Over the last few years I’ve taken advantage of the money I’ve saved by driving less to try out lots of gear. While some of it was pretty bad and not worth a mention here, a lot of it was great and I still use it to this day. Below are a few of my favorites. (Full disclosure: none of these brands are paying me to promote their products, and I either purchased all of them with my own money or were received as gifts from family members.)
Cygolite Metro Headlights
I’ve tried a large number of lights over the years, and I’ve found that lights offered by Cygolite seriously hit the sweet spot of price and features. For my headlights I currently use a Metro 400 and Metro 500 together, with the “Steady Pulse” mode in the dark and the “Daylighting” mode during the day. The lights are plenty bright to light the road ahead using just one (while I prefer to use both together, if I had to pick just one I’d pick the Metro 500), the battery life is great, they’re easily recharged at a computer, and the mounts are sturdy and quick to install or move between bikes without the use of tools. They’re also about as waterproof as you can get, and have hundreds of miles in absolute downpours without any issues at all. As a bonus, the Metro lights are often sold in a package deal with their Hotshot taillights that I also highly recommend and can be found over at Amazon.
Shimano M520 Pedals
Shimano’s M520 pedals (as well as the M530, which are the same pedal with a larger platform) may be the cheapest in their lineup of SPD pedals, but they’re also likely the best value (click here for latest price). They’re made with heavier materials than their higher end offerings, which leaves them a little heavier if weight is a concern of yours, but they’re still practically bombproof. I have two sets that have been used on all of my bikes for thousands upon thousands of miles in all weather, whether it’s a salty Massachusetts winter or a rainy North Carolina summer, yet despite their beat up and rusty appearance they still work as good as new. I can’t imagine spending my money on anything else.
REI Waterproof Pack Cover
I may use pannier bags on my primary bike now, but this REI Waterproof Backpack Cover got me through my first few years of commuting in the rain when I was still using a backpack. The straps of your backpack over your chest will still get wet from the rain, but the waterproof cover will keep the rest of your bag and everything inside bone dry. The covers roll up small to keep in the bottom of your bag when not using it, and as a bonus, these covers come in bright colors that can make you even more visible in dreary conditions where visibility often feels like a luxury.
Sugoi Zap Jacket
Sugoi’s Zap jackets check practically every box that a commuter could want in a jacket: it’s warm, it’s versatile, it’s reflective, and it’s practically waterproof. The jacket in the daylight looks like a normal red jacket, but at night under lights the entire thing glows white thanks to the clever reflective material that’s used on the outside. When the days are warmer, the sleeves can be removed to turn it into a vest to keep your core warm without the rest of you sweating. And while it’s not as breathable in the rain as a Gore-Tex jacket I own, it’s also about a third of the price! If you can only own one jacket for cold weather commuting, this should be the one. (Amazon has it here)
Gore Bike Wear Windstopper Thermo Lobster Gloves
My hands have poor circulation, and temperatures where most people can get away with lightweight gloves leave my fingers numb instead. Despite your fingers being grouped together in pairs, these gloves are flexible enough where I maintain enough dexterity to easily shift and use my brakes, but warm enough where I’ve ridden down to the single digits Fahrenheit and can still feel my fingers fine. The cuff of the glove is very long to tuck inside your sleeves to keep your wrists warm, and the sides have a large reflective stripe, which increases the visibility of your hands when performing turn signals in the dark. I’ve tried many other “winter” gloves and even another big brand’s lobster gloves, but the Gore Bike Lobster gloves keep my hands much warmer and more comfortable by far.
Crank Brothers M19 Multi Tool
This tool may not be the lightest or the smallest, but it’s bailed me out of countless situations that a simpler multi-tool may not have helped. Adjusting the seat height mid-ride on a brand new bike, tightening a crank that came loose on the trails, fixing a snapped chain that would otherwise leave me walking home – all of these issues have been solved on the side of the road or trail with the help of this multi-tool. It sometimes feels like overkill and far more than I’d ever need, but I’d rather be over-prepared than have to make that dreaded call home: “Honey, can you pick me up and bring me home?” We have a full review of the M19 Mult Tool here.
That’s a Wrap!
I hope you’ve found this commuting guide helpful and have used it to start your journey using a bicycle for your ride to work or the store. Bicycle commuting is a wonderful joy that not only puts a smile on your face but can also provide a feeling of freedom in a way that a motor vehicle could never provide.