Some background information on myself before I get to the question:

I've decided to get in to cycling both as a hobby and because I need the activity. (Though I'm honestly driven more by the former - I've always enjoyed riding since I was a kid.) I already have a bike that seems decent to me (for someone in my position), but I'm also a newcomer and don't know that much. It's a 2004 Cannondale R800. When I was about 15, my dad and I each got one to start together. Long story short, we had some demotivating initial experiences with the clipless pedals, moved shortly after, and soon the bikes were (sadly) forgotten.

Now (~6 years later), I'm looking to actually get into it, and it seems that there is a lot of "essential" gear I should buy. I have somewhat limited funds (as a student), and can't do it all at once, so was hoping for some guidance in both what I absolutely need to get, and what would be more ancillary. Also, recommendations on around how much I should be spending on different items would be helpful. For example, I know headlights can run anywhere from $10-$1000+, but I don't know what the sweet spots between performance and value are.

I live in a fairly rural environment in a university town of ~21k people. There is a decent bike shop in town considering the size, however their focus is much more casual/ kid-oriented.

What I do have:

  • Jersey (longsleeve + shortsleeve)
  • Cycling Shorts
  • Cycling Shoes
  • Helmet
  • (Small) Saddle Bag
  • Pump
  • Emergency Patch Kit

Things I don't have, but are on my radar to acquire (at some point):

  • Headlights / Taillights
  • Cycling computer / heart monitor (I do have an Android phone that I know can facilitate this point.)
  • Additional clothing, though nothing particular at the moment
  • Gloves
  • Tool kit

I'd like to be fairly serious about it, though training for self-improvement, not competition. I'm planning to gear up to riding my first century this September.

Tell me if there's any more information I need to add, and, thanks!

  • Welcome to Bicycles.SE! Your question is quite similar to What are the utmost important things to bring on a ride? - Is there anything you're looking to find out that's not already addressed in this earlier question? Jun 22, 2011 at 4:29
  • "2004 Cannondale R800" - There are not many spokes on that e.g. compared to my Kona Dr Dew - so maybe there's some road-bike-specific gear that I haven't mentioned. I know I talked once with someone on a road bike: and he looked at my wheels and commented that they, unlike his, won't break easily.
    – ChrisW
    Jun 22, 2011 at 5:36

10 Answers 10


Sounds like you have the basics covered pretty well.... If you're turning in some serious mileage, you want to be able to handle flats and minor repairs on the road.
Minimum is a good frame pump ( a lot of the mini pumps have trouble getting past 50 pounds or so...) spare tube, tire tools, etc. Some of the handy little hand-cleaning wipes are a good idea as well. A multi-tool that will take care of most emergencies is a good investment; it should include a chain breaker, allen wrenches to fit the fasteners on your bike, etc. Some money is never a bad idea. You may just HAVE to have a donut....


If you have a specific question about lights, for example, I think it would be better asked as a separate question. I could tell you what kind I have but they may not be suitable for you.

I like gloves: I consider them safety equipment like a helmet (in case of accident), and comfortable like shoes or shorts are (normally), good for the handle bar grips (keeps the sweat off them), and apparently they (having padding built-in) are good for soaking up vibration and so avoiding numb hands (I commute on crazed pavement).

I like to have a raincoat and/or a jacket, when it's cold.

I've a U-lock for my bike, so I can park it outside (some people wouldn't, for a road-bike: never leave their bike alone).

I don't have a computer or heart monitor so I don't know what I'm missing (but IME it's possible to cycle without one). I do have a wrist-watch, and maps at home, so I can plan my route in advance.

Storing a public transit token in my on-bike bag was useful once, when I got a nail through my tire.


I may have different needs than you, but I'd say the following is essential.

  1. Front light - Law requires it in California, so I'm told. I use a flashlight + duct tape, and though you can probably spend quite a bit on lights, I don't see the difference as long as it has a filament or whatever that emits the [portion of electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye][1] ;)
  2. Back light - Self-preservation requires it at night. In many conditions, you can be invisible to cars, so its probably worth the investment. Get a blinky red one.
  3. U-Lock combo - If you're gonna leave it outside, pretty essential. It's good to remember, though, that how and where you lock your bike will do more to protect it than an expensive lock.

As for all this clothes business, I don't get it. I ride in jeans with the one leg rolled up, and that suits me fine. Also, a wrench is good to have if your chain slips and you can't be bothered to force it in like you do.

I feel the need to end this by saying "but that's just me." There's tons of people who think riding without a helmet is reckless, and that the only people stupid enough to ride w/o a helmet must have sustained a brain injury while riding without a helmet. (See what I did there?) What I ride bikes for (commutin, gettin places, leavin them) may be different than what you ride bikes for.

  • Here in Ontario the law requires "a bell or horn in good working order". I've often seen 'road bikes' on shared, two-lane bike+pedestrian paths, running quiet and unable or unwilling to warn pedestrians and other cyclists. I once saved a pedestrian from one by using my bell. But front and rear lights are required only at night, or riding within a half hour of dusk or dawn.
    – ChrisW
    Jun 23, 2011 at 13:37
  • 1
    Why would you need a bell when you can just be like, "hey, scuze me, im tryna ride by you or whatever."
    – James
    Jun 24, 2011 at 5:01
  • Perhaps because if you're riding at getting on for 10 metres/second, to give even a second or so of warning you do it from about 15 metres away.
    – ChrisW
    Jun 24, 2011 at 5:17
  • 1
    The reason for warning people at all is that, if they don't know you're coming, then there's nothing to stop them moving (stepping or riding) sideways into your path. I ring-ring and watch for a slight movement which shows they've heard and are aware (otherwise I ... slow down, go wide around, etc).
    – ChrisW
    Jun 24, 2011 at 14:15
  • 1
    When riding on shared paths, a bell gives people the more instant notice that there is a bike approaching, as people know that bikes have bells. Shouting requires people to process that someone is shouting, oh they're riding a bike. I think a bell just has more of a nice informal social contract that you're not being rude, just letting you know I'm here. Jun 10, 2016 at 8:13

Go completely analog with the bike-telemetry and treat yourself to a compass-bell:

Compass bell

I don't use mine very often - either to get people out of my way or to find where I am going - however the compass feature has been very useful when I have been lost in the big city and not known which way to go down a street. It won't tell you how fast you are going or what time of day it is but it needs no power and is of more interest than the standard bell (which you have probably taken off, right?).


If you're riding in low light condition, lights can be mandatory by law. I also like gloves because they protect your hands in accident.

A computer with cadence is the minimum you need to have if you want to train. I don't want to ride without one because I need to know cadence for doing intervals. Heart rate monitor will be required if you want to have a coach.

  • Instead of a cadence computer, you just can calculate a cadence table for every razonable gear/speed combination and memorize it. Why paid for a gadget when you can developed a skill? Gadget wears out; skills gets better.
    – user5369
    Oct 10, 2013 at 10:36
  • @LookAlterno I don't see it practical in training. Typically you do intervals in training, with different intervals for different phases. So, in one ride you need to keep track one rpm for the interval and one rpm for just riding. You most likely need to change gear and cadence depending on your heart rate. Plus you need to keep track how many/long interval/rest you've done down to the minute all in exhausted state. That's pretty hard. It's better to concentrate to how you pedal, etc.
    – imel96
    Oct 10, 2013 at 22:39

Lots of good advice so far, here are my tips.

Glasses - I'm lucky enough to live somewhere with a lot of sunlight, so sunglasses are essential. But, even if you don't need sun protection, clear or yellow glasses will protect your eyes from bugs, grit and other foreign objects. (Try stopping safely when you've been blinded by something coming off the road surface.)

Lights - I don't ride with lights all the time but plenty of my friends do. In flashing mode it's easier for motorists to see you during the day. I'm using the Cygolite Metro 300 which I picked up for AU$80, but you may pay more than that now. They're bright, compact and rechargeable from a USB port.

Computer - if you invest in a computer make sure it has cadence. If you really want to improve your cycling, monitoring and controlling your cadence will give you better results than constantly being aware of how fast and far you've travelled.

Bell - if you're required by law to fix a bell to your bike, put it on your seatpost. It's out of the way but still accessible.


A couple of pairs of nitrile gloves can make you look more civilized if you have to faff about with the mucky bits.



A bandana to keep sweat out of your eyes in summer and keep head warm in winter (plus a scarf for your neck).


Spare tube($2). Tire levers($5), Minipump (don't be skimping on this, get a good brand like Topeak but still wont cost much, $40). This is really all I take with me on a ride (aside from my wallet and my phone).

Don't bother with patching tires. Its annoying to others when you're riding with them and you flat and have to go patch a tire. Just replace it with a spare. At home you'll need a standing pump (a big one, the Minipump is just to get home, you could get the SKS Rennkompressor, this one is often recommended).

Less essential: indoor trainer. The last I can credit for a lot of my cycling improvement as a time-pressed student. I have a Tacx Fortius mp(800 euro for me, it would be more expensive in the States). Best money I ever spent on cycling aside from the bike ofc. Coaches recommend this too.

I have a cycling computer, but that was the worst money I ever spent on cycling (400 euro). The chest-band does not help breathing and the speed/cadence measurement is unreliable. I don't use it anymore. I think its only useful when you have a power meter (but that's rather an expensive proposition).

I don't really recommend lights. Cycling after dark is no fun. Maybe you'll ride the last 20 minutes returning home from a group ride in the dark every so often. You could get really cheap lights ($5) you can easily hang under your handlebar and saddle for that, I suppose. Anything else is overkill. Attaching a light to your bike just screams 'commuter'. That's fine when you're riding by yourself and there are no others around. but when your training partners are looking like a peleton (including shirts, shaved legs, the works), you'll think: if I had not attached that light, I'll be more aero. And you'll remove them.

What else... a rain or windjacket is not a bad idea (it needs to fit in one of the pockets in your jersey easily). Mine has just wind protection on the front. Cost me 20 euro. If you're a bit mad you'll be riding outside when it's cold too. Then you'll maybe like a winter jacket (can get maddeningly expensive or cheap. My 20 euro thing serves well enough).

If you still have cash left after this, go make someone else happy with it, as you won't be needing it :P


CO2 Cannister - beats a pump any day for getting up and rolling again quickly. But always carry a pump for backup.

Invest in clothing. There's an increasing trend to Rain / Wind jerseys rather than full-on rain jackets. My favourites are the SS Castelli Gabba and the SS Sportful Fiandre.

Gilet, arm-warmers, knee and leg warmers. Versatile kit as part of a layering system.

A matter of taste for some - but cycling caps. keep the sweat and sun out of the eyes in the summer. And head warm(er) in the winter.

GPS - Make sure it is ANT+ compliant and you might want to check if it is power-meter compatible. Just in case ...

Neoprene overshoes. Great for keeping the feet warm and dry.

Toolkit - if you don't have already - should also have a chain-splitter and a tyre boot. Although a gel wrapper makes a great tyre boot.

ICE - in case of emergency. Necklace, bracelet or card.

Join a club.

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