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Video: 6 things every new road cyclist needs

If you've been bitten by the cycling bug, here are the essentials you can't do without

If you are looking to get into road cycling and you’re not sure what you need to get started, we’ve come up with some of the key things you might want to consider.

Top of the list is a bike, obviously, but beyond that, you really don’t need much else - just plenty of enthusiasm and energy to turn the pedals. As you find yourself getting more into cycling, there are a few useful things that can make cycling more comfortable and enjoyable.

A bike

Starting with the obvious one, you’re going to need a bicycle to cycle. Sure, you can easily drop £10,000 on a Tour de France replica, but there are bargains to be had for under £500 if you don't want to spend too much.

The most important thing to consider before you buy is the type of riding that you intend to do. Are you looking to build up your road mileage? Is the bike going to get you to work every day? Might you want to mix some off-road sections into your rides? There are a number of niches and it can all get a little bit confusing.

Generally, gravel bikes are a safe bet these days. They roll well on the road, generally feature a comfortable riding position and offer versatility in the form of wide tyres and mounts for a rack and mudguards. Hybrids are great for versatility too.

Now, we’re never going to be able to guide you through what bike to buy in such a short video, so if you’d like to read more about different bike types and the riding that they suit, then we've got a brilliant beginner’s guide to bike types.

Padded shorts

BTwin 700 Cycling Shorts - on bike

Ever seen a group of MAMILs walking around in what are alarmingly tight shorts that appear to feature a nappy? Cycling shorts don’t allow you to relieve yourself on the go, but they do make rides that are longer than a short commute far comfier.

A good set of cycling shorts will offer a close but comfortable fit with more advanced shorts offering a little support for the muscles along with bib straps that hook over your shoulders. This helps the shorts to remain firmly in place which is great for comfort as you really don’t want the pad moving around with every turn of the pedals.

> The best cycling shorts - get comfy on long rides

One thing to note is that cycling shorts are designed to be specific to either the male or female anatomy. They’re also designed to be used without underwear. Yep, we’re telling you to go commando. It feels weird at first but we can assure you that it is far comfier in the long run.

We used to say that these weren’t the most fashionable garment but they’re now appearing on the catwalks of Milan and London. No, we’re not sure why either. Still not convinced by their fashion credentials? Just wear them under a pair of gym shorts.

Cycling jersey

Yep, you can easily go for a ride in a t-shirt and maybe a sweatshirt if it’s chilly, but a cycling jersey has several key benefits that make it a much better choice for longer days in the saddle.

First, the technical materials that most jerseys use these days make them very breathable and fast drying. This is great in all sorts of weather conditions. On those warm summer days, a jersey will wick sweat and allow it to be evaporated by the sun. On cold days, the same wicking ability will be the thing that stops you from getting really chilly if you stop for a well-earned coffee.

> 26 of the best summer cycling jerseys — tops to beat the heat from just £10

The second great thing about cycling jerseys is that they have pockets on the lower back. These allow you to store your phone, house keys, a jacket, maintenance essentials and most importantly, snacks, safely and securely. 

You can get cycling jerseys in a range of fits, from baggy designs right through to tight-fitting aero numbers. If you’re just setting out in cycling and aiming to lose a bit of weight doing so, then we’d advise avoiding spending too much on your first jersey as it could very quickly be too big for you. 

The opposite is often true in spring when we go to don that aero race jersey to find that it’s quite a bit tighter thanks to our extra winter padding.

Water bottle and a bottle cage

Mat drinking 2

Cycling can be thirsty work, especially in the summer heat, so keeping hydrated on longer rides is of paramount importance. Most road bikes have bolts on the frame (down tube and seat tube) that allow you to fit a special bottle cage into which a cycling bottle can be fitted.

They don’t have to be expensive either with several good cages ranging from around £4 to £15 each.

> How to get the right food to keep your energy levels up and avoid the dreaded bonk

You can stick a bottle of water or Lucozade in a jersey pocket or even a bottle cage, but the former isn’t very comfortable and the latter isn't the most secure. A cycling water bottle can also be reused hundreds of times, is easy to clean and is easy to drink from on the move.

> What should you eat to recover after cycling?

What to put in your bottle is up to you. Water is easy, a fruit squash is tasty and there are plenty of sports hydration and carbohydrate powders on the market should you want to fuel a longer ride.

Spares for repairs

2021 Topeak Alien X Multitool.jpg

Annoyingly, bikes go wrong from time to time. More often than not, it’s the tyres that let you down and if you do have a small problem like a puncture, then having a pump and a spare inner tube will allow you to continue your ride in happiness.

Likewise, having a small multitool is a sensible precaution against issues like a slipped seat post or saddle which can both happen if you hit one of the many wonderful potholes that we have in the UK. 

A multitool will generally come equipped with the specific tools that you need for bike maintenance. These days, that it a selection of Allen keys, a JIS screwdriver and on more advanced multitools, a chain tool too.

> 12 of the best emergency bike fixes — get going again with these smart bodges

You can guard against most mishaps by leaving home on a properly functioning bike. Regular cleaning is advised but the oil that you wash off the chain needs to be replaced. Chain lube is relatively cheap and readily available at all good bike shops. Look for something that says all weather if you want to make life simple.

While bikes might seem complicated, a bit of practice on the basic maintenance of changing an inner tube and adjusting the gears and brakes will see you through the vast majority of roadside fixes. It’ll also allow you to get home without interrupting your significant other’s Sunday morning and that's a highly advisable move.

Cycling shoes and pedals

Our final recommendation is to get yourself some proper cycling shoes. You know, the ones that click into those funny pedals. If you want to cover a bit of distance then these are going to make it so much easier because your feet will never slip off and you can have more control throughout the pedal stroke.

There are two kinds of cycling shoe: road and mountain bike. Road shoes generally focus on being lighter, very breathable and optimised for putting your power onto the road. Mountain bike shoes are a little more rugged and the traction on their outsole makes them easy to walk in.

> How to choose the best clipless pedals

The cleats are different too, with road shoes using a 3-bolt cleat while mountain bike shoes use a 2-bolt design. There are many benefits to both designs and the one that we’d point newer riders towards is the mountain bike option. The release tension on the pedals can be set really low and the dual-sided makes clipping in and out very easy.

Yes, there will come a day when you’re learning when you’ll forget to unclip and topple over. Thankfully, it generally hurts your pride more than your body and trust us when we say that we’ve all been there!

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