One of most important practices for cycling is to stay hydrated. A general rule is to drink at least 1 bottle ( 21 oz. ) of water per hour. More if it is very hot or you are moving fast.
Water bottles come in several qualities:
Single wall – these are the types that you might get for free at organized T-Shirt rides. About $5 at the store. These have no insulating properties, so your water will match the outside temperature in a few minutes. There is nothing enjoyable about drinking 100 degree water when it is 100 degrees outside and you have been riding for an hour.
Double-wall bottles. These say that they will keep your water cool for twice as long. These run about $16 at the store. The do keep the water from getting hot too fast. Look for: CamelBak Podium Chill 21 oz Insulated Water Bottle
Gel-walled bottles. These say that they will stay cold for 4 times longer. These run about $23 and it is my preference. Recommended: CamelBak Podium Ice 21 oz Insulated Water Bottle
I carry two bottles on my bike when riding more than 20 miles. There is nothing worse than running out of water and you are thirsty and no rest stops in sight.
For longer distances, or very hot weather, I wear a “Camel-Bak”. It is a backpack that contains a plastic water filled bladder. There are different sizes available. The one I have carries about 64 oz. You can put ice in the bladder, which will keep your water cold for over an hour. The Camel-Bak has a water tube that runs through the back-pack strap near your mouth. You can ride with both hands on your handle bars and still drink and peddle at the same time. These run $35-$70.
New riders see experienced riders clip their shoes into their pedals, and ask if that is something they should do. Most experienced riders will tell you that they get more power when they clip into their pedals. The concept is that you can move the pedals not only down, but with clips, they can pull up on the pedals to get even more power.
There is a trade-off with clips: the fact that you are “attached” to the bike, there is a risk that you might fail to get unclipped when stopping, and over you go. Most clipped riders can tell you their stories of falling at least once. It is a hard lesson that you quickly learn to be sure to unclip as you prepare to stop. Even then, there are times when you might have to make an emergency stop and do not get unclipped in time.
For me, I do use clips. I find that when I am clipped in I feel that I become a part of the bike, or the bike becomes part of me. I have also found that when the bottom of my feet get tired of pedaling down, I can switch to pulling up for a while, and the feet feel better fast.
One way to learn to use clips is to wear one clip, and wear an unclipped shoe on the other foot. That way if you forget to unclip at a stop, you still have the other foot to catch yourself.
There are several different types of pedals, clips and cages, and your bike shoes have to be compatable with the type of pedal you have. Your local bike shop can help you with this. They run about $150+ for pedals and matching shoes.
Have you ever gotten cramps in your legs after a big ride? Probably all of us. There are lots of theories about why cramps arrive, and how to make them go away ( Kennon suggests to drink pickle juice while you are cramping ). Sharon clued me in on these: Nuun electrolyte tablets. You put one tablet in your water bottle each time you fill it up. The idea is to replace the minerals that you loose when sweating. I have had success with these, although it is equally important to train well and not over do it if possible. They run about $16 for 48 tablets.
Bike Bags and tools
Each person has unique needs for the items they need to carry on a bike ride. I prefer to not carry a backpack, except for a Camel-Bak on occasion. I have tried a few variations of bags and have settled on a rear equipment bag that fits under and behind the saddle.
In it I carry a couple of spare inner-tubes, tire tool, patch kit ( in case I get more that two flats ), and a bike multi-tool.
And in front of my handle-bars I have a front bike bag. I find it handy for carrying wallet, cell-phone, keys, sun-block cream, snacks, jacket, and emergency rain gear: a kitchen sized trash bag with holes for your head and arms. Thanks to Moni for this invention.
There are lots of other bag options. You may wish to check them out at your favorite bike shop to see what works best for you.