Some cyclists may want to don the full racing gear, whilst others will not. However one things for certain, you will need some essential items such as a helmet, lights and lock.
See below for guidance on buying essential cycling kit
Helmets cost as little as £20 and should always be worn as they are crucial for safey. They come in a variety of styles, sizes, purposes and features and can be gender specific. They also have the additional benefit of protecting you from the rain and sun, and are quite the urban assessory. However it is important you choose the right one for you, so that you are protected whilst riding.
- 'Wiggle's' guide explains what to look for in a helmet and how to measure your head for sizing so you know what size to buy.
- If you want to be better seen on the roads, you can choose a helmet that features fluorescent colouring and/or reflective tape details to improve visibility in dark conditions.
- For some of you looking good will be important, so ensure you get a helmet that you like otherwise you'll find you won't wear one!
- For female cycling helmets, see here.
If you are cycling after dark, legally you need front and rear lights. Lights are not something you want to scrimp on, they're essential for you to to see as well as be seen. Get some quality rechargeable lights, and charge them at your desk. It’s also a good idea to keep a cheaper spare pair in your bag/pannier just in case you forget your main set. Read this guide to find out more.
Get a quality bicycle lock, and spend at least 10% of the value of your bike on the lock. Buy a Sold Silver or Gold Secure rated lock. Sold Secure is an independent, non-profit organisation based in the UK. They test and certify locks to make it easier to compare the security levels between different types and brands. D locks are the most secure.
As well as a quality D lock, buy a secondary lock to enable you to secure the frame and both wheels. Read this guide on how to correctly lock a bicycle.
Mudguards will protect you from being sprayed by standing water and muck. If you plan to get changed at work, simple small mudguards on the front and back may do. However, if you plan to cycle in your work clothes, then full mudguards will protect your clothes.
Backpack / pannier
If your commute isn’t too long or hilly, you can cycle to UCL in your normal clothes. This is particularly useful if you are more on the forgetful side, and risk leaving your socks at home! Purchasing panniers or a basket to hold your bag will help keep you feeling fresh along your commute.
If you don't have a rack for a pannier or basket, a simple backpack can be fine for cycling to work. But ensure you have one that is compfortable for your back, especially if you are carrying a laptop. A waterproof backpack will protect you from the rain, and you can get one with flurocent detail so that you can be seen in the dark.
A waterproof jacket is a must. There are many cycling specific jackets which are fitted, breatheable, hi-viz and allow movement for cycling without flapping in the wind. These jackets are useful on longer commutes, however on shorter rides you don’t need to get a cycling specific jacket, any waterproof layer will be fine. If you are committed to cycling throughout winter it might be worth considering waterproof over trousers too.
If you want to commute in winter you will want to protect your hands. Again, you can get cycling specific gloves, which have grips and hi-vis details. However on dry days any gloves which are warm will be fine. If it rains, waterproof hiking or skiing gloves are suitable.
Every commuter should carry a small portable pump, which will be invaluable if you have a puncture. These are small enough to fit into your bag or strapped to your frame. You don’t need to spend a fortune on a pump, as long as it fits your valve type, it will be fine for an emergency. Read this guide on what to look for in a bicycle pump. However if you forget your pump and get a puncture, usually cyclists will stop to help. You can also use the bicyle pump in Foster Court at UCL.
A bicycle multitool contains most of the tools needed to do basic repairs on your bicycle. They are compact, taking up far less weight and space than carrying around individual tools. They will be vital for any small adjustment or fixes. If this seems like too much there are many bike shops on route to UCL which you can pop in and ask for help. These small fixutres are usually free.
A spare innertube is useful if you get a puncture, but again you can pop into a bike shop.
It's frustrating but even in 2020 bike shops seem to have a disproportinate amount of male clothing in comparison to female clothing in stock. Make sure you do your research online and see reviews from other female cylists. You can then order them in stock to try them out before you buy. It takes more time but it is important that cycling kit fit correctly, especially with regards to padded shorts/trousers, helmets and jackets.