Okay, you’ve bought a road bike, now what?

A few friends have just bought their first road bikes and Tracy is shopping for one. That’s got me thinking about what you need besides the new bike to get started riding.

The list of things you need before your first road ride, or at least very soon after, is long. I thought I’d detail my views on what’s essential. Keep in mind that these are just one cyclist’s opinion. Your mileage may vary, as they say.

Mostly I do rides in the 50 to 100 km range (with occasional imperial century spikes) near and around my home town of London, Ontario. I don’t ride my road bike much into winter and beyond fixing flats I make no great claims of independence. That’s what the cell phone is for! I’m also an unrepentant cash and credit card cyclist. I travel light. I do do some self supported cycling holidays where I carry my own gear but I don’t use my road bike for that.

So here’s my list of what you need besides the bike to do the kind of riding I do:

  • Pedals, cleats, and shoes: Road bikes come without pedals because there are lots of different kinds to choose from and road cyclists have strong preferences about these, and other, things. You buy cleats that match your pedals and then install the cleats on the bottom of the shoe. I have Look pedals on my road and track bikes and spd pedals on my cyclocross bike.Here’s how to get in and out of this style of pedals.
  • Bike shorts and jersey: Why wear bike shorts? I’ve covered that here. Why bother with specialized bike jerseys? Won’t any closely fitted t-shirt made of quick dry fabric do? It’s the pockets in the back that make bike jerseys special. That’s where I put my phone and cash in a zip lock bag, and also any food I want to eat on the bike such as a sports bar and a banana. You don’t need lots of shorts and jerseys if you’re not doing multi day rides though you will tend to acquire jerseys. Bib shorts are a wonderful thing but regular bike shorts are fine for shorter rides.
  • Helmet: Probably you already ride a bike if you’re buying a road bike, so likely you own a helmet. Do you need a second helmet, just for road cycling? Probably not unless your helmet has a visor. Given the rider posture on a road bike helmets with a visor don’t work. Expensive helmets are not any better in terms of safety than inexpensive ones. All bike helmets in Canada meet the same safety standards. The price differences are due to ventilation, comfort, and fashion.
  • Bike computer: Why buy a bike computer you might wonder if you already have a smart phone that tracks speed and distance? The nice part of a bike computer mounted on your bike is that you can see your speed and distance and cadence as you ride. It’s essential to know how fast you’re going while riding, not just after you’re done. I’d also recommend one that tracks heart rate and cadence. Both really useful things to know while you’re riding. Mine also reports elevation but that feels like extra to me, ditto ones with maps. If I get lost I stop and take out my smart phone.
  • Frame pump, floor pump, spare tubes, tire levers, basic bike tools: Road bike tires don’t stay at full pressure for long. You need to check them and pump up your tires often. That’s what the floor pump is for. You can’t tell by touching if they’re under inflated. You need the small pump to come with you on the road, or co2 cartridges, to fix flats while you’re out. Ditto spare tubes and tire levers. (I should say, by way of confession, that I’ve only rarely ever had to fix my own flats on the road. I’m usually riding with people who are much faster than me at fixing flats and who want to get going again too. But it’s bad form not to have spare tubes and your own way of getting air into them, ditto tire levers. And it’s good to be prepared in case you do need to do it yourself.) A basic bike tool comes in handy too and they make small multi tools that fit in your under the seat bike bag. See next item!
  • Under the seat wedge bike bag: Holds the above items plus small sun screen, lipstick (in my case) plus id. See In praise of the saddle wedge for details.
  • Water bottle holders and water bottles: Mountain bikers use camel backs and road cyclists don’t. It’s even a rule! “32.  Hydration packs are never to be seen on a road rider’s body.  No argument will be entered into on this.” See The Velominati’s list of rules for road cyclists. Whether you think the list is serious or just in jest, it’s certainly road bike fashion to use water bottles. You’ll need to master the art of getting the bottle out, drinking, and putting it back while riding. Start out by doing this when you’re behind other riders. Nothing worse than a dropped water bottle rolling through the group. For more on road cycling and rules, see here.
  • Removable lights: You don’t want to affix things to a nice road bike but you might occasionally be caught out after dark. Small removable lights come in handy. If you’re regularly training and riding after dark then serious lights are in order but for most people the small removable ones are fine.
  • Gloves: Read seven reasons why here. Just like rowers don’t wear gloves, blogged about that here, road cyclists always do.

There’s lots of other things you can and will buy. I love my cycling sunglasses, for example. (Worn with the arms over, never under, the helmet straps. See the New York City Bike Snob’s discussion of this, and other cycling faux pax in It’s All in the Details..For autumn and spring riding I love my arm warmers and wind proof vests. I have some lovely warm tights too. But the above is my list of things you need to get started….