It's no secret that going for a bike ride is both a great way to get outside and good for your health. In fact, cycling has been shown to improve both physical and cognitive abilities, according to a February 2019 study published in PLOS One.
Cycling is a sport that requires some gear to get rolling, though — and it's important not to skimp on critical pieces of equipment that will keep you safe, comfortable and able to use your bike for hundreds of miles.
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Below, we've compiled a list of 16 must-have pieces of cycling gear for beginners, according to a cycling expert. Happy riding!
How We Chose
We spoke with Jana Richtrova, a cycling and triathlon coach of 10 years and a multi-time triathlon and cycling champion. Richtrova rides her bike upward of 10 hours a week and is frequently testing out new cycling gear for herself or to recommend to the athletes she coaches.
"Having reliable cycling equipment is key for comfort and enjoyment on the bike," Richtrova tells LIVESTRONG.com. "It pays to invest in good gear from the start."
We put together the following list of gear beginners need based on Richtrova's recommendations and criteria, including:
Head and Face Gear
Unfortunately, crashes can happen, and protecting your head with a helmet is of utmost importance as a cyclist And sunglasses are helpful not only so you don't have to squint in the sun, but they can prevent dust, dirt and other debris from getting into your eyes.
1. Giro Agilis MIPS Helmet
Richtrova's top recommendation for the piece of gear you must have before even getting on a bike is a bike helmet.
"Protecting your head is a top priority when cycling," Richtrova says. "Helmets protect your skull and brain from damage due to a fall, debris or low-hanging branches or vegetation."
There's a greater risk of injury and even death for those who choose not to wear a helmet, according to a November 2012 study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. As such, selecting a quality helmet for your cycling adventures is key.
Richtrova recommends a budget-friendly helmet like the Giro Agilis helmet because it's relatively lightweight and uses MIPS technology, which is designed to maximize the protection of your head in case of a strong impact.
2. Roka CP-1X Sunglasses
To further protect the precious features on your head, Richtrova suggests investing in a pair of sunglasses as well. Her favorite is the Roka CP-1x series because the glasses offer full eye and temple coverage and come in a variety of colors.
3. Goodr Sunglasses
You don't need to break the bank when looking for cycling sunnies. This stylish pair from Goodr have all the essentials: They don't slip or bounce on your face, they offer UV 400 protection and they also have a scratch-resistant and shatter-proof layer in the event that you drop them or you fall off your bike.
Cycling is a sport where even beginner cyclists can benefit from spending some dough on well-fitting sport-specific clothing.
Cycling clothes can be on the more expensive side of things, but Richtrova cautions that cheap cycling clothes can lead to chafing and will stretch and wear out sooner than making a one-time investment in higher-quality cycling clothes.
A Quick Language Note
We make deliberate choices about the language we use when it comes to gender. While more brands now carry gender-neutral workout clothes, you’ll still typically see clothing brands market their products to men or women.
The main differences between most women's and men's clothing are size and fit (generally, loose versus tight). However, fabrics, quality and comfort should be the same between gender-labeled pairs. We encourage everyone to purchase the products that feel right for them.
4. Castelli Prologo 7 Cycling Jersey
A cycling jersey is made of breathable, lightweight fabric to alleviate sweat and body heat. Cycling jerseys also come with rear pockets so you can store your phone, wallet, keys and snacks for your ride. The Prologo 7 jersey from Castelli is made of durable yet comfortable Italian fabric and is just under $100 — and Castelli is a respected name when it comes to cycling apparel.
You can also buy a similar women's version, the Castelli Velocissima jersey ($59.98, Backcountry.com).
5. Castelli Prima Bike Short
Cycling shorts have thick padding in the groin area, called a "chamois," to make sitting on a bike seat comfortable for as long as possible. Some cycling shorts even have straps that go around your shoulders to help keep the shorts in place — these types of shorts are called cycling bibs.
It's up to your personal preference if you want to wear shorts with no shoulder straps or bib shorts. Sometimes, men's and women's shorts will differ, so be sure to keep this in mind.
The Castelli Prima Short (above) is one option for women without shoulder straps. The Castelli Competizone Bib Short ($139.99, CompetitiveCyclist.com) is one option for men with shoulder straps.
6. Trek Bontrager Solstice Gel Cycling Gloves
Cycling gloves help cyclists maintain a better grip on their handlebars as their hands become sweaty. This is particularly helpful when holding the handlebars tightly during a climb or descent. This pair from Trek does just that.
Your bike is like a blank canvas that you get to figuratively paint. A bike frame has the ability to be functionally accessorized in many different ways.
Richtrova is a big proponent of health and safety for her and her athletes when it comes to riding.
"I recommend that all cyclists prioritize their own hydration and nutrition and also visibility to cars and other cyclists when they think about accessorizing their bike," Richtrova says.
7. Trek Bontrager Elite Water Bottle Cage
Bottle cages, as they're called, are water bottle holders that screw into or latch onto your bike frame. You should consider adding at least one — if not two — to your bike, even if you only plan on taking short bike rides.
This one from Trek comes in 13 different colors and is made from durable material that holds your water bottle securely — all for under $20.
8. Specialized Flashback Bike Taillight
Bike lights help other cyclists, pedestrians and vehicles see you on the road or bike path. Bike lights are critical for your safety and the safety of others. In general, it is best to have a blinking red light on the rear of your bike, such as the affordable, rechargeable and easy-to-install Specialized Flashback Taillight.
9. Specialized Flash 300 Bike Headlight
For the same safety reasons you need a taillight on your bike (so others can see you), a headlight is also important. Plus, a headlight helps you see what's up ahead of you if you're riding early in the morning or late in the evening when it's dark out.
This rechargeable Specialized Flash 300 Headlight is a blinking white light that features extra bright side lights to give you 180-degree visibility to see what's in front of and around you.
10. Chamois Butt'r Cream
Chamois cream broaches a delicate yet important topic: groin comfort when riding. Due to the nature of putting most of your bodyweight on a relatively small bike seat for any given period of time, it makes sense that there might be some chafing or "hot spots" between your skin and clothing (even if the clothing fits you well).
Chamois cream is a calming cream you can apply to any hot spots before riding to prevent chafing and discomfort. Chamois Butt'r Cream is a cycling industry favorite thanks to its effective formula that lubricates, soothes and softens your skin.
A comfortable bike seat is less of an accessory and more a necessity. But because bike seat preferences are highly individual, it's best to discuss your specific wants and needs with a knowledgeable bike shop employee — it can be hard to guess which seat is right for you just by researching online.
Many bike shops offer trial programs that let you test out a bike seat for a month before deciding to purchase it (or not). Talk with your local bike shop about what bike seat is best for your body and type of riding.
It's inevitable that your bike will need a bit of love in the maintenance department at some point. Having some basic tools on hand will keep your bike fully functional and safe to ride.
11. Park Tool AWS-10 Fold-Up Hex Wrench Set
It's helpful to own what is referred to as a multitool. A multitool contains small Allen keys, a few screwdriver heads and some other tools such as a spoke tightener. It can be helpful to carry a multitool with you in case any bolts come loose on your bike during a ride.
This multitool from Park Tool contains the basic Allen keys needed to tighten most bolts on your bike in a pinch.
12. Specialized Air Tool Sport Floor Pump
Owning a bike pump is critical. If your tires are deflated, you can't ride safely, and you'll damage your bike wheels by riding on deflated tires. A basic bike pump, like this one from Specialized, will last years if you store it in a temperate room.
Richtrova also recommends putting together what cyclists call a “flat kit.”
“A flat kit is a small kit you carry with you each ride that contains items such as a spare tube and CO2 cartridge that would allow you to fix a flat tire mid-ride,” Richtrova explains.
To assemble a flat kit, purchase the following:
- A durable and easy-to-configure storage bag ($28.95, Xlab-usa.com)
- A few CO2 cartridges ($12.99, Amazon.com)
- A CO2 valve ($13.98, Amazon.com)
- A few tire irons ($5.97, Amazon.com)
- A spare tube ($14.99, Amazon.com)
These are the basic tools that would allow you to change a flat tire. Be sure to watch a tutorial on changing a flat tire before heading out for your first ride.
Tips for New Cyclists
Now that you've got all your gear, it's time to head out for a ride. There are a few things to keep in mind before hitting the open road.
- Learn how to use hand signals to share information with pedestrians and cars about when you are stopping, turning or making a U-turn. This is key for your safety and the safety of other vehicles.
- Inspect your bike the day before your ride. Squeeze the brakes to make sure both the front and rear brakes are working. Ensure your tires are inflated. Check that the bolts in your seatpost and handlebars are tight and not loose or wobbly.
- Lay out your gear the day before a big ride. Compiling your cycling clothes, flat kit, helmet, sunglasses and water bottles the day before a big ride will ensure you can roll out at your desired time the next day.
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