Once you get your bike, it’s time to think accessories and clothing. It can be overwhelming to figure out what stuff you really need! While most of the gear out there will provide some benefit, there are certainly accessories that are more essential than others. Here’s what you need to help you get through all the miles of Get Your Guts In Gear!
We’ll also talk about proper bike clothing. As returning riders know, as soon as someone forgets their rain gear, it is guaranteed to rain! We’ll help you be prepared for the ride without breaking the bank or requiring an extra suitcase just for your bike clothes! One of the nice things about bike accessories and clothing is that once you get it, you’re all set. Aside from a few things like spare tubes and nutritionals, this is a one time investment that will benefit your riding for many miles to come.
Bicycle Helmet – This is required to ride in GYGIG, but it’s a safety accessory that you’ll want anyway. Try on helmets to find something that fits well, and is comfortable. You want it to be snug, but not too tight or uncomfortable that you get a headache! All helmets have to meet certain safety standards to be approved for consumers. More expensive helmets may offer more aerodynamics, venting, or even team colors, but more money does not equal more safety. You’re fine with whatever you choose.
If you have an older helmet, make sure it’s not more than 5 years old, or been through a crash or major accident (like dropping from the top shelf). The styrofoam in a helmet is designed to shatter, rather than your head, upon impact. Helmets with styrofoam that is broken down over time, or a helmet that’s had a single impact is no longer safe for use.
Seat Bag – This handy pouch velcros or clips under your seat, and stores all of your essentials. They come in different sizes, shapes and colors. For recreational riders, a 75 cubic inch or larger bag should work. Smaller ones are great for bare essentials, often used during races or fast training rides. When training at home, your seat bag is a great place to store your keys, ID, phone, a few extra dollars, and maybe even a snack. You’ll also want to include basic bike gear like flat tire tools and a multi tool. On the ride, you probably won’t need your house keys, but storing some extra nutritionals and a travel roll of toilet paper can be an IBD lifesaver!
Here’s what I keep in my seat bag at all times: Flat tire kit, multi tool, $5 or $10 bill, an extra gel for emergencies, Charmin To Go travel toilet paper, emergency contact information, and then I grab my phone, ID, and insurance card when I leave the house to ride.
Flat Tire Kit – In your seat bag, you should have the basics to change a flat. No matter how careful of a rider you are, flats happen. To change a flat, you’ll need an extra tube to inflate, a way to inflate it, and a way to get it on and off the rim. Even if you don’t know how to change a flat, you should have these just in case. It’s not that hard to learn, so don’t be intimidated. Many shops will host bike maintenance clinics to go over this.
Get at least one spare tube in the correct size, which will be printed on the side of your tire. There are two types of valves, Shrader (like a car tire) and Presta (skinnier valve). Take note of which type your wheel needs. To get the tire on and off your bike, you’ll need 2 or 3 tire levers. To inflate the tube, there are two kinds of pumps: a hand pump, and a CO2 dispenser. A CO2 pump is preferred, as a single cartridge holds enough air to inflate a tire to pressure. They can take a bit of practice the first time, however. A hand pump is simple to use, but hand pumping an entire tire to pressure will take a very long time.
Multi Tool – A small tool will include Allen (hex) wrenches, in the sizes you need for your bike. All hardware on your bike is metric, and for the most part, takes a 4mm, 5mm, or 6mm wrench. You can find multi-tools that include smaller or larger sizes, Phillips or Flathead drivers, Torx drivers, and more, but you’ll only need the basics. This should run about $10 – $15 and fit nicely in your seat pack.
Bike Computer – A computer, or odometer, is a small device that mounts on your handlebars, and gathers information from a sensor and magnet on your wheel. A basic computer will tell you speed, time, distance, clock, etc. Advanced computers can also tell you things like average speed, cadence (pedal RPM), temperature, altitude, heart rate, and more. You can even get a Garmin or similar device that keeps track of all this, plus your route, via satellite. A bike computer is especially handy on Get Your Guts In Gear, to help you keep track of miles ridden, and miles to the next rest stop.
Water Bottles/Water Bottle Cages – If you have Crohns or Colitis, you know that it’s especially important to stay hydrated. Most road and hybrid bikes will allow you to carry 2 water bottles on the frame. Bottle cages come in all sorts of colors, and can be metal, plastic, or even carbon fiber. All of these will work, and are made to hold a typical bicycle water bottle. Make sure you get at least 2 bottles as well. I like to have water in one, and Gatorade in the other. Clear bottles are nice, so you can see what’s in it, how much is left, and when it’s time to wash them.
Although GYGIG has frequent rest stops with ice water and Gatorade, some people like to be extra hydrated. A Camelback type pack will work alright, but it will create a hot-spot on your back, and be an additional weight on your shoulders. Instead, ask at your local shop for seat mounted bottle holders, to carry additional water out of the way.
Sunglasses – You’ll want sunglasses to protect your eyes, even when it’s not sunny. When you’re riding your bike, keep in mind that you’ll have extra wind at your face, due to the speed at which you’re riding. Sunglasses will protect your eyes from this wind, as well as any bugs that might be hanging out in the airspace along the course. Many brands include a few extra lenses, such as clear (for dark or night riding), amber or rose (for cloudy days or shaded areas), and standard shaded lenses for sun.
Different Seat – A bicycle seat doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. In fact, it shouldn’t be! If you find your seat to be uncomfortable, don’t just think you have to deal with it. Each rider’s body is different, and there are literally hundreds of seats available, each with a slightly different feel. To find a good seat, have your local shop set up your bike on an indoor trainer. Switch out seats and pedal a bit, until you find one that feels good.
A quick tip about seats- they should be more or less level when properly fit. If a seat is level and still uncomfortable, try a new one. A seat that is tilted nose up can be uncomfortable for obvious reasons. If you feel like you have to tilt it down to remedy this, you’ll find your body sliding forward, and you might not even realize it. This puts extra weight on your arms, and unnecessary aching in your shoulders.
Nutritionals – Nutritionals such as energy bars, gels, and chews, are a great thing to have with you while riding. On Get Your Guts In Gear, there are rest stops every 12-15 miles, with water, gatorade, fruit, snacks, and more. This distance should be manageable, as long as you eat and drink at each one, and grab some extra calories for along the course. When riding long distances, especially when you aren’t used to them, can trick your body. You have to eat before you get hungry, and drink before you’re thirsty. Your body will also go through way more calories than normal.
Nutritional supplements are an in-depth topic, best discussed with an expert at your local shop or a nutrition expert. If you are an IBD patient, you know how important, and finnicky, nutrition can be, and you probably know your body best of all. Planning ahead with nutritionals will be beneficial. If you plan on using additional nutritionals along the GYGIG ride, make sure you try them out beforehand, in case of a gastrointestinal disagreement.
I’ve found that my own digestive system, and a lot of other Crohnies use Honey Stingers. These gummy chews are organic, all-natural, and come in several flavors. They are easy to digest, and provide quick energy from the glucose in honey, perfect to keep you going on a long ride.
Lights – Bike lights are important to have, and although you probably won’t need them for the GYGIG ride, they are still nice to have. Lights not only help you see, but they blink, to help motorists see you. A good rule of thumb is if you are riding in urban, lighted areas, you want something bright and attention-getting, to catch the eye of drivers; if you mostly ride in the country with less lights and people, a bright light to put light on the road will help you see where you are going.
Pumps – GYGIG has many floor pumps on the ride, at rest stops, at camp, and with mechanics. However, we can safely assume that you’ll be doing some training, and therefore will want to have a pump at your house. Your tires should be kept at their maximum pressure, which is about 120 psi for a road bike. This is a lot higher than a car tire, and your tire should basically be hard to the touch. Tubes and tires lose a little bit of pressure just by sitting around, due to a slight permeability in the rubber. It’s a good habit to check your tire pressure before you go out the door every ride, and top it off when needed. A properly inflated tire will not only protect your rims from damage, but help you roll along more smoothly and efficiently!
Shoes and Pedals
Shoes and pedals are kind of their own category. They’re kind of an accessory, kind of apparel, and in a way, just another extension of your bike. When we discuss bike shoes and pedals, we’re talking about “clipless pedals” which have a cleat that mounts onto the bottom of bike specific shoes that engages with the pedal. The number one rule of picking out a good pair of shoes is, like choosing a bike, find something comfortable. They should fit more snugly than a running shoes to provide a non-slipping fit during pedaling. And if they’re not comfortable, you’ll be buying another pair next season.
Before you get scared and think, “that’s not for me!”, let’s go over a few things.
1. They are actually safer than straps on your pedals. Pedal systems are similar to ski bindings. If you fall or crash, your foot will automatically pop out of your pedal, before you even know what’s going on. With the straps the come on flat pedals, your foot can get stuck, and severely twist your leg in case of a crash.
2. They have a very quick learning curve. The thing about pedals is, your foot already knows what to do. The cleat is mounted at a very natural place on your foot, so it shouldn’t be hard to find the pedal and clip in. The best way to learn is to practice on an indoor trainer, so by the time you get outside, it will be second nature. But don’t worry if you fall once or twice- everyone does- but once you get it, it’s just like riding a bike.
3. The majority of late-adapters end up wishing they had gotten them sooner. Getting shoes and pedals will benefit your riding. They are also something you really only buy once, as they won’t wear out like running shoes. Once riders learn that the challenge of learning to use pedals isn’t very hard, and the benefits are great, they only wish they hadn’t been so hesitant.
Using bike shoes and pedals will increase your efficiency on the bike by about 20%, for two reasons. First, the soles of the shoes are stiff, preventing the flex in your foot, and allowing the most energy from your leg to go into your pedal stroke. Second, the attachment of your feet to the bike will allow you to emit power throughout your whole pedal stroke, not just while pushing down on the pedal. This makes you a smoother, more efficient rider, and will give you a secret weapon on hills, when you can pull up on your pedals and give your quads a break.
Pedals and shoes come in two basic styles- mountain and road. Within these categories, there are lots of options, but we’ll just go over the basics.
Mountain shoes have a tread to them, and the cleat is recessed, making it easier to walk around. They are good for conditions where you might get dirty, or you do a lot of walking, like stopping to hike or to hang out at a cafe. They’ll also start at a lower price point. Mountain shoes can only use mountain cleats, due to the screw pattern. Mountain pedals are also less expensive, and are arguably the easiest to click in and out.
Road shoes will have a composite or carbon sole, often smooth and shiny. They are made to be more lightweight and fast, but are less good for extensive walking around. Road shoes can use either mountain pedals or road pedals, since there is no restriction by the tread pattern. Road pedals have a bigger contact area with the shoe, eliminating hot-spots or pressure-points on the bottom of your foot.
You’ve heard the saying “If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes”. It seems as if both GYGIG ride locations, New York and Wisconsin, claim this is reality! There is some truth to this, and over a long distance, multi-day ride, being prepared with proper clothing will be essential.
Clothing can get expensive, so shopping smart, looking for sales, and buying just what you need can really help. Getting a few pairs of good shorts and some versatile tops for layering can go a long way.
Bicycle clothing in general has a few helpful properties:
1. It is tight fitting (but don’t worry, doesn’t have to be pro-racer-skin-tight!). Looser clothing, such as a wind jacket, will catch wind along every mile, like a kite. This will slow you down and wear you out quickly.
2. It’s generally made out of tech material. Cotton will absorb and hold moisture, and when you’re going to be on the bike for several hours at a time, this can get uncomfortable, or even chilly in the wind. Good quality clothing will be made of wicking, breathable, and windproof material.
Let’s start with bottoms:
Bicycle Shorts – Bike shorts are made of a stretchy, tight fitting material, and have foam or gel padding inside (called a chamois, pronounced “shammy”). IMPORTANT: bike shorts are made to be worn WITHOUT underwear. This is the proper, and more comfortable, way to wear them. Because of this, get at least two pairs for Get Your Guts In Gear, or more, if you’re the kind of IBD patient that always has spare pants on hand. Material can vary, as can the size and thickness of padding. A lot of this is personal preference, so get what is comfortable to you. Bike shorts will run about $40 to $100, but investing in a few good pairs can last you a long time. My personal favorite are Pearl Izumi Sugar Shorts, $55
Bib Shorts – Bib shorts are an alternative to regular shorts, and include thin mesh shoulder straps. Many guys prefer these to eliminate an uncomfortable elastic waistband; women tend to stick with regular shorts. If you’re going to be riding with active IBD, keep in mind that bibs will require you to remove your jersey as well to use the toilet, wasting a few extra precious seconds.
Tights – Spandex tights or leggings are great for spring or fall weather, as well as the occasional chilly day. Although tights with bike padding are available, a good and affordable alternative is to bring a regular pair of tights that might be used for running or working out, and layering them outside your bike shorts. These will be less expensive, and will be a more versatile item for your workout wardrobe. Tights come a couple ways – thick for warmth, reinforced for wind, and even capris for the in-between days.
Rain Pants – Rain pants are a great item to have as backup rain gear, but if you can only afford one thing, a rain jacket is way more important. If it’s raining on a warm day, having exposed legs should be tolerable, as the jacket will protect your torso and butt. However, if you want to be as dry and prepared as possible, invest in a lightweight pair of rain pants.
Shoe Covers – Shoe covers fit tightly over your cycling shoes, and leave an opening for your cleats. Shoe covers come in thinner materials for wind protection or thicker materials to keep out the cold. Since your cycling shoes should fit snugly, there won’t be a lot of room for thick socks, but shoe covers are a great accessory to keep your feet warm and protected.
Jerseys – A few good cycling jerseys are necessary for riding. They’ll be slimmer fitting (again, it’s easy to find “club fit” which is a more forgiving fit without being baggy and wind-catching), made out of a tech material, and have back pockets for easy to reach nutritionals, your camera, cue sheets, or your phone. Just don’t talk on the phone while riding in New York, it’s against the law!
The majority of riders will wear a GYGIG jersey, to spread awareness of both the event and our diseases. When a pack of blue and orange jerseys roll through all those small towns, it’s a great experience to be able to share your accomplishments with curious residents. Previous years jerseys are available online, and this year’s jerseys will be available at each ride, and for pre-orders. Proceeds from jerseys also benefit the awesome beneficiaries of the event.
Baselayers – As we discussed, layering is the key to being apparelly prepared on a budget. Bringing at least one long sleeve base layer can keep you warm in case of a cooler day. A good base layer will be thin, a tech, non-cotton material, and tight-fitting, to be able to go under your jersey. A waffle or textured material will be great at keeping you warm, as the tiny pockets will trap your body heat. A tightly woven base layer will help protect against wind. You can even find nice baselayers with hoods that will fit under a helmet.
Long Sleeve Jerseys – A long sleeve jersey is great for a slightly cooler day. Worn alone or with a baselayer, this can help protect your arms a bit more without ending up with too thick of an outfit.
Thin Jackets – Thinner jackets are beneficial as an extra layer for warmth, or as a great way to block the wind. Jackets can come extremely thin and small to pack into your jersey pocket, or a little bit warmer if you plan on wearing it the whole day. All cycling jackets will fit slimmer than a regular windbreaker, and hang lower in the back, to cover your butt while you are leaning forward in your cycling position.
Thick Jackets – A thicker jacket will be used to provide warmth on colder days. These also will fit slimmer and hang lower in the back, but these will be designed more for warmth, with a thicker material. Most cycling jackets will have some kind of reflective stripes on the rear, to catch the attention of vehicles. Having one thick jacket, or one thin jacket plus some extra layers on GYGIG should prepare you adequately.
Rain Jackets – You’ll definitely want to have a rain jacket on Get Your Guts In Gear, just in case. With rain jackets, you should either find an inexpensive one which will be lightweight, packable, and just there in case of emergencies. On the other end, an expensive rain jacket will be made of a super lightweight, but breathable material, have sealed zippers, and be more fitted. If you want to get a nice one, find one with all these features, but if you don’t
plan hope to wear it a lot, don’t spend too much on what you don’t need.
Other Apparel Items:
Gloves – Cycling gloves will provide a slight padding or gel on the palm, to help protect your hands from vibrations in the road. Most people will use cycling gloves, but they aren’t a necessity. Just as with most other accessories, find something that is comfortable, and snug fitting, to avoid chafing.
Long Fingered Gloves – In case of cold, it’s smart to have a pair of long fingered gloves to use. Remember, whenever you’re riding, you have an extra wind due to your speed, and your fingers will be the first to catch this. If it gets cold, your fingers will get cold very quickly, and if they begin to go numb, you’ll lose control of your shifters and brakes, which can get very dangerous. Not to mention, who likes having cold hands?
Arm Warmers - Arm warmers are like spandex sleeves, without the jacket. They are a great accessory that can fit into your jersey pockets, and be worn or removed as needed. Since GYGIG starts each day early, your arms may be cold as your body, and the world, are warming up. One pair of arm warmers should be a great addition to your cycling wardrobe.
Balaclava – A Balaclava is like a hood, without a shirt attached. It’s a spandex headpiece that will fit under your helmet, help block the wind, and keep your head and ears warm. Getting a balaclava to have around will be useful, but again, not totally necessary. However, you might find it to be useful for other winter sports such as skiing, winter hiking, or just being outside!