Bike Commuting Gear Essentials
With the weather starting to becoming beautiful out. I decided to blow the dust off my saddle, grease my gears, and get outside and ride again.
Biking, for me, is a way of life. The freedom experienced is unlike anything else I've ever experienced. I've been commuting to work for 2 years now with my trusty bike. And though that there are some things that I wish I knew and wish I had in my pack before hitting the nitty gritty streets.
So I've compiled this list of what I carry, why I carry it, and what I want to add to the gear I carry on my daily rides. If your getting into commuter biking or already a commuter biker this article has something for all experience levels.
To not waste the time of our experienced riders it broke the gear into different categories if you're experienced then jump right into Highly Recommended Equipment. If not start right at the Obvious because for some it might not be.
- Trusty Bike
- Good Helmet
Like I said these are obvious. But to get your wheels to the pavement you need a sold bike. Now there are tons of bikes to choose from and it can be overwhelming. So I'm going to briefly break down what bikes there are and what I recommend.
- Road Bike
- Mountain Bike
- Performance Bike
- The Garage Sale Special
For most, the Road Bike is the go to. This is because they are light and efficient on the pavement. But this does come at a cost, and that is the cost! With these bikes, you can spend as much as you want. But to get a decent one you are looking at least $700 new.
Although they can be costly if you are looking at getting into biking as a sport or preferred cardio exercise, I highly recommend a Road Bike. I can't tell you all the beautiful sunrises, sunsets, and the beautiful bike trails I've seen. And the drop handlebars do put you in a good position to pedal hard and get the wind rushing past your face.
Some serious things to consider before buying this bike is the terrain you will be taking the bike over.
If you plan on getting off the road at all this is not the bike for you. If there is gravel roads or anything that isn't pavement this isn't the bike for you.
Another thing to consider is the angle these type of bikes put you in. They make you hunch over a bit. With can be uncomfortable on your butt and hands.
Also, since your bent over it puts pressure on your hands, so if you have wrist problems this bike geometry may not be for you.
- Energy Efficient
- Limited Terrain
- Somewhat Fragile
- Bumpy Ride
- Skinny Tires get stuck in cracks
Don't let the more Cons fool you here, this is the most ridden commuter bike for good reason. But, for the new commuters joining our ranks, I want you aware of the cons that come with this style of bike.
The Mountain Bike it an all-terrain machine, and if you get a good one, it will tackle it all and want more. I recommend this bike if you're going to cut through fields, off curbs, and take the road less traveled.
It isn't as common to see these bikes commuting but if you're interested in hitting trails and want to commute, this is the bike you want.
These bikes have shocks and wider tires which means a much more comfortable ride compared to a road bike. Which makes sense if you think about it because meant to tear up trails. Be thrown against rocks, branches, trees and dirty. But these comforts come at the cost of speed and efficiency.
Also, you'll be in a more upright position which is comfortable than a hunched over road bike.
Don't get me wrong they are still decently fast and efficient but not compared to a road bike, or a performance bike
- Can be Heavy
I'll admit here that I'm biased about this bike, this is what I commute with. Although I'll admit it does have some drawbacks.
A Performance Bike is a Hybrid Bike, that leans on the side of a road bike. Its got skinnier tires than a mountain bike, but it has slightly thicker tires than a road bike. Why is this beneficial?
Having tires skinnier tires is good for speed and efficiency. But since they are slightly thicker it will give you a little more traction in slick conditions.
Another reason I believe this bike is best is cause it can handle minor off-road excursions. When I say minor I do mean minor. This bike will not have shocks like a road bike, so anything offroad will be a bumpy ride. But if you wanted to cut across grass or take a smooth dirt path I would feel confident tackling them with ease.
These bikes typically have rim breaks over the disc breaks. Rim breaks break slower in wet conditions and wear out faster. Although in my two years of riding rain, shine, and night time, I've never had any issues.
- Light Off Road
- More Efficient than Mountain Bike
- Cant Handel Tough Off Road
- Slower than Road Bike
- Less Efficient than Road Bike
Garage Sale Special
I've lovingly named this section the Garage Sale Special. Because let's be honest. Any bike will do the job if its dependable and you enjoy doing it.
All the bikes listed above new run from around $500-$5000 depending on how high the end you want. But getting a used garage or estate sale bike can definitely do the job. At these sales, you can find major bargains if you know where to look, and what to look for.
When considering one of these bikes is sure to check:
- General Bumps and Crapes
As you can probably guess really worn gears are gears that are near the end of there life. If you don't think someone could wear down their steel gears think again, I have friends who ride 12,000+ miles a year!
Just inspect them, wear is easy to tell cause the "teeth" will be worn down.
When inspecting the tires just make sure there aren't any gashes missing out of the tire, sidewall damage, and still tread on the tire. This is just like what you would look for in your car. Also, be sure to make sure it holds pressure. But that's an easy fix.
For the chain, the same as the gears. Look for wear, and avoid rust.
With brakes, you want to see if they still have some pad left on them. So you don't have to replace them right away. But regardless its not an expensive repair either way.
Before purchasing your garage special bike be sure to look it over for big dents or deep gashes. Also, check the welds of the bike. You don't want to buy anything that is structurally weak, cause you will hit a bump and have your bike fall apart on you.
A helmet is a must! If you're just getting into biking and think you don't need a helmet your so wrong. When biking you can get up to 20, 25, and even 30 miles per hour. And if you think you won't fall, you will. It happens to all of us. And the last thing you want it to have your head crashing into the rock-solid pavement at 30 mph. So please, wear your helmet always.
When getting a helmet make sure it fits you snug, doesn't rattle side to side. And the chin strap fits you nicely. There are tons of certifications out there that rate the safety of these helmets. Make sure you get a well rated helmet and hope you never need it.
Highly Recommended Equipment
Now that you are acquainted with bikes, and how there differ. Let's get into what I highly recommend you take with you.
- Front Light / Tail Light
- Water Bottle
- Bike Lock
Front Light / Tail Light
These can be found for cheap online or in the store, and it never caught without mine.
In my opinion, the tail light is 100% just because you want to do something to draw attention to yourself if your commuting. In today's society people are talking on their phones, texting, and doing God knows what while driving. Having a strobing red light on the rear end of the bike helps bring attention to me. Reducing the likely hood someone hits me.
I personally don't use a front light unless I'm doing to be out at dusk, dawn, or night. When looking into front lights tho, be sure to take into account how bright and battery life. Obviously, we want long battery life and a bright light. In my opinion the brighter the better. For me its all about drawing attention to myself so the unaware driver sees me as soon as possible.
There are two ways to carry a water bottle with you, in your bag your taking to work, or mounted to your bike.
Personally, I like mine mounted on my bike. My reasoning is that while I'm riding I can easily access it. Making staying hydrated easy, no stopping and digging in my bag lengthening my commute.
When commuting, you'll always want to carry a backpack. Youll be needing a change of clothes and other things you need to take to work with you in it.
I personally carry a military style bag with me because it's just what I have. Although, they do make some really nice ones that are built in a way that they allow airflow between your back and the bag making you sweat less. That might be worth checking out for you. But in reality, any bag that's big enough will do.
For most of us, we don't live in a crime free area. So even at work, I am that guy who locks my bike, in the break room. Not just because I don't trust co-workers or the 2000 plus people who come in and out of my building a day. But because, I've spent a lot of hard earned money on my bike, and in a way, I've bonded with it. And losing it to a thief would be devastating.
DO NOT GET A CABLE LOCK. If you want a cable lock, go online and look at the hundreds of videos of them being cut with everyday objects. Sure this is better than nothing, but spend a little more and protect your investment the right way.
Get yourself a heavy duty U lock. Most of them have ratings on how tough they are. But some basics on what makes them tough to cut is how thick the steel is and if its hexagonal shape. Get a thick hexagon shackle and you'll be alright.
A side note, be sure to ALWAYS lock it through the frame of the bike, NEVER the wheel. If you lock it through the wheel, all the thief has to do is take the wheel off and they are gawn with your bike. So always lock it through the frame.
- Spare tire tube
- Small air pump
- Change of clothes
- Shower supplies
- Backpack rain cover
Now before all the biking fanatics jump my bones about not putting spare tire tubes and a small pump in with the essential equipment. Let's be honest here flat tires do happen out on the road. But they have never happened to me. Plus changing a flat tire is no easy task. So personally, I take the risk and save weight by leaving it behind. If I got a flat on my bike I would do the same thing you might do in your car, call a friend for help. So for me, I leave these behind.
A change of clothes and shower supplies depending on your job are going to be critical. If your going any distance your going to sweat, get mud and dirt on your, and everything in between. I always elect to bring a change of clothes so I can change and be presentable at work. But if you work a factory job and don't live far from where you will be commuting than maybe you don't need these items.
A backpack rain cover is convenient to carry with you always. If you carry anything you cant have soaked then get one. When you go into work it could be a great day but when you get off it can be a different story. So play it safe and get one. Plus if you're really going to commit to this you might ride to work in the light rain. Riding in the rain is a blast when all safety tips are followed properly!
When you are bike commuting gear is essential, but your safety is paramount. here are some basic tips to get you out there safely.
Leave early, don't be rushed and stressed on your way to work. Biking is so relaxing and fun, enjoy it see the sunrise and burn some calories.
Don't be afraid to take your lane! Now you need to check with your local laws, but in most places, if no bike lane is provided you can take a full car lane. You always want to follow traffic laws like you are a car because drivers will act crazy around you. When I ride I stay in the middle or just to the right of the middle. This way cars are not tempted to try and pass me in my lane, which can be dangerous.
Check your bike and gear the night before. This should be a no brainer, check your tires and make sure your lights are charged before you need to leave. This just helps create a stress-free environment for you to have the best commute possible.
Take the backroads. Personally, I always take the back roads, less traffic and fewer lights mean faster safer rides.
Know your route before you leave. Before you do this the first time, drive it in your car. Know where you are going to go, and look for obstacles you might have on the bike on that route.
Know your skill level. Bike handling skill and physical ability play in this. You need to be confident on your bike, know how it works and how to ride effectively.
In this article, we discussed bike commuting gear essentials. And talked about which bike is best for commuting. Our findings are as follows.
Road bikes and Performance bikes are best for commuting because they are fast and efficient, although any bike can get you from point A to B.
We discussed the importance of a good biking helmet.
We broke down gear essentials into two categories. Essentials and Thoughtful equipment.
Essential we decided that you really need bike lights. That means a front and a rear light. Also, a backpack to hold work stuff, and a good quality bike lock, and water.
For Thoughtful we decided that a change of clothes is nice to have after a long hot ride, and everything needed to take a shower after it is nice to have also. We then discussed backpack rain covers and how they can be essential if you're going to be carrying valuable things in your backpack.
As far as spare tire tubes and air pumps go personally I don't carry them. I'm not riding far and can just carry my bike back or call a friend if need be. So if you want to carry them that's a decision you'll have to make for yourself!
Last addition, maintenance on your bike and bike chain is important! Check out this other article I wrote talking about what's the best bike chain lubricant!
What did you find most helpful? What do you carry that I don't?