Essential road cycling kit to get you started (and back home!)

So you've made the decision to give this road cycling malarkey a go.


You've had mental images of shoe-horning yourself into skimpy lycra and being verbally abused by car drivers on the road.


Despite all of this you've thought, "you know what?... I'll 'ave me a bit of that!"


Well that's great to hear. To help you get up and cycling, this post is going to focus of a handful of essential equipment you're going to need for most mechanical mishaps you might experience.


As much as I'd love you to read this whole post, it isn't about what I want. It's about giving you what you want, when you want it. If you'd like to skip to the cycling gear you're most interested in, hit one of the links below to go straight there. Alternatively, just keep scrolling to get the full 'directors cut' and enjoy the experience as originally intended. 😉

  1. Inner tubes.

  2. Co2 gas cannister valves (for pumping tyres quickly).

  3. Mini pumps.

  4. Multi tools and tyre levers.

  5. Saddle bags (to put all the above in when you're on the road).


Safety equipment will be covered in a future post. What I will say here is that your #1 priority must be a helmet (please promise me you'll wear a helmet when cycling. Always!)


A useful thing to know at this stage is that, all cycling helmets must meet the same safety standards (in the UK at least). I.e., one won't necessarily protect you more than the next as they all must do the same job of keeping your noodles inside your noggin (basically!). The reason you'll pay more or less is for things such as the materials used, design, brand name and benefits to aerodynamics etc., NOT necessarily for extra protection. So whatever you buy, know it will provide standard protection. However, how much of a mushroom you're comfortable looking like will be down to individual budgets and tastes.


Let look at the items that should be near the top of your, 'things to buy,' list when starting out with road cycling.


For all of the item's below:


  1. I'm either currently using it.

  2. I have used it in the passed.

  3. I regularly ride with with road cyclists who use or have used the product, and swear by it.

  4. If I was buying them today, with no prior experience or knowledge of them, these are what I would choose following my research and knowing what to look out for.

 

Road cycling essentials shopping list (in no particular order):


Inner tube(s):
  • Things to note:

  • On a road bike, you're most likely to need tubes with 'presta valves'. These vales come in different lengths so that they can be poked through different sized 'rims' wheels can have. (Rims are the bit around your whole wheel, between your tyre and your spokes)

  • They come in 40mm, 48mm, 60mm and 80mm. For standard wheels on entry-level bikes you'll probably want 40mm or 48mm. If you're starting on a more expensive, sportier road bike then 60mm or 88mm are usually par for the course.

  • Presta valves can be thread or unthreaded (slick). The former comes with a little bolt that you screw down the valve to tighten the base of the valve to the rim of your wheel. Slick valves (often found on the longer varieties) don't have this and can sometimes cause a rattling when it moves around as you ride. (nothing that can't be sorted with a bit of well-placed tape). For beginners I'd recommend the threaded vales to save you from the ball-ache of dealing with annoying noises whilst you're riding.

  • In addition to knowing your presta valve numbers you'll also see a couple more on inner tube tyres. For road bikes you need to look out for:

  • 700C - refers to the circumference of the wheel. You're looking for this number when buying tubes for road bikes.

  • The above number is then followed by an 'X - Y'. For example, '700 x 25 - 32'. These additional numbers refer to tyre width. You'll probably be on a 23 or 25 but you can get road bike tyres up to 28. I have these on my commuter bike. 25s on my 'weekend' bike. (The missus is still upset that I have two bikes! 🤫)

  • You don't need to be too strict when buying tube width. I've had 25 tubes in 28 tyres and they've been perfectly fine. Although I wouldn't make the difference between tyre and tube any greater that one size difference either way. As another example, you could get away with a 25 tube in a 28 wheel but if you tried a 23 tube it is more likely to expand too much in the tyre when you inflate it and burst.

  • Which ones to buy?

  • Having tried and tested many tubes over many years, my default go-to options tend to be (in no particular order):

Tap /click any of the below to buy your preferred one



 

Gas cannister valve (for Co2 cannisters):
  • Things to note:

  • Punctures are a fact of road cycling life. Sometimes you'll go months with nothing. Other times you'll get an iffy period where the little buggers seem to happen all the time. When they strike you want to be back up and pedalling as quickly as possible. For this, co2 cannisters can be a God-send - especially on those colder rides. The last thing you want to be doing is faffing around when you can hardly feel your fingers.

  • Before using a cannister, be sure to either: a) cover your hand, or; b) Cover the cannister (they sometimes come with a material wrapper). They get flippin' freezing when you use them and you don't want to be cold-burning your little digits.

  • A cannister is a cannister. Feel free to go cheap and cheerful on these puppies. I recently bought the ones below on Amazon and they work perfectly.


Tap /click the below image to grab some for yourself

  • Cannister valves, on the other hand, are not made equal. I've had cheap ones freeze and seize on me, which can be a massive pain in the arse (to accompany the saddle pains you'll experience when starting out). The ones below are durable, reliable and should have you pumped up and back on the road in no time.


Tap /click any of the below to buy your preferred one



 
Mini Pumps:
  • Things to note:

  • Even with my trusted co2 valve and cannisters on me I always carry a pump on me too. I learnt this lesson the hard way only a few months ago. With a flat tyre, two inner tubes and three co2 cannisters down I was stranded. See, here's proof...

  • It's great to have a plan B if your valve or cannisters let you down for any reason. Pumps are also great to give your tyre a little top-up in case you have any co2 'spillage' when dispensing them.

  • The smaller and lighter the better. It's going to have to fit into one of your jersey's back pockets (Resist the temptation to buy a big one and screw it's holder to your frame. I strongly suggest saving all available screw holes on your bike for 2 x water bottle cages).


Update (05.10.21): A very helpful community member on Facebook has pointed

something out that was foolish of me not to mention the first time. Turning your bike upside down like the picture above can scuff your saddle and shifters if you're not careful so if you're going to do this then make sure you're very careful and place your bike extremely delicately on the ground. It's also only advised to turn your bike over like this when out on a ride, when dealing with your rear wheel. It'll help ensure you don't bash your rear derailleur or the 'hanger' it's mounted on. (for help understanding any of this cycling jargon read THIS helpful post). Even better, if you're riding with others then ask one of them to hold your bike the correct way round whilst you remove, fix and replace your wheel.

  • Which ones to buy?

  • My go-to, trusted pumping companion (ooh err missus) for the last few years has been a mini pump like the one below. I swear by it. It's no longer than the length of my hand and is just brilliant. There's a flexible valve that comes out the top, which reduces the chances of you knackering your tube's valve whilst you're using it. .


Tap /click below to buy your preferred one


 

Multi tools and tyre levers:

  • Things to note:

  • A common theme for this post (and road cycling in general) is to minimise bulk and weight. Multi-tools come in all shapes and sizes but don't be attracted to the "kitchen sink" variety. Choose something that will cover the essentials whilst you're out on the road such as needing to adjust or tighten:

  • Shoe cleats.

  • Seat post movement.

  • Brake cables.

  • Shifters to handlebars if they come loose (unlikely but it has happened to me)

  • Rattling bottle cages.

You might find you only need a tool that includes 3 - 5 different head types and sizes in total. For example a flat head, Phillips head and couple of Allen key options. For anything more, it's probably left in your tool box a home for when you have bigger jobs to do.


  • Which ones to buy?

  • Small doesn't need to mean crap when it comes to multi tools. You want something robust, that isn't going to buckle or sheer at the slightest turn of a screw. The tool below ticks all the boxes (and turns most screws) to cover you for any minor, mechanical mishaps whilst you're out on the road

Tap /click below to buy your preferred one


From a tyre lever perspective, again, there will be the temptation to go for the cheapest. Why not? They're only cheap bits of plastic, right? Well - yes and no. I've had bargain-bucket tyre levels and they've ended up being so brittle they snapped in my hand when applying the smallest amount of pressure. You don't need to go overboard when buying these but best aim for middle-of-the-road. Better than being stranded on the side of one.