If you’re a beginner cyclist or runner (or both) then you need to avoid some common mistakes including buying the cheapest thing available, and at the other end of the scale becoming the “all the gear, no idea” dude or dudette. Here are some top tips to get you started…
Set yourself a budget and stick with it.
Buy the best you can get for that budget, and I guarantee you, you’ll enjoy the kit a lot more and if you don’t, then the damage isn’t too bad.
A decent entry level road bike for instance can be bought for about £500. If you’re thrifty and shop around you can do better. I bought my first road bike in 2008, an aluminium frame with a carbon fork, in the winter sales for £200. I still have that bike and I still ride it. Talk about value for money.
With bikes, you don’t need the most blingest and most aero bike at the beginning, because let’s face it, it’s the rider that moves the darn thing and if you can’t move fast, the fastest bike won’t get you anywhere any faster. Plus, I can tell you there is something extremely satisfying whizzing past one of those bling-bike guys on your trusty aluminium ride.
And, if you truly get hooked by cycling or any sport, the joy of shopping for something better, when you actually have a clue, is all the greater. Plus you then have a winter training bike in your stables, so that your new carbon ride (or steel or titanium if you want to truly treat yourself) can safely stay inside during those dastardly winter months.
That said, there are a few pieces of kit for cycling and running that I would recommend spending a decent bit of money on, because they will make your experience more enjoyable. Although, the budget rule still applies, since you don’t want to risk getting divorced!
For cycling, you should invest in:
A good pair of shorts.
I’ve tried many, mainly because I wanted to save money, but have come to the conclusion that quite possibly I’ve ended up spending more money on series of cheap(ish) shorts, than I would have spent overall if I had invested in one pair of good but slightly more expensive ones.
The chamois are generally better quality, better formed and last longer. The cut and construction of the shorts just tends to fit better without restricting you or making you feel like you’ve got a cardboard box or a double pair of nappies between your legs. Bib shorts are the best decision you can make since they will move about less. There are specially designed bib shorts for women, so no excuses, really ladies.
A good helmet.
Helmets save lives, simple as. So invest in one and wear it with pride. Nowadays, a great quality helmet that is comfortable and well ventilated does not break the bank any more, and they come in nice colour schemes to match your bike.[Top Tip from Editor: Do not wear your helmet back to front like the dude in the picture above!]
A good pair of sunglasses.
Why do I think cycling sunglasses are important? Quite honestly, mainly to protect your eyes. The constant draft from the wind on your eyes can easily lead to inflammation. Never mind all the stuff that gets blown into your eyes.
Getting hit by a big fat fly in the face at 20 mph hurts like hell, and a big fat fly like that can cause serious damage to your eyes. And what of little stones being flipped up by cars or other riders ahead of you. I’d go with a set that has exchangeable lenses so you can adapt to changing light conditions. I ride with smoke lenses when the sun is out, orange or yellow lenses when it is overcast, and clear lenses when it is proper cloudy or in the rain (yes, even in the rain).
For running, my list is very, very short. Yes, all the nice technical running kit is wonderful, makes you look cool, but a pair of shorts and a T-Shirt will do for starters. Ask for a voucher for your birthday once you’ve decided running is for you, and then upgrade your kit with a few choice pieces, such as a good rain jacket and some tights. This works best after you’ve completed your first race, so it’s a true reward.
However, what you really want to invest in right at the beginning is a pair of good running shoes. Yes, you will need to invest around £100 for a decent pair, but you will do your body the biggest favour you can imagine. Go to your local running shop and get your gait analysed. The shop will then be able to recommend a couple of suitable pairs for you to try out. Decide which ones feel the most comfortable, not which look the coolest. A comfortable well fitting pair of shoes is the first step to a long and happy relationship with running as it will help avoid injuries.
The second step is a pair of good socks. Blisters are generally caused by ill-fitting socks combined with ill-fitting shoes. They get wet, start rubbing and presto – blister. I prefer wool socks (merino is lovely) because they absorb sweat from your feet and keep them nice, dry and cool in the summer. I’ve splashed through a few puddles in the winter and yes, initially I had that wet cold feeling, but the wool socks very quickly absorbed the water and warmed my feet up, without causing rubbing despite being soaking wet. Synthetic socks don’t do that for you.
And that’s it really. Those are the kit items I would recommend spending money on if you are first starting out. One last word of advice, a lot of the kit items are multi-functional and give you a bit of that cool factor. Wear your cycling shades for running (for the same reasons as on the bike, a fat fly still hurts even at 5 miles an hour), and wear your merino socks on the bike to add that extra comfort.
Until the next time.