Show me a cyclist who says they've got all the gear they want or need, and I'll show you someone who is probably fibbing.
Some sports, like running, have fairly basic requirements, but one of the features of cycling is the limitless amount of equipment available.
That's why it's always dangerous to walk into a bike shop with time on your hands and cash in your pocket, "just to pick up some spare tubes". You may find yourself leaving with a new pair of knicks, some tasty-looking coffee-flavoured gels, a lighter pump, a new GPS unit and a deposit receipt for a Cervelo time trial bike that's in a container on a ship somewhere.
Apart from one-off or extravagant buys, there are the "bread and butter" items that always need replenishing. Some people experiment wildly; others might go for whatever is cheapest. But I reckon most people pick a few trusty favourites, and stick with them, especially when doing regular orders online - they become a known item.
I've grabbed five basic things that are a central part of my weekly road cycling endeavours. They're probably not all the best or the brightest, but they work for me and I've been known to nag others into making similar purchases (especially item three). No, I'm not being paid to spruik these things (I wish) and I'd be interested to know if you think you have any better ideas for basics.
TYRES Getting a puncture is the nadir of cycling … stuck at the side of the road, wrestling with a wheel, when you could be flying along. I’m a heavy bloke, so I go through tyres at a rate, and I seem to specialise in delaminating them, so that the rubber bubbles before peeling off in chunks. But not Continental Gatorskins. Sure, they’re heavy, but so are my size 50 shoes. They aren’t the grippiest around corners, but I’m not trying to break any descent records – or bones. Banded with Kevlar, Gatorskins have given me thousands of kilometres of puncture-free fun. Of course, having just written that, I can guarantee a flat tomorrow morning.
CHAMOIS CREAM Stop chafes before they start, and prevent any irritations from going rogue ... what's not to like? A dollop of chamois cream is an unmissable part of pre-ride preparation. Assos is the business, and who could go past that name anyway? But an emerging alternative is Aussie Butt Cream (“for comfort down under”), with a patriotic aroma of tea tree oil.
HEADBAND Ever stopped at the lights on a hot day, and had the sweat run down your forehead and splash all over the inside of your sunnies, obscuring your vision? Easy fix – a sweatband under the helmet. They're surprisingly hard to find in bike shops. I had a couple of terry towelling bands that lost all elasticity, and then I found Halo headbands at a post-event equipment sale. They’re slim-line, they stretch, they’re a lot easier to wash than a padded helmet liner – and if you’re already in Spandex, you might as well make the '80s look complete.
CLEATS Cleat use is of course a by-product of that larger decision, pedal selection. It can be a contentious decision that can typecast you for life (I'm looking at you, Speedplay users!). I started out on Shimano, the Maccas of cycling pedals, then got some advice that Look Keo pedals had better "float", making them kinder on the knees. Bought a fancy carbon set, but they never felt right - after two weeks I was back on the Shimanos. I also found they were better for walking around in, with their little yellow nubbinses, and they take a surprisingly long time to wear out. Must get around to putting those Look Keos on eBay.
CHAIN LUBE I started using Rock n Roll Gold chain lube after a recommendation by some bike shop staffer. Such are the random events that define our consumerism. Tried White Lightening for a bit, but it just didn't feel the same. I know some people get very focused on lube issues, and can tell you all about the different merits of wax, oil and Teflon (no one wants to sit next to these people at dinner parties). I also know a commercial tour operator who swears by good old WD-40, even though the interwebs are full of dire warnings about it. But maybe I just love Rock n Roll cos it puts a song in my heart as I saddle up to ride.
What are your favourite cycling staples? Is there anything you find yourself talking others into using?