Cycling and running are both endurance activities and improve your cardiovascular health. But the two cannot be more different as far as their accessibility is concerned. In theory, you could literally get up one fine day and start running without any preparation at all. But to start cycling, the bare minimum you need is a cycle and a helmet.
As you delve deeper into both sports, you notice even more how the two are so similar yet so different in their approach. “Runners start with a lot of gear and as they gain experience, they figure out that they don’t really need much and they move towards minimalism,” says Ramesh Kanjilimadhom, founder of the Kochi-based running group Soles of Cochin. “On the other hand, in cycling, you start with the bare minimum gear, which is a cycle and helmet, and then as you become more interested and experienced, you start accumulating more stuff and upgrading existing equipment to get the most out of the sport,” he adds.
If you are reading this, you are most likely interested in cycling or are thinking of gifting something to someone who loves cycling. Here’s a list of gear that cyclists need to improve the quality of their ride and get the most out of their favourite activity.
Cycling shorts and jersey
Usually the first thing that most people buy along with their first cycle is a gel seat cover. Most good cycle store owners would discourage you from buying it - pay heed to their words of wisdom. The gel seat cover slips and slides around no matter how tightly you strap it to your seat. That unwanted movement causes chafing in some rather sensitive places. So, chuck the gel seat cover and buy yourself a pair of padded cycling shorts instead.
Try the Scott cycling shorts (Rs 3,990) which use a decent quality foam for the padding to protect your butt. The lycra-infused fabric of the shorts is highly absorbent and dries quickly too so that you don’t feel uncomfortable even if you are a high sweat generator.
If money is not an issue, you could of course go for cycling shorts from Castelli, the brand that several professional cyclists we see on multi-stage international cycling races use. Cycling coach M.S. Sriram says the extra cost is justified if you regularly cycle long distances multiple times a week.
Pair your cycling shorts with cycling jerseys. There are separate jerseys for cold weather and warm weather. Considering the mild to warm weather across India for most of the year, a regular short sleeve cycling jersey would work just fine.
Scott offers a decent technical cycling jersey (Rs 2,990) that allows air flow, wicks away sweat and yet dries quickly. It has the standard three quick access pockets that can be used to keep your phone, keys, nutrition supplements or even a bottle of water.
Castelli, again, is a good yet more expensive option.
If you are runner transitioning to or taking up cycling, you could use your existing GPS watch like a Garmin or Coros to track your rides. However, if you are more serious about the cycling and want to track important cycling metrics such as power, cadence, speed, etc., you are better off buying a dedicated bike computer.
Garmin, hands down, is the leader in this field and offers plenty of choice at multiple price points. Its entry-level Garmin Edge 520 Plus is priced at Rs 17,990 while its highest selling model in India is the Edge 530 Bundle, complete with speed and cadence sensors and a heart rate monitor strap.
These computers sit conveniently on your handle bar and you can not only track your speed, distance, heart rate, time spent on bike, but also your cadence, the power you generate and even load route maps on the device. They also allow you to load your custom cycling workouts onto the unit which you can then easily follow.
Using the Garmin app on your smartphone or computer, you can access all data about all your rides and analyse how you fared at what point in time during the ride.
In cycling, sunglasses serve a higher purpose than looking good. They provide protection to your eyes. Since cyclists share the road with other faster and bigger vehicles, stray stone chips are a constant hazard. Dust, pollution and flies gunning straight for your eyes are also a problem. If your vision is compromised even for a moment, it could well lead to a serious mishap. So, it’s best to ride with sunglasses or cycling glasses on.
The most iconic wrap-around cycling glasses are the Oakley Jawbreakers (Rs 11,490 to Rs 12,590). They come in some eye-catching colours. The lens is made of Oakley’s patented material, Plutonite, which is shatter proof and pretty much unbreakable.
Given the current trend of big sunglasses, you could also try out the Oakley Sutro (Rs 7,731 onwards), which employ a large block-like design and cover almost half your face. Again, the lens is made of Plutonite to protect your eyes and, as with the Jawbreaker, you can opt for the regular or the more technical Prizm lenses. Another cool thing about the Sutro sunglasses is the fact that the nose pads are made of Unobtainium, which increase grip, helping them stay securely in place all through the ride - irrespective of sweat.
Bike tool and puncture repair kit
Bike tool is pretty much the magic wand that can fix almost all your cycle problems. From tightening the seat to fixing a bottle cage to adjusting the brakes, the bike tool is a must-have on for all cyclists.
The other thing one must have at all times, especially on long rides, is a puncture repair kit and, maybe, a spare tube. Given the condition of our roads, you will be facing a flat tyre on your ride sooner or later. The puncture repair kit comprises a pair of plastic wedges (to prise the tyre out of the rim groove), adhesive and rubber patches. You will also need a spare portable pump to inflate the tyre once you find and fix the puncture.
Helmet and gloves
The most basic kit you need to start cycling is the helmet, and it ought to be your first purchase after the cycle itself. Given that falls—even the best cyclists in the world fall from their bikes—are common while cycling, helmets literally save your life by protecting you against head injuries.
It is best not to buy a cheap one which provides little to no protection, and go for something sturdy. Decathlon makes decent helmets. If you are willing to spend a little more to ensure your head remains intact, opt for Giro, Scott or specialized helmets.Gloves are most certainly optional but they improve the ride quality by a country mile. What they actually do apart from keeping calluses away is absorb the vibrations from the cycle while you are riding. That means your hands, especially the wrists, feel the strain a lot less even if you are on the saddle for long hours or are handling bumpy terrain.