Screw ‘the rules’! Uncool cycling accessories that deserve to make a comeback

From string vests to kickstands, we throw off the shackles of fashion in the name of comfort and performance

‘The rules’ are part of an oft-cited unofficial code of conduct for cyclists that, among other things, dictates which cycling accessories are deemed acceptable.

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In this episode of the BikeRadar Podcast, Jack Luke and Simon von Bromley encourage you to cast off the oppressive shackles of fashion and embrace a cycling life that is more practical (and, possibly, even faster) with these criminally uncool cycling accessories.

From the humble and misunderstood kickstand to the much-maligned saddle bag, the pair throw caution to the wind and reveal their true inner dorky selves.

Here are six of our favourite uncool accessories. Listen to the podcast for the full list of eight.

1. Mudguards

Mudguards are not a crime.
Simon Bromley / Immediate Media

It’s no secret that we love a good mudguard here at BikeRadar.

As we’ve said many times before, life is simply too short to ride with a wet bum.

Mudguards also keep your bike cleaner, improving the longevity of your frame and drivetrain components.

You will make more friends if you ride with mudguards.
Alex Evans

Furthermore, showing up to a group ride in the wet months sans-fenders is a sin punishable (at minimum) by banishment to the back of the bunch.

Tl;dr – embrace a life less damp and buy a set of mudguards for your bike. You won’t regret it.

2. Kickstands

Kickstands will… well, they’ll stop your bike falling over.
Immediate Media

A wise man once said that, if your bike does not have a kickstand, it will fall over.

Exactly why so few bikes – yes, even performance-minded road bikes – have a kickstand is a bit of a mystery.

While making comparisons between bicycles and motorcycles is sometimes a tiresome affair, buying a road-going superbike without a kickstand is unthinkable.

Without a kickstand, your expensive toy would fall over when you stop to sup a mid-ride coffee. The same is true of a road bicycle. Why do we let fashion misguide us so?

There is no shortage of heavy-duty kickstands, but nothing sleeker than this.
Jack Luke / Immediate Media

The problem is that no brand currently makes a lightweight and sleek kickstand you would actually want to fit to your road bike, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Thinking more practically, kickstands are also a notable omission on the majority of commuting bikes sold in the UK. All touring bikes and heavy electric mountain bikes would also benefit from having a kickstand.

We can see no downside to owning a bike less fally-overy, so this is our call to the cycling brands of this world – start fitting kickstands as stock to utility bikes and develop a sleek integrated stand for road bikes. We will be thrilled.

3. Chainguards

While a common feature on cheaper bikes, chainguards are rarely seen on commuter bikes here in the UK.
Oli Woodman / Immediate Media

Oily chains are the menace of trouser legs the world over and, once again, we can’t help but question why so few complete commuter bikes are specced with them as stock.

Like mudguards, they help to keep your drivetrain clean, improving service life and protecting your parachute pants in the process.

Looking beyond practical cycling, developing an integrated chainguard for road bikes feels like a low-hanging fruit from a performance perspective.

Why shouldn’t road bikes feature a fully enclosed chaincase?
Dave Caudery / Our Media

Housing your bike’s drivetrain within a suitably-slippery enclosure would reduce wear and increase aerodynamic performance compared to a conventional external drivetrain.

Unfortunately, current UCI rules banning non-structural fairings would likely scupper any concerted development in this area for the pros, but that shouldn’t stop us mortal punters from enjoying the benefits chainguards could offer.

Of course, it’s possible further developments in gearboxes, internal gear hub technology or something else may make this argument redundant. However, in the meantime, external derailleur drivetrains look here to stay.

Like kickstands, this is our call to the innovative bike brands of this world to develop a bike for riders who aren’t constrained by UCI rules to create an innovative aerodynamic chaincase that will, unquestionably, make our bikes better.

4. Sweatbands

Sweatbands were long a feature of BikeRadar’s Hill Climb Diaries.
Pitchside Photo

While a 2021 change to CTT rules (the UK’s organising body for time trials) means that ugly fashionable headbands will no longer be a fixture at hill climbs, they still have a place in cycling.

For in-house TT nerd, Simon von Bromley, a thin sweatband worn beneath a time trial helmet helps soak up mid-race sweat, keeping their integrated visors clear.

For indoor cycling, a towelled sweatband is also usually more effective than a cap at soaking up lashings of sweat as you rumble out your virtual KMs.

For chronically contrarian fashion victims, the sweatband also offers a counter-culture alternative to the cycling cap, and that can’t be overlooked.

5. #freetheminipump

Wear your mini pump with pride.
Ben Delaney / Immediate Media

Mini pumps have been consigned to jersey pockets for too long.

We urge you to free your pump from its sweaty ensconcement and wear it with pride on your bike.

Not only will this mean you’re less likely to forget to bring it with you on a ride, but it’s also more comfortable.

Frame pumps can also look excellent on the right bike.
Nick Legan

While likely a freak occurrence, there’s also no risk of back injury resulting from falling on your pump during a crash.

Speaking from in-house experience, the hard edges of a mini pump sticking above the parapet of your jersey pocket can wear small pinprick holes in the back of your fancy expensive waterproof cycling jackets, especially if they’re made of perilously thin Gore-Tex Shakedry material.

The campaign to #freetheminipump starts here.

6. String vests

A string vest is the only baselayer you’ll need, even if the looks split opinion.
Jack Luke / Immediate Media

String base layers are a firm favourite here at BikeRadar.

Compared to summer baselayers made from panels of fabric, we have found that string vests breathe and wick sweat more effectively. They also dry much faster and tend to last longer.

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They are, however, a bit aesthetically challenging, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying a more comfortable life on the bike.