28 Must-Haves for Bike Commuters Slideshow
28 Must-Haves for Bike Commuters Slideshow
There are lights that let you be seen, and there are lights that let you see. The Lezyne Macro Drive USB rechargeable light is the latter. It packs 300 lumens into an attractive, remarkably small package that makes evening trips to the market a pleasure.
Although it was designed primarily as a high-performance mountaineering piece, The North Face Verto Jacket is a bike commuter's best friend. It packs down to the size of a baseball when you dont need it, and deploys into a wind- and light rain-blocking jacket when you do. It comes in the orange color seen here (great for hunting season!) and is also available in so-called sublime green, or a Hefty trash-bag black. The jacket is made from comically lightweight but seriously strong seven-denier fabric, comes in sizes S through XXL and provides a snug, weatherproof fit with elastic hem, cuffs and over-sized, helmet-friendly hood. At $130, its pricey, but in the right conditions, it's priceless.
Why fill up a bag and sling it over your back when the bike can carry that weight? Take a load off with Topeak’s Super Tourist DX Pannier Rack. Constructed of 6061-T6 tubular aluminum to be strong and light, with stainless steel hardware for corrosion resistance, the Super Tourist provides a good balance of value, light weight and durability. Its long deck and generous rear extension make carrying big loads a breeze.
Chrome got its start making products for professional bike messengers—a surly and critical crowd if there ever was one. And if the quality and durability is enough for a user group that spends eight-plus hours a day riding a bike in a harsh urban environment, you can bet the product is ready to handle the commute to and from most nine-to-fives. The Southside shoes are part of Chrome’s street collection—they skip SPD cleat compatibility in favor of a more versatile, all-around approach. The shoes have tacky rubber soles and outers made from oiled full-grain leather that—perhaps most important in a commuter product—weathers well over time, looking better the more they’re used. Shown here in gray and tan, the shoes also are available in black.
Fenders keep you dry, simple as that. Even the most beautiful days can have puddles, and the nastiest days are far more tolerable when icy water isn’t blasting your legs. Planet Bike Cascadia fenders are made from an unbreakable lightweight polycarbonate and with stainless steel hardware, so they’re made to last. Plus, 25% of Planet Bike’s profits go to supporting bike advocacy. Double win!
The Bartlett is Pearl Izumi's stylish reminder that fashion and function don't have to be mutually exclusive in cycling clothes. Wear it on chilly morning commutes, and its fleece liner inside a wind- and water-resistant polyester shell should keep you fairly toasty. Front snap and zipper pockets are easily accessible for keys and other small necessities rather than behind your back, as with traditional bike jackets. In the end, this semi-fitted jacket looks sharp—good enough to roll up to the office, bar or restaurant, lock up your bike and head straight in without any major wardrobe changes and without anyone knowing you rode.
There's no bigger affront to a bike commuter than having her bike stolen. So get a good lock to keep that from happening. Kryptonite’s new Evolution Integrated Chain combines the flexibility of a chain with the security of a U-lock, using 10mm six-sided manganese steel links to foil all but the most determined and well-equipped thief. Add the included $2,250 in bike theft protection and you should have the confidence to lock up anywhere.
Chances are you’re not going to want to change socks after riding into the office, so you’d best pick the right pair for the range of your day’s activities. The socks seen here are made from a blend of 60-plus percent au natural Merino wool, plus Nylon and Lycra for added stretch—and each one comes with an unconditional satisfaction guarantee. The company’s uber-thin and lightweight Argyle Crew Light socks come in two patterns and can easily work with a business casual dress code, or even a suit if needed. Meanwhile, the Darn Tough’s women’s-specific Good Witch model delivers the same functional performance, but with considerably more fun. They’re great for commuters because wool wicks sweat, is anti-microbial and naturally regulates temperature—whether you’re motoring down the bike path before work or kicking back at the office later in the day. All Darn Tough socks are made in Vermont with latest-generation Italian knitting machines for an ultra-light yet extremely dense construction for durability, and all-but-undetectable toe seams, for comfort. There are plenty more patterns to pick from.
Though you’ll probably find that a friendly voice sounds best to passers by, a bell is handy when you need to get someone’s attention. Plus, bells and bikes somehow go together like peanut butter and jelly, instantly triggering memories of childhood escapades. There are thousands to choose from, so pick one that matches your style. This Electra Compass Bell is perfect if you're navigationally challenged.
Remember slap bracelets, that late 80s/early 90s schoolyard fad? Brooks has brilliantly re-purposed the whimsical idea and brought it back as a sensible commuter accessory. While you can buy a DayGlo reflective pants strap at the checkout counter of most any bike shop, this simple spring-loaded leather-clad device offers a classy way to keep clean on your commute without looking so much like a crossing guard. The Brooks Trouser Strap helps keep pant legs out of the way of your bike's grease-caked chain. Brooks is better known for its iconic full-grain leather saddles, but hats off to the 147-year-old company for coming up with a novel application of an otherwise useless technology and even further kudos for offering the Trouser Strap in an eight-color spectrum of options. While you may find some colors available online, your best bet to find Brooks product is through your trusty neighborhood bike shop. Choose from the staid/sophisticated black, brown, honey or mustard options or funkier apple-green, turquoise, violet or raspberry models.
Founded more than two decades ago by a San Francisco bike messenger to produce bombproof, function-heavy bike bags that could withstand the daily rigors of that lifestyle, Timbuk2 has ridden the wave of mainstreaming bike culture. As it's expanded, it has made many departures from its core roots, but the top-of-the-line Especial is an attempt to turn back the clock and give the hardest-core riders something they can be proud of. Made of wear-resistant Cordura ripstop and nylon on the outside, and waterproof TPU inside and on the boot, this bag stands up to foul weather and everyday abuse. Magnetic tension-lock buckles offer on-the-go, one-handed access to the interior, and the ambidextrous shoulder strap allows for day-to-day customization. An internal laptop sleeve, organization pockets and an under-the-flap U-lock holder round out this gear-hauling commute specialist, and the whole sleek package is wrapped in high-visibility reflective binding that's sure to put you on every motorist's radar.
Delta Cycles’ Smartphone Caddy II uses an elastic cord and well-placed rubber bumpers to quickly secure almost any smartphone to your handlebar, providing easy access to navigation apps and tunes. Better yet, take your next conference call from the saddle. A variety of mounting options make it compatible with almost any handlebar setup.
Outlier is a small, New York City-based apparel brand that turns out fashionable, functional designs that are equally at home on the bike, at a dead run, or in the boardroom. Outliers New OG pant is sewn at the company's New York facility from Schoellers miracle DrySkin fabric, which is breathable, has built-in, four-way stretch and is water-resistant to a degree (both rain and coffee will bead off the fabric, but the pants won't withstand a monsoon). These features aren't immediately apparent from the pants' cut and style—and that's sort of the point. Yes, at more than $200, these pants are expensive. But so are options from, say, Brooks Brothers, but try putting some bespoke piece of menswear through the sort of abuse the New OGs are designed to endure, you'll quickly find yourself wearing an expensive pair of shredded, stained and sullied rags.
Safety lights on the front and back of your bike are a must for commuting safety, since you never know when you may be out after dark. There are plenty of less expensive options out there, but the CatEye Solar’s combination of solar charging and automatic activation while riding in low light makes it the safety light that always works, whether you remember to turn it on or not.
This may be the most critical accessory of the whole bunch. A flat tire is about the last thing you want to deal with on the way to work, a situation made all the worse by the prospect of pulling out a traditional glue and vulcanized rubber patch kit. Instead, pack along one of these little Super Patch Kits from Park Tool. Just locate the leak in your tube, scuff it up with the included sandpaper, slap a 3M sticker on there, and get back on your way. The kit itself takes up virtually no space, and is the best $3 get-you-to-work-on-time investment you can make.
Nothing ruins a day like a flat tire, especially when you're on your way to a morning meeting. Carrying a cartridge of Caffelatex Espresso sealant is good insurance against the flat tire blues, as it instantly fills and seals a punctured bike tube. Better yet, put sealant in your tires now to avoid most flats altogether.
As part of The North Face’s bike-commuters-specific series, the Hennepin Plaid shirt incorporates some nifty technical features in a passably business-casual package. For example, incorporates 3M reflective yarn to deliver what the company says is the highest commercially available reflective properties. It also sports a clandestine vented cape, a rear stash pocket, a hidden sunglasses wipe, UPF 50 sun protection and a slick, asymmetrical zip-up breast pocket.
Rain should never be a reason not to ride. Banjo Brothers Waterproof Pannier offers the piece of mind of knowing your stuff will stay dry no matter how wet it gets. The tough nylon bag holds a removable waterproof liner and offers 360-degree reflectivity. It’s a well constructed and thoroughly thought out design at a reasonable price. Pair it with Banjo Brothers' folding Grocery Bag Pannier ($39) for added versatility.
While the Brompton H6L Folding Bike is a bit more substantial than the rest of the commuting products in this slideshow, it folds down small enough to be considered an accessory. Plus, it won our collapsible folding bike shoot-out last year, and we miss it, so it's worth mentioning again. The Brompton is built around 16-inch wheels and comes complete with a pump, fenders with mud guards, and even a safety bell. It packs up to the size of a briefcase and can be carried into the office, tucked into a closet at home, or toted onto public transportation or into most any bar or restaurant. Read the full review here, and check out the competition it was up against from Tern, Montague, Dahon and Pacific Cycles. Bromptons are readily available in Britain and around Europe, but harder to come across stateside. Try your local bike shop, or surf over to NYCeWheels.com, a New York City shop with an online store that specializes in folding bikes. The store's online custom configurer lets users choose from 52 different custom options.
A kickstand is the most underrated bicycle-commuting accessory. Without one, it is nearly impossible to load a pannier bag full of groceries, and unexpected topples cause expensive accessories to meet concrete more often than they should. Pletscher’s Double Kickstand has two legs to keep your bike upright and stable. Designed for bike touring, its durable lightweight design is compatible with most bikes.
The Giro Feature comes in eight colors, including this Highlighter Yellow version, which gives commuters by far the least chance of getting run over by an absent-minded motorist. Although it’s built to be a mountain bike helmet, its full-coverage design and dozen different cooling vents make it a great pick for commuters, too. For those looking for a less flashy lid, this one is also available in anonymous matte black. Or if you’re looking for a more retro, ironic sort of helmet, don’t miss Giro’s throwback Reverb model.
Tires belong more in the hardware category than the accessory aisle, but as the lone points of contact between commuters and the actual commute, they’re as important as anything. Let's make it an easy decision—buy Schwalbe Marathon Mondial tires for your commuter bike. Doing so will considerably up your chances of never needing to whip out the pump or the patch kit. Replacing the popular Marahon XR tire in Schwalbe’s lineup—widely regarded as the tire to pick for an around-the-world tour—the new-last-year Marathon Mondial gets the company’s so-called “snake skin” sidewall, for even greater protection, and also now uses a triple-rubber compound (hard in the center, softer on the shoulders) to improve both performance and durability. One noted feature the tire retains: its 360-degree reflective pinstripe. The Marathon Mondial is available in a variety of 26” and 700c sizes in wire and folding bead variations, ranging from $44 to $90.
$44 to $90; schwalbetires.com
There are two schools of thought when it comes to commuter clothing. One is to clandestinely incorporate high-visibility reflective elements into normal-looking but technically advanced commuter-specific clothing. Mavic takes the opposite tack with its appropriately named Vision Vest—which is hard to not notice during the daytime—and downright impossible to ignore at night, when high beams light the vest up brighter than Clark Griswold’s Christmas tree. The bright orange vest is guaranteed to leave drivers tapping their brake pedal, thinking they’ve wandered into a construction zone. The Vision Vest has a sporty cut and gripper panels at the rear hem to keep it from riding up. It packs down easily when not in use, but offers high-visibility plus basic protection from the elements when you need it.
In theory, any old mini pump will get you aired up and back on the road, but in practice most pump designs call for a whole lot of monkeying around, and many won’t reach the high pressure needed by road bikes. Moreover, keeping the pump head locked onto the valve stem while you muscle enough force into a pint-sized pump barrel is one of the most awkward tasks imaginable. Plus, if you wiggle a Presta valve stem around enough, its needle-thin valve will quickly snap from the stress, rendering the tube a useless, giant rubber band. It’s not hard to long for a floor pump in these situations—and that’s where the Topeak Road Morph G comes in. The design brilliantly integrates the best aspects of a floor pump—namely, it de-couples the pumping action from the crucial pump-head/valve-stem connection. It also retains the promise of a mini pump—it’s lightweight (220 grams) and portable (only 14-inches long). The Road Morph G’s flip-out base provides a stable pumping platform and the in-line gauges makes it easy to read your pressure rating—all the way to 160 PSI.
If you're going to carry a pump, tube and patch kit, you'd better have a tire lever; and if you're looking to economize on space, reach for the made-in-the-USA Prestalever tire lever. Its slippery Nylon surface smoothly slips underneath tight tire beads, and its honeycomb construction means you can really honk on it without fear of it snapping off in your hand. Plus, the Prestalever has a unique rim brace feature for plying tough tires back onto the rim after you're all patched up. The best part is you only need one to get the job done.
From one of the world's great pack manufacturers comes a relatively slim-profile bike commuter-specific pack that's absolutely loaded with features. Built with rugged, non-staining Nylon, the Momentum comes in 26L and 34L sizes that, with a compression zipper, allow them to be expanded—the 26L to 31L and the 34L to 42L—to fit extra gear when you need it. Internal buckle sleeves keep laptops up to 17 inches safe and snug, and a highly-reflective, fitted rain cover is integrated into a clandestine zipper pocket to keep your stuff dry on even the most dismal commutes. Other nice features—the kind that make you think Osprey thought of everything—include dedicated external safety light attachment points, U-lock sleeve, zippered pockets on the straps that keep keys (one has a retractable key clip) and phone close at hand, and the company's proprietary "Lidlock," for helmet-holding when you're not riding. In short, the Momentum is the best heavy-load bike commuter bag we've seen to date.
The Behold Tool Cage offers a unique tool-and-tube storage solution for any bicycle with standard water-bottle cage mounts. Simply sandwich the tool cage in between an existing water bottle mount and your frame and—voila—you’ve got yourself a handy holster for the tailored ballistic Nylon pouch, which is just big enough to accommodate a tube, patch kit, tire lever and CO2 cartridge. The cage itself is welded in the USA from tubular stainless steel, and comes with all the hardware needed to piggyback a bottle cage. For those looking for a bit more capacity, Tallac makes another version big enough to hold a 29er tube.
The Topeak Ratchet Rocket provides most every tool a commuter could need to make minor mechanical adjustments or repair a chain—all in a blessedly small and easy-to-tote package. The heart of the tool is a Lilliputian-sized reversible ratchet wrench, which cleverly incorporates a secondary bit chuck into its butt-end for spinning bolts on or off in a hurry. The tool includes hardened-tool-steel 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5 and 6mm hex bits, plus No.2 Phillips and T-25 Torx bits. Everything packs up to about the size of a pack of Trident gum, and can easily be stowed in a pocket, pack or Tallac Behold tool pouch.