Bike commuting essentials (part deux)

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Hola! So in Part 1 we discussed the most important part of bike commuting – the bike. In this post we’ll discuss all the other stuff you probably want to consider.

Like I noted earlier, some things are not always necessary depending on your situation but were gonna go through em all.

So without any further ado, the list of stuff that can surely make bike commuting easier, safer and more enjoyable.

Helmet

Considering the majority of you will be riding a bike during rush hour I must recommend you wear a helmet as I cannot in good conscience say you should not.

But you know your route. If it’s super safe and free of cars maybe you can make that call. For those navigating the hustling streets of NYC then cover that noggin of yours. Please. 

I don’t have a ton of advice on helmets other than to

  • Wear one
  • Make sure it fits.
“But how to I know that circumference of my head?”

I simply wrapped a a phone charging cord around my head and then measured it. Real technical.

That pumpkin is a large.

Rather than scrolling through pages of amazon results just go to your local bike shop or my favorite places to buy bike stuff online (Performance Bike or Nashbar) where they will only sell you legit helmets.

These sites always have sales so sign up for the newsletter and wait or scan the clearance zone at Nashbar where you can get some bargains. 

You should expect to spend about 30-50 bucks on a decent helmet. If you’re considering anything more then you’re down the rabbit hole. You don’t need to worry about aerodynamics here and you’ll look like a total tool shed anyway with an aero helmet on a commuter bike.

I personally use the Bontrager Quantum helmet shown below which will run you about $50. It’s a fine helmet but I’ve yet to crash and fall on my head so cannot say if its amazing or not. However, it’s comfortable, adjusts easily and has bright colors which makes me stand out more.

Fenders

Trust me on this one, you’re probably gonna want fenders. Show up one day to the office with a wet butt and you’ll understand. Who wants to walk around the office in soggy pants? Not me.

You can go full on front and rear fenders which I have on my commuter and recommend to anyone who seriously wants to bike commute. Both wheels will kick up water from the ground and trying to avoid wet spots on the road gets really old. No need to go crazy with some fancy stuff here – I got these plastic ones for $35 and they look pretty sweet.

If you wanna be cheap, and well, that’s the whole point of this website there’s this nifty little product called AssSavers. They’re essentially a little plastic guard that attaches to the back of your seat. They’re about 10 bucks on amazon but I got a new one for 3 bucks on Ebay. Yep, that’s the right price.

Quick note on AssSavers: don’t try to be cute by folding them under the seat when you don’t want them as mine snapped in half on a cold day. My ass was no longer saved. So I ponied up and got the fenders noted above.

Headlights and tail lights

If you work later hours or plan on riding during the winter then lights are a necessity. You’ll want the head lamp to see where you’re going and the tail light is to keep cars from mowing you down.

There’s 3 criteria I use when picking out lights (besides price)

  • Brightness – the brighter the better
  • Ability to charge via USB
  • Battery life

NiteRider makes fantastic headlamps and this will be the first time on this blog that I suggest you open up your wallet and pay up. Mine is an outdated model but a similar model now is the Lumina 750 and will run you probably around $80. Search the ole googler and look for a headlight and taillight combo for about the same price. Ain’t gonna lie, I wasn’t as lucky.

750 is a lot of lumens, or just enough really. You really want it to be super bright as you’ll be navigating at night around potholes and moles (seriously).  Don’t skimp here.

When it comes to lights, you’ll most likely pay more upfront for USB chargeability but will save in the long run. Buying batteries will not only be more expensive over time but produce more waste. We want to save this planet here, not kill it.

While I wholeheartedly endorse the NiteRider

I’m so so on the tail light I purchased. I went with the Bonmixc Bike Tail Light. It meets most of the criteria ($14, bright LED light and charges via USB).

The battery life, unfortunately, is debatable. I have a 2 mile ride and need to charge it about once a week or so, which means 5 night rides * 2 miles is about 10 miles of battery life. For those with a longer commute consider finding one with a better battery life.

Bags

How am I gonna carry all the stuff to the office? As is the case with anything, people have come up with a whole buncha accessories to put on your bike: bags, panniers, racks, baskets.

Those all cost money. They’ll work, sure, but this is a blog about not getting carried away with purchasing crap. You know whats most likely free? A backpack. You probably already have one.

DO NOT GOOGLE “BEST BACKPACK FOR BIKE COMMUTING”. Just use the backpack you already have. If somehow you’ve made your it entire life without a backpack, either go buy one on sale somewhere or sign up for some silly conference at work and get some weird corporate mumbo-jumbo branded one. It’s gonna carry your lunch and some other stuff. Lets not get carried away here.

Uh Oh! gear

A lot of articles suggest tools, tubes, pumps, and Co2 inflators to carry with you in case you break down. This is where you need to know yourself.

Do you even know how to change a tire or adjust your derailleur?

If no, screw it. If you break down Uber, call a cab, walk, take the subway, etc. I remember buying all that stuff and getting a flat before I knew how to change a tire. Like a true yuppie I had no idea what to do with my gear. So I ended up walking to a bike shop a mile away and handed over the busted bike like a moron. 

If you know what to do

Then a simple bike tool is all you really need. Don’t spend more than like $15 and these are good things to score at yard sales. Most bike problems can be fixed with an hex wrench set that you can get at home depot for like 8 bucks. It’s not like you’ll be changing your crank on the way to work. You’re most likely adjusting your brakes, fixing a chain or something relatively simple

Flat tires suck but they’re also not hard to replace. You need some tire levers (max $5), a spare tube and a method of inflating. My choice is a C02 inflator because of its size and I don’t feel like pumping forever with a mini pump. Here’s an entire kit (levers, inflator, 2 cartridges) for like $12.

A cheaper option than a spare tube is a patch kit. Depending on the nature of the hole you can reuse the tube by simply patching the hole. Since not every flat can be fixed by a patch I keep a new tube with me and completely replace it. Then once I get home I look into patching the busted tire.

Also note that using a Co2 inflator is designed to get you home. Your tire will lose pressure fairly quick so get to where you’re going, deflate your tire (press on that tire nozzle) and then pump up with a real pump at home. Here’s a quick article on how to do it until I come up with my own

In Part 3 we’ll discuss cold weather and rain gear for commuting.

Happy riding.

 

2 comments

  1. Nice list, I’m currently using a backpack to transport all the food, clothing and minor other stuff. But it is a pain the neck (literally!). Down side its that I don’t have storage space at work, so no easy solution here….

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