Commuting by bike is one of the most freeing experiences. Once you make the change, you’ll find it’s the best choice you’ll ever make concerning your daily routine. Feeling the air on your face and working up a sweat before a long day of work is so refreshing, and once you have the right commuter bike picked out, you’ll fall in love with your daily ride. Because while public transit passengers and car commuters probably associate their daily trip with traffic, delays and general frustration, riding a bike can actually make a commute fun.
The ongoing pandemic disrupted our lives in mostly negative ways, but at the very least, it inspired many people to get outdoors and on their bikes. And as more people head back to the office, many of these new cyclists might want to know how to turn their leisurely weekend rides into daily commutes. Because while a weekend ride might require little else than a bottle of water, your work commute can require carrying everything from a laptop to a complete change of clothes. Besides gear, here’s some practical advice that can help you have a safer, more enjoyable commute.
- Plan your route: Google Maps is getting better at suggesting bike routes, but it’s still not perfect. Finding a route that keeps you off unpleasant or dangerous roads can make your commute much easier. And sometimes one street will be very hilly while a parallel street will be gentler. Try out some different routes when you’re not in a hurry to see what works. Simply put, don’t assume the streets you take to drive to work will be best for biking: they probably won’t be.
- Own the lane: This is one of the hardest bits of advice for even experienced cyclists to adopt. If you’re riding in a traffic lane, you should stay to the right. But you shouldn’t be too far to the right. Cars are more likely to pass very close, the road on the right is typically bumpier, and you’re more likely to get doored (probably most cyclists’ greatest fear). Stick to the right, but give yourself enough space to ride comfortably and be seen by drivers.
- Take it easy on yourself: Woke up late? Feeling lazy? Too cold outside? Take the car. Being a bike commuter is not an all-or-nothing proposition. But once you start biking to work, you’re unlikely to want to give it up.
You can make do with just a bike and a backpack, but there’s a lot of gear that can make biking to work far more pleasant. Of course, you might not need all of this gear, and you might already have some of it. But all of these items can make your commute easier in different ways. To make sure you have all of the essential bike commuter gear for your daily ride, check out our options below and enjoy the ultimate outdoor experience.
1. Topo Designs Bike Bag Mini
The Topo Designs mini bike bag isn’t kidding about being mini. But it can be the perfect thing if you want an easy way to carry your phone, wallet and maybe a snack. It’s designed to attach to your front handlebars using the included hook and loop straps. It comes in a range of stylish colors, and there’s an interior key clip, so you never have to worry about leaving your bike keys at home.
2. CamelBak Podium Squeeze Water Bottle
A water bottle is crucial for any bike ride. This bike bottle fits in standard water bottle cages, and it has a lined layer to keep the water cooler for longer (just don’t expect HydroFlask levels of performance). The best thing about it is the twist top; you can turn the mouth of the bottle to lock it, and it’ll be totally leakproof if you throw it in your bag. It’s a far more secure alternative to the typical pull-top bottles that you open with your teeth.
3. Adidas Primeblue Marathon Running Jacket
While it’s technically designed for runners, there’s no reason this jacket from Adidas can’t be a great option for cyclists. It offers lightweight protection from wind, rain and cold weather, but the classic bomber jacket look can take you straight to casual drinks after work. The zippered hand and arm pockets will keep all your gear safe and close by. Plus, it’s made from recycled materials.
4. Planet Bike Eco Rack
This rack is a lifesaver for commuters who carry heavy bags back and forth. It’s better to keep weight off of your back as you ride so you don’t get too tired and have more energy left for the ride itself. Rear racks are desirable because you can hang your bag to the side of it or attach it to the top. If you want to go truly out there, place a basket on top of the rack for extra security. The Eco Rack is made of aluminum and attaches to the frame of most bikes. Pop this on and your back will thank you. Plus, a quality pannier rack helps avoid having a giant puddle of back sweat.
5. Ortlieb Back Roller Single Pannier
Pannier bags are frankly pretty expensive, but they’re the kind of investment you’ll thank yourself for later. Even if you’re just carrying a laptop and lunch to work, carrying your stuff in your backpack pretty much guarantees a big sweat stain on your back by the time you get to work. This pannier is durable and has a convenient shoulder strap for easier carrying. Reflectors on the sides make you more visible for night riding. The pannier clips on securely, but the bag is easy to remove by simply pulling the handle up. The compact 20-liter size suits most daily commuter needs.
6. Nike Sportswear Style Essentials
Nike’s sportswear pants look enough like chinos that you could get away with them in a casual office, but they’re more friendly for an active commute than your average khakis. And while the cropped fit might have been designed more for style, they have the added benefit of keeping your pants out of the path of your gears. They are fairly short, so bear that in mind if you’re taller.
7. Ursa Major Essential Face Wipes
Don’t forget about the end of your journey. Once you’ve sweated your way to work, you might want to quickly freshen up. Ursa Major’s face wipes are biodegradable and conveniently individually wrapped. Quickly refresh and moisturize after a sweaty hot weather ride or a drying cold-weather ride.
8. Kryptonite Bike Lock
This essential lock by Kryptonite has been used for years by many happy customers. The sturdiest, heaviest lock there is, you won’t be disappointed, and hopefully, no bikes will be stolen. Some bike locking tips: always lock through the frame of the bike as well as through the front wheel. If you only lock it to the front tire, the rest of your bike can easily be stolen. Try to lock it out in front of a busy building and not down a side street or in an alley. Kryptonite’s New York Lock is expensive, sure, but it’s less expensive than replacing a bike.
9. Topeak Peakini II Mini Pump
This mini bike pump will add almost no weight to your bike, but it will allow you to top off your bike’s tires if they’re underinflated. Or if your tires are completely flat, they’ll give you enough air to at least get to the bus stop or a nearby bike shop. The bike pump works for Schrader or Presta, and it attaches to your bike’s bottle cage holders, while still allowing access to your bike cage.
10. Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Mini Hip Pack
Besides a top tube or handlebar bag, a shoulder bag is another great way to carry small essentials like your phone and wallet. Patagonia’s hip bag is made from lightweight recycled ripstop nylon. You can wear it over your shoulder or on your hip.
11. Carhartt Cargo Series Insulated Cooler Bag
If you’re the type to also pack a lunch for work, then you’ll need something more secure than a paper bag if you’re going to be putting your lunch in the same bag as your laptop and those important presentation documents. Carhartt’s cooler bag is surprisingly good looking for a lunch bag, and you can attach other packs from Carhartt’s Hook-N-Haul line.
12. Kitbest Bike Repair Tool Kit
In this bicycle repair kit, you’ll find everything you need in case something goes wrong on your ride or commute. Having it all tucked away in a small bag that attaches to the back of your seat is a wonderful feeling when you realize your tires are flat and there’s no bike shop in sight. This flat kit includes a mini bike pump that fits both Presta and Schrader valves, a glueless patch kit with six patches, and a multitool with a 16 in 1 feature. This kit has all you need for emergency repairs, air, and punctured tires.
13. Lezyne Control Drive Co2 Bicycle Inflator
This is a must-have piece of bike commuter gear. The Co2 cartridge is an essential addition to your flat kit but is unfortunately not included with the pump and pressure gauge. This Co2 cartridge can be used to inflate your tires quickly if there isn’t a puncture or hole. This one-time-use-only item is made of aluminum and brass for extra durability and may be recycled. It has an oversized control knob so you can inflate your tires easily and is compatible with Presta and Schrader valves. Stock up on these little cartridges, because you never know when you’ll need one.
14. Ascher Ultra Bright USB Rechargeable Bike Light Set
Every bike needs front and rear lights, and the rechargeable Ascher USB set is our top choice for commuters. They’re great because they recharge so easily and if you forget, you can charge them anywhere. They include four light mode options: bright, low, slow flashing, and fast flashing. The red light at the rear is especially bright and will keep you safe from cars or other cyclists. They attach easily to handlebars and seat posts, with four stretchy rubber grips for different widths. Also consider attaching one to your helmet and jacket. Another perk is that you can easily detach the Ascher lights and take them on a hike, backpacking trip, or camping adventure.
15. Power Grips Sport Pedal Kit
For an easier commute, consider tucking your feet into pedals with straps. This will enable you to pull up on your pedal stroke, instead of using only one muscle group to push down. Things get easier when you can use more power and less energy on longer rides, and these pedals will help with that. They attach to your bike in lieu of regular, platform pedals and allow you to insert your feet into the straps or clips for ultimate momentum. These pedals weigh 500 grams and come with completely weather-resistant straps. No need for expensive cycling shoes, just pop these onto your bike and you can keep only one change of footwear in your bag.
17. SMITH Optics Trace Cycling Helmet
This helmet is a great mid-budget option for optimal protection. At a little over $100, you know you’re paying for quality as the $20 helmets people are so keen on purchasing really don’t cut it when your head hits the asphalt. The SMITH Optics helmet is a good deal because it has areocore impact foam, eighteen vents for airflow along your scalp and a vaporfit retention system. It comes in many colors but the price increases with each shade. Take this helmet with you and you’ll always be protected, no matter if you’re riding in traffic or out on the trails. A helmet is obviously an essential piece of bike commuter gear, but it’s not an area where you want to cut costs. Invest in a worthy helmet to protect yourself during your daily commute.
18. Helicopter Duck Bike Bell
Who doesn’t need something ridiculous and cute attached to their bike to make them smile after a long day? There are plenty of “joke” bells out there but this one is particularly fun. There are unicorns, hamburgers, Spidermans — you name it, you’ll find it, and then attach it right onto your handlebar to make some pleasant noise at the car that’s avoiding your eye as you’re trying to cross the street. You’re welcome.