It’s no secret that there’s a correlation between deciding to take up cycling and your bank account looking decidedly less healthy. Unlike many other sports, where you might need a certain type of shoe, some technical clothing and to pay for entry fees, with cycling you (obviously) need the bike too. So now you’re buying gear for yourself, as well as various accessories for your chosen machine. However, it is absolutely possible to get into cycling without needing to work three jobs, and eat dust and cardboard for the next decade.
The following are a few things that I would recommend spending your cash on, and a few tips on where you might be able to make some savings.
I’m assuming that, if you’re reading this with any interest, you’re possibly a beginner. In which case I’d strongly recommend buying a bike somewhere in the region of £600-700. Probably with an aluminium frame, possibly carbon forks, and entry-level components. This will do you extremely nicely. Here’s why:
- It’ll be a really good bike.
- You will just bloody love having any new bike. No matter what.
- The differences you’d notice about an upgraded version, are not things you’ll notice at first. You’ll be too busy thinking about changing gear, clipping in/out, your legs, that car over there…
- If you decide you’re not super into this cycling lark, you haven’t spent a small fortune (and you can sell the bike on).
- You may eventually get to the point where you’ve outridden your bike, it will feel glorious and then you can then buy the ‘next level’ bike (lighter frame material, better components).
Where possible, take advantage of these buying options:
- Cycle to Work schemes
- Health insurance schemes that offer discounts on bikes
- 0% Finance in cycle stores
- Ebay/gumtree/your extremely keen mate’s hand-me-downs
- Wait for a sale – more bike for your money.
The accessories – I used to wonder why everyone had the same few brands of certain items. It wasn’t rocket science, it’s just that …they are the best option. So my renegade streak was quelled a little and, for the following items, I’d recommend buying the brands you see the majority of people wearing/carrying. They won’t be the cheapest, but in the long run, you’ll be pleased that you did:
Helmet – SO I initially bought a cheap helmet, and in hindsight, wish I had not. It was heavy, bulky and, well, ügleh. Unless you have an accident and damage your helmet (or get deep into the matchy-matchy hype and require a different coloured helmet per outfit), this will not need replacing for ages. Pick one you feel good in, that is ventilated, that is comfortable – you’ll be wearing this bad boy regularly, so it’s well worth it.
Hand pump – You get what you pay for. When you’re roadside, fixing punctures, probably feeling aggravated, the last thing you need is a pump that will not adequately inflate your tyre. Or, like mine, that in no way helped me to avoid breaking all the valves on my spare tubes. Look out for reviews that mention the pump’s ability to achieve a decent pressure in the unfortunate by-the-road circumstance. If it has attachments that protect valve breakage, that’s a definite advantage.
Locks and extender cables – When you leave your bike anywhere, you’re probably going to worry about it a little bit. It’s natural. That bike cost you. You can minimise that worry by securing your bike with the appropriate items. Read around, ask what other people use. A good lock isn’t cheap, but it’s hella cheaper than replacing your bike.
And the rest, IMHO, you can just get away with pretty much whatever you want. In short:
Kit – This comes down to personal preference in terms of how much you care about how you look when you ride. I’d recommend a pair of padded shorts if you’re planning on rides longer than an hour, but otherwise any sportswear will truly do. Make sure you’ll be kept warm, dry and visible, but these items needn’t be cycle specific.
Footwear – Trainers if you’re on flat pedals. Cycling shoes if you’re going clipless. These can be as cheap as £30. Don’t spend £300 on your first pair – it just isn’t necessary.
Lights – Unless you’re planning some kind of cycle touring, off road, through-the-night adventure, you’ll need lights that help you to be seen rather than help you to see. You need a red light on the back and a white one on the front (don’t get too bogged down in lumens). My recommendation would be to get ones that you can charge up by USB and that are rubberised, so you can stretch them round your handlebars and seat-post; the easier they are to get on and off, the more likely you are to bother to use them.
Luggage – In terms of a backpack, any one will suffice. After nearly 3 years of commuting on my bike, I’ve only just got a cycle commuter-specific backpack, and it’s because it was a gift. It’s lovely; but I did absolutely fine with a regular backpack.
See commuting for more on this, but essentially, to guard from the rain, put everything in plastic bags inside your rucksack, and your stuff should remain dry. In terms of SBS (sweaty back syndrome) no bag, from my experience, prevents this; some minimise it, but they never prevent it. Saddle/frame bags can be bought at an incredibly diverse range of prices, and really, they just need to have some pockets, zips, and…to be attached to your bike. So you can spend £7, but it’s possible to spend £70 – just shop around.
The main thing to remember is that every penny you spend on this, is money very well spent. The hours of enjoyment, the adventure, the socialising, and not to mention the health benefits that you get from riding are priceless. So do whatever you can to get out there as soon as you can!