I’m not going to try and pull on your heartstrings with a sob story about how much I ride and how tough this can be on my body, but there’s no denying that spending inordinate amounts of time in the saddle can lead to fairly ruinous physical ailments.
Cold hands, wet feet and a sore bum are some of my least favourite physical experiences to have to endure.
Combine them with mud-covered, wet and cold legs and the chances of me having a full-blown strop are doubled very quickly. But thanks to all of that time out on the bike, I have managed to master my pre- and post-ride changing routine and perfect my during-ride comfort with some key bits of kit that I just keep using time and time again.
Mudhugger kit bag
The Mudhugger kit bag isn’t just a glorified Ikea bag with an augmented price tag, it’s a true gamechanger, especially if you don’t own a van.
Included with the large main bag is a separate smaller bag and a cushioned, waterproof standing mat. Not only is the mat waterproof, both bags – made from Cordura-style material – are also impenetrable by liquids.
That means your grubby and wet post-ride kit won’t spill and spread its grot and grime all over your car, house or, if you’re using the smaller bag as I do to contain soiled kit, all over the rest of your affairs.
In a soggy, stony and cold car park the standing mat earns its keep after one use by keeping your feet dry and cushioned as you perform the naked carpark dance between being clothed.
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There’s more than enough space to accommodate a full day’s worth of riding kit, snacks, water bottles and full hydration bladders and other bike-related paraphernalia such as wallets, mobile phones and spare shoes. The two straps make carrying all of your crap in the bag a doddle, too.
I’ve used my bag on every ride I’ve been on since I first got it in November 2017 and I can’t imagine not having one now. They’re a must-buy for those who like to make their lives a little easier. Top work Mudhugger!
Dryrobe Advance short-sleeve changing gown
- £120 / AU$229 / €143
Alright, so you might look like you’re up to nefarious activities when you’re wearing one of these with your pants down, especially if you’re in the woods at dusk and you’re donning the camouflage version. But if you can manage to clear the salty dark thoughts from your mind, the Dryrobe serves multiple elegant purposes.
Not only does it keep you warm when you’re getting changed – thanks to its soft synthetic lamb’s wool lining – its waterproof and windproof outer shell will stop you from getting drenched once you’ve taken off your dirty clothes.
Its size, arm length and shape make it possible to put on and remove all of your clothing while protecting your modesty – or onlooker’s eyes.
The pockets are big enough to stash keys, phone or wallet and there’s even a zipped pocket for more valuable items.
As soon as I used mine for the first time, I instantly wondered how I’d ever coped without it. As a bonus, if you wear it indoors you won’t have to put the heating on and can save money for more bike parts!
Swarf Cycles carbon mudguards
Mudguards might be a complete nightmare to fit and can rattle as you ride if not fitted correctly, and for people who are ultra-conscious about how much their bike weighs they add precious grams, but all of this pales into insignificance on your first wet or dirty ride with a mudguard fitted.
Not only does your bum stay clean because there’s no spray coming off the back wheel, but it also stays perfectly dry (as long as it isn’t raining or you’re wearing a waterproof), which helps to prolong your time in the saddle by making you more comfortable.
Upfront, a mudguard will stop water and grit flying up and ruining your headset bearings, prevent spray from hitting your face on flat-out descents and keep your legs and torso – except your feet – much cleaner and drier. What’s not to love?
I’ve been using Swarf Cycles’ hand-made carbon fenders on my Trusty Marin Gestalt 3 and have covered over 11,000 miles without so much as a knock, bang or rattle after the initial setup process.
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NiteRider Lumina OLED 1200 Boost
- £140 / $149 / AU$224.99
Don’t be put off by this diminutive light’s size, it packs a big enough punch to comfortably tackle the darkest, dingiest and most pot-holed lanes the South West of the UK. In Boost mode there are also enough lumens to venture off-road for some light singletrack or bridleway bashing.
With nine modes in total, the Lumina can run for up to 18 hours in the lowest power flash setting. In Boost, it should endure for up to one hour. In reality, if you’re sticking to lit and paved roads, you won’t need the Boost setting all the time and the lowest 275-lumen mode is more than adequate for most on-road use, lasting a claimed 6-hours.
The mount is tool-free to fit and doesn’t take up a huge amount of space on your bars at only 19mm wide. The light’s relatively light at 134g and just seems to keep on going. I’ve been using mine of my commuter bike for just under a year and it’s yet to falter. Top work NiteRider
SQlab 610 ERGOLUX Active 2.0 saddle
- £120 / €130
Treat your tush – you’ve only got one. Long rides can take their toll on your behind and undercarriage, whether you’re male or female, so nothing beats finding a saddle that’s perfect for your body.
The SQlab 610 EROGLUX Active 2.0’s peculiar shape helps to relieve pressure on the sensitive perineum nerve by making sure your body weight is concentrated through the sit bones rather than soft tissue, increasing seated comfort and prolonging the time you can spend on your bike.
Since testing the saddle, I’ve bolted one to my commuter bike and one to my long-term test bike.
Buff The Original neck tube
- £15.95 / $19.14 / €17.54
I love being warm and cosy on the bike, but finding the right kit to help me attain my goals of perma-warmth can be quite a challenge.
Keeping the rain off your head – especially if you are follicly challenged like me — is key to staying warm when it’s grotty outside. There are a few ways to do that depending on your budget, such as Rapha’s new Gore-Tex rain coat with an in-built under-lid hood. Cheapish hats can be used, too, but in my opinion, nothing beats the Buff.
The innocuous neck roll is the type of thing you’re likely to have been given free with a copy of MBUK magazine or Cycling Plus, or with a goody bag at an event. It’s likely you already own one, so there are no excuses for not donning the neck tube.
If you want your head to remain toasty simply slide the Buff upwards from your neck to cover your head, finishing just above your forehead. This works in the same way as an under-lid cap but also gives your neck coverage.
Once you’ve used a neck roll, I can almost guarantee you won’t go back.