I started this experiment a few weeks ago and jumped in with both feet. Sure, I’ve opted to drive in to work on more than a few occasions, but mostly I’ve been pretty dedicated to my mission. After six weeks I’ve identified a small handful of things I couldn’t commute without:
Lights – Leaving at dawn and coming home at dusk, sometimes in a asphalt gray jacket, lights are a must. It’s not so much about my ability to see the road as it’s about other people able to see me. I’m currently using Knog Boomers, mostly because they’re easy to put on and take off the bike - important because I use the same bike for commuting that I use for all my other road rides and lights in a paceline can really
mess with your aerodynamics make you look like a tool.
Jacket – Duh. It’s cold, it’s wet. Wear a jacket. I live in northern California where the summers are hot and dry – I’m talking ZERO inches of rain from June to September – and winters are wet and mild. As a result, dropping a few hundred dollars on a full winter kit including spiffed up yellow cycling jacket has never made a whole lot of sense to me. I
don’t didn’t ride as much in the winter and didn’t really need anything special April through November. For the last 6 weeks I’ve been wearing a light-weight waterproof shell that wasn’t specifically designed for cycling. Sure, you might get a slightly better on-the-bike-fit and better breathability with something designed specifically for riding, but the important thing is that you stay warm and dry.
Caps – Speaking of warm, is there anything worse than cold ears? A cycling cap may not be your style, but on a chilly morning something to go over the ears and block the helmet vents is required.
Bag – We already know I’m smitten with my Chrome Citizen. It’s a great bag that is holding up well to daily use. But a bag is a personal choice one that’s as much about style and personality as it is about comfort. Get a bag that fits your crap – chances are you might already have one. Just like the jacket, it doesn’t really matter if it was “made for cycling,” just as long as it’s comfortable on the bike.
Kit – Lycra and chamois. For me it’s the only way to go. I know that there’s an entire industry out there designing street clothes that also work well on the bike but that’s far too urban and hip for me. Dual purpose shoes and pants that don’t crease after seconds in the saddle might be good if you’re riding your bike short distances at a time and making several stops throughout the day, but for me it has to be cycling shorts and a jersey. Of course, I wouldn’t wear my top kit out as I drag my 17 pound bag through the gritty, greasy streets. Instead, I’m focused on comfort and durability.
Gloves – Of the long fingered variety. While I’m beginning to think along the same lines as Sam w/r/t fingerless cycling gloves, long fingered gloves are a completely different story. The pair I have aren’t particularly comfortable and seem to restrict finger movement but they do keep my hands warm – too warm on some mornings. The first pair I’d purchased were more comfortable and more flexible but also not even close to warm enough. I’m beginning to think cold fingers are, in fact, worse than cold ears.
Tires – Just before I started bike commuting I logged 3 flats – two rear and one front – in 4 rides. I promptly replaced my tires with a pair of GatorSkins – I’ve only been using them 6 weeks or so and withhold official judgment but hear, pretty consistently, that I shouldn’t have a problem with excessive punctures.
So that’s it, the six things you need to cycle commute…well, and a bike. But you don’t need a steel frame, single speed bike or a touring bike with panniers and fenders welded to the frame. You don’t need a comfort bike or a road bike or a mountain bike or a folding bike or an e-bike…All you need is a bike. The one you already have in the garage is fine.