By Shawn Conley
Did you take advantage of the unseasonably warm temperatures this week? Did you have to scramble to find your cycling gloves? Did your heart rate monitor hide from you? The winter time serves as a natural break for many of us Chicago cyclists. And, while we’re off the bike, we can take this time to look at our needs and desires for the supplies we want, and to hunt for the best deals for these items.
Over the course of the season, if you ride enough, you will have flat tires, need a new chain, need new tires, etc. Winter time is a good time to assess what you need, and purchase those items. Had I written this article sooner, I would’ve mentioned that you can find great deals on supplies that you may need/want at the Chicago-area Bike Swaps. But, that will still be applicable next year. Many bike shops are slower at this time of year, and some even have some good sales going now. If you’re a bargain hunter, some great deals are out there for you to find at local bike shops and online. But, I would advise you to pull out your trunk full of bike supplies, and see what you need so that you don’t just aimlessly buy things that will only serve to fill space and your partner will tell you to throw some things out.
The first thing that I do is categorize my needs and assess what I need in each category. My categories are: 1.) What goes on my body, 2.) What goes in my body, 3.) What I bring on my bike, 4.) bike tools/supplies to be kept at home, and 5.) bike wash stuff. By categorizing in this way, I can narrow down what I need/want, and spend my cycling dollars more effectively.
Category 1: What Goes On My Body
From head to toe, you want to ensure that you have enough clothing whenever you choose to ride. And, since I’ve lost 27 pounds this winter, some of my cycling clothes are fitting a little loose now. In this assessment, you want to be sure that your helmet still maintains it’s structural integrity. You want to make sure that you have enough eyewear, and if you’re like me, you want to make sure that you have eyewear for different lighting situations. You want to make sure that you have enough base layers, and base layers that will function in different temperatures. Do you have long sleeve layers, short sleeve layers, etc. Check the kits you have. None of us have enough kits so this is a good place for me to mention that you can still order your Chainlink kit up to February 28.
I wear a cycling short underneath my bibs so I check the condition of those also. Are your gloves still in good condition? Do you have enough long finger, short finger, and lobster mitts? I ruined by balaclava so it’s time for another one. Socks, foot warmers, booties, cycling shoes, cleats, etc. all have to be checked. Do you have enough vests, long-sleeve jerseys, short-sleeve jerseys, rain jackets, heavier jackets, etc. I also check my heart rate monitor in this group of items. Is your chamois cream or Hoo Ha Glide running out? The idea is to purchase these items when you can get the most bang for your buck, not when you need a new one.
Category 2: What Goes In My Body
Obviously, some things that you purchase can’t be stored forever. But, if you purchase items like SportLegs, Perpetuem, or Endurolytes, they’ll keep a little longer. For the Gatorade drinkers, you can purchase them when a grocery store puts them on sale. And, as the season approaches, you can look for any sales for your favorite energy bars. My doctor has me taking a high quality protein powder, which I usually purchase a 5 pound jar when it’s on sale. I imagine that my consumption of this protein will increase as the summer months approach.
Category 3: What I Bring On My Bike
Look in your bike bag and see what you have. I typically buy CO2 cartidges and inner tubes in bulk. I get the best value there and I don’t need to buy them often. I have 2 multitools and 2 frame pumps that I can use in the unlikely event that I run out of CO2. I usually carry 2 spare tubes with me so I’m usually good there too. I check the condition of my CO2 inflator, my multitools, and my pumps (they haven’t seen any action for a while). I just try to make sure that I have enough tools that will allow me or anyone with whom I’m riding to get home. The Velcro on my bike bag still works. I’m good.
Category 4: Bike Tools/Supplies To Keep At Home
Thanks to Santa Clause, I just got a new tool kit. It has everything. I must’ve been a good boy last year. I also have 4 spare chains, 3 spare tires, ample lubes, and my floor pump is still in great condition.
Category 5: Bike Wash Stuff
Because I lost weight, my oversized tee shirts just became good rags for washing my bike. So, I’m pretty good with rags. I have some bike wash stuff (not necessary, but I like it), but I do need some degreaser. Also, my chain cleaner is a little worn. I’m going to need to replace that sooner rather than later. My bucket has a hole in it this winter so I will need to get a new bucket as I’m down to my spare bucket now.
When you’re done with your assessment, and you’ve ordered that Chainlink kit and accessories you’ve always wanted, now you can bargain hunt for the items that you most need. Happy shopping!
Shawn Conley is a Chicago native who loves road cycling. He has a passion for helping others discover their cycling legs, which he typically does through the Major Taylor Cycling Club of Chicago (MTC3). Shawn was chairman of MTC3, and also is a member of the Chicago Cycling Club (CCC) and the Friends of the Major Taylor Trail. When he is not on 2 wheels, he coaches track and field, and is a real estate investor. He is a Chainlink Ambassador who has an affinity for pizza and ice cream. Follow him on Twitter: @ShawnGeauTigers and on Instagram: antonlove1.