Congratulations! You just bought a shiny new (or Certified Pre-Owned) road bike and have taken the first step toward becoming a cyclist. But before you hit the road, you’re going to need a few more things. These are the seven road cycling essentials you should pick up after (or even before) buying your first road bike. They’re listed in order of importance and will make riding your new bike safer, easier, and more fun.
In a perfect world, we never fall off our bikes. Unfortunately, we can’t control everything that happens on the road. Whenever you kit up for a ride, protecting your head should be your number-one priority. Wearing a helmet while cycling reduces the chance of head injury by 50 percent, and head, face, or neck injury by 33 percent (see Helmets.org for more stats). Modern helmets are stylish, lightweight, well-ventilated, and safer. There’s no reason not to wear one.
Traditionally, road helmets don’t have a visor to keep them light and aerodynamic. Budget helmets are fine as long as they fit properly and meet U.S. CPSC Safety Standards.
If you’re going to be knocking out serious mileage, it’s worth investing in a mid-range or even high-end helmet. These helmets use better materials and have improved safety features like MIPS, lower weight, and better ventilation.
For more helmet recommendations, check out: Our Favorite Road Helmets.
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If you just bought a new or Certified Pre-Owned bike, chances are, it didn’t come with pedals. Why? Because there are many different pedal standards. Bike companies leave it up to the riders to choose their preferred pedals.
If you just need something cheap and simple to get the wheels turning, then a basic pair of flat pedals will get the job done. You can use them with your regular shoes.
As you get more advanced, you should pick up some clipless pedals. Clipless pedals keep your feet attached to the pedals, which improves power transfer and makes pedaling at high cadences easier. Plus, it’s more secure to be attached to the bike on bumpy roads. You’ll also need to purchase cycling shoes to mount the cleats that come with clipless pedals.
The name can be confusing because you “clip in” and "clip out" of clipless pedals. They’re called clipless because decades ago, riders used to use “toe clips” — small cages with straps — to keep their feet attached to their pedals. Instead of using toe clips, clipless pedals keep your feet attached using a cleat that locks into a binding-like mechanism on the pedal. Thus they’re “clip-less.”
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You can’t ride on flat or underinflated tires, so you’re definitely going to need a bike pump. Floor pumps provide the most leverage and air volume to pump up tires quickly and easily. A small hand pump will work too, but they’re slower and a lot more work. Entry-level floor pumps are around the same price as hand pumps anyway.
You will want a pump with a head that is compatible with Presta valves, the type of valve used on modern road bikes. Many floor pumps have heads that are compatible with both Presta and Schrader valves. A pump with an air pressure gauge is best because it allows you to dial in your tire pressure to achieve the perfect balance between comfort and speed.
4. Flat repair kit
You’re bound to puncture at some point, so keep a flat repair kit on your bike. You don’t want to end up stranded somewhere miles from home. A basic repair kit should include at least one spare inner tube, one or two tire levers, and a CO2 inflator or small hand pump.
You’ll also need a way to carry your repair kit. The most popular method is the saddle bag. It attaches to the underside of a saddle, behind the seatpost where it is out of the way but always there when you need it.
For more details on how to build the perfect emergency repair kit, check out: Road Bike Repair Essentials.
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5. Chain lube
Don’t be one of those riders with a rusted drivetrain that squeaks in agony with every pedal stroke. A clean and lubricated chain will help your drivetrain run quieter, shift better, and last longer.
Wipe off your chain and give it a lube whenever you hear it start squeaking. Or better yet, keep a consistent routine where you clean and lube after X number of rides. To learn the basics of chain lube and how to clean and lube your chain, check out: Bike Chains and Lube Explained.
6. Cycling shorts
Cycling shorts are key to riding farther and more often. They have a padded chamois sewn into the bottom to relieve pressure and increase comfort. They are also skin-tight — no excess fabric flapping around. If you want to dress more modestly, you can wear a pair of baggy shorts over your cycling shorts. In case you’re wondering, cycling shorts are meant to be worn without underwear.
As you get more advanced, you can look into bib shorts. Regular cycling shorts are held up with elastic around the waistband, but bib shorts use straps that go over the shoulders. Regular shorts are usually less expensive and easier to put on and take off. But cyclists who ride a lot prefer bib shorts because they are more comfortable without elastic digging into your waist when riding.
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7. Water bottles & bottle cages
As with any sport, it’s important to stay hydrated while cycling. Road bikes make this easy with bottle cage mounts in the frame that allow riders to carry a couple of bottles.
Hydration packs are another valid option, but most road cyclists prefer bottles because it feels nicer to ride with your back unencumbered. It’s also easier to mix electrolytes into bottles and wash them when they get grimy.
If you’re riding a smaller-sized frame with limited space for bottles, look specifically for side-load bottle cages.
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