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I started cycling three months ago (with the intention of joining my work place's MS150 ride next year). I have a big-box bike and a helmet, but aside from the chain breaker tool I needed in order to replace my derailleur, I have no other cycling gear or equipment worth mentioning.

I live paycheck-to-paycheck, and so I most definitely do not have the money fund this at the level that some readers are accustomed to. Buying on credit is not an option.

My current plans are to save up for a new road bike from the LBS, hopefully getting it in time for the ride (which is nine months from now), and to purchase the most important items for riding as the money comes available. I don't expect to have more than $20 to spend during any two-week period.

This all being said, what's is the recommended order for cycling gear?

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    "Paycheck to paycheck" is not a useful measure of spending capacity, some people live paycheck to paycheck on 250k/year. Give dollars per week or month or something. – whatsisname Jul 28 '17 at 4:22
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    You can do a lot for no cost. Gloves are helpful - if you don't have padded ones, consider adding padding in the palm with needle+thread. The downside of this is that it all takes time to prepare. My first riding shirt had ~5 hacks added over time, all for minimal cost. – Criggie Jul 28 '17 at 5:15
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    Check the local opshops or "used clothing shops" for stuff - never know what you will find and its often really cheap. They're all washed and cleaned so no need to be squeamish. – Criggie Jul 28 '17 at 5:17
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    @whatsisname - right there in the 2nd last paragraph: "I don't expect to have more that $20 to spend during any two-week period." How much more "dollars per week" do you want? The math says that's $10/week or $40/month. (and there is, at this point in time, no edit to the OP) – FreeMan Jul 28 '17 at 12:31
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    Most of all, don't buy a new bike. Find a good used bike. If you ask around a friend or coworker probably has on in their basement that would be perfectly fine for you. – Daniel R Hicks Jul 28 '17 at 22:16
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Given your low budget, priority for me would be to have the gear needed to get going after a road side problem, followed by maintenance tools so you can do as much work as needed yourself. Then add stuff that makes life easier.

Roadside repair kit includes:

  • Pump
  • Tire levers
  • Spare Tube
  • Puncture repair kit
  • Multitool - Cheap ones will fix many road side problems, but if its going to be used for regular maintenance get a better tool. Many multi tools come with tire levers.

Pump - CO2 is out - expensive to use - a puncture could eat your weekly budget. Smaller is better when you don't need it, bigger is better if you do. If you are going to have just one, rather than a mini pump get something like the Topeak MiniMorph. If you are getting a full size floor pump later, or have access to a floor pump though work or friends, get a medium sized mini pump, As this would be a road side only tool, a cheaper (not too cheap) one would suffice. Above about $20 your paying for weight and brand.

Floor pump A floor pump (ideally with a gauge) is very handy. You can get by without one, but they are no expensive - can probably get an adequate one for $20.

"Workshop" tools Your road side tools will do most regular maintenance, but don;t expect too much from cheap tools so get better quality if you plan to go down this path. Otherwise the best option would be a cheap "Bicycle repair kit" with most of the tools you need for price of one workshop quality tool. These kits do an OK job as long as you accept they have limits and avoid using them like a "Gorilla with a spanner"

Bike shorts. I strongly suggest getting a quality pair of padded bike shorts. Don;t need to be the most expensive, but don't go too cheap.

Ask around work and friends and let people know what you are up to. You may be surprised how many people offer to lend you their spares of many of these things. You may get lucky find someone has a perfectly serviceable road bike their wife/mother/son has not used in years......

See if you town/city has a bike coop / recycle yard. Many of these places have tools (and people to show you how to use them) so you can do you own maintenance.

Consider used bikes - many are hardly used, or good ones can be well used but very well maintained. tricky problem is identifying them. Talk to your LBS - they may be able to help with selling you a used 'trade in' bike.

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  • +1 for decent shorts - they should be reasonably snug but not so much to cut off blood flow. Depending on your knees you may prefer long pants over shorts. If you're self conscious (I was) then wear them under lighter weight normal pants or shorts (which gives you pockets too) – Criggie Jul 28 '17 at 5:13
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I see your immediate priorities as:

  • Training
  • Saving money
  • Roadside repair

Which are all interlinked: a problem you can't fix can cost you a lot in getting home; using your commute and errands as training time saves petrol or public transport fares (I assume you've optimised this)

So immediate purchases should be

  • a pump and puncture kit
  • a multitool
  • a decent lock - you can't afford to lose your bike

Each of these lines should be doable within your weekly budget. I suggest this sequence if you're happy to only take the bike places where it's secure without a lock. Other early purchases:

  • Chain oil (the cheapest in a bike shop)
  • Some lights
  • A couple of spare tubes

Something to do soon is investigate whether there's anywhere you can use tools for free or a nominal cost: a bike co-op, bike cafe, employer's facilities etc. This will affect your future purchases. Similarly if you ride to work, you get to know the other cyclists - many (not all) will lend you tools, help with repairs etc.

Keeping the chain and gears clean and thoroughly but lightly oiled will make them last longer and save you money.

It sounds like you want to maintain your bike yourself. On a budget that means buying tools when necessary, along with the parts. So after buying the items above I'd save the bike budget up until you've got enough to give it a service.

Once your new bike fund gets to around 1/3 of what you think you'll spend on a new bike, start looking at used bikes. Apart from getting you much more bike for your money, this would get you on your event bike sooner, which is good for training. But it can take time to find one that's right. Do this even if your heart's set on a new bike - to get used to what's available.

Clothing: be comfortable, be seen, keep the wind and rain off - use what you've already got as much as possible. Unlike some others I say hold off the padded shorts etc. until you feel the need, and you may find that they're no benefit on anything other than a road saddle (my hybrid has a 4 hour saddle with or without padding, even 6 at a push, but my tourer needs padding over about 2 hours). Keep your eyes peeled for good deals (again, get to know local cyclists).

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    +1 for the cleaning and oiling, that's going to save lots of money down the line – Calimo Jul 28 '17 at 10:19
  • I'd skip the lock for now - if you never ever leave your bike, a lock is unnecessary. – Criggie Jul 28 '17 at 10:25
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    @Criggie if that's the case, you're right. But if a lock means you use the bike for day-to-day transport instead of petrol/bus fares it can pay for itself in no time (when I switched from the bus to riding to work every day it saved me £20/week -- around $25 US) – Chris H Jul 28 '17 at 14:25
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Here's a list of bare minimums to get you started:

  • A tire pump, the kind that stands on the floor and has a pressure gauge
  • Plastic tire levers
  • A puncture repair kit
  • Some way to reinflate the tire on the road, like CO2 cartridges or a mini-pump (but I've heard that the mini pumps are lousy)
  • Water bottles
  • A mini tool
  • Something to carry that stuff while you ride

Start riding your bike now; it takes a while for most people to get in shape for riding 150 miles over two days. Start with small rides, 5 miles or less, if you're starting completely from scratch. As you gain experience you'll get an idea of what you might need, and what might make riding easier, more comfortable, and safer.

Research local bike clubs, or if there aren't any of those, find the local bike shops that sponsor group rides, to meet other local riders and get feedback from them too. (A minimum level of fitness is expected at most group rides, so if you're really starting from scratch, work up to being able to ride 25 miles or so at a reasonable pace before joining a group.)

Get a good book on bicycle repair, or get free repair advice from parktool.com and YouTube videos. Pay attention to your bike, and learn how to keep it maintained and adjusted. Buy tools as required; most are $20 or less. Making friends with a riding buddy who already has tools is an easy way to get started maintaining your own bike.

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    A mini pump is a considerably better investment than CO2 cartridges and a minitool, while not the best tool in the world, is better than no tools. After that, some shorts are worthwhile for a 150 mile ride. – alex Jul 28 '17 at 2:36
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Posting an answer because I have a lot to say about this. Sorry about the long delay in responding; I so much live paycheck-to-paycheck that I had to let the ISP bill lapse, keeping me off-line for a couple weeks.

First, I am riding already (about 9 miles on Tuesday and Thursday AM before work, longer rides on Saturday morning). I'd like to do this as my regular commute, but I don't have a good place at work to change and it's 22 miles/35 km one way.

I already know of a cycling club that meets nearby (Houston's NWCC, meeting at Zube Park). (NWCC members: I live a mile from the park; If you've seen a guy with a Duck Dynasty beard, street clothes, and hiking boots, that's me.)

I got a clip to hold a water bottle yesterday. Being a hyperactive Dutch guy from Michigan, the slightest amount of heat and effort makes me sweat rivers, so I do need some hydration as I go.

As I read the answers, I will probably purchase in this order:

  1. A toolkit
  2. Riding shorts
  3. A tire kit and pump (lower priority because at the moment I ride a route that never takes me more than 2.5 miles from my house)

Thanks for all the time an effort in answering.

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  • You may mark your answer as "accepted" by clicking the tick/check box below the score, on the left side. – Criggie Aug 11 '17 at 20:44
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Noone's mentioned food. For the longer rides pack something small and digestible. You don't need a lot.

  • Chocolate (break it into blocks and freeze it if the weather is hot.
  • Hard lollies (acid drops/raspberry drops)
  • Muesli bars
  • Cycling gels (they get expensive quickly, and some people get upset tummy after too many)
  • Water - plain water is good for washing down gels (some gels require water, some don't)
  • Hydration mix - Sportswater drink additives to plain water to provide electrolytes.

One bottle may not be enough - I went on a long hot 90 km ride and ended up drinking through three complete 3 litre hydration packs and three normal sized water bottles.

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    Or make your own electrolyte mix -- there are plenty of recipes on the internet using mostly ordinary kitchen things such as bicarbonate of soda. – David Richerby Aug 11 '17 at 21:11

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