Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Bikes: 2000 Bianchi Veloce, '88 Trek 900, '88 Schwinn Prologue, '92 Schwinn Crosscut, '03 Diamondback Tandem, '94 Yokota Grizzly Peak
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By "200+er", I presume you are a big guy? Check out the Clydesdale/Athena forum.
Helmets are easy. Even a cheap helmet from Walmart meets ansi specifications and protects your head. Most of what you get by spending more is style, lightness, convenience and comfort. Even the big cycling publications say this, and they stand to gain from keeping their advertisers happy. You can spend as little as $20-30 and get a decent helmet. Get one that you find fairly comfortable and you like the looks of.
Saddle is very different for everyone. I prefer a leather Brooks saddle, but they start at close to $100 and go up from there. Serfas makes some good and reasonably priced saddles for recreational use. The important thing to know is that more padding and gel does not necessarily equal better comfort. It's how well the saddles fits your butt. Where your sit bones rest. Which is why my Brooks is so good. My sit bones are on it and most of my butt is resting on the softest thing there is: air.
For shorts, you sound like you are about my weight. I find the house brand lycra shorts from Nashbar fit me well. The 3x size was fitting me at a size 44, I am currently at a 42 and they fit very comfortably now. Their "Tecsumeh" and "Isolation" shorts are my faves. You can often find them on sale for $20-30. I have some of their LQ8 shorts as well, but the legs on those are cut long and I have short legs, so I don't care for them as much.
For shoes and pedals, standard SPD's are inexpensive and plentiful. You can find some basic pedals for about $30 if you shop around. Even less if you seek out some used ones. Keep an eye on the various for sale threads on this forum.
2000 Bianchi Veloce, 199x Bianchi Volpe, 199x Bianchi Boardwalk, 2010 Bianchi Milano, '88 Schwinn Prologue, '88 Trek 900, 198x Benotto Triathlon. '88 Schwinn Crosscut