Always a tinkerer's delight, the bicycle offers inventors an endless challenge to improve the ride. The four new accessories below make on- and off-road touring a breeze, indoor training more realistic, fast rides more comfy and data-rich biofeedback safer and more accessible.
Take it all with you
Freeload rack: Artfully curved, New Zealand-made aluminum bike rack that can be attached, via built-in nylon straps, to any part of any bike frame — be they road or mountain, rigid or dual-suspension bikes.
Likes: Sleek, elegant, effective cargo carrier for all-terrain touring. It's a particular boon for mountain bikers, whose ever-moving full-suspension frames can't use conventional bolt-on racks. I used it for both a weeklong road-bike tour and for mountain-biking deep into the backcountry; having the load off my back on the latter ride was a relief. Quite solid, it mounts to any seat stays and fork legs, with two attachment points on each side. The plastic snap-on deck has built-in bungee tie-down cords and holes to hang panniers. Rated to 50 pounds.
Dislikes: May slip downward with heavy loads if you don't tighten the straps enough.
Price: $120, plus $23 shipping. http://www.freeload.co.nz.
Rockin' indoor ride
Kurt Kinetic Rock and Roll Trainer: Only indoor training stand that allows your bike to tilt as you ride.
Likes: Most realistic ride of all indoor trainers in that you can stand up out of the saddle and rock the bike back and forth. Quite exhilarating. You can effectively mimic outdoor riding, working on balance, power and technique while maintaining the safety of a secured rear wheel. Large, stable legs detach for easy storage.
Dislikes: Double the price of a standard, high-end stationary bike trainer.
Price: $559.99. (877) 226-7824; http://www.kurtkinetic.com.
Triathlete tush tuffet
Cobb Cycling V-Flow Max: Short (101/2-inch) saddle for triathletes and time trialists, designed by famed aerodynamics guru John Cobb, that has a large anti-impotence cutout, drooped beak, ample padding and extended seat rails.
Likes: Very comfortable in the far-forward aerobar riding position due to the substantial padding on the edge of the cutout. The severe drooped beak accommodates the male anatomy well. For bike racers, the extra-long seat rails allow the saddle to meet UCI seat positioning rules. Weighs 270 grams.
Dislikes: A bit on the homely side, and not cheap, although it is $70 less than the similar Selle SMP, which was highly rated in this column in April 2007.
Price: $169. (903)253-8555; http://www.cobbcycling.com.
Polar CS500 cycle computer. Oversized, diamond-shaped, feature-laden computer/heart-rate monitor with a button-less touch-screen control.
Likes: Convenience; it's quick and safe to operate, and it's easy to read. The large, striking 2-by-2-inch screen with big numbers is built with a two-way rocker switch that lets you change functions by touching the corner instead of fiddling with a button. Data include time, speed, pulse (max and percentage of max), calories, distance, manual and age-based targeted training zones with graphic or chiming alerts, ascent/decent counts, temperature and even reminders to eat and drink. This model includes an auto-stop when you aren't moving, automatic screen scroll, auto recording of up to 99 laps, low-battery indicator, a pedal cadence sensor and front-wheel speed sensor. A cheaper model does not have cadence.
Dislikes: No wristwatch comes with the unit, although you can use an old watch with it. No GPS, either. Too much info if you're not a true data geek.
Price: $359. (800) 227-1314; http://www.Polarusa.com.
Wallack is the co-author of "Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100."