At first blush, cycling presents itself as such a simple diversion. What could be better than a spin through a bucolic landscape, stopping to smell the flowers, pausing to take in the view, and keeping your heart rate below 100 beats per minute? What indeed, except that’s not what cycling is always about. Sure, enjoying the view and reveling in being outside are crucial aspects of the sport’s allure. But for many the point is to get fit enough to see more landscapes, ride roads far away from your house, and see how long you can keep your heart rate maxed out. Cycling gets better as your fitness improves, which requires time on the bike, and it’s a whole lot easier to spend time on the bike if you are comfortable, safe, and efficient.
For whatever reason, folks new to cycling often view particular bits of gear as either intimidating, unstylish, or a waste of cash, and some of it definitely is all of that. There are, however, several items that beginners always seem to shy away from, but experienced cyclists swear by. There is no reason why one shouldn’t jump in and begin reaping the benefits of these immediately. If you do, your cycling experience will be enhanced, meaning more time on the bike, more confidence, and more fitness. You’ll get so good so fast, there will be plenty of room in your brain to focus on that charming old farmhouse while still cranking up the hill next to it, breathing hard and feeling great.
Here are five items (plus a bonus) that we believe every new cyclist should embrace:
Yes, they are intimidating, but clipless pedals are safer, more efficient, and offer superior comfort compared to flat platform pedals. Don’t be afraid, simply take the (short) time to learn how to use them, and clipless pedals will soon feel like an extension of your feet.
While eventually you will want road-specific pedals for a road bike, starting out with a set of two-sided mountain pedals will shorten your learning curve. We recommend Look Keo Easy pedals for beginner roadies, or Shimano PD-M520 pedals if you want to go the two-sided route.
Many beginning, and some experienced, cyclists have an aversion to bib shorts, classifying them as “goofy” or “uncool,” or that they imply a lack of masculinity (for males who are concerned about such things). This is patently ridiculous. First of all, no one will even know, as your jersey goes over the bib shoulder straps.
Women do have a more legitimate reason to question the efficacy of bib shorts, related to one of the body’s homeostatic endeavors. Even still, almost all hardcore women cyclists agree that the benefits of wearing bibs outweigh the inconvenience of scheduling rest stops where trees or shrubs are abundant.
What it comes down to is this: bibs are much more comfortable than shorts. Everywhere. There’s no waistband to dig into your abdomen, front or rear. In fact, bibs support any belly you may have, and provide coverage against the threat of jersey ride-up. The most important feature, though, is chamois retention. Those shoulder straps (which are quite comfortable, not even noticeable after a few minutes of riding) prevent the shorts from sliding down, thus keeping your chamois exactly where it should be, under your butt.
Shorts (non-bibs) tend to slip a little as you ride, and of course, the chamois slips with them. Unless you enjoy chafed thighs, riding with a bunched-up chamois, and walking like a cowboy for a few days after every ride, do yourself a favor and get a pair of bibs. Castelli’s Evoluzione bibs are one of our favorites.
Arm Warmers/Knee Warmers
To the uninitiated, the usefulness of leg sleeves and a shirt without a torso might seem questionable, but you should absolutely own a pair of knee and arm warmers. Arm warmers turn your jersey halfway into a jacket, and are much cheaper. Add a base layer and you’ve just gained the warmth of a thermal jersey without the bulk, plus much more versatility. Don’t suffer through a ride with goose bumps, losing heat and wasting energy to keep warm. Simply slide a pair of arm warmers over your arms and spin in comfort. Arm sleeves cover from your wrist to just below your shoulder, and go underneath jersey sleeves.
Knee warmers add a layer of warmth on cool days, and help keep you knees healthy as well. According to an old Coach’s Rule, anytime air temperature is under 65 degrees, it’s time to break out the knee warmers. You see, keeping the knees warm keeps them happy. Inflammation and pain are reduced, and the inherent compression of Lycra helps to reduce perceived fatigue.
Knee warmers cover from the upper calf to the mid thigh, and tuck underneath shorts. Check out our wide selection of arm, knee, and leg warmers.
And remember, if you get too warm, you can easily remove and tuck your warmers into your jersey pockets. Eventually you’ll be able to do this without getting off the bike!