Ten essentials for commuters

The bicycle makes for excellent transportation. One of the best aspects is its simplicity; you really need only a bike and helmet to get started. Beyond that, a few other things may enhance your comfort, safety and enjoyment. Check out our top picks, or poll friends and colleagues about their favorites.

  1. Bike. Bicycles come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and purposes. The best bike for you depends on your commute: distance, hills, pavement condition, degree of darkness, etc. No matter what bike, make sure your bike fits you well and functions properly for a safe and comfortable commute. 
     
  2. Bicycle helmet. Helmets are designed to protect your brain and they do a good job when worn and adjusted properly.
     - Low-cost helmets are available through Cascade Bicycle Club ($15) and local events.
     - Helmets are one-hit-wonders. If your helmet sustains impact in a crash, replace it, as an impacted helmet is less likely to protect you in a future crash.
     - Helmet materials degrade over time. Manufacturers recommend replacing every 3 to 5 years. 
     
  3. U-Lock. A good lock is major deterrent to theft. Cable locks can be severed in a matter of seconds. Invest in a U-lock and make sure to lock your frame and front wheel to the bike rack.
     
  4. Lights. When riding in hours of darkness, it is essential to see and be seen. By law, you need a front light and rear reflector. We recommend no less than a steady beam white light for the front and a red blinking light for the rear. 
     
  5. A commuter bag. A variety of bags can help you transport your stuff between home and work: messenger bags, panniers or a simple backpack.
     
  6. Reflective and Bright Clothing. Your visibility in traffic increases dramatically when you wear clothing that calls attention to your place on the road. Bright colors are most effective for daytime riding. Reflectivity is most effective for riding in low light. Reflective tape or stickers can be applied to your current gear (and bike).
     
  7. Rain Gear. Investing in quality rain gear is investing in comfort. Cycling-specific jackets with a long "ducktail" protect your backside from getting wet and dirty. Rain pants, gloves, and shoe covers are popular during the colder, wetter months.
     
  8. Fenders. Fenders keep you —as well as those cycling behind you—drier and cleaner when you ride in the rain.
     
  9. Commuter Clothing. Everyone has his/her own idea on what to wear on the commute in. Some riders prefer the ease of a jacket over their work clothes, others gear up in spandex. The priorities are comfort and safety, the rest is personal preference.
     
  10. A Bell. A small bell on your handlebars can alert pedestrians or other cyclists of your presence when passing. Otherwise, make sure to say "passing on your left" to avoid close calls and crashes.