Road cycling can seem like a difficult sport to pick up, requiring loads of expensive equipment even before your first jaunt. But you don’t need to spend a fortune to get out on the road. We’ve rounded up some affordable recommendations from five top cyclists.
Cannondale CAAD12 105 ($ 1,575) and Xpedo Thrust NXL Pedals ($ 79)
Cory Williams, Cat. 1 Racer, Elevate-KHS Pro Cycling Team
A road bike can be more expensive than a new car, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a quality bike for a reasonable price. Cory Williams, a Belizean-American tearing up the criterium racing scene, recommends the CAAD12 105. This bike features the same aluminum alloy frame found on Cannondale’s $ 5,000-plus racing model but keeps the price down with its low-cost components. “Cannondale makes great bikes that are proven on the road,” Williams says. “This one is a good place to start and will get you on track to becoming a cyclist.” According to Williams, the Shimano 105 drivetrain, Cannondale Si crank, and Fulcrum rims are all excellent for new riders.
For pedals, Williams uses the Thrust NXL from his sponsor Xpedo. “I love these pedals,” he says. “Great quality and affordable.” For newer riders, these are also easy to clip in and out of, providing a little extra confidence when rolling up to traffic lights.
Roka SR-1 Custom Sunglasses ($ 155)
Stefanie Sydlik, Cat. 1 Racer, Swisse Femme Equipe Domestic Elite Team
Stefanie Sydlik understands the importance of good eye protection. “Sunglasses do more than make you look cool,” she says. “When you’re flying around, so is the dirt off the road, and it can easily get into your eyes and cause damage.” These sunglasses are designed specifically for road cyclists and fit well with a helmet, cling to your face, and provide wraparound eye coverage. The lenses are interchangeable, and Roka offers customizable frames and nine options for different light conditions, one of Sydlik’s favorite features.
Assos UMA GT Half Shorts ($ 129) and Chamois Butt’r for Her ($ 18 for 8-Ounce Tube)
Ayesha McGowen, Cat. 2 Racer, Founder of A Quick Brown Fox
“Booty comfort is essential,” Ayesha McGowen says. A good pair of bike shorts to protect your nether regions can go a long way toward making cycling more fun. McGowen, who is working to become the first African-American female pro cyclist, recommends the women’s-specific UMA GT Half Shorts from her sponsor Assos. These stretchy, high-wicking shorts are padded with eight millimeters of memory foam for lasting comfort on short or long rides.
Sometimes even the best bike shorts are still not enough to prevent chafing. To stave off rashes or soothe already irritated skin, McGowen uses Chamois Butt’r for Her. This nongreasy skin lubricant made from natural ingredients such as aloe vera, green tea leaf extract, tea tree oil, shea butter, and lavender oil, was developed specifically for women, but it works for men as well.
Velocio Men’s Signature Bib Short ($ 229) and Outvi Possm Medium ($ 39)
Ted King, Cycling Ambassador
Former Tour de France rider Ted King also considers bike shorts to be the most important piece of cycling equipment. These men’s-specific bibs are made from premium Italian Lycra that provides tight compression, breathability, and a second-skin fit. While there are cheaper shorts available, King, a Velocio ambassador, says it’s worth spending a little extra for a good fit. “These are the most comfortable bibs on the market,” he says. “The materials are silky-soft throughout, and the chamois is located in just the right spot—a vastly overlooked piece of the puzzle.”
When King goes out for rides, he carries a spare tube, tire levels, a multitool, CO2 bottle, and an inflator in this unique carrier. While most under-seat saddle bags take the form of a zippered pouch, the Possm is a pocketed sleeve that unfurls from the bottom of your seat to display all the gear you’ll need for a quick roadside fix—no more digging for the right tool. “It’s the cleanest, sleekest, most organized seat pack on the market,” King says.
Bont Riot+ Shoes ($ 169) and Kask Mojito X Helmet ($ 116)
Matt Tanner, Founder of Rollfast Cycling
Matt Tanner, avid cyclist and founder of the Rollfast Gran Fondo, has been riding in Bont shoes for more than ten years. But the company’s carbon-fiber bike shoes aren’t just for the pros. The Riot+ is one of the first entry-level shoes that are heat moldable: Stick them in the oven, put them on, and they form to your feet, offering a custom fit without going to a shoe specialist. They also sport a BOA dial closure system with cables that wrap under the shoe. “It tightens around your whole foot, not just across the top,” Tanner says. “They’re as customizable as you can get for an off-the-shelf product, and they’re good for all types of riding.”
Keeping to the comfort theme, Tanner recommends the Mojito X helmet. His favorite feature, unique to Kask helmets, is its faux-leather chin strap, which is much softer than the nylon strap typically found on other brands. It also has an easy-to-use dial adjustment in the back to fine-tune the fit. “Kask helmets just go on and fit right,” Tanner says.