1. The Helmet. Some things to remember: A helmet is really only good for one fall. Anytime you hit your head hard, a good helmet should compress! The act of the helmet breaking absorbs energy otherwise directed to your skull. Have your helmet inspected after any crash. Also, replace your helmet every few years regardless of whether you’ve had to "use" it. The styrofoam they are made of degrades.
2. Gloves. These serve three very useful functions. 1)Protection in a crash. 2) Reduction of pressure that can create numbness and contribute to shoulder and neck fatigue. 3) A place to wipe your brow. The terry cloth patches on gloves are designed to absorb sweat.
3. Eye Protection. Try to get "unbreakable" lenses to protect your eyes in a crash. Buy lenses cut from a curved piece of polycarbonate. Inexpensive eyewear often is not optimal for riding and can cause headaches and distortion.
4. Shoes. For about $65, cycling-specific shoes can make riding uphill greatly more efficient. The stiff sole helps you do the work!
5. Clipless Pedals. Clipless pedals can add even more efficiency to your efforts and help balance your up and down strokes. You will notice a dramatic difference!
6. Cycling shorts. The "secret" reason we can stand to ride those tiny saddles! Padded cycling shorts do three things for you. 1) They provide you with a pad to sit on, absorbing shock and preventing blisters and the dreaded "saddle sores." 2) They eliminate chaffing caused by loose billowy shorts flapping in the wind and rubbing your legs. 3) The lycra-spandex construction provides support for tired muscles.
7. Water Bottle. One bottle per hour during moderate cycling is a good rule of thumb for proper hydration and to help prevent a blood pressure drop.
8. An Energy Bar. Until you have experienced the "bonk," it is hard to explain just exactly why you don’t want to run out of fuel on long rides. A quick energy snack can help you make it all the way home!