Buying Bikes & Gear – Guide to Beginner Commuters
Riding a bike is one of the most enjoyable, liberating, and rewarding activities a person can do (from our slightly biased point of view).
With a bicycle and a few essential pieces of gear, you have the ability to cross continents, you become a member of an exclusive group of like-minded people, and you strengthen your physical and mental health, all at the same time.
The first most important step to starting your cycling journey is choosing a bike, and we know that it can be difficult to choose the right one.
Once you have chosen the bike, no matter how you plan to ride it, there are some basic tools and pieces of equipment that are absolutely essential to wear and have with you when you ride.
Finally, even with the perfect bike and gear, you must be road/trail savvy, with an understanding of technique, etiquette, safety.
To help you begin your cycling journey, we’ve put together this beginner’s guide so you can know what the right bike gear is, how to choose the perfect bicycle for your body and needs, as well as some basic tips for smooth and safe riding.
A full cycling gear should consist of:
3. A Bike Pump
4. Repair Tools
6. Saddle Bag
Price and Expectations (Bike + Gear)
Buying a bike is an excellent investment and can benefit your life in a number of different ways, depending on how you plan to use it. These benefits range from health and social life improvements, all the way to money and time savings. Let’s take a look at these a little further.
- Regardless of the cycling you do, you will experience noticeable health benefits from riding regularly. This includes improvements to mental health and mood as well as lowering the risk of all of the major illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer
- Swapping your car for a bicycle when running errands or for your work commute can save you a considerable amount of money over the course of a year. We break down the price expectations below (you can compare this to your annual car expenses)
- If you live in a busy urban area, cycling can also save you quite a bit of time. You can often move to the front of a traffic queue or take a shortcut along a trail with your bike, and save time on the way to work or even dropping your kid(s) to school with the right kids’ accessories
- Cycling is an amazing way to explore the world. This could be your local area, a different state, or another continent entirely. You can also get your children involved in any adventure you plan to take
- For $1,000 (Entry)- Gets you a bundle of a new, entry-level bike, a helmet, lock, and lights.
- For $1,500 (Mid) – Entry- or mid-range bike with full gear.
- For $2,000 (Mid) – A mid-range bike with full gear and extras (e.g. pannier bags)
Table of Contents
1. Choosing The Right Bike
Before you start your search for a bicycle, consider the following general questions so you can narrow down the list of options available to you:
- Where do you plan on riding the bike? This question will determine which type of bike you go for. Riding on roads (road bike), off-road (mountain), a combination (hybrid, gravel), city riding (comfort bike, hybrid, commuter), touring (touring bike), or assisted riding (e-bike)
- How often will you ride it? If you plan on using your bike frequently, you will want better components that do not degrade as quickly. Entry-level parts will work fine for light usage
- What type of riding will you do most? If your bike is for exercise or competition, or just a mode of transport this will change which style of bike you need
- What is your budget? In general, you get what you pay for when you buy a bike and gear. Spend as much as you are comfortable with (maximize your budget) to get the bike you want, and consider buying second-hand if your budget is lower
- Will you buy local or online?/Can you do a test ride? Using a local bike store to get your first bike can be extremely helpful. You can test ride some bikes that fit your requirements and get a basic fitting done. Online may be cheaper but you may sacrifice the relationship with your local bike shop.
Once you have narrowed that down, you can begin searching for bikes that meet your specifications and that are the appropriate size for you either online or in a local bike shop.
Which bicycle is best for a commuter?
If you are commuting short to medium distances, there are a few types of bicycles that may work for you. Each of these types has its own advantages and disadvantages. A commuter bike could be in many styles as long as it has the accessories you need for your commute. Look out for fenders and a pannier rack on commuter bikes, these help you avoid road splash and easily carry any of your work equipment.
- Hybrid – Perfect bike for most styles of riding, except for pure road or mountain biking
- Cruiser/Comfort bikes – Excellent bike for people commuting 10 to 20 miles who want a comfortable, upright ride
- E-bikes – Any appropriate bike that provides assistance with a motor or battery, getting you to your destination without breaking a sweat
- Fixie/Singlespeed – Great lightweight and cheap option for riding on flat roads
- Folding – This bike is very useful for commuting as it can be folded and stored while on public transit, at the office, or at home.
Which is the best bicycle for training?
Depending on the type of training or exercise you want to do, you can pick one of the following styles of bike:
- Mountain – These bikes are designed for using mostly off-road on trails or gravel paths. They perform best on rough terrain
- Road – Road bikes perform best and are designed to be ridden solely on paved/asphalt road surfaces. Tires puncture easily on gravel/trails
- Gravel – Gravel bikes are very similar to road bikes, but they use larger, threaded tires to allow riding on, you guessed it, gravel
- Fitness – A fitness bike is a type of hybrid bike that is optimized slightly more toward performance than other functions like commuting for example
Best bicycle for all-round use?
- Hybrid – If you want to do a bit of everything, a hybrid bike is a great choice. Hybrids vary greatly so there is something for each type of rider
- City – Best bike for urban riding and short journeys around town
- Touring – Built for durability and functionality, a touring bike can be used for anything
Most comfortable for short trips?
- Cruiser/Comfort – These bikes are built for comfort over short distances. To do this they combine upright frame geometry, large wheels, suspension, and plush saddles
- E-Bike – Pedal comfortably and with ease even on hills using an e-bike with pedal assistance. Or, take it to the next level with a comfort-style electric bike such as the Ride1UP 700 Series.
2. Beginner Cyclist Gear
Helmet – Lock – Pump – Lights – Pedals – Saddle
When you are buying a bike, there are a few pieces of gear and tools that you should get and have with you every time you go riding. These tools will help keep you as safe as possible and get you out of many (eventual) problems faced while on the road or trail.
Safety equipment, namely a helmet, is vital at all times, and if you ride in the dark, lights and reflectors are also important. Puncture repair tools are another vital part of cycling. Everyone will get a puncture eventually, so be prepared!
A helmet is the single most important piece of equipment you will purchase for your bike. Using a helmet reduces the chance of sustaining a brain injury from a bike crash on average by 58%.
Unfortunately, less than 50% of Americans wear an adequate helmet while riding, meaning the number of fatal accidents is likely higher than it should be. It’s obvious that nobody plans to crash, but being prepared for the unexpected is very wise.
When choosing a helmet, the most important things to consider are size/fit and your riding style. More expensive helmets have different technologies and features, but the most important thing is that it complies with safety standards.
You can measure your head or go to a local bike shop to try a few sizes, just ensure that the helmet is snug and comfortable. As regards riding style, mountain biking helmets are different from standard helmets. They provide more protection on the back of the head and often have a visor.
Buying a well-made bike lock is a no-brainer for any cyclist who plans on leaving their bike anywhere but their own home.
Using a lock correctly (not all locking is equal) significantly reduces the chance your bike will be stolen and gives you peace of mind when you leave your favorite possession behind.
Bicycles are expensive to replace, and a good lock will only cost you roughly $50 to $150. Clearly, if your bike is only worth $200, you don’t need the most expensive lock, but it’s still worth having one that provides adequate security for the area that you live.
If you are interested in learning more about how to keep your bike as safe as possible no matter where you lock it, check out our article on bike security here.
2.3 Bicycle Pump (+Repair Kit)
Bike pumps generally come in two styles, track/floor pumps, and mini/hand pumps. If you cycle regularly, you should get one of each, but if you do just get one, it should be a hand pump to take with you on your rides.
A floor pump is one you would buy for your home or wherever you keep your bicycle. Using this type of pump is much easier to fill your tires with air compared to a hand pump. One very helpful feature to look out for is a pressure gauge, which allows you to accurately fill your tires to the recommended range (found on your tire wall)
A hand pump is just a mini version and is primarily for use while out riding. It is essential to carry one with you to be able to refill your tires if you get a puncture.
Mini CO2 gas inflation kits are also available, with a special inflator and gas canisters to pump a tire very quickly while out riding. These are more expensive than regular hand pumps.
For roadside repairs, it’s also important to take along a spare tube or two, tire levers, and a puncture repair kit. All of these and your hand pump will allow you to repair/replace any punctured tube. Learn how to fix a puncture here.
2.4 Bike Lights (+ Reflectors)
Bike lights are another essential tool to have for your bicycle before you go on your first ride. Even if you don’t plan on riding in the dark, early mornings or cloudy evenings can make it difficult to identify cyclists on the road. Being visible helps you and other road users stay safe.
In the United States, the law says any bike on the road between sunset and sunrise must have working front and rear lights. The type of lights you need will depend mostly on where you plan to ride. Check out our article on the bike lights to help you choose the right ones for the type of riding you plan on doing.
Reflectors are also very useful for increasing your visibility in low light. Reflective cycling gear, high-vis vests, reflective helmets, and bike attachments are all available for this purpose.
There are four main types of bike pedals, as well as hybrid pedals which combine two of the four together. Finding your perfect pedals will help you enjoy your rides as much as possible, and be comfortable and confident while on your bike.
The pedal you choose will depend on what type of cycling you do, your experience as a cyclist, your budget, and your personal preferences.
Cheap pedals degrade quickly over time, leading to more friction when they spin, costing the rider more energy. They may also be unsafe in wet conditions as the grip wears away quicker.
Clipless pedals (mountain or road) are suitable for more serious riders and help riders maximize pedal stroke efficiency, thus improving power and saving energy. These are more expensive and require special shoes.
Platform and toe cage pedals are better for beginners or casual cyclists, but sacrifice some efficiency in the pedal stroke. These pedals are cost-effective and versatile. Learn more about the pros and cons of each type in our comprehensive guide to bike pedals.
2.5 Saddle (Extra)
A bicycle saddle can make or break your experience of riding your bike. The right saddle will allow you to enjoy every mile whereas the wrong saddle can make every second uncomfortable or even painful.
It’s worth noting that more padding doesn’t equal more comfort, especially for long distances. Even the perfect saddle takes a little getting used to. So if it’s your first time sitting on a bike saddle for an extended period, or are riding for the first time in a while, allow one or two weeks with some rest between rides to become accustomed to it. Any pain beyond two or three weeks means your saddle is not the right fit.
Finding the right saddle is a tricky process as there are many shapes, sizes, and designs. To help our readers, we have dedicated a whole article to the process from start to finish which you can check out here.
2.6 Saddle Bags
A saddle bag is a super helpful accessory to add to your bike that helps you store some of the important tools you need for making adjustments to your bike or repairing a puncture.
This includes spare tubes, tire levers, a puncture repair kit, and a multitool. Larger seat bags may even have space for a rain jacket or some snacks.
These bags connect conveniently under your bike saddle with velcro straps, a fixed mount, or a combination of both. Having the bag permanently fixed there means that you don’t need to remember to pack each of those ride essentials every time you head out. However, you do need to remember to replace things like the spare tubes if you use them up.
Find out more about the best bike saddle bags and how to choose one here.
3. Knowledge for Beginner Cyclists
Check out our comprehensive 101 Guide for Beginner Cyclists. Here you can learn more about cycling technique and safety, bike maintenance, and health and performance for cyclists.