Time was when cycling was a cheap and cheerful mode of transport and you didn’t need to rob a bank/take out a second mortgage/sell your children to fund your new hobby! How things have changed as it’s now possible to spend a small fortune on cycling kit and, as a beginner road cyclist, it’s tricky to work out what are the “must have” items that you need to get you on the road and which ones can wait a bit as your hobby develops!
I’m assuming that you already have a road bike sorted and that, still recovering from the financial shock of realising that you can buy cars for the prices of some road bikes (! – no really – that’s insane!) you are now wondering where best to spend your hard earned cash to get you on the road in the most economic and safest way possible.
So, with that in mind here are my must have items for the beginner road cyclist presented to you in no particular order other than the one in which they spring to mind!
1 – Emergency Tool Kit
I learned my lesson the hard way with this one! Walking two miles with a puncture in road shoes isn’t fun, is a bit embarrassing and should really be avoided at all costs. Oh, and I also had a cycle ride where one of my cranks came loose and I had to cycle back home at about 2 miles per hour. Why oh why, did I think that when I started out road cycling that I would be immune from punctures and mechanical failures?
What a wombat!
Anyway, it took me two relatively minor incidents to realise that I needed to take an emergency tool kit with me (who’s the tool here!??) and also (drum roll please……..big announcement of news………) it’s a good idea to take a mobile with you so that you can phone your nearest and dearest and tell them you are lost/got a puncture/in the pub/miss them and not to keep them wondering where on earth you are as you struggle to mend a puncture in the dark at the roadside!!
So, you need a multitool, a set of tyre levers, a mini pump, a puncture repair kit and a spare inner tube that fits you bike and you need to take these on the bike with you at all times.
You can try to stuff all of your tools into your pocket or down your bib shorts…………(Ok, don’t laugh at me here but I spent about a month cycling with an Allen Key down my bib shorts as I didn’t have pockets at the time and also an annoying crank that kept coming loose – sad, and very cold when you first put it down there!) ……. but a much better solution is to get one of those cute little saddle bags and to put all of your emergency items in there.
The pump will probably attach to the frame of your bike and you should also put some emergency cash, in a plastic bag, in your mini saddle bag as well.
2 – Water Bottle
This is a nice easy one and one that you may well easily overlook. You might not realise it when you start out but, as soon as you start cycling for an hour or more, you will need to take on food and water during you ride or you will quickly become dehydrated and run out of energy.
In fact it can be a good idea to drink every 15 mins or so on any ride, particularly when it’s warm as becoming dehydrated is a relatively quick and easy process on a road bike – particularly when the sun is out!
You will need a cage to put the water bottle on and these are usually quick and easy to fix to the bike frame. You can get ones with all sorts of fancy fixings and ones that are more lightweight than others will be more expensive but I recommend just going for a basic one that will do the job for the moment and will hold a bottle of the size you want to use.
3 – Pedals
What! You bought a brand new flash, fast, zoom zoom road bike and it doesn’t have any pedals on it!? Surely you’re joking with me! That’s like buying a car with no gearbox, a TV without a remote control or a horse with no legs!
Well, this often is true and, ironically the more expensive the bike, the less likely it is to come with pedals!
But why daddy, why??????????
Well because pedals are a personal thing and the chances that a serious cyclist would buy a bike with pedals already fitted that they liked and fitted their current road shoes and cleats is quite remote.
Well that’s the theory at least.
So, in fact you will need to buy some pedals which, on the face of it sounds like a rather boring job to research so I have done it for you and, as a beginner road cyclist I would recommend the ones that have adorned my bike from the very beginning the Shimano R540 road pedals.
These have done a great job, look good I think, are relatively lightweight for the price and do basically what it says on the tin. It’s a just a pedal for goodness sake – how complicated can it be!
Fitting new pedals is easy and, despite being tempted to buy a shiny “special bike pedal putting on tool” I managed very well with the large spanner I already own. Thank you.
4 – Shoes and Cleats
If you were going to buy the one thing to instantly make you faster and more efficient on your bike it would be to buy a pair of road shoes and cleats to attach them onto your pedals. It’s a bit of a daunting prospect as first, being permanently clipped to the bike, but the difference it makes to your cycling is immense!
There are a number of systems and compatibility issues to consider but, essentially, if you have got the Shimano pedals above they have the Shimano SPD fitting and any road shoes and cleats you buy need to be suitable for the Shimano SPD fitting as well.
Cleats come with a variety of different “float angles” – this is the amount of lateral play that there is when the shoe is clipped into the pedal and, certainly for the beginner , the more float you have the easier it will be on your knees. The Shimano cleats that fit the pedals above come in yellow and red varieties, the yellow ones have more float and I would certainly recommend them for a start.
need a recommendation dfr shoes here
5 – Bib shorts
There’s no getting away from it, bib shorts are funny! For a start the fact that any adult would wear an item of clothing with the word “bib” in it is great, not to mention the fact that you don’t wear underwear underneath them as well!
The other thing to say about bib shorts, or “bibs” for short is that there is no point at all in buying a cheap pair. You must buy the most expensive pair you can manage as, basically the less you spend the more your backside is going to hurt!
Yes, it really is as simple as that in that the more expensive the bibs are the better quality pad you will get and the more comfort you will experience. Some things really honestly and truthfully aren’t worth skimping on.
The bibs here are by a very well known brand, they come in a choice of pad sizes and also in mens’ ad women’s fit. This type of quality is highly recommended – you will never regret spending money on a good quality pad!!
6 – Top/Jersey
Do you really need a specialist cycling top/jersey?? Well strictly speaking you don’t but they do make life a lot easier and more comfortable. Plus which you can reasonably buy a budget model for a start without too many repercussions! (Don’t do that with bib shorts! Did I mention that you should always go for the best quality you can afford with these??!)
The big advantage with cycling tops is that they are tight fitting and don’t flap around and that they have helpful pockets in the back to hold your bits and pieces whilst you are riding. They also look a bit more cool that wearing an old sweatshirt but I always go for something that is brightly coloured and highly visible to traffic rather than the utmost in cool fashion! (I’m such a middle aged Dad!).
You can, of course, be tempted to buy a whole wardrobe to fit every type of weather imaginable but a simple base layer and a long or short sleeved jersey will probably do fine for a start. Bear in mind that you will need less clothing on that you would imagine as it’s perfectly possible to feel warm on a bike even in temperatures approaching zero if you are working reasonably hard at pedalling!
As cycling tops become more expensive they are made of better quality fabric, have a better fit and cut and also become better at “wicking” which is a charming word to describe the rather unpleasant process of letting your sweat evaporate. Nice.
I currently own a selection of cheap and cheerful cycling tops that I’m very happy with. However I don’t care that much about how cool I look (or not in my case!) on the bike so they are not my priority. Maybe if I did wear a more expensive model the excellent wicking properties and admiring glances I got as I whizzed by, completely flap free in my beautifully fitted top, would make the extra expense worthwhile??
7 – Cycle Carrier
Yes, well that’s a funny one to put on a beginners essential list isn’t it! Why on earth would I need a bike carrier straight away??
Well, the problem is, that unless you are extremely lucky, you will soon find that you are cycling the same routes time and time again. Part of the great joy of road cycling is exploring unfamiliar territory and, particularly if you are training and cycling several times a week, you will start to get bored with the same roads time after time.
To keep things fresh it can be a great idea to pop the bike onto the car and drive a short distance and cycle from there. Even a 15 minute drive can open up a whole new world of cycling opportunities and is well worth the effort.
Obviously on other occasions it can also be great to have the flexibility to take the bike on holiday, to a sportive or other cycling event or just to go out for the day to a new part of the country to get in a day’s cycling I new surroundings.
There are basically three ways to get you bike onto a car. A two bar mounted bike rack, a roof mounted rack and also a rack that is strapped to the back of the car.
The most economical, and certainly the type I would recommend for a start are the back mounting ones and this one is extremely popular.
I have used a similar type of carrier for some time and found that it is a very effective way of carrying my bike. It’s quick and easy to attach the bike to the car and the rack itself was relatively inexpensive. Once on the car I don’t really notice it and haven’t had any problems with it.
The main disadvantages are that the bike can’t be locked to the car on this type of rack and access to the boot of the car is restricted. I guess there is also a higher risk of scratching the car paintwork with this type of carrier too.
8 – Bike Computer
Yes, a bike computer really is a must have item as it gives so much pleasure for potentially very little outlay. There really is a great deal of satisfaction to be had from watching your speed, finding out your average speed and how far you have travelled.
There are literally hundreds of bike computers on the market and all do an increasing variety of functions the more money you spend. Basic ones will tell you your speed, how long you have been cycling for, average speed, miles covered and possibly calories used and maybe tell the time as well.
More advanced models will help with navigation, will measure your cadence, include a heart rate monitor and maybe a power metre along with a whole list of other functions that integrate with mobile phones, satellites and probably NASA as well!
For a start the Cateye Velo 9 is a great choice and covers all of the basic functions in a neat and inexpensive package. The battery lasts almost literally for ever and it is easy to set up despite being wired to a sensor near your bike wheel.
Moving further up the specification ladder Garmin are well known for being at the forefront of cycle computer technology and their fantastic Garmn Edge 520 is a great middle ground cycling computer. there’s a lot more on cycle computers in my post here however, if you really want to go for it and have an all bells and whistles model read my review of the amazing Garmin Edge 820 here.
9 – Eye Protection
I always feel a bit exposed on the bike if I don’t have some form of eye protection on. Of course sun glasses look cool (not really on moi!) but for me it’s more about avoiding dust and rain, grit and stones being flung into my eyes that makes wearing them a priority for me.
I’m also a contact lens wearer and I find that cycling without glasses either really dries my eyes out or makes them stream with tears so it’s a bit of a no brainer really for me.
You can buy very inexpensive clear glasses as well as varying types of sunglassess and interchangable lens jobs as well. The choice is your but I highly recommend wearing something over your eyes in all weathers!
10 – helmet
Just wear one! I would recommend initially spending most of your money on a good quality helmet as it could potentially save your life. Secondly spend money on a good pair of bibs as they will save your bottom and then spend on a good pair of shoes and pedals etc because they will make you more efficient.
Have a read of my review of the the Giro helmet here – it’s the one I have and I really like it.
If you come off your bike the first thing to hit the tarmac with probably be your hands closely followed by your head. If you are wearing gloves you might at least prevent some of the skin being scraped off and even very basic cycling gloves will give you quite a lot of protection.
Most cycling gloves also come with some form of padding which ,makes a big difference to how your hands will feel of the handle bars, especially after an hour or two in the saddle.
You can get summer and winter gloves and all sorts of different variants but I would recommend wearing some all the time you are on the bike from a safety and comfort point of view – just in case!
So, 11 must have road cycling items for the beginner! Have you got any to add or any other top recommendations that might help?? Drop me a line in the comments below and let me know.