How to get started in road cycling (on a budget)

Everything you need to keep you active in these difficult times

The shut down of many aspects of our day-to-day lives in response to the current coronavirus crisis is hard for all of us. In the interests of staying healthy, however, we are still being encouraged to get out and cycle. And if that’s new for you, here’s some advice on what you need to get out on the road.

Cycling is proven not only to be beneficial to your physical health but does wonders for mental health as well. Of course this needs to be on your own (or with members of your household) and undertaken safely to minimise the risk to yourselves and others. If you are isolating for any reason then you mustn’t ride outdoors, and you should respect social distancing by avoiding unnecessary stop-offs. But it’s still a good idea to stay as active as possible.

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So what if you haven’t really thought about cycling before or have members of your immediate household that want to get cycling but don’t know what you need to get started?

We’ve put together this handy guide to highlight the five items you need to get you started in road cycling. Plus, if you find you are really loving it – as you will – we’ve also added some next level kit that will help make your cycling an even better experience.

We’ve listed four road bikes that offer excellent value for money. What you will find is a specific drop handlebar ‘road’ bike will be more expensive than a flat handlebar ‘hybrid’ style bike to buy. However a road bike will offer better performance if you do really begin to enjoy riding.

Of course if you’re itching to get out cycling you might also want to read our ’12 beginner cyclist tips’ guide. Here we go into some of the ways you can really maximise your riding and keep up the motivation whilst riding alone.

With each product is a ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Best Deal’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.

1. The Bike

Triban RC120 £379.99

Decathlon has proven to produce some of the best value bikes and equipment that amazingly actually perform far better than the price tags suggest. The Triban RC120 isn’t it’s cheapest road bike – it sells the £249.99 RC100 as well – but it’s spec sheet is full of reliable and quality parts. An aluminium frame and carbon fork provide excellent performance and road comfort and a 16-speed drivetrain will give you a very useable spread of gears for any terrain.

Buy now: Triban RC120 at Decathlon for £379.99

Carrera Zelos £275* on sale

Carrera’s Zelos is an aluminium framed road bike that focuses on value. Currently reduced by £55 online, it’s another aluminium framed machine but this time features a vibration absorbing steel front fork for added ride comfort. Shimano’s reliable 14-speed Tourney drivetrain shifts with ease and Tektro brake callipers are proven stoppers. Carrera are distributed by Halfords so it should be easy to find one in stock near you. Halfords also offer the Zelos in a women’s specific version. And if you have a little bit more budget to spare, we’d also recommend the Carrera Vanquish for £375.

Buy now: Carrera Zelos at Halfords for £275

Pinnacle Laterite 0 £360

Pinnacle is Evans Cycles’ own brand of bikes and all of its range has been well thought out and specced to get the best ride quality at a very reasonable price. Like the Triban it has an aluminium frame and carbon fork, this time coupled with a 14-speed Shimano Tourney gear set. The Pinnacle also comes with all the mounting points for mudguards and pannier racks so will be great as a commuter when we all get to go back to work.

Buy now: Pinnacle Laterite 0 at Evans Cycles for £360

Merlin PR7 Claris £385* on sale

Merlin always make great value bikes and it currently has a sale on some of its entry level machines from 2019. This means you can get its great value PR7 with a sophisticated aluminium frame, carbon fork and Shimano’s ‘proper’ road bike Claris gear set for just £385. It can’t really be beaten at that price.

Buy now: Merlin PR7 at Merlin Cycles for £385

2. Helmet

After buying the bike, a specific cycle helmet is the first accessory we really recommend. Look for one that exceeds all safety requirements and is from a ‘recognised’ brand. Measure your head at the widest part – just above the ears and across the bump at the back – to work out what size to get. There are plenty of styles to choose from but probably the most important thing is to get one that you actually like wearing!

>>> The best road bike helmets for 2020

Specialized Align £30.00

At this price point, it’s the most capable road cycling helmet that can also be used for commuting and leisure riding. Around the back, the Headset SX fit system dial allows you to easily adjust the fit as you ride to micro levels of adjustment.

Buy now: Specialized Align at Tredz for £30.00

dhb R2.0 Road £37.50* on sale

With a flattering low-profile design, the R2.0 avoids the trap of sitting on top of your head and instead fits naturally around it. The ergonomic dial gives you the precise, custom fit you need for all-day comfort.

Buy now: dhb R2.0 at Wiggle for £37.50

Lazer Compact £24.08* on sale

The Lazer Compact is a little different as it’s a uni-size helmet, designed to fit heads from 54-61cm. A sleek design and excellent construction makes it suitable for all styles of riding with 20 vents to keep you cool. It uses something called Turnfit TS plus adjustment, simply turn the dial at the rear of the helmet for a great fit.

Buy now: Lazer Compact helmet from Halfords for £24.08

3. Cycling Shorts

You’ll thank us for this recommendation. Cycling shorts have an extra layer of padding around the seat to keep you cushioned when riding. Most are meant to be a snug fit and before you ask, you don’t wear your normal underwear underneath. Waist shorts are great as they can be worn under normal clothes if you don’t fancy the full-on lycra look.

>>> Best cycling shorts for women

>>> Best cycling shorts for men

Altura Cadence 2 waist short £19.99* on sale

Comfortable and affordable, the Altura Cadence 2 waist shorts give you the performance you need for all forms of riding. Made with Altura Dry technology the Cadence cycling shorts are designed to wick excess moisture away from your skin, so you stay dry as you ride. The Altura Comp 3D pad features a dual density foam construction to keep you comfortable in the saddle on long road rides. Integrated silicone grippers keep the shorts in place while you cycle.

Buy now: Altura Cadence 2 shorts at Tredz for £19.99 or Altura Cadence 2 women’s shorts at Tredz for £19.99

dhb Shorts £30.00

For those riders who are seeking excellent performance and amazing value from their riding kit, the dhb Waist Shorts could well be the perfect choice. Combining a high-quality Italian Miti stretch fabric for a supportive fit with a CyTech Elastic Interface ‘Veloce’ chamois pad, you get a pair of shorts that will see you riding in comfort for two or three hours of fun. Whether it’s for commuting, leisure riding or maybe dipping the toe in the water of sportives, these shorts have got you covered.

Buy now: dhb shorts from Wiggle for £30.00 or dhb women’s shorts for £22.50

Triban RC100 £17.99

Decathlon has you really well covered for cycling. These RC100 shorts aren’t its cheapest – they do a pair for an unbelievable £5.99! – but we think the comfort that this RC100 pair will provide is well worth the added price. Flat seams stop rubbing and the foam pad absorbs vibrations and provides excellent cushioning. Silicone grippers along the hems stop them from wriggling up.

Buy now: Triban RC100 shorts from Decathlon for £17.99 or Triban Women’s 500 Shorts for £17.99

4. Cycling Jersey

Clothing is really important for cycling. You can obviously wear anything you want to but the right sort of clothing helps transfer sweat to keep you feeling comfortable and protects from the weather so you can still enjoy riding outdoors. Shorts are obviously the most important item of clothing but a good jersey can make the difference. A cycling specific jersey will fit well when on the bike but also has storage pockets – usually at the back – to carry your personal items. Here are a couple of different types and styles to look at.

>>> The best road cycling long sleeve jerseys

>>> The best road cycling short sleeve jerseys

dhb short sleeve jersey £25

The dhb Short Sleeve Jersey can take you from a family leisure ride to dipping your toes into sportive riding and everything between. While the price is great value the cycling performance is impressively top-notch.

Buy now: dhb short sleeve jersey from Wiggle for £25.00 or dhb women’s short sleeve jersey for £18.75

Triban RC500 Long Sleeve jersey £29.99

It’s still pretty cold outside at this time of year so a good long sleeve jersey wold be a great investment. Most like this Triban RC500 use thicker and warmer fabrics to protect from the chill yet still allow for good breathability.

Buy now: Triban RC500 Long Sleeve jersey from Decathlon for £29.99

5. Trackpump

You’ve got the new bike but one of the most essential items to get you on the road and keep you riding is a proper track pump. Road bike tyres need to be pumped up to pretty high pressures – normally more than 60psi – to prevent punctures and to make the bike roll easily and be less hard work to ride. Also most road bikes use Presta inner tube valves so you can’t use the pump you use on your car. Check the side of the tyres on your bike as the recommended pressures are often printed here. We can tell you now that a track pump will make keeping tyres at proper pressures a properly easy job.

LifeLine Essential track pump £14.99

An excellent value track pump for quick, accurate inflation of road and MTB tyres. With a barrel mounted gauge and a dual purpose head, the LifeLine Essential Track pump is an indispensible component of your home bike maintenance kit.

Buy now: LifeLine Essential track pump at Wiggle for £14.99

Park Tool PFP8 Home Mechanic Floor Pump £25.00* on sale

Park Tool make some of the best, most reliable tools for cycling and this PFP8 pump is no different. Currently reduced at Tweeks Cycles the PFP8 is made of durable steel parts and has an easy to read pressure gauge.

Buy now: Park Tool PFP8 pump at Tweeks Cycles for £25.00

Fancy a complete starter kit? Look at the Merlin PR7 Road Starter kit

If you don’t fancy trawling around to get yourself all of the kit you need to get you started, Merlin Cycles has you covered with its Merlin PR7 Road Starter Kit. Not only do you get the excellent Merlin PR7 Claris bike but Merlin will also throw in shoes, pedal, helmet and a starter tool kit. And right now it’s reduced from £699 to a bargain £429.

Buy now: Merlin PR7 Claris starter kit from Merlin Cycles from £429

Of course these aren’t the only accessories you might want to buy to really enjoy your cycling but there’s no doubt that getting something from each of the above categories will get you out and experiencing the best cycling has to offer.