Accessories. What do I need beyond the bike?

A version of this article was originally
published in Triathlete Magazine

This is a newbie question, but I want to know what to expect. I have been riding a borrowed bike for the past few months and have been loving it. I am ready to get my own bike now and I have a good idea as to what bikes can cost, but I don’t really know what other pieces of equipment I need or what they cost. I am starting from scratch, so what should I be keeping in mind?

Liz, FL


The short answer to your question is that, if you do not have any equipment now, you should plan at least 20% of the price of your bike to be used for associated accessories. Around $400 can cover the basic necessity items beyond the bike, but those riders looking to invest in equipment designed for the long-term may want to allocate more.

While the bike is often the most costly piece of equipment, there is much more required to cycle safely, comfortably and well. If you are starting from scratch, here is a list of additional equipment to consider:

Safety Necessities: Helmet, glasses, lights… Entry level performance helmets start around $70 and lighter and better ventilated models run $125-$200. What is your head worth?

You would not drive your car without a windshield to protect your eyes and you should not ride a bike without glasses for the same reason. Look for a full coverage model that is light and designed specifically for active sports. Plastic lenses (glass can shatter in a crash) are recommended and having the option to change lenses is nice as well. Glasses start at $50 for basic models and better glasses run $120+.

Starting around $10 for a rear flashing unit, safety lights and/or reflective tape are requisite if you ride or train earlier or later in the day. Safety items are not just common sense, they are necessities.

Fitting: Your riding position should be optimized and established for comfort and performance before you buy your new bike. We are all individuals and a proper fit first eliminates the guesswork as to whether a bike model will fit you well or not. Do not make the mistake many make by letting their bike determine their riding position; your riding position should always determine your bike options.

Be sure you work with a reputable fitter and, if you are a triathlete, one that understands triathlon specific positioning. If you were sick and there were better specialists available you would not just go to the local doctor, so do not compromise on your fit and equipment by going to the closest bike shop or fitter if they are not one of the most qualified. The investment in working with a qualified fitter will pay off for the entirety of the time you cycle and is well worth traveling for. Standard professional fittings will cost between $150 and $500 and should take at least two hours of time and you tend to get what you pay for. Necessity for any rider wanting to ride regularly.

Clipless Pedals/Shoes: Clipless pedals and cycling shoes allow you to take full advantage of active muscle recruitment throughout the pedal stroke while being more comfortable too. Entry level set-ups start around $120 and performance oriented set-ups start at $300 and go up from there. Necessity if you want to pedal efficiently.

Gloves/Socks/Jersey/Shorts: While none of these are necessities, they sure can make riding more enjoyable by wicking moisture and cushioning crucial contact points.
For best results, be sure to get mid-level or better shorts ($75+) with six or more panel construction and a quality chamois pad made of CoolMax or a similar material. Plan at least $75 for clothing as no rider should be without at least one good pair of cycling shorts. Recommended.

Flat Repair Kit: Every rider should know how to fix a flat tire as no one can ride a bike flat free forever. A simple CO2 inflator or mini pump, hex wrench set, tire levers and spare tube in a seat bag runs $40-$60. Necessity.

Lubricant and Cleaners: A little bit of basic maintenance on your drive train and cables to keep them clean and well-lubricated goes a very long way towards making sure your bike works well mechanically and lasts as long as possible. A can of degreaser and a bottle of lubricant runs $20 and old T-shirts to wipe things off can probably be found for free at the bottom of your dresser drawer. Highly Recommended.

Floor Pump: Tires should be inflated before every ride. If you ride regularly, plan $60+ to get a floor pump designed for the long haul. Recommended.

Waterbottle Cages and Bottles: The engine will not work without fuel. Starting under $10 a cage, you should have two cages for all but the shortest rides. Necessity.

Cycling Computer: If you want to know how far or fast you have gone, you will want a cycling computer. Basic models start under $30, while models with functions like heart rate and GPS can run in the hundreds and power meter equipped models often run in the thousands. If you are just starting off, consider getting a model that has cadence as that can help you develop proper pedaling habits early. Recommended.

Triathlon Specific: Many triathletes will do best developing their riding skills on a road bike first before getting a dedicated triathlon bike. If you are starting on a road bike. and have solid bike handling skills, you will want to get aerobars (starting at $100) to further improve your performance. Also, do not forget to think about what you need for the swim and run as well, as wetsuits are one of the larger equipment investments most triathletes make and running shoes wear out quickly and need regular replacement.

While it costs a little money to get set-up right, it will pay off as you will enjoy riding your bike more and will thus ride more often. Isn’t that what it is all about in the first place?

Enjoy the ride and train hard and smart!

originally published November 2007/Copyright © 2007

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