The key to riding consistently and confidently is to be prepared and comfortable. In my recent article on giving up your car, I talked about how to be prepared on a macro-level by building in layers of redundancy. In today’s post, I’ll review some pieces of equipment you should consider carrying to make your commute more reliable, safer, and enjoyable.
In a previous post, I listed accessories that go on your bike and body. Today we’ll just look at things you might carry.
I know people who haul a veritable hardware store with them and take justifiable pride in being able to fix just about anything that goes wrong with their ride. I figure that if I was meant to take my bike apart on the side of the road in the morning, there wouldn’t be so many bike repair shops in town. I do, however, carry a few light tools that allow me to tackle minor problems that crop up from time to time:
- Patch kit: Bikes get flat tires…and you can’t ride on flat tires. I carry glueless patches with me at all times; they are easy to use, and while they are not “permanent,” if applied correctly, they can outlast the tube to which they are attached. (I rarely get flats since installing Kevlar linings in my tires.)
- Spare tube: As an alternative to patches, you can carry a spare tube. (I did this for years before tiring of always having it in the way.)
- Tire Levers: Tubes and patches are of no use if you can’t get the tire off the rim. Plastic tire levers make it quick and easy to pry the tire from the rim without damage.
- Pump: Once you have fixed your tube, you need to inflate it. A compact pump in my bag does the trick for me, but you can also use one that mounts to your bike frame. If you have tires requiring more than 80 pounds of pressure, be sure you have a pump that can handle it. Also, make sure the pump will work with your tubes’s valves (they could be schrader or presta).
- Compressed air: An alternative to a pump if you have narrow tires is a small bottle of air with a nozzle. This is light, compact, and easy, but you will pay for the convenience.
- Allen wrenches: Chances are good that some of the fasteners on your bike require allen (or hex) wrenches. Your local bike shop sells a swiss army knife version with lots of different sizes. I have just two sizes of fasteners, so I just carry two wrenches (one of which came free with my Ikea drawers).
- Screwdriver: You may also have fasteners (especially for fenders, lights, and reflectors) that have regular screws.
In addition to tools, I have found that a few other items make my commute better.
- Pen and paper: Sometimes you will think of or see something so remarkable when riding that you should stop and write it down. Trust me, with traffic and the other demands of riding, you will forget by the time you get to the office. Also, having a pen and paper handy facilitates collecting information if you are involved in an accident.
- Pepper spray: I don’t carry this but I have a friend who has attached a can to his handlebars for use against dogs or bad guys. Be aware that there may be restrictions on this in your jurisdiction.
- Sunglasses: Your eyes need protection from the sun as well as from pebbles kicked up by vehicles and flying insects (especially flying insects).
- Water bottle: Dehydration can affect your health, your pedaling efficiency, and your enjoyment.
- Mints: You don’t want to arrive at an after-work event with bike breath.
- An old sock: I know you have an unmatched sock in your drawer. You can keep your patch kit in it and then put it on your hand when changing a tire or working on your chain to keep clean.
- Bungee cords: A short bungee cord is handy for strapping odd size things to your cargo rack.
- Computer: Having your speed, route, and calories burned at your fingertips can be motivating. Riders can now get this information with a dedicated bike computer or smart phone app.
I hope this has given you ideas about what can be useful on your commute. Watch the video below to see what I carry and why.
Question: What item do you ride with that you wouldn’t do without? Tell us in the comment section below.