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

12 Answers 12


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 still like to use a map at home to know where I'll be going, but I now also carry a smartphone which has e.g. Google Map.
    – ChrisW
    Jul 11, 2022 at 11:42

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

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.


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

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


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).


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.


Since 2011, the price and function of some accessories has changed a bit.

Access to a GPS computer isn't mandatory, but it can improve your cycling experience in some ways. It can enable you to track routes you've done, for example with others. Many organized rides may give you GPS files for the ride, and a GPS computer would enable you to follow them. Your ability to navigate on the fly without a preset route is a lot more limited with traditional bike GPSes. Your existing phone is a possible alternative, if only there were a secure way to mount it to the bars. Fortunately, companies have worked on the latter problem! Quadlock is known to be secure. For some time, they were the only brand people would trust. However, here, Seth of the YouTube channel Berm Peak reviews two newer competitor brands, Fidlock and Mous. There are likely others. Also, entry-level GPS units have come down in price, and you can get decent, if off-brand ones for (I believe) US$200 and under.

I'm not sure when be-seen or daytime running lights became a thing, but they are now a product category. They enable drivers or other road users to perceive you at a greater distance during the day. They aren't designed for nighttime use (those are the lights running well over US$100), but I have a feeling that few of us cycle at night. They are worth considering, even if I don't consider them mandatory.

The OP bought a saddle bag, which is the traditional location for one's flat kit. Since the late 2010s, other bags, like handlebar bags, have become more fashionable for road cyclists. There are also bags that mount inside the front triangle (frame bags) or to the top tube behind the stem. They can be used an alternative to putting things in your jersey pockets, or as an alternative to the saddle bag, or as extra snack storage (remembering that on long rides, you can burn a surprising amount of calories), or some combination of all. This Q&A has some discussion. Personally, on long solo rides, I'll use a handlebar bag for a small lock, snacks, and the usual contents of my jersey pockets (usually phone, wallet, keys). On fast group rides, I ditch the bag (but some riders still use handlebar bags on faster rides).

The OP discussed wanting to get gloves. If you crash, gloves will protect your hands from road rash, which can be both painful and very inconvenient on your hands. However, if you're not racing, crashes are rare. I feel that gloves are a personal choice, but I'd strongly recommend them if racing or if doing a lot of fast group rides. A possible alternative is more padded bartape. I'm not sure what the situation was in 2011, but current tapes have a wide range of padding levels. You'll commonly see tapes around 2mm thick, which is very little padding, and others that are 2.5mm or 3mm thick, corresponding to medium and high padding. Some tapes are thicker still. Again, these can be an option worth considering for anyone, regardless of your glove choices.

Arm and knee/leg warmers are an key accessory that nobody mentioned yet. These enable you to adapt to conditions that change on a ride, e.g. you started early morning in the cold, and it warms up. They make your summer riding clothes more usable in fall or spring (vs. buying long-sleeved jerseys and tights). Base layers are another accessory in this vein. Be aware that the latter may come in different versions for cool weather and for hot weather. Hot weather base layers are thought to help with moisture wicking away from the skin, which increases the amount of cooling. In hot and humid weather (e.g. summers in the US Midwest, South, Mid-Atlantic), I am not sure this mechanism works, but some companies may have designed different fabrics for this use case.

  • It depends on the local climate of course but if your luggage capabilities are sufficient for some rainwear may be good to carry it.
  • I do not use any special eyeglasses while cycling because I wear my usual daily prescription glasses. But the bugs hit them quite often; without glasses would not be good.
  • Depending on your destination, you may need at least one working glove in case you drop the chain. It is more than ten seconds job to wash the hands properly after you fix the chain especially if there is no soap at place, and depending on the situation this may bring you into trouble.
  • You can also carry a tube replacment kit but be sure you can actually do the replacement in acceptable time, otherwise makes no sense.
  • While taking a front light may depend on intentions to ride into the night, a small rear light with long lasting battery will make a rare unexpected night journey much safer.

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