I thought I would take a break from writing about the act of cycling and talk about cycling equipment instead. As you will be well aware if you have read my earlier blogs, I am relatively new to the sport of road cycling, so hopefully the following might be of some use to others who are thinking of taking up the sport.
Initially I put all of my effort into finding a road bike, I looked at the different manufacturers, the group sets, set up etc… So it’s no surprise that this was time well spent and my bike fits me like a glove, it’s comfortable and has a great riding position.
So here are some tips on choosing a bike:
1. Bikes: Virtually all of the big name manufacturers produce models from beginner level to expert. So one can assume that a certain amount of research and development from the top models has gone into the design of the basic models, it makes sense. So as a beginner you won’t go far wrong with a Trek, Specialized, Cannondale, Giant etc…
2. Frame Material: The cheapest frames are made from Aluminium, it’s a light material and will take a good knock or two, so if your new to the road these are the type of bikes you should be looking at. Carbon is another popular material, it’s an extremely light material, but is prone to damage, I’ve seen one snapped in two from a crash at a Criterium, not forgetting that carbon bikes are also expensive. Other materials include Steel, which is a bit of a retro material, but will be strong and stiff. Bamboo and Titanium are also used, but are specialist products and expensive.
3. Group Sets: There are three main players in the group set world, Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo. These three companies produce the following group sets, lowest price first:
Shimano: 2200, 2300, Sora, Tiagra, 105, Ultegra, Ultegra Di2, Dura-Ace & Dura-Ace Di2.
SRAM: Apex, Rival, Force & Red.
Campagnolo: Veloce, Centaur, Athena, Chorus, Record, Super Record, Record EPS & Super Record EPS.
When choosing a bike, the group set is what will make the major price difference, as typically the same manufacturer will produce a frame with basic up to expert group sets e.g. My bike is the Cannondale Synapse and can be bought in Shimano Sora, Tiagra or 105.
I have never had an issue with Shimano and the advice I was given, as a beginner on a budget, was to choose something which you can afford to maintain, so I went with Shimano, everybody stocks the spares and I know the brand, others may disagree.
4. Triple v Double v Compact: Once you’ve chosen your group set or group set manufacturer, it’s worth considering what type of terrain you will be cycling in. It is more complicated that you might think, or care, but basically:
A Triple Crank Set consists of three front rings and has the widest range of gears / ratio combinations.
A Double Crank Set, less common these days, have just two front rings and less ratio combinations than a Triple.
A Compact Crank Set consists of two front rings, and is a compromise between a tradition double and triple crank set. The gear ratios vary, but typically a compact covers the same range as a triple.
I chose to go with a compact because the majority of my riding will be on the flat with low level hills, so no need for a ‘granny cog’. Having said that my Compact is a 12-26 rear cassette, which I currently find too tough to turn on steep climbs, so I will opt for an 11-28 for the Cyclosportive.
5. Riding Position: Road bikes typically come in two set ups, race or sportive, the latter being more up right. It depends on your preference, but most of my riding is for leisure so it made sense to go with a sportive bike.
Okay, now you have your bike, time to hit the road? Well not so fast, one of the big mistakes I made was not budgeting for the things which are essential if you are going to cycle far and wide, so…
6. The Budget: I can write this in hindsight, but essentially if this is your first foray into cycling and you don’t have any equipment at all, I would say spend 75% of your budget on the bike with the remainder on items such as:
(i) Frame/ Mini Pump or CO2 Gas Pump: Essential for road side repair, don’t leave home without one or face a long walk home.
(ii) Track Pump: A bike specific pump to keep at home to keep your tyres pumped up.
(iii) Puncture Repair Kit: Tradition kits or self adhesive ‘scabs’ can be bought.
(iv) Saddle Bag: Small bag to keep under your seat and store essential items.
(v) Multi Tool: The bike version of the Swiss Army Knife, includes Allen Keys, Screw Drivers and Tyre Levers.
(vi) Spare Inner Tube: Not all punctures can be repaired or it could be cold or wet, so keep at least one spare tube with you.
(vii) Lock: No matter where you are lock up your bike!
(viii) Bottle Cage & Bottle: Remember to keep hydrated on your ride.
(ix) Lights: Essential if riding in the dark.
(x) Helmet: Not always popular, but better to be safe than sorry.
Now those are what I see as the essential items, but there are other things which you will end up buying, maybe not straight away, but it’s worth considering:
(i) Lycra Padded Shorts / Bib Shorts: An essential for long rides to protect yourself and keep comfortable. I have both, but in my opinion if you have the money buy bib shorts as they are far more comfortable.
(ii) Jersey: These come in all shapes and sizes, but most roadies go with tight tops with three pockets at the back to keep some of the essentials listed above. I prefer the baggier cool max type shirts with pockets.
(iii) Jacket: Cycling even in warm weather can be cold, so consider a light packable jacket to help shield from the wind or occasional rain. Also consider Hi-Viz for safety.
(iv) Clipless Pedals: Most beginners start with toe clip pedals, I did and still do on my mountain bike, but I have switched to Shimano SPD’s on my road bike, a revelation and worth a blog in its own right!
Total Distance Covered: 24 miles