Your first upgrades: here’s where to invest your money
Cycling is an expensive sport, and I often get asked what to invest in when new to cycling. What items should one prioritise? And what is a worthy investment in terms of value, comfort and performance?
When I first started cycling, I had a very basic set-up. I started out with a modest $2500 budget, which got me set up with an entry level aluminium road bike, a very basic kit ( shorts and a jersey), shoes and helmet. My ‘basic’ gear worked fine for my needs and they more than adequately did the job while I was starting out and new to cycling.
But with the increased amount of time I was spending on my bike, I outgrew my basic set-up pretty quickly. I went from casually riding about three days a week to being on my bike six-seven days a week. My gear was not only getting worn out, but it wasn’t the greatest for comfort and performance as I spent longer days in the saddle. I needed an upgrade.
With a conservative budget, I wanted to get value for money. I started to ask around, talking to friends and people in the industry, and I quickly realised that there was a trend – the term “you get what you pay for” applies directly to cycling. If you buy something cheap, that’s what you will get. But don’t be deterred, because there are plenty of choices and options to suit all budgets and needs – lots of happy mediums – especially when it comes to cycling kit.
Here are some ideas of items to invest in to get value for money.
Getting a professional bike fit will make you more comfortable, prevent and alleviate injuries and will even locate any missing or wasted watts. It is definitely worth the financial investment. A good bike fitter will also help you find a good saddle.
Good knicks and a stylin’ kit
Your comfort on the bike will increase exponentially with a good kit. Having a good quality, comfortable chamois will make riding for more than two hours a breeze. Once you have invested in a good chamois, you won’t know yourself. There are heaps of brands out there to choose from, so ask around with your friends to get the ‘hot tip’ and try before you buy!
How much are you riding and where? How fast? Up how much elevation? Start keeping track of your rides to measure progress with a cyclocomputer like the Garmin Edge.
The more you start training, the earlier you need to get up. I started riding in the early morning and was finding that my cheap, 200-lumen front light was just not cutting it in the pitch black. I asked around and ended up buying a waterproof, durable and rechargeable 1000 lumen light. Almost three years later, it is still working like the day I bought it. Make sure you invest in some quality lights for your safety. Recommendation: Knog (they’re made right here in Melbourne!), NiteRider, Cycle Design, Exposure Diablo.
You will notice an immediate difference with a wheel upgrade. Look for wheels that that are light, durable and roll well (good quality hubs). Investing in a good set of wheels is an option if you can’t afford or don’t need to upgrade your bike. If you are new to racing or looking for a more aerodynamic set up, think about an upgrade to a set of carbon rim wheels. Warning: once you put them on, you won’t want to ride your old training wheels.
Upgrade recommendation: Mavic Ksyrium, Shimano C24.
Power meter (or power trainer)
If you are keen to start data-based training, a power meter or power trainer like the KickR is a worthy investment I bought a power meter not long after I started with a coach as a means to train specifically and track my progress. A power meter will allow you to train specifically and accurately, monitoring your performance over time. It will remove the guess works when training with only speed or heart rate, because these measurements can be subjective at times. There is no hiding when training to power – you are either pushing the numbers or not.
Power meters come in the form of hubs, crank arms, rings and pedals. Alternatively, if you spend a lot of time indoors, there are ergos with power meters built in. Find one that fits your budget and riding style.
The ultimate upgrade: a new bike
After much research, I realised that I was probably in need of a ‘better’ road bike for training and racing. My heavy alloy roadie was just that, too heavy! With the help of my local bike shop (LBS), I chose a road bike that was within my budget and had features that would suit my needs. It came with good wheels (ceramic bearings for better rolling resistance), top of the line group set for shifting performance and was an overall light bike for my climbing needs.
There is so much out there that to choose from, but my number one piece of advice is “you get what you pay for.” Using your money wisely and making some quality investments will make your experience on the bike more enjoyable. Don’t be afraid to ask a friend or your LBS for advice and to point you in the right direction. The added benefit of making yourself known to your LBS is that they will be more than willing to help you, which is a service you don’t get when shopping online for bike parts.
Do you have any tips on where to invest your money when new to cycling? What did you invest in? Do you have an item that has lasted you for years and years? Tell me in the comments below.
About the author
The tagline to Verita Stewart’s personal blog reads: “Not a professional cyclist, yet” and it’s the “yet” that’s most telling. Verita is a Melbourne-based cyclist riding for Specialized Securitor. New to the sport, she’s quickly made the jump from commuting to recreational riding to racing.
She now juggles full-time work with full-time NRS racing and hopes to make the leap to the big-leagues sometime soon. Verita is full of stories and smiles and snark – and will bring all three to you on Ella. Follow Verita on twitter and instagram and strava.