With the exorbitant cost of bikes these days, breaking into cycling can seem prohibitive. The good news: All the technology and development at the high end is finding its way down to bargain bikes as well. So if you know what to get, you can pick up a nice bike and all the gear you need for less than what some riders spend on wheels. Here are our picks for those just starting out.
Specialized Fuse Comp 6Fattie ($1600)
Full-suspension bikes are great, but hard tails are less expensive, lighter, and simpler, so they shouldn’t need as much service over time. And the Fuse’s new plus-size tires, with wide, three-inch rubber mounted to 27.5-inch wheels, go a long way to muting the vibration and chatter associated with no rear suspension while still offering the roll-over benefits of a 29er wheel. With a 120mm Suntour fork, SRAM 1x11 drivetrain, and TRP hydraulic disc brakes, this alloy machine packs as much quality as you can expect at this price—which is a lot. The tubeless Ground Control 6Fattie tires are some of our favorite tires, and we love that this bike uses Boost hubs, meaning you won’t be left with some outdated standard if you choose to upgrade. There’s even a dropper seat post, which we think is an absolute must these days but is almost unheard of at this price.
Giro Revel Helmet ($65)
You can spend four times this much (or more) on a helmet, but the dirty little secret is that extra money won’t buy you any additional coverage or protection. It’ll get you more vents and less weight, but the Revel is actually quite cool, not that heavy, and has an excellent retention system. It’s also packed with the absolute latest technology in helmet design, called MIPS, which is said to alleviate rotational forces in the case of a crash.
Shimano PD-M540 Pedal ($80)
There’s a reason that Shimano SPDs have been the gold standard in clipless pedals for decades: they are simple, durable, and so reliable that they will last for years and years. The company’s PD M-8000 series offer the best price-to-performance ratio of anything out there (and seem to be on sale widely at the moment), but the PD-M540s are less expensive, use the same clipping mechanism, are just as hardwearing, and only a little heavier.
Pearl Izumi All-Road III ($90)
Ever since Shimano took over production for Pearl Izumi a few years back, the company’s shoes, which were always well designed but occasionally lacking in quality control, have become some of the most long-lasting you can get. With a molded lugged outsole, three Velcro strap adjustments, and a nylon shank for stiffness, the All-Road IIIs are everything you need in a clipless cleat and nothing more.
Cannondale Airspeed Dually ($55)
This might be one of the smartest bike gadgets going, with a dual-purpose head that can be used for both tires and suspension. That means whereas in the past you were forced to buy (and carry) two separate devices, now you only need one. It’s rated to 300 PSI, too, which is plenty of pressure for even the most convoluted shocks on the market.
Topeak Mini 18+ ($35)
You are going to need a tool for minor adjustments (like your seat height) and any mechanical tweaks that come up on the trail. This Topeak has pretty much every tool you might need for field fixes, including eight hex sizes (all the way up to 10mm), two spoke wrenches, three drivers (including a Torx T25), and a chain tool. Yet it’s trim and lightweight enough that you won’t even notice it in your front pocket. We’ve been using this tool for years, and it’s never bent, broken, or let us down.
Pedro’s Tire Levers ($5)
There are dozens of tire levers out there, and we’ve broken them all—except Pedro’s. These burly plastic sticks will extract a tire even off the tightest rims, while others snap like dry leaves. Don’t waste the money on anything but these.