Starting cycling: what you need and how much it costs

Cycling isn’t the cheapest sport to get into. First there’s the bike itself. Then, of course, a helmet. But it doesn’t stop there. From specialist shoes to saddlebags, the range of accessories you can buy is endless. So rather than let the costs creep up, we’ve taken a different approach.

As it’s World Bike Day, we asked Mani, founder of Black Cyclists Network, for the ultimate budget breakdown for starting cycling. Whether you’re totally over public transport, or keen to get fit this summer, he breaks down what you can expect to spend so you can start your new hobby knowing what it really costs.

According to Mani: “Knowing what type of equipment to buy can save you money in the long run. A good bike can be a prized asset for decades to come if you take good care of it. There are many cyclists who own functioning bikes with over 50,000 miles on the clock!” So, the all important question, do you want a traditional road bike like the ones used in the Tour de France or do you want a hybrid for cruising around in the city? This all depends on the type of cycler you are, or think you want to be…

A road bike racer - from £1,300

A road bike is the bike for you if you want to go fast and cover long distances. This is a traditional bike designed for long endurance rides - like the ones they use in the Tour de France. And it will likely be the most expensive option. As well as pricier bikes (paying more will get you lighter, faster models) you’ll also need specialist clothes, shoes and accessories.

If you’re after an entry level road bike, this will cost you around £1,000 to £2,000. This will offer good value for money, as what tends to drive up the cost is the components that come with the bike.

The new commuter - from £565

You’ll need something flexible as you might want to take it on public transport as part of a longer journey or to avoid bad weather. A folding bike is ideal.

Things to consider before you buy:

  • Weight. Can you carry it without straining your back? Take into account whether you’ll be carrying it up a flight of steps and in and out of train stations. Most entry level folding bikes weigh in the region of 20kg. Premium folding bikes weigh between 9kg and 13kg.

  • How easy is it to fold? Will it take you 30-seconds, or do you have to spend a couple of minutes disassembling? It’s a good idea to check out a video of the folding process for the bike you’ve found before you buy.

Entry level folding bikes usually start from £470. Midrange to premium buyers should expect to pay between £850 - £2000.

Younger cyclists - from £135

Balance bikes are a great way to get children between the ages of 18 months and 2 years-old into cycling. The traditional method is bikes with training wheels, but balance bikes aid the development of riders far better.

These usually start from around £110, but you can get yourself a bike for nearly half the price if you are willing to shop around at your local bike shop.

Another benefit of buying from your local bike shop, is that you will be able to get advice on buying the correct size frame for your child. You will also be able to return it or take it back for repair if you have issues. Local bike shops are also more likely to have better deals when it comes to children’s bikes.

If you’ve got slightly older kids, a more suitable alternative is a BMX. As these bikes are popularly known for performing tricks, they are highly durable and a great way for kids to be introduced to cycling. These start from £140, and will last until they outgrow them!

The staycationer - from £225

Hybrid bikes are designed for city life. They’re a good alternative to road bikes because their wide tyres and flat handlebars give riders more stability than traditional road bikes. These bikes are usually heavier and slower than road bikes, but make up for this with their versatility over different surfaces. And the good news is that these are usually cheaper.

Things to consider before you buy:

  • Size. Make sure you purchase a bike that is the correct size for you. Have a look at the manufacturer's size chart. This usually tells you the size you should buy based on your height.

  • How many gears come with the bike? You want to have at least 18 gears on the bike. 21 gears are ideal. Gears will allow you to get over hills as it makes it easier to pedal.

  • Entry level hybrid bikes start from £155.

You can expect to pay around £700 or more for a premium hybrid bike, which will have a disc brake for better stopping power, as well as better quality components.

On a tight budget?

If the options here are out of your price range, then you should consider buying a pre-owned bike. There are some excellent bargains online and in your local bike shops if you know where to look. The benefit of buying from your local bike shop is that they will be able to help you get the right size. You can also take it back if there are any issues with the bike.

Buying online is riskier but if you want to try this, I recommend checking out Facebook marketplace and bicycle buying and selling groups. There are a few of these about.

Just remember. Make sure your bike fits your height. A bike that is too small or too large for you could cause injuries such as knee, shoulder, and neck pain.

Some more must-have accessories...

Sunglasses (Starting from £50)

Cycling specific glasses protect your eyes and different lenses allow you to see better - brighter lenses will improve your vision in the dark whereas darker lenses help you on a sunny day. If you want to spend a bit more, you should look at polarised lenses. These come with premium sunglasses and offer clearer vision (especially in bright light), increased contrast and minimal colour distortion with reduced glare and reflection.

Inner tubes (£4)

Gone are the days when everyone carried puncture patches with them to stick over a hole in your inner tube. Nowadays inner tubes are fairly cheap, so carry a couple with you in case you get a puncture. It’s much less hassle.

Mini Pump (£4)

Mini pumps are an essential for any cyclist and are small enough to fit into your pocket. Don’t leave home without one.

Tools (£10)

A multi tool is a must for all cyclists. These pocket-sized tools will help you make necessary adjustments and repairs to your bike when you’re out on the road.

Bottle cages and water bottle (£5)

If you’re riding for more than 30 minutes, you may want to consider installing a water bottle cage on your bike so you can carry water with you.

Lights ( from £5)

The key thing you need to consider when buying a light is what exactly do you need it for? Do you need to be seen or do you need to use it to see? If you live in a well-lit area, then you most likely need a light so other road users can see you. If you want to be seen, purchase a light with 80 lumens (front) and 30 lumens (back). You want 800 lumens (front) and 60 lumens (back) if you are riding in a dark area and need to see the road ahead. These are anywhere between £5 and £400 depending on the quality

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