The Essential Bike Commute Checklist

All the gear you need to ride your bike to work

Here at The Active Times, we frequently find ourselves waxing poetic about the daily bike commute. But when it comes down to it, it probably isn't all that romantic (relaxing and fitness-boosting, yes, but not romantic). In your early morning, half-caffeinated state, it's hard to think clearly enough to be sure you have everything you need (I forgot my glasses just today, for instance), which turns out to be quite a bit. Here, we've compiled an exhaustive list that includes the must-have essentials, some things that are nice to bring along and a few that we sometimes carry but which are totally optional:

The Must-Haves
These are the things you shouldn't leave home without, no matter what time of day or night you're riding.
• Bike
• Helmet (seriously, it'll save your life)
• ID

These items depend on your individual needs (biking after dark?) and preferences.
• Lock
• Headlight & Taillight—definitely bring if you might be coming home around or after dusk
• Handlebar-mounted bell
• Water bottle or hydration pack
• Sunglasses
• Credit card/Cash
• Street map (the first few times, anyway)
• Mobile phone
• Subway/Transit Pass—in case you go out for (too many) drinks with coworkers, or the weather turns horrible
• Fenders—for rainy days, or just after the rain when the roads are still wet
• Backpack or Messenger bag
• Cycling computer or GPS watch—unneccessary, but it's nice to tick off the miles as the weeks go by; 2,000 miles a year sounds way more impressive than nine miles a day

Bike Repair Gear
For the occasional flat tire and tightening loose ends. Some people tell you to bring pressure gauges, CO2 inflators, lubricant, etc., but we think most bigger repairs are best done at home. All of these items should fit easily in a small saddle bag.
• Bike tool
• Tire levers
• Patch kit
• Spare tubes
• Mini air pump (we like the Specialized Airtool Road Mini—it's durable, fills to road-appropriate pressures and is tiny enough to stow in a saddle bag)

Personal Gear
These are items that will make you comfortable on the ride, and aftewards once you arrive at work.
• Sunscreen
• Lip balm
• Baby wipes—for taking a "hobo shower" at work
• Change of clothes/shoes—we leave extra shoes at the office to save on carrying things back and forth
• Deodorant/Toothbrush—your coworkers will thank you

Optional Gear
• First-aid kit
• Mirror (for helmet or handlebar)
• Rainwear
• Tiny, fold-up windbreaker—just in case the weather changes abruptly (we recommend the North Face Verto)
• Leg straps for pants—we roll our pantlegs, but some leg straps add safety with reflective strips
• Shoe covers—for riding in the really nasty weather
• Visibility vest—these look dorky, but they can make a big difference on dark roads

For Hard-Core Commuters Only
Let's start by saying that we don't use this stuff. This is more the kind of gear we break out for long after-work and weekend rides. But some folks have crazy long commutes, making the performance and comfort benefits of a full road kit apparent.
• Padded bike shorts or tights
• Wicking bike jersey
• Cycling gloves
• Clip-in shoes (we recommend street/bike crossovers, like those available from Chrome)
• Cycling socks
• Energy food/gels


For more commuter gear information, check out list of 28 essential bike commuter gear items. This is the stuff we trust.