Cycling FAQs

I’m a beginner. What cycling kit should I buy?

  • Bike helmet
  • Clipless pedals (see ‘What brand of clipless pedals‘ section below)
  • Cycling glasses to protect your eyes from flying rocks, bugs and wind. The best ones have interchangeable lenses so you can use clear or light coloured lenses in dull weather (most days in this country) and dark lenses in sunny weather.
  • Cycling gloves
  • Lights if you plan to do any cycling in the dark or at dawn/dusk. A red flashing light for the rear is adequate, together with, ideally, a powerful light.on the front.  Cheaper led front lights are common, and are usually fine for commuting, but if you’re planning on riding at fast pace in the dark, you’ll want a bright light such as Exposure lights – they light up the road well and ensure you can see obstacles well in advance!
  • Spare inner tubes, tyre levers, and patch kit.
  • Bike pump

Where can I rent a road bike in London?

Cycle Surgery (Kings Cross branch), On Your Bike (London Bridge) and Totally Timetrial provide this service.

Any recommendations of a bike shop to buy a new / used bike, or get some maintenance work done?

Several people in the club have used Pretorius Bikes and have been very happy with them. Bespoke Cycling in Farringdon has also been highly recommended by several members.

What should I wear for winter cycling training?

Essentials:

  • long-fingered gloves
  • long tights
  • base layer top (like long underwear) if it’s really cold
  • long sleeve cycling jersey or sports top
  • water-resistant or waterproof jacket with ventilation zippers under the arms

The jacket will be the most expensive but well worth the money for a good one if you’ll be cycling much in England. Get one made for cycling that comes down past your bum so you don’t get soaked by the water coming up from your back wheel. It is for wind and rain protection more than for warmth. Get one that is big enough so that you can wear two layers underneath if it is really cold. In warmer weather, you can wear it over a short-sleeve jersey to keep the rain off. You can unzip the ventilation holes under the arms to prevent getting too sweaty and wet on the inside. A bright, visible colour like yellow is the safest.

Also nice but not essential:

  • neoprene booties to wear over cycling shoes
  • water resistant or waterproof trousers
  • thin fleece hat with ear flaps that can be worn under your helmet if it’s really cold

What brand of clipless pedals should I get?

Shimano 105 pedalThe main brands for road bike pedals are Look, Shimano, or Speedplay.

Look pedals are slightly easier to get into, but the Shimano fittings are easier to walk in; otherwise they’re fairly similar in design.

Speedplay pedals are quite different in design, with the advantages of being able to clip on either side of the pedal, meaning it can be much easier to clip into.  If you’re concerned about weight, they also offer the lightest pedals.  They are typically much more expensive than the equivalent Shimano or Look models.

You can also get mountain bike style pedals, which are typically easier to clip into, and have smaller cleats so your shoes are easier to walk in.  These generally aren’t recommended for regular road bike use, as the platform is much smaller and you will feel more focused pressure on your feet during long rides.

If you’re just after a good quality pedal that doesn’t cost a fortune, Shimano 105 pedals (pictured) are a good bet.  Sometimes they’re sold with cleats, sometimes you have to buy cleats separately – the yellow cleats are usually preferred as they have more ‘float‘.

Should I buy a women-specific saddle?

Women’s saddles are a bit wider and the nose is a bit shorter, so they tend to fit women’s bone structures better. That is a generality and doesn’t work for everyone though. Terry and Giro Fizik Vitesse are two recommended brands.

Is one water bottle cage enough?

One water bottle cage is enough for shorter rides or races, but if you’re riding for more than a couple of hours at a time, especially if it’s hot, two bottles are ideal.

Should I buy one wind & water proof jacket or one windproof jacket and a spare waterproof jacket to carry with me when I go cycling in case it rains?

Buy one waterproof or highly water-resistant jacket for the winter. It will serve as protection against both wind and rain and you can wear it all through the winter months and most of the spring. Later in the year, if you find you need protection from the wind but your waterproof jacket is too hot, you can then buy a light wind shell. By that time, you will know what features you do and don’t like about your waterproof jacket and you can shop for a jacket with the features you really like.

Cycling shorts; should they be padded?

Yes.  The idea of the padding is to reduce friction, thereby reducing the onset of sores.  For winter, although you can buy long leggings with padding, it is usually cheaper and easier to just wear running leggings over the top of your regular padded cycling shorts.

Should I get a top specific for cycling?

You should definitely get something long sleeved that is breathable and wicks away moisture. You’ll work up a sweat climbing hills and if your clothes stay wet, you’ll freeze coasting down the hills. Whether or not you get a cycling-specific cut depends on how much money you want to spend on clothes just for cycling. A cycling top is a bit longer in the back and fitted at the waist so you stay covered and don’t have the wind blowing up on your stomach when you’re in a cycling position. They usually also have a pocket in the back where you can keep a spare inner tube and patch kit, keys, sports bar or banana. They are excellent for cycling, but not very versatile.

Should I buy a portable (hand held) bicycle pump or a larger floor pump?

You first must have a hand-held pump that you take with you on rides in case you get a puncture, which can be strapped onto your bike. Some people carry very small ones that fit in the pocket of their cycling jersey. You should also invest in a floor pump because you’ll need to pump up your tires every couple of weeks (even without a puncture) and it’s difficult to get them fully inflated with a hand-held pump. You’ll want them fully inflated, especially for races, because you’ll go faster.

I’d like to buy a GPS device for my bike. Any recommendations?

One great resource is the product comparison tool at DC Rainmaker’s blog. There’s also detailed analysis of just about every tech device for triathlon on there.

Should I buy a turbo trainer or rollers?

If you’d like to do some indoor training, either for time efficiency or to get out of the weather, you need to choose whether to buy a turbo trainer or rollers.  In short, rollers are better for improving technique and pedaling efficiency, whilst turbo trainers are better for improving leg power.  Rollers require balance and some practice to reach proficiency; turbo trainers are easy enough for complete novices to jump on and try.

If you’re after a turbo trainer, two good options are the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine or the Tacx Satori.