I ride my bike everywhere and in all weather. I consider myself lucky to live in a city (New York) where there is bike infrastructure – things like bike lanes and a bike-share program .
While New York does have a 24-hour public transit system, I rarely use it. I don't even know for sure what a subway ride costs these days.
As well as writing, I also work as a pattern maker and tailor for film and television. What this means transit-wise is that I don't commute to the same workplace every day. Depending on the show, I either need to travel to one of the numerous film studios in New York (most of them in Brooklyn or Queens) or to any random shooting location in the five boroughs. And I do it all by bike, no matter the weather or what time of day it is.
If you're interested in incorporating cycling into your daily commute all you really need is a bicycle in good working order that fits you (visit your local bike shop if you have one). If you need to carry things, you'll of course require a backpack or bag of some kind. Once you have those things, here are all sorts of gear that can make your commute safer and more enjoyable.
Seeing and being seen are two of the most important aspects of bike commuting. I might say that being seen is the most important. I always assume that drivers do not see me. I tell people that I cycle defensively – meaning I take responsibility for my own safety.
For instance, I don't ride next to a city bus or a large truck for any longer than it takes for them to pass me (or me to pass them if I'm in city traffic). I'm constantly aware of my surroundings including pedestrians, traffic lights, and delivery trucks. I never discount the fact that a car could make a sudden, unexpected movement. And speaking of pedestrians, if I see someone out in the street with their arm up obviously hailing a taxi or on their phone peering into traffic, I expect a taxi or uber driver to appear out of nowhere.
A good set of bright lights will help drivers and pedestrians see you.
This USB rechargeable, high-intensity headlight is amazing. With five light modes including high, middle, daytime, hyper constant, and flashing, you and your bike will be visible in varying conditions.
I've ridden down a country road with no street lights in the middle of the night with this light on high and was able to see the road and my surroundings clearly. I have multiple brackets for this light affixed on all my handlebars so that I can easily move the light from bike to bike – made especially easy with the quick-release button.
I use two of these rapid, rechargeable safety lights on my bikes mounted to each of my seat stays (the part of the bike frame that extends from the seat post to the rear axle).
The X3 has white LEDs that give off 150 lumens in five different light modes: rapid, pulse, vibration, and high and low constant. Attached via a rubber base and band, they're easy to take on and off to transfer between bikes.
Bike helmets are one of those things you really need to try on to find the most comfortable one for you. All bike helmets in the U.S. have the same safety rating (they have to) so the price has nothing to do with how well the helmet will protect your noggin.
My favorite helmet is the Rudy Project Sterling Helmet – which of course they don't make anymore. It's not the lightest helmet but I find it extremely comfortable (a comfortable helmet is the one you're going to wear). I like the thickness and placement of the inner padding thickness – and that the helmet has a bug stop mesh layer and detachable visor.
A similar model is the Racemaster .
Many of my cycling cohorts wear Giro Register MIPS cycling helmets and really like them. The Register is much more affordable than Rudy Project models.
I searched for many years for the perfect rain jacket: one that was lightweight, at least slightly breathable and actually waterproof (to a point) with a neck that didn't choke me when closed and a hood that fits over my bike helmet if I want it to. I finally found one at 7mesh . Their Guardian rain jacket has two zippered side pockets, comes in bright colors (always a plus when cycling in the rain), and keeps me dry longer than other rain jackets I've found.
All rain jackets are only waterproof to a certain point. If you are out for hours on end in a heavy rainstorm, you're going to eventually get wet. The Guardian though keeps the rain at bay throughout an entire day of light to medium precipitation. I keep a rain jacket in my pack all the time during spring and summer.
I've had my NorthFace Gala Triclimate Jacket for many years. NorthFace has discontinued this particular jacket but the newer version is the Thermoball. I wear it without the inner layer during New York City winters and autumns. Again, the features I like the most are the wide neck that doesn't choke me when closed all the way, the zippered pockets, and the hood.
NorthFace products are also incredibly durable and, if you do need a repair, they have a lifetime warranty.
Good rain pants are as elusive as good rain jackets. I've not really found any extremely "waterproof" cycling pants that aren't too bulky but I do like these from AlpKit because they're lightweight and low profile. And they protect your clothes from the road spray and debris that comes with cycling in wet conditions.
A detachable rear fender will also help keep your backside dry.
I tend to carry at least one pair of gloves (often two) with me at all times because you never know when the weather’s going to change.
For below-freezing winter riding, I like Pearl Izumi's Ride Pro AMFIB Lobster Gloves .
For cool weather, I use Giro Blaze 2.0 Unisex Winter Cycling Gloves . I also recently discovered that the water-resistant material these gloves are made from allows me to use my fingers as a wiper to clear moisture from my goggles or glasses.
Hat and or Gaiters
The simple knit neck gaiter can be worn as a neck warmer, hat, or mouth and nose cover. I usually have two on me. I wear one as a hat in cool weather.
For winter cycling I use a Lands’ End Solid ThermaCheck 100 Balaclava. I couldn't find one for sale but their fleece beanie would also keep your head warm in cold temperatures.
As legendary New York City bike mechanic Hals says , the only 100% effective bike lock is "owner watching".
If you do need to lock your bike up outside, you can make it difficult for would-be bike thieves by using a quality lock. While I am normally able to bring my bike inside my workplace, when I do lock up on the street I use a Kryptonite large u-lock around my back tire, frame, and the pole I'm locking to, as well as a smaller cable lock to secure my front wheel to the u-lock.
Despite all my safety warnings, I do hope that more people will start bike commuting. The best thing about traveling to and from work via two wheels is that as soon as you hop on your bike at the end of the day, you're free – there's no grueling, stuck in traffic, commute to endure. At least that's how it is for me.
As a billboard I saw once read, "You're not stuck in traffic, you are traffic."
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