Taking up cycling is one of the best decisions you’re likely to make in your life. Getting around on two wheels will keep you fit, provide you with a constructive way to let off steam and its low-impact nature means it can keep you lean, limber and happy well into your twilight years. The downside? It may well bankrupt you long before you reach that point.
As every newbie discovers, cycling is not a cheap sport. Brands are constantly dreaming up creative new ways to part consumers with their money, making it all too easy for beginners to wind up with a load of expensive gear they really don’t need.
So, what do you need? Well, assuming you’ve already bought a road, hybrid or mountain bike, there are a number of key items every new cyclist should invest in to make their introduction to the sport as pain-free and enjoyable as it should be.
From protecting your head to keeping your backside happy, these are the essential items every new cyclist should own.
As keen as you might be to show off that cool replica Molteni cycling cap you bought on eBay, it’s not going to offer up a lot of protection if you hit the deck during a ride. If you must wear it, do the sensible thing and put a helmet over the top.
Hailing from the cycling mecca of Italy, Kask is known for producing some of the best helmets on the market. This wallet-friendly option features the brand’s unique Up ‘n’ Down fit system which provides a high-end fit at a budget price point.
2. Padded shorts
Taking up cycling can be a real pain in the backside… literally. When your undercarriage isn’t used to long stints in the saddle, it’s going to let you know about it. And while it does get less painful with time, a good pair of padded shorts will help minimise the dreaded saddle sores.
The Aeron bib shorts from Dhb are easy on the eye and the wallet. They’re also available in a plethora of colourways, enabling you to look pro and match with your bike. The bib design’s straps mean you won’t have to keep pulling them up during rides and as an added bonus, has a Spanx-like quality until the cycling gets you in shape for real.
There are only so many rides a new cyclist can do carrying a backpack and wearing a sweat-drenched cotton T-shirt before they begin to demand more from their kit. The solution: invest in a purpose-built jersey. This way you can carry supplies in the rear pockets, you’ll be more aerodynamic and the carefully considered fabric will keep you cool, dry and comfortable.
Rapha’s Core jersey ticks all of the above boxes and looks pretty smart too. Plus, at just £60 it’s a great price for a garment from one of cycling apparel’s more upmarket names.
Good eyewear is an essential part of the kit. It’s something every new cyclist quickly learns the first time they take a bumble bee to the cornea when whizzing down or a descent or a particularly brutal headwind blurs their vision while trying to navigate a busy roundabout.
Photochromic lenses are particularly well suited to the job, like these Radar EV Advancer specs from Oakley. The tint will change depending on the level of UV light present, meaning you can keep them on and be protected without having to change lenses mid-ride – perfect for when the weather changes from blazing sunshine or overcast and gloomy.
5. Bottle cage
There aren’t many things the pros have on their bikes that you can pick up for a tenner but Elite’s Custom Race bottle cage is one of them. This lightweight, durable accessory is the most popular bottle cage in the pro peloton and is as functional as it is slick-looking.
But it’s not just a way to pimp your ride. A bottle cage or two is absolutely essential for refuelling on the go and staying hydrated on longer rides. A must-have for world-class athletes and weekend riders alike.
6. Clipless pedals
As a beginner, the prospect of being attached to your bike by the feet can be pretty daunting but fear not – the pros by far outweigh the cons. Granted, toppling over at a set of traffic lights is always a possibility, but it’s likely to be your ego that takes more of a bruising than anything else. To reduce the odds further, you could start off with a mountain biking pedal like this one from Shimano. Unlike a road-specific three-bolt cleat/pedal system, these ones can be clipped into on both sides, making things a little easier to get used to.
7. Cycling shoes
To appreciate the full benefit of your new clipless pedals you’re going to need some clipless shoes to go with them. Again, MTB shoes are the best option for new cyclists as the recessed cleat means the shoes are easier to walk in and grippier for putting your foot down when you need to stop. Fizik is known for making some of the best cycling shoes in the game and this off-road version is no exception. The Terra X5 shoes are durable, lightweight and feature a clever Boa lacing system to get the fit dialed in as quickly as possible.
8. Track pump
Having air in your tyres is about as fundamental as it gets in terms of bike maintenance, and it’s a lot easier to keep your pressures on point with a good track pump at your disposal.
Topeak is known for producing sturdy, reliable pumps, and while the Joeblow Max II does sit at the cheaper end of the brand’s range, it’s still packed with many high-end features found in the more expensive models, including a pressure gauge, dual head for both presta and schrader valves and the ability to get a 23mm tyre up to 100psi in around 20 strokes. Not at all bad for £30.
9. Hand pump
Track pumps are great for working on your bike at home but they’re not the sort of things you can stuff into a jersey pocket. That’s where a mini pump comes in. Punctures are just an unfortunate fact of life on two wheels, but being armed with a portable pump can turn them from full-scale disasters into minor inconveniences. At 165mm long and 88g, the Air Profil Micro pump from Zefal is about as mini as they come. In fact you’ll barely even notice it in your pocket.
10. Tool kit
Your local bike shop will always be glad to help when problems arise but don’t fall into the trap of using it as a crutch. If you're serious about getting into cycling, it’s important to learn basic maintenance for yourself and a small tool kit will enable you to perform simple tasks and pay for itself in no time compared to bothering a mechanic every time you need a bolt tightened.
Contained within a neat canvas pouch, this kit from renowned brand Park Tool comes complete with a fold-up Allen key set, tyre levers and a puncture repair kit. Perfect for nipping up rattling bolts and patching up poorly inner tubes on the go or at home.