By Nathan Ray and the Crofton Bike Doctor Team
Fixing a flat tire will be by far the most common roadside repair to have to make on a road ride. The easiest way to accomplish this is with a CO2 inflator. These are compact tools able to quickly inflate a tire to 110 psi, eliminating the need to struggle with a hand pump on the side of the road. Genuine Innovations’ Ultraflate Plus is a great example of a quality inflator. The included sleeve keeps your hands from getting burned by the freezing-cold cylinder and the trigger-controlled inflation minimizes the chance of discharging the cartridge accidentally. This is most of the staff's go-to inflator, and can be used with threaded or non-threaded CO2 cartridges.
- Louis Garneau LS-2 Plastron baselayer
A good baselayer is an essential piece of cool- and cold-weather cycling kit. This one from Garneau is one of the best I have ever used. Regardless of what jersey or jacket I'm wearing, the windfront baselayer keeps my core warm and wicks away moisture. One of our customers says, “If you're going to buy one piece of cold weather gear, get one of those LG shirts!”
A seat bag is a great way to carry the tools you need on a road bike without cluttering up the jersey pockets. Lezyne’s example of this is well-organized and compact. It’s easy to adjust to fit closely to the saddle without swinging around. The small size has just enough room for what I carry: spare tube, two threaded CO2 cartridges, inflator head, tire lever, glueless patch kit, and LED light. Most people will be happier with the medium size (the M-Caddy), which leaves room for some other accessories as well.
To adjust today’s carbon road bikes, torque specs are absolutely essential. Adjustable, shop-quality torque wrenches such as the Pedro’s Pro Torque Wrench cost upwards of $150, so Bontrager’s $20 handheld preset model is a great bargain. It uses a 4mm hex key and is preset to 5Nm, making it great for many stems, handlebars, seatposts and cleats.
Road riding can be tough on bikes. Between the dust, gravel, salt, and other junk on the road, protecting your investment from damage is very important. Pedro’s Bike Lust is a great product that polishes and protects your bike’s frame, making it less likely to be damaged by debris flying off your tires. It is a silicone-based polish that leaves a great shine and a protective coating on the paint, making it easy to wipe down your frame after a ride and remove everything from road tar to salt residue.
It is sometimes said that the transition from shorts to bibs marks a major milestone in the evolution of a road cyclist. All of us at the shop wear bib shorts on the road almost exclusively. They ventilate better, wick moisture from the rider’s lower back, and eliminate the binding and bunching waistband that regular shorts can have. Giordana’s Italian-made Silverline shorts are the best bibs for the price I’ve ever used. They wick moisture phenomenally, not only from the fabric, but the chamois as well. The padding is comfortable and not bulky. For $130, these are amazing shorts and a great example of Italian craftsmanship.
Tires make a huge difference in the ride quality of a bike. A basic frame with pro-quality tires will often ride better than a nice carbon frame with cheap replacement tires. Vittoria’s EVO CXs are my favorite road tire. They are very rounded, similar to a pro tubular in shape, giving a consistent, predictable cornering feel. The 320 tpi casing and thin puncture-resistant belt make the tire supple and fairly resistant to cuts and nicks. The tires have loads of grip in dry and wet conditions and, unlike some other companies’ race tires, have lasted for me through many miles of riding, training and racing.
A compact, bright LED rear light is a must-have for road cycling. Anytime you are cycling on the road, you are just one inattentive driver away from an incredibly bad day. When conditions deteriorate over the course of a ride, make sure you are prepared to be seen in rainy or cloudy conditions. My Mars rear light from Blackburn has been described as “obnoxious,” exactly what you need to make sure you are seen. Other great options include Planet Bike’s Superflash and the NiteRider Stinger tailight. All of these are bright, long-lasting LED lights that can be stored easily until they are needed, or kept installed on the seatpost.
A good pair of socks for summer riding should be minimalist in design. You don’t want any excess material to trap heat in the shoes, and they should be lightweight technical fabric that wicks moisture away to evaporate quickly. Mavic’s Italian-made Race socks are the best I’ve found for the truly hot summer rides, and at $10, a great bargain.
The final item on my list of 10 must-haves for road riding is perhapds the most important. A lightweight, fast-rolling 700x23 tire rides best between 105-125 psi and an inner tube will lose enough pressure overnight to fall down below this range. This means that the tires on a road bike must be pumped up before every single ride. This is the best way to ensure good ride quality and low rolling resistance, and to help prevent flats. A shop-quality pump is a cycling investment that will last through many years of regular use, and Bontrager’s highest-end example is no exception. Metal construction with a rubber base, a bleed valve, rebuildable internals, and a lifetime warranty make this pump one of the best on the market.