Cycling is a sport that comes with a fair amount of essential equipment and kit and, for a lot of enthusiasts, that’s all part of the fun. Cyclists can get into very heated debates about the best way to slow down, what kind of jersey to buy and even how to cover your arms. So, knowing what basics you need to get started can be daunting for a new rider. Here’s a list of your cycling must-haves to get you kitted out for your first road rides.
Budget and preference about the material the frame is made of will guide your choice of bike but the key thing in all cases is that the bike is the right size for your height and body shape.
The best way to buy a bike, especially the first time, is from a shop that offers a bike-fitting service because even a bike that’s a few centimetres too big or too small will be very uncomfortable after a couple of hours and can even cause overuse injuries. This is critical for road biking compared with mountain biking as you tend to stay in one position on the road.
A bike fit will make sure that both the height and position of the saddle and handlebars is correct, something that is quite difficult to do without professional help or experience.
As your feet don’t come into contact with the ground, new riders are often surprised that what’s on and under your feet in cycling is extremely important. you need three things: a good (that means stiff) pair of cycling shoes, fitted with cleats so you can “clip in” and the corresponding pedals. It’s essential that you choose compatible shoes, cleats and pedals as all three need to match. More on cleats here.
In warm weather, you need the basic kit of socks, bib shorts, a thin base layer for chilly early morning starts and a jersey, with enough changes of clothes to wear a fresh set every day. Don’t be tempted to re-wear cycling shorts without washing them in between rides or you increase the risk of saddle sores and infections.
Winter requires more clothing than summer as you need to kit yourself out for dry and cold weather, wet and cold weather, and wind. If it looks like a long and expensive list, this is where buying ex pro secondhand gear will save you a wad of cash.
As a minimum you’ll want to add layered or fleece-lined bib tights, a mid and/or an outer layer, a gilet, overshoes, gloves and a buff. You might choose to add arm warmers to your summer jersey or buy a heavier weight jersey but arm warmers are a controversial choice – you either love ‘em or hate ‘em. Check out our posts on essential winter kit and add ons for the full picture.
Safety, fit and ventilation are the key things to look for in a cycling helmet so only buy new or undamaged secondhand. Measure the circumference of your head just above your ears and eyebrows and fine tune the fit using the straps and ratchet system. Here’s more info on choosing a helmet. Do I need special sunglasses for cycling?
Regular, everyday sunglasses will protect your eyes from UV but cycling-specific sunglasses are shaped to help keep dirt, dust, flies and road-debris out of your eyes and won’t slip down your nose when you’re sweating. Plus, they’re much safer as they’re designed to break without shattering on impact.