Can you enjoy pro-level cycling on a tight budget?19 February 2023
When it comes to cycling inspiration, there’s nothing better than watching the elite. Events like the Tour de France can light a spark in many amateur cyclists, but it’s easy to see that the competitors are riding the very best bikes money can buy. If you’re an amateur cyclist who doesn’t have access to lucrative sponsorship deals or grants, can you really cycle at the same standard as the pros?
Of course you can. With affordable gear, a good training plan and a can-do attitude, it’s possible to enjoy pro-level cycling. We’re not saying you’ll be donning the yellow jersey at the next Tour de France, but money doesn’t have to be an obstacle stopping you from living your dreams. Let’s take a deeper look at the road to pro cycling on a budget.
Is cycling an expensive hobby?
One of the biggest misconceptions about cycling is that it’s necessarily an expensive hobby. In fact, it can actually be very affordable if you’re smart about it. Okay, so good quality cycling gear doesn’t come cheap - in the UK in 2020, the average price of a mechanical bike was £332, going up to an average of £1,854 for an e-bike. However, it should be taken into account that these averages include cyclists who buy the most expensive bikes on the market. Many cyclists pay less for high quality kit, and payment plans can make buying a new bike more manageable if you can’t shell out a lump sum.
Moreover, buying quality is likely to serve you better in the long run. High quality bikes are more durable and last longer, particularly when given the proper maintenance they deserve. And that’s another thing - although big repairs may need the expertise of a bike mechanic, you can do most maintenance tasks yourself to keep your bike in good condition. Remember, good quality doesn’t necessarily mean high prices - keep an eye out for bargains and always compare costs before you buy.
Another thing that can sap your savings is succumbing to the urge to upgrade your gear every time a new version comes onto the market. If something breaks, by all means replace it with a newer model - but don’t get sucked into thinking you need the latest upgrades to keep up with the rest.
What bike equipment do I need?
So if you’re looking to get into pro-level cycling without breaking the bank, it’s best to start with just the essential gear. Assuming you have a bike that’s suitable for your discipline of choice, what else do you need?
Although you likely already have a helmet designed for cycling, it’s well worth considering getting a more advanced one if you’re going to be racing. Head protection is one of those things that really does benefit you to pay more for - and if you crash while racing, training or just enjoying a recreational ride, you’ll be glad of the extra protection.
As well as the safety benefits, buying a high quality helmet can even improve your race performance. Examples such as the Carnac Kronus Time Trial and Track Helmet come with advancements in aero designs which ensure minimum drag. Paying a little extra for a helmet often goes hand in hand with additional comfort as well, with improvements in ventilation and strap adjustment capabilities.
If you haven’t already kitted yourself out with anti-chafing, sweat-wicking gear, now’s the time to do it. While you might have been fine commuting to work in your regular clothes, you’ll find it’s a lot less comfortable in race conditions. Additionally, cycling clothing is generally more aerodynamic than normal clothes, which can have a big impact on speed in racing conditions.
As well as helping to improve performance, wearing adequate cycling gear can also protect you from various injuries and safety concerns including overheating, cuts and abrasions and getting too cold. In fact, legwear such as Clubman Roubaix Bib Tights feature anti-friction designs which help to keep saddle sores and chafing at bay, sometimes incorporating features such as fleece linings for added comfort and warmth in colder weather conditions.
We can’t very well encourage you to keep your bike clean and serviced without suggesting you get yourself a maintenance kit, can we? Knowing when to call in the mechanic is important, but so is having the tools on hand to execute quick and simple repairs. This helps to keep costs to a minimum while allowing you to pursue pro-level cycling - a win-win situation.
Accidents can happen to anyone, as can blowouts, so always be prepared with a tool kit, lubricant and bike pump to get you back in the saddle as soon as possible. Don’t forget to bring your handy chain wear indicator so you know exactly when to replace your chain, and make sure to stock up on fuel for yourself to ensure the best possible performance.
Becoming a pro-level cyclist on a budget isn’t easy, but it is possible, and with these tips you can get started living your dream. Here at Planet X, we believe cycling is for everyone - so let’s get pedalling.