A Beginner’s Guide to Cycling, Part 3: Other Stuff You Need After Buying Your First Bike
Congratulations on investing in a good bike and in your own good health. Now that you have a decent road bike, it’s time to consider first steps.
I know you have spent a good amount on your bike, but I will give you a few things you need to pick up in addition. You will need these items to ensure your safety and fun on the bike. I think every cyclist needs to have the following:
Front and rear lights
Mini-pump or CO2 head and cannisters
I think it is a good idea to have the following (not discussed here):
Heart rate monitor
Bike computer and mount
Clipless pedals and shoes
Bad weather gear
maybe I have a helmet problem
Listen, this is a non-negotiable. If you ride without a helmet you are what my 4-year-old niece calls, “a crack head.” You are going to crack your head eventually. I ride thousands of miles a year, and I don't even go a block to Dashes’ without a helmet if I take the bike. This is America, and you can do what you want, but if you came here for advice take it from me and don’t ride without a helmet. That is not to say it is all right to shame people who don’t. Keep your mouth shut and pray for them silently.
A good helmet should fit low on the head, and I like one that allows me to wear a cap underneath it in cold or super sunny weather. Make sure you have some room for adjustment. The helmet and straps should fit snugly and stay on in a crash. I think a helmet is best bought locally, as you can try it on and get some advice. Everyone has a different shaped head, and it is sort of like running shoe shopping. Remember that neutral colors like white, gray, and black will match what else you wear. Otherwise be like me and have more helmets than the local shop. (Black, gray, gray, white, red, and pink).
Both front and rear lights are a must (Bontrager Ion 700 and Blackburn 2Fer)
Front and Rear Lights
You need to be visible on the bike in daylight and at night. Good lights will keep you safe. I recommend rechargeable lights with a quick release strap so you can easily get them on and off. I prefer a rubber banded type strap because if I throw the bike in the repair stand it makes it easier to have a bare seat post. You can also buy a tail light with a clip that will attach to your seat bag, but make sure it is secure (see previous article on losing my beloved Bontrager Flare. That was clipped on the bag).
Buy the brightest lights you can afford. I have a 700 lumens headlight, and it is blindingly bright. A good rear light should be run every ride, so make sure that is bright as well (60 or more lumens is sufficient to be seen). Run your rear light every ride, and your headlight as needed.
Here is a great little chart that shows what rating (lumens) you need to be seen and to see in various conditions.
Everyone must change a tube at some point in their riding. You need to carry a spare tube (or two) to ensure that you can get home after incurring a flat tire. Just make sure they are the appropriate size for your bike. There are three things you need to know before you head to the shop: wheel size (most likely 700c), tire size (23-28 likely), and rim depth or valve length (likely 32-60cm).
Most road tubes run specific sizes, such as 700c 20-28; 700c 28-32, etc…. Most road bikes use 700c tires indicated by the first number, and the second set of numbers indicates the tire width. Of you have 25mm tires, you would run a 700c 20-28 tube, and if you run a 28mm tire, you could use that same tube or the next size up. I tend to use 28-32 tubes on my 28cm tires because the rubber is a little thicker and they also work on my cyclocross bike. I would recommend telling the salesperson what size tires you use, and they will get you the right tubes.
This is what a Presta valve looks like, and it is probably what you need
Tubes also come in specific valve configurations. Most use a Presta valve, although some lower cost bikes still have Schrader valves (like your car). Look at the picture, but remember that I told you not to buy a cheap bike, so yours should have Presta valves. You also need to know how deep your rim is, so that the valve is long enough to stick out of your rim and fit the air pump on. I try to buy a tube that has a valve that is long enough but not excessive. You don’t need a super long valve sticking out.
I know this is confusing. Bring your bike in and have them write down what tubes you need. Make sure you note the wheel size, tire size, and proper valve type and length.
You may have to make minor adjustments while on the road. Your seat may slip and need to be raised, or your water bottle cages might be loose. You do not need to be able to make major repairs, but have a small multi-tool that allows you to keep riding in case of a minor repair. It should minimally have flat head and Phillips head drivers and any Allen or T25 Torx wrench sizes for bolts on your bike. Usually 4, 5, and 6 mm Allen wrenches and a T25 Torx wrench will get you out of most jams. I carry a 2mm Allen key for my power meter battery cover and an 8mm for my pedals just in case. Look at your bike and make sure you have the tools for any bolt on it. This takes up no space. If you can get a tool that also has a chain breaker, that is a good thing to have as well, but you will need to learn how to use it.
A mini-pump, CO2 kit, and patches are a must
You need something to inflate your tires with if they go flat on you. A mini-pump is handy as it never runs out of air. Carry one mounted to your frame or in your jersey pocket, and you can get back on the road easily. These are also good for the whole group and air eco-friendly. The only problem is that they take a little effort to use. Another option is to carry a small CO2 head and some CO2 canisters. You need a 16g canister to get your tires up to rideable pressures (and maybe then some, so I tend to go easy when using one). The cartridge works fast and is simple to use after you learn how. Make sure you figure it out before you head out on the road. You need to know how to attach the pump and/or CO2.
I always carry a few patches and glue just in case. A patched tube will get you home, and in some cases, can work well for longer. If you run over glass and double flat, you will be glad you had one. It also helps when you ride with friends that forget or run out of tubes, although you should avoid calling those people your friends.
You need two to get your tires on and off, one if you’re awesome like me. I really really like the Crank Brothers Speedier Levers, and I carry one. There are many good brands, and they are all cheap enough to try a few out until you get one you like.
This is my Serfas bag, it holds almost too much stuff with ease
You need something to hold you spare tube(s), CO2, patches, multi-tool, and levers. I think there are three things to consider: 1. Get the smallest bag that will comfortably hold your stuff. I have an Arundel Solo bag. It is tiny, so much so that I thought I hated it. Now that I run tubeless and only take a few items, I am loving it. It’s so small and perfect, that it is hard to notice. Sometimes I even leave it on when I race. 2. Get a bag that is easy to get on and off. You will need to clean your bike, or put it in a stand, or swap between bikes, etc…. There is no reason to have one that is a pain in the butt to remove and get back on. 3. Get a black bag so you don’t look like a noob.
Topeak Joe Blow Sport pump with fancy replacement head (It was worth it!)
You will need a track pump (floor pump) to inflate your tires before every ride. Make sure it has a Presta valve compatible head, and that you know how to attach the head to the valve stem on your tires. For me, a good pump has a good and easy to use head. If you are struggling with the head, look at a new pump or buy a new head. Most hoses are interchangeable and nice pump heads can be had for cheap. The track pump should have a good gauge, so make sure that you use it. Buy a good one, and it will last a lifetime. I bought a Topeak Joe Blow, and I put a fancy $45 head on it, and it looks like it might last forever.
Cycling kit/chamois cream
You need good cycling bibs or shorts. Your seat will not be comfortable, even though it fits you well after that bike fit you had. Cycling shorts with a good chamois are a must. I prefer bib shorts because I like the straps to keep them up. Your chamois will keep your delicate parts feeling good. You also can add a little chamois cream for even more comfort. It helps to eliminate discomfort by putting a little bit of lubrication between your skin and the chamois. It helps. It is worth the $18 and goes a long way. Which one you buy is up to you.
Bicycle jerseys are a nice accessory because they give you three pockets on a jersey made of a nice wicking material. On any given ride, I have my iPhone (left, so I can get that selfie), keys, ID, and credit cards (middle, so I don’t lose them), and nutrition (right, so I can grab easily and eat on the bike) stuffed into my three pockets.
When buying jerseys, I try to go for the following: the one with the best fit; neutral colorways; light colors for summer; and visible colors for dark conditions. Most of my jerseys are white or black and I have a Hi-Viz yellow wind vest and a green gillet I can throw on if it is rainy or dark out.
Get something from your local shop to show your support, or even better ask them for a few since you bought that expensive bike from them. I like bigger bottles because often I take only one with me. As for cages, get something the shop recommends that are lightweight and not too hard to get the bottles out of. I like the Bontrager RL cages. They are cheap, light, and come in nice colors like black.
You need some to protect your eyes not only from UV but also from rocks, bugs, and debris. You can get away with what you normally wear, but also consider that inexpensive safety glasses come in various lens colors and work great for the bike. You can buy them cheap at the local hardware store or on Amazon. I have clear for nighttime riding and yellow for trails and mountain biking. I wear my fancy shades in broad daylight, but I think that safety glasses are great because they are shatter-proof and offer protection from the sun at a great price.
So that’s my advice on what you absolutely need before you go out with your new bike. It should not cost you an arm and a leg, but remember that quality accessories and kit always make the ride better. I always think long term when I buy stuff for the bike, and you should as well.