Cycling can be a costly hobby. But trying to save money doesn’t mean that you have to forego fashion or function. It is important though to differentiate between cheap products that are likely to underperform and budget items that deliver without emptying your wallet. ‘Budget’ doesn’t always mean ‘cheapest’. For many of us, the term is a marker for value. That’s what the items below provide in spades: value. All of them, with a price range of $10-75 / £8-65, work well, look great and have stood up to the test of time in my testing.
Cateye Rapid X front and rear lights
$75 / £65 for the pair
Cateye’s Rapid X lights are the cheapest in the Rapid series but they’re still big on features like a low battery indicator and a smart feature that automatically changes the modes to conserve power when the battery is low. The sleek look won’t disturb the lines of your aero carbon bike and the buttons are easy to use on the fly. USB recharging is easy, making them great for commuters too.
On flashing mode, the Rapid X will run for 30 hours on a single charge, meaning there’s no reason not to run them day and night. In fact studies suggest that running lights even during daytime rides can reduce the likelihood of multiparty accidents by 19 to 47% depending on the studies sited. So why not when they look as good as Cateye’s Rapid X?
Arundel Isabell bell
$20 / £N/A
Be a member of the gentry and ride politely near pedestrians and other cyclists by announcing yourself with a bell. The sound is great and it installs quickly with a stainless steel thumbscrew. It looks at home on a pricey road bike or a beater townie. The similarly priced Maybell is a bit bigger and has an adjustable ringer.
DeFeet DuraGlove ET Wool gloves
$25 / £15
DeFeet’s DuraGloves are a longtime favorite. They’re inexpensive, long-wearing and offer a level of warmth that exceeds most other liner-type gloves. The wool gloves are especially cozy and work well even in wet conditions. The addition of DeFeet’s Electronic Touch means that you can also take a call or Instagram your idyllic mid-ride stop without removing your gloves. Like all DeFeet products, the company’s DuraGloves are made in North Carolina and use American wool in the process.
Handlebar Mustache socks
$15 / £15
Handlebar Mustache socks are a quick, inexpensive way to make your next ride more festive. Produced by DeFeet, these colorful socks are a great to way to coordinate your cycling kit without breaking the bank. With a modern sock height, true-to-size fit and top-notch quality, it’s hard to pass up an accessory that looks and feels as good as Handlebar Mustache’s socks. For post-ride relaxing, also check out HB’s T-shirts that combine cycling culture and humor in winning ways.
Bontrager Microfiber Foam Handlebar Tape
$25 / £16
Okay, there are certainly cheaper rolls of handlebar tape on the market, but Bontrager’s Microfiber Foam tape lasts extremely well. The look is great too with its perforated texture and contrasting color underneath. The feel is excellent, like a good tennis racket wrap, and the tape holds up to muddy events and repeated bike washes. While the tape can be a little slippery when wet if riding bare-handed, a good pair of cycling mitts does away with that quickly. Offered in a rainbow of contrasting colors, Bontrager’s tape classes up any bike.
Reproduction vintage cycling cap
$15 / £12
I would never encourage someone to deck themselves out in a complete pro team kit, unless they were a team member. But a classy cap can show your love of the sport in a subtle, functional way. In summer, a simple cotton cycling caps offers a bit of shade and keeps sweat out of your eyes. In shoulder seasons, it’s just enough warmth to keep you cycling in style.
I stumbled across a slew of reproduction cycling team caps while killing time on eBay. I bought myself a Team Z hat in homage to my childhood idol, Greg LeMond. Legnano, Brooklyn, Bic, Café de Colombia, Saeco reproductions can all be had for $15 / £12 or so. My only advice is to legitimize the purchase with a bit of research on the team you’re about to rep. Learning a bit of cycling history is always worthwhile.
Blackburn Wayside Side Entry Cage
$20 / £15
While aimed at mountain bikers, many road cyclists can also benefit from a side entrance style cage. Blackburn’s new Wayside Side Entry model is reversible, right or left side, thanks to a clever two-piece design. The cage is plastic with a rubberized feel that helps retain bottles, even over rough terrain. Offered in black, high-vis yellow, orange, red and white, the Wayside is an inexpensive way to zest up your bike while retaining and perhaps enhancing function.
Ritchey Barkeeper Levers
$15 / £15
Ritchey, with its Barkeeper Levers, has created one of the most James-Bond-of-cycling tools ever. Doubling as a bar end plug and a tire lever, you’ll never forget a vital tool on your next ride. They are sold as a pair and function beautifully in both intended purposes. The length of the tire lever inside your handlebar also keeps you from losing bar-end plugs when loading your bike in the car or leaning it against the wall at the café.
Topeak Mini 18+ multitool
$35 / £25
A necessary part of any carry-along repair kit is a good multi-tool. Topeak’s Mini 18 is a favorite of mine. It features all the Allen keys you’ll need to perform roadside repairs or to reassemble a bike after transit. Also included are a Torx T25 wrench, two screwdrivers, spoke wrenches, a tire lever, and chain tool (a must-have for mountain biking). All this is cleverly packed into a compact tool and sold with a neoprene storage bag to keep your inner tubes safe from sharp edges and your seat pack rattle-free.
Specialized Purist water bottle
$10 / £11
We all use water bottles, but not all water bottles are created equal. Specialized’s Purist bottles have a coating on the inside that prevents contents from staining the bottle, flavors from lingering and plastic chemicals from leaching into your beverage. With several sizes and insulated versions available, options abound. Specialized also offers a well-regarded custom bottle program so your local shop, team or organization can create their own Purist bottles designs.