You have put in countless hours researching the perfect road bike for your budget and you are itching to get out on the open roads, no doubt inspired by my writing.
Before you blow the entire budget on the bike there a few things that you will need to buy to get the most out of the bike.
There are some things which are essentials to have before enjoying your road bike and there are nice to haves that will make your experience infinitely better.
Essential - Helmet
A good quality helmet should be your number one priority. Take your time to try on helmets in the shop and pick one that you feel comfortable with and you like the look of. This is important because if you don’t like how it looks then you are less likely to wear it. The pro’s have to wear helmets these days and I would never consider not wearing one. I even wear one when out with a gentle pootle with my son in the bike seat; it is safe and it sets a good example.
Now, there is certainly a debate to be had regarding helmet enforcement and the detrimental effect that might have on the overall uptake of cycling and there are certainly valid points. At the individual level, I have been thankful for my helmet on a least three occasions and would always advocate their use.
Essential – Cycle Shorts and Jersey
You may have noticed when buying your new road bike that the saddle is basically as hard as a rock. To get around this, road cyclist wear shorts with padding. You will want to do this also. Stretch your budget as far as possible to get the best quality shorts. You can thank me later.
A cycling specific jersey has many advantages on the bike; they are aerodynamic, cool and have pockets at the back for various essential items within easy reach when cycling.
Essential – Puncture Repair
When I was a kid, if I got a puncture then I would have to walk all the way home with my monstrously heavy mountain bike. The furthest I probably had to walk was two miles. Road cycling is a different matter altogether and you certainly don’t want to get a puncture 30 miles from home and with no means to fix it.
You will need to buy some spare inner tubes, good quality tire levers and a mini-pump at a minimum to get you back on the road.
Everyone fears their first puncture but they are straightforward to fix after a bit of practice.
Essential – Saddle Bag
You will need somewhere to store the aforementioned puncture repair kit so invest in a small saddle bag. The key word here is small; you are a roadie not a touring cyclist. For that you will want to look in the pannier section.
Essential – Bidons (and cages)
If you plan on cycling for more than an hour then you will certainly need to take on fluids. Your new bike may come with bottle cages but they will be fairly heavy metal things. There are some great designs out there to buy that will be lightweight and compliment your sleek new road bike a lot better.
Essential - Cycling Glasses
These are vital for keeping things out of your eyes; bugs and dust in particular. Plus they look cool.
Nice to Have – Clipless Pedals
Your sleek new road bike will come with bog standard bicycle pedals that not only look terrible but will have a noticeable effect on the overall performance. An immediate upgrade should be to clipless pedals. There are a variety of different types of clipless pedals on the market but most newbies are recommended to start on mountain bike style clipless pedals. These allow you to clip in on both sides of the pedal and the design of the cleats means that you can walk easier off the bike. Don’t listen to the well-meaning shop assistant. Go straight to road bike clipless pedals from the very beginning and only have one learning curve.
Oh and you will, one day, forget to un-clip and fall off. This usually happens only when you are at the world's busiest traffic junction for everyone to see.
Nice to Have – Cycling Shoes (Essential if you have clipless pedals obviously)
Once you have made the plunge into proper clipless pedals then you will need to purchase cycling specific shoes and cleats. There is a cycling shoe out there for every budget. The more money that you spend the more firm the sole (for most efficient energy transfer between human and bike), the better the ventilation and the more advanced the fastening mechanism.
To clip into the pedal you will also need to buy cleats to screw into the sole of your shoe. For SPD pedals these come in three different colours to represent the amount of float when you are clipped into the pedal.
The yellow cleats offer the most amount of float and this in turn gives you the most protection against knee injuries. Red cleats offer very little float and as such can be bad for your knees if not set-up properly. The blue cleats lie somewhere in between these two extremes. Personally I use the yellow cleats as I want to do everything I can to avoid a knee injury that could keep me off the bike. I take a keen interest in the shoes of the pro-cyclists and it seems to me that a good number of them also opt for the yellow cleats so if it is good enough for them then it is good enough for me.
Nice to Have - head unit
Everyone had that one friend back when they were kids who had a cycling computer. In those days the best money could buy had a jungle of wires and enough computing power to only tell you your current speed. Oh how we laughed in the face of such data.
Fast forward twenty years and cycling computers have come a long way. I use a very base level Garmin Edge 510 head unit and I can’t imagine leaving the house without it now. Even a unit as simple as this allows you to plot a route on the computer, load it to the unit and follow a simple line on the screen. This feature alone has meant that I have been able to explore new routes that take me away from the main roads without ever fearing that I will get lost.
In addition to mapping, they typically provide a wealth of data that can be very useful to see how you are improving. Too be honest it is too much data but we get to pretend to be like pro cyclists for a short while.