Any new hobby or leisure pursuit can seem a little intimidating. Especially these days, when starting something new tends to involve spending a bit of money. To help explain what you really need to enjoy cycling, we’ve put together a guide to cycling equipment basics..
We kick off this guide with essentials and comfort-focused products that all cyclists would benefit from, then moving onto discipline-specific items.
Bike (including bell and reflectors)
Well blow me down with a feather — to go cycling you need a bike. More importantly, though, you need the right kind of bike for the type of cycling you intend to do. To ensure you get this, the easiest way is to pop into your local Evans Cycles store and chat to the staff about your requirements.
Again, a helmet is something that is best bought in person, because you need to check it is a good fit and sits securely on your head. It should also suit the kind of riding you want to do, as there are different helmet styles for mountain biking and commuter, road riding, time trialling and various other sub-genres.
Water bottle and cage
These might be a couple of simple accessories, but we think they are fairly vital ones. Being able to reach down for a slug of water will feel like an absolute essential on most decent bike rides. Pick a bottle cage that complements your bike, and a water bottle to sit in it. Almost all bottles and cages are compatible with each other.
Seat pack (+ contents)
Finally among our essentials we’d say you need to fit a seat pack or saddlebag then fill it with a multi-tool for adjusting and fixing things on the go; one or two spare inner tubes; some tyre levers and have on your person a mini pump or some CO2 inflators.
While you could get away by wearing essentially non-cycling-specific garments on the rest of your body, anything other than padded cycling shorts would be a poor option. That doesn’t mean you have to wear tight Lycra, though. While proud road riders will want close-fitting padded shorts or bib-shorts, mountain bikers, commuters and slightly more self-conscious riders can find just as much comfort in padded baggy shorts. Just make sure the baggies you buy have a padded insert.
Non-cycling jackets will do the job to some extent, but cycling-specific jackets will be longer in the back to keep you protected when in a riding position, will almost certainly feature reflective highlights to help keep you visible, and will probably be made from hi-tech materials that allow your sweat to evaporate away without letting the elements in to chill or soak you.
One of the most important products in the cyclist’s wardrobe, a good base layer or underlayer will keep your body heat in, while allowing your perspiration out.
Gloves are helpful for protecting your hands if you fall off or, more likely, stop your palms aching on the handlebar and prevent your fingers from suffering wind chill. Choose your gloves depending on what type of cycling you plan to do, and during which seasons you intend to ride.
Absolutely not for posing, cycling eyewear will protect your eyes from the sun’s ultra-violet rays, road spray, grit and even reflective glare.
Here we look at some particular bits of cycling equipment you’ll need if you’re deciding to start a specific type of cycling. Again this is still relatively general — we’ll assume that if you’re planning on becoming an international cycle tourist or a World Cup downhill racer you’ve already got some experience and your own ideas of what kit you need!
We might have extolled the virtues of water bottles above, but in the crud-encrusted world of mountain biking, a backpack-style hydration pack means you can keep sipping without fear of getting a mouthful of mud.
While some mountain bikers prefer flat pedals, to really add power, control and stop your feet from slipping, mountain bike specific double-sided, clip-in pedals are very important.
And to team with those pedals you’ll need mountain bike shoes that will accept your pedal’s clip-in cleat, as well as providing some good grip for muddy off-the-bike sections.
Road riders also benefit from clip-in (or ‘clipless’) pedals, although in this case it’s almost entirely for improved power transfer. For that reason, road bike clipless pedals tend to have a wider base and be single-sided.
Stiff soled shoes
And again, to go with those pedals you’ll need some compatible road cycling shoes, ideally with a stiff reinforced sole to really help make the most of your pedalling effort.
Finally, just to prove that road cycling really is all about the legs — or at least the feet in this case — a pair of overshoes will keep your feet dry and warm when you get in those winter or early-morning miles.
While a standard cycle computer is hardly an extravangance, we’re really thinking here about Garmin–style computers with GPS positioning and all sorts of clever tricks. They won’t make you ride any quicker, but they are a lot of fun.
Heart rate monitor
If improved health is one of your reasons for cycling, your training can be very effectively guided with the use of a heart rate monitor.
Whether it’s filming yourself taking on a gnarly downhill section, or simply keeping an eye on other road-users in case of an accident, bike or helmet-mounted cameras are becoming invaluable bits of kit.
For riders wanting to really enhance their competitive abilities, power meters will help you tailor your training and gauge how successful it’s going.