Published: 6th AUGUST 2021

5 cycling kit hacks for beginners

Charlotte was a confident walker who was unsure if cycling was really for her. That was until she discovered that the right choice of cycling kit was the solution. Charlotte shares five personal kit hacks for beginners which got her comfortable in the saddle.

Two women share advice stood beside a bicycle

You might assume that because I work with Sustrans as a Travel Planning Officer, I must be some sort of super-cyclist and have been for years.

But in reality I’m more of a walker.

A novice cyclist who’s learning the ropes and working out how journeys on my bike can work for me and my lifestyle.

I now consider myself a utility cyclist, using my bike to get around Nottingham every day.

It feels empowering and practical.

But to begin with I discovered lots of little things about cycling that just didn’t work for me.

Finding solutions to these made me want to choose cycling for more of my journeys.

Often I found the answer was in getting my kit right.  

So here are my personal kit hacks for beginners, I hope they’ll spark some solutions for you too.


1. How to carry everything you need

Before I started cycling I wasn’t familiar with the age-old pannier versus backpack debate.

In a nutshell, panniers will hold tons of stuff comfortably away from your body whilst you cycle.

But they can be awkward to carry off the cycle and finding the items you need from them is sometimes like searching in a black hole in space.

Backpacks are easy to wear whilst walking and can be left on your back when cycling.

But they can then quickly make you very hot and uncomfortable.

So by trial and error I’ve discovered two solutions to share with you.

The first is a backpack which converts to sit on a pannier rack.

Mine is from Goodordering and is made from recycled plastic bottles for bonus points.

It’s waterproof, with good capacity and importantly has a range of proper pockets.

Green backpack from Goodordering attached to a pannier rack.

Charlotte's backpack from Goodordering attached to her pannier rack.

My second solution is a bum bag.

Perfect for easy access to essentials mid-journey, when your main kit is safely stowed away on your back or pannier rack.

Though a good jacket with decent pockets would do this job in colder weather, a bum bag is a winner in warmer months.


2. How to carry a bike lock

I have a hefty bike lock and long cable which offers vital security when I park in the city, but it’s a pain to lug around.

My bike frame doesn’t allow for the lock to be mounted, so it used to take up precious space in my bag.

Then one day I saw someone cycling who had attached their lock to their pannier rack.

Genius! I thought to myself.

When I first tried this out I found it clanged when I rode over bumps.

But then I wove the cable through the arms of the lock and managed to create a nice buffer.

This was a proud moment.

Lock hanging from pannier rack with cable woven through it.

Charlotte's lock hack. Weave a cable through your lock when it hangs from your pannier rack to stop the clanging noise.

3. How to look good in hi-vis

There are now stylish options beyond the fluorescent tabard.

Many outdoor clothing brands, such as Proviz, make a wide range of clothing in reflective materials.

In daylight they look completely normal, but in the dark they’re transformed into a highly reflective surface by street lamps and headlights, making you reassuringly visible.

You can even find formal tailored jackets with hidden reflective panels.

Sustrans shop stocks the fantastically versatile Proviz REFLECT360 Outdoor Jacket in both women’s and men’s styles. There's also the Provis REFLECT360 Multi-Purpose Vest, perfect for night rides in summer.

4. How to keep your trouser legs clean and out of an oily chain

Bicycle clips are nothing new, but I’ve found that reflective snap bands will also do the trick.

The added bonus is that you’ll be extra visible in the dark from the side.

The other great thing about snap bands is that you can easily pop them on your wrists or handlebars when they’re not needed and they won’t jangle around like bangles.

Sustrans shop sells reflective snap bands. Practical, affordable and multipurpose, plus all profits go towards our work.

5. How to wear a ponytail with a helmet

One thing that used to bug me was having to rearrange my hair every time I took my helmet on and off.

My ponytail just wouldn’t fit underneath.

Then I found out that not all helmets are the same.

Some manufactures make ones with space to poke your ponytail through.

This was a game-changer for me.

I really recommend taking some time to research helmets.

If you can, find a local shop where you can try some on.

See how they look and feel, and with any luck you'll soon find the style that suits you.


Charlotte’s final words of advice

These have been my personal top five kit hacks.

If I could add in number six, it would be to talk to other people who cycle and trade advice.

It’s the best way to discover what will work for you.

And don’t let little niggles put you off of welcoming the freedom of cycling into your life.


Read more about cycling for beginners with our helpful guide.


Take a look at the Sustrans shop for lots of great deals on cycling and walking kit.

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