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New low-cost accessories offer better biking

Adjustable helmets, low-friction cables for quick shifting, fenders that inflate and a powerful mini-pump are relatively inexpensive innovations.

July 20, 2009|Roy M. Wallack

You don't need an eye-catching $9,000 aerodynamic dream machine to make your cycling faster, more comfortable and more efficient. A number of innovative new accessories, often so compact or inconspicuous that your riding buddies may not notice them, will make you a better bicyclist at a fraction of the cost.

-- Roy M. Wallack

Dial-a-fit helmet

Lazer helmets: Mountain and road skid lids that feature Rollsys, a one-hand dial that instantly provides a custom fit.

Likes: Most comfortable helmet I've ever worn. The Rollsys fit system features a wire that wraps around the circumference of your head and tightens the helmet uniformly, with none of the pressure points and hot spots found in most helmets.

Dislikes: None.

Price: $180 for the XC mountain-bike model; road models run from $109 for the O2 (pictured) to $220 for the top-end Helium; (800) 346-0004;

Quicker shifting

Gore RideOn Cable Systems derailleur cables: High-end, Goretex-impregnated low-friction cables for mountain and road bikes that appear to speed up gear shifts compared to stock, uncoated cables.

Like: Gear shifts seem to be smoother and faster; the slick surfaces slide more easily than the rougher-surfaced standard cables. Gore claims they last longer too. An endorsement comes from SRAM, a major component supplier, which uses RideOn on its top-end Red road group. Included in the package are pre-stretched cables, liners and seals. Available for road bikes, mountain bikes, and an extra-long size for full-suspension bikes, in Low Friction and Sealed.

Dislikes: Expensive. Regular cables won't run more than $10.

Prices: $40 to $70. (800) 455-4184;

Instant mud guards

Topeak AirFenders: Roll-up, inflatable mountain-bike fenders that stay hidden in a tool or hydration bag until you need them.

Likes: They work like little air mattresses. When it starts to rain (which will lead to mud in your face and streaks on your back), pull them out of your pack, quickly attach to fork and seat post with quick releases, and attach a hand pump to the valve. A few strokes to 10 psi will expand them into full-blown fenders.

Dislikes: One poster on a cycling forum complained that AirFenders leaked air and went flat after several uses, although they haven't for me in half a dozen uses.

Price: $35.99 each; (800) 213-4561;

Max-power mini-pump

Lezyne Pressure Drive Pump: High-pressure mini-pump with a pull-out hose.

Likes: Gets you back on the road fast with quick, easy and safe tire inflation. Unlike many mini-pumps, there is no wasted time and no risk of breaking the valve stem. The big blast of air from the well-designed aluminum pump is mated with a unique reversible Presta/Schrader hose that pulls out of the handle; it lets you pump aggressively to 120 psi without bending the valve. Both sizes (170mm, 90 gram; and 216mm; 101 gram) are small enough to stow in a jersey pocket or fanny pack. The similar 112 gram, 218 mm Alloy Drive M does the same job for mountain bikes.

Dislikes: None.

Price: $34.99; (805) 548-8780;


Roy M. Wallack is co-author of "Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100."

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