Essential gear for bike commuting
Bicycling to work is growing in popularity for many reasons – it’s economical, eco-friendly, and an easy way to build exercise into your daily routine. But commuting by bike does require some additional gear to keep you safe, comfortable, and prepared during the ride.
Investing in a few key items like lights, a helmet, and a solid bike lock should be at the top of any new bike commuter’s checklist before hitting the road.
In this article, we’ll outline some of the bike commuting gear basics that will make your ride to work smooth, efficient, safe, and worry-free regardless of the weather or road conditions. With the right equipment, commuting by bike can be an enjoyable daily ritual.
Essential Gear for Bike Commuting:
Riding a bicycle on roads with motor vehicle traffic means cyclists need to take appropriate safety precautions. Wearing proper protective gear can help prevent injuries in the event of crashes or falls. Protecting your head, hands, eyes, and visibility are essentials that all bike commuters should use for safe riding.
The most important piece of cycling safety gear is a good helmet. Helmets dramatically reduce the risk of major head injuries by absorbing and dissipating the impact of a fall or collision. Make sure to pick a helmet that fits your head snugly and meets rigorous safety certification standards.
Modern helmets are lightweight, ventilated, and available in a variety of styles. Take the time to adjust the straps and sizing pads or rings for a secure and comfortable fit. Replace your helmet after any major impact, even if no damage is visible. Wearing a properly fitted helmet whenever you ride significantly improves your safety and reduces injury risk.
2. Bike Gloves
Bike gloves are another vital way to protect yourself while riding. They shield your hands from abrasions if you happen to fall off your bike. The padding in cycling gloves also helps absorb vibrations from the road that can numb your hands on long rides. Look for padded bike gloves that have secure wrist closures so they don’t slip off.
Full-finger models provide the most warmth for cold weather commutes. Touchscreen-compatible fingertips are useful if you need to use a phone while riding. Find a pair that fits comfortably without restricting your grip.
3. Glasses or Sunglasses
Protect your eyes from insects, debris, sun glare, and dirt by wearing shatter-resistant cycling glasses or sunglasses when you ride. They should wrap securely around your temples and not obscure your peripheral vision. Using eye protection keeps your eyes safe and helps you see the road more clearly.
You can opt for interchangeable lenses to suit different light conditions. Anti-fog treatments and ventilation can be useful features as well.
4. Hi-Vis Vest or Jacket
Increasing your visibility is another key aspect of bike safety in traffic. Use brightly colored and reflective gear so motorists can see you clearly at all times of the day. A high-visibility vest, jacket or even a fully reflective jacket will make you stand out.
Look for gear with reflective piping, prints, and decals for 360 degrees of visibility. Wear hi-vis gear on top of your outerwear so it’s prominently displayed. Ride where drivers expect to see cyclists and use lights and reflectors too.
5. Bike lights
It’s critical to make yourself visible to motorists, pedestrians, and other cyclists, especially if part of your commute is in darkness. A bright white front light and red rear blinking light allow others to see you coming and give you increased visibility. Make sure the lights are fully charged before each ride. An extra set of backup lights in your bag is also a good idea in case your main lights die.
6. Bike lock
Invest in a high-quality U-lock, chain, or cable to secure your bike when you reach your destination. Be sure to lock through both the frame and back wheel, at a minimum. Leaving your bike unlocked outside is an open invitation for theft.
Bike Maintenance Gear
A bicycle that is well-maintained and tuned up is much less likely to suffer mechanical problems or breakdowns during your commute. While major repairs are best done at home, carrying a few basic bike tools and spares allows you to handle minor roadside repairs, adjustments, and parts swaps so you can keep riding with minimal delay.
The most versatile item to have is a compact multi-tool that packs various screwdrivers, hex keys, spoke keys, and other implements into one pocket-sized unit.
This allows you to tighten loose screws, make adjustments, and complete quick repairs with the tools you need without weighing yourself down. Quality bike multi-tools are made of durable, weather-resistant materials.
One of the most common roadside bike repairs is fixing a flat tire. Carrying a mini bike pump allows you to re-inflate a tire that’s low on air or has suffered a small puncture. Models with an integrated pressure gauge help you get your tire inflation back to the proper PSI.
For faster inflation of flat tires, small CO2 cartridges or canisters that thread onto the valve stems can be used, but you’ll need a fresh cartridge each time you have a flat.
3. Patch Kit
In case of bigger punctures, a patch kit contains self-adhesive patches, sandpaper to rough up the tube surface, and glue to affix the patch for a permanent fix. This allows you to repair the puncture properly and continue riding instead of having to replace the tube. Always pack a spare inner tube as well so you can simply swap it out for a damaged one and immediately get rolling again.
4. Spare Tube
Pack an extra inner tube so you can quickly swap it out for a punctured one. Make sure it’s the right size and valve type for your bike.
5. Chain Lube
Lubricating your bike chain helps keep it running smoothly and prevents excessive wear and rust. Bringing a small bottle of bike-specific chain lube allows you to reapply it as needed before rust develops if you get caught in wet conditions. This saves your chain from damage.
Weather Protection Gear
The right clothes will help you handle whatever weather you encounter on your commute. Pack layers and wet weather gear so you can ride comfortably in any condition.
1. Rain Jacket
A lightweight, waterproof, and breathable cycling rain jacket keeps you dry in wet conditions without overheating. Look for one with reflective details to keep you visible.
2. Rain Pants
Waterproof bike pants or rain leggings protect you from road spray and rain so you don’t have to arrive soaked. Get reflective pants for visibility.
3. Winter Hat
A warm cycling cap, beanie, or headband covers your ears on cold days. Merino wool and windproof fleece help retain heat.
4. Winter Gloves
Insulated bike gloves will keep your fingers warm and nimble when commuting in cold temperatures. Look for water-resistant fabrics with good grip.
Make your commute more convenient with bags to carry your stuff and a sturdy lock to secure your bike at the destination.
1. Backpack or Panniers
A cycling backpack or detachable panniers let you haul work items and personal belongings on your bike. Look for a bag with visibility features and waterproofing.
2. Water Bottle
Hydrate during your ride with a leak-proof bike water bottle that fits in a cage or clips to your bike frame. Look for impact-resistant designs.
Stash quick and portable snacks like energy bars, nuts, or bananas to fuel your ride. Refuel when needed.
Planning Your Bike Commute
To make bike commuting practical, safe, and pleasant, it pays to plan your route and schedule.
1. Finding a Safe Route
Plan your route using bike lanes, trails, and roads with slow traffic whenever possible. Check it out in advance to identify any hazards to avoid.
2. Timing Your Commute
Give yourself extra time during your first few bike commutes until you learn how long it takes. Ride conservatively until you learn the nuances of cycling with traffic.
3. Dressing for the Weather
Check the forecast and dress in layers you can remove as you warm up. Pack extra clothes in your bag in case of changes in weather.
While a bike commute requires more planning and gear than simply driving or taking transit, the benefits for your health, wallet, and the environment make it worthwhile. Following this essential bike commuting gear list will help ensure you have a safe, comfortable ride to work rain or shine.
Of course, you don’t have to invest in all this gear at once – start with the basics like a helmet and lights, and add other items as needed. The key is making sure you have the necessary equipment so that commuting by bike can become an easy, routine part of your day. The exercise, fresh air, and sense of accomplishment from pedaling to work are well worth the extra effort. Learn here more about lifestyle tips and guides.