To have the best possible experience on your bike you need accessories. Some are essential for safety, like a helmet or lights, some will help you keep your bike working smoothly, such as an air pump and tire repair kit, and others will increase your comfort and convenience if you have the budget and do enough riding to justify the expense.
How to prioritize accessories?
If you are getting ready to outfit a new bike, or have a bike you have taken out of storage that has not been ridden in a while, there are a lot of accessories available to purchase so what criteria should you use to begin the selection process?
Safety should be your first priority. You want to have gear that protects you and makes you clearly visible to other road users. Utility should be another consideration, i.e. accessories that help you keep your bike in working order, secure, and enable you to carry what you need to have when you get to your destination. Lastly, your comfort on the bike should be a factor, so that your trip is enjoyable and efficient. You do not have to purchase everything at once, and as you ride more, you will probably identify other accessories that you would like to have. If you are just starting out start with the basics and buy additional things as you identify a need.
How to choose accessories?
The bike industry loves to innovate so for each accessory there is a range of products available at multiple price points. New accessories are coming out all the time and some may not fit older bikes and some require installation. There is also an accessory for every budget, although be careful that when selecting the cheapest version unless you are a casual user because it will probably wear out quicker or may not perform as expected.
Where to buy?
The widest selection of accessories is available online, but unless you have a trusted advisor (a riding buddy who knows everything!) be aware you will have to make the investment in time to research options for functionality and price. There is value in purchasing at a local bike shop, where we stock a curated selection of accessories that are tried and true and you get recommendations that may prevent you from making a poor selection you will regret later. Shopping locally is not always more expensive, you avoid shipping charges, instant gratification and expert installation. Sometimes it is actually cheaper to purchase at a bike shop in the long run! Another source of of accessories is garage sales and items donated from friends they no longer need.
Top ten accessories
The top of the list are accessories related to safety:
Sharon Kaminecki and others comment on adventures in bicycling and other stories