Having the right gear and bike ensures that you have a more comfortable and enjoyable ride, increasing your safety while out on the road. The right gear can transform any bike from a leisure vehicle into a savvy year-round mode of transport. Explore our guide to the essential gear to improve your commute.
Choose a bike that complements your lifestyle – where you want to ride it (e.g. off road or on road) and what you want to use it for (e.g. commuting or racing). The kind of bike you so choose should reflect your preferred riding style: positioning, gears, etc… and be suitable for the majority of journeys you intend to make. Although you can commute on any bike as long as it is good working order, each bike comes with its own set of benefits:
- Hybrid, touring or mountain bikes offer a more comfortable ride for commuting than road racing bicycle. Their additional gears also help when carrying cargo.
- Sometimes bikes have lots of extra features (e.g. front and rear suspension) that may be unnecessary for the kind of journeys you intend to make.
- Always ensure that your bike is in good repair before you hit the road. Learn how to do a basic bike check and keep your new best friend well maintained.
A helmet won’t stop accidents from happening but can provide some protection to your head in case of a fall or crash. In South Africa helmets are required by law.
- Always buy a new helmet and make sure it fits properly and is comfortable.
- Follow the fitting instructions or ask for help to ensure it’s adjusted correctly.
- After a crash or impact on your helmet, it should be replaced.
There are a range of helmets available on the market, from sporty aerodynamic helmets to stylish commuter wear and colorful kiddies versions. Look around and pic one that suits your brain!
The right gear can transform any bike from a leisure vehicle into a savvy year-round mode of transport. These essential items not only keep you safe on the roads or trail, but some of them are necessary to ensure that you comply with South African bicycle legislation.
- Bell – A must when cycling on paths shared by pedestrians. Let people know you’re approaching, but never assume they can hear you.
- Lights + reflectors – See and be seen! When cycling in the dark or in low light, you’re required by law to have a white light on the front and a red light on the rear as well as a front white reflector and a rear red reflector. Check batteries and replace them as soon as the light begins to dim.
- Mudguards /Fenders – Fenders help keep rain, dirt and mud off of your legs and can be easily fitted to your bike in wet weather.
- Lock: Keep your bike safe and secure with a reliable, strong lock (like a U-lock or a heavy duty chain lock). Secure both wheels, frame and other components if they can be easily removed. Find out how to lock your bike properly.
- Tools, pump, spares and repair kit: Be prepared carry the right tools with you so that you can do basic repairs. A pump, puncture repair kit or spare inner tube and tyre levers can be used to keep your tyres well inflated and fix any punctures. Learn how to fix your own bike – view our online resources and/or join one of our upcoming bike maintenance workshops.
There are lots of options when it comes to carrying stuff on your bike. What you choose will depend on the weight of the cargo, length of the journey and your riding style. If you would like to carrying your kids on your bicycle, make sure that you have the right equipment make your ride together safe, comfortable and enjoyable.
- A rear rack with panniers is best if you are carrying heavier loads or making longer or more regular journeys. For really heavy loads bike trailers also work well.
- Backpacks or messenger bags are good for carrying light loads, but they can make you hot and can put strain on your shoulders. Instead of carrying your backpack, strap it onto a bike rack, or place in a basket on the front to enable quick and easy access to items.
- Baskets – come in a variety of materials (ie: wire, wicker, etc. even plastic milk crates can be used as inexpensive baskets) and can either be detachable or mounted permanently.
- Kids on Board – There are many different types of child bike seats, carries and trailers available. When it comes to choosing, there are a few factors that influence your decision – budget, age of your child, where you plan to ride and of course your bike type and setup. Find out more about cycling with kids>
For most short local cycling trips there is no need to wear special cycling clothing – everyday clothes work just fine! You can even cycle in smart clothes, provided they give you enough freedom to pedal and don’t cause chaffing or irritation.
Follow these tips to stay comfortable on your ride throughout the year:
- Everyday clothes hacks: If your bike doesn’t have a chain guard, you can keep your pants away from the chain by rolling up your pant leg or using a leg band. Bike shorts can worn alone or under another pair of lightweight shorts or even a skirt. If you are cycling in a dress you can stop your skirt flying up or getting caught in the bike by using this handy cycling in a skirt hack.
- Footwear: Shoes that are good for walking are also great for cycling. It is best to wear closed shoes to protect your feet. MTB cycling shoes are a great option for longer rides as they allow you to comfortably walk when off the bicycle. For very short trips slip-slops or sandals can be worn, but watch out for your toes.
- Riding at Night. Make yourself visible to other road users. Wear bright colors and reflective gear (vests or jackets) when riding at night or in rainy or overcast conditions.Vests are a cheap solution and can be easily stored in your bag; and reflective bands for ankles and sleeves also work well.
- Cold Weather: Wear layers to keep warm. Gloves and ear muffs are particularly helpful.
- Rain. Don’t let a little rain stop you from riding. Waterproof and breathable fabrics keep you comfortable and dry. Look for waterproof cycling jackets and pants or cycling poncho. Wear bright colors and reflective gear. Find out more about riding in the rain…
- Hot Weather. When it’s hot, try wearing breathable clothing. Sunglasses (or clear glasses at night) work well to protect your eyes from dust and sun. Find out more about staying cool in the heat…
- On Longer Rides. Cycling jerseys work to pull moisture away from your skin, keeping you cool. They also have pockets on the back for food, tools, and money. Cycling shorts provide cushioning. Bike gloves help spread pressure across your palms and protect your hands from a fall.
SHOPPING FOR CYCLING GEAR AND BIKES
Whether you are looking for a high-end performance bike or that vintage gem or need some commuter gear, Cape Town has a wide range of bike shops to choose from. Stock up on panniers, bike lights, reflective gear, bells and even bike maintenance essentials. Browse our Cycle Style guide for cool urban cycle gear, accessories and bikes.