparison when chatting with someone about trying something new. Like any rider I enjoy the different ride experiences offered by different brands of tyres, but the reliability and ease of purchase of the latest trend from Maxxis inevitably keeps me coming back for the next new thing.
Cost per item: Maxxis Ikon 3C EXO 29×2.20: $110 / Maxxis Ikon Exception 29×2.2: $39
Cost per ride: 2 tyres / 2 MTB rides a week x 24 weeks = $4.60 / $1.60 (if you don’t bust a sidewall)
4. Stans NoTubes Sealant
This one points to my laziness as much as it does to my resistance to try something new when I’m happy using something that works. Stans NoTubes sealant isn’t the cheapest way to tubeless your tyres, but it sure is reliable. And when you need it, you need it right away. Time spent faffing around trying new concoctions is precious when you’re ready to hit the trails. I like that you can buy Stans in large bottles too.
We go through a fair bit of this stuff at Flow, especially considering that test bikes seem to always come with tubes. These are even more time consuming to deal with than trying new sealant and I think everyone agrees that the ride quality is just not the same.
Cost per item: Stans No Tubes Sealant, 16Oz: $25
Cost per ride: 2Oz x 2 tyres / 2 MTB rides a week x 16 weeks = 20 cents.
5. The Humble Glad SnapLock Bag
Running alongside the invention of new mobile phone options, is series of contraptions for carrying them while you ride. Personally, I can’t go past the humble zip lock bag. It’s relatively waterproof, see-through, replaceable, and still allows me to use the touchscreen and earphones with an iPhone 5. What’s more, when I lose it, I can just rip another out of the box of sixty in the pantry.
Cost per item: Glad Bags Resealable Snap Lock Mini Value Pack 60: $3.42
Cost per ride: one bag / 4 rides: 1 cent. That’s a very cheap insurance policy for your electronic goods.
Articles like this one reveal more about personal preference than any definitive checklist of must have items. But we’d be curious to hear what items you keep returning to as well. A brand of knicks? A saddle that you run on every bike? Races that give you beer or a keepsake bottle opener key ring once you cross the line? What biking ‘musts’ do you keep returning to again and again?