Five on Friday: 5 Must-Have's for the (Newbie) Commuter
I feel like a lot of people who are just getting into cycling have a hard time wrapping their head around using their bike as transportation. Especially considering that they may have just dropped a considerable amount of cash on the actual bike (probably significantly more than they originally thought they'd need to), so the thought of having to accessorize it in any way beyond a kickstand and bottle cage is not only financially daunting, but mentally exhausting. Let's be honest, with all of the accessory options there are today, even the most welcoming of bike shops can be a bit overwhelming. So I can see where it can become less of an exciting new adventure and more of a money sucking chore to prep for the task of commuting. But I promise you, it doesn't have to be. Depending on where you live and what time of year you decide to accept the challenge, you could probably getby with a lot less than you'd think, and add on more specific pieces when and how you see fit.
With that said, if I had to recommend just FIVE accessories to get you started, I would recommend the following....
5 Must-Haves for the (Newbie) Commuter:
- Lights. I don't care if you are starting this venture in the summer, working 10am-4pm, get a good set of lights. You can absolutely start off with something basic, and most shops will have a decent set for around $35-$45. Of course, you can find them for less, and you can ABSOLUTELY find a much higher quality set. But regardless, have lights (BOTH, front and rear). As with anything, the more you spend, the nicer they will be, and usually in the case of lights, that means brighter as well. For commuting, I would suggest splurging a bit as safety is always key and the better you are seen and can see, the safer you will ultimately be.
- Helmet. Cheaper than an emergency room visit and far more stylish than a bandaged head. Just wear a helmet. Please. And rock your helmet hair confidence. I mean, you did just ride your bike to work, so you should be the envy of the office regardless. All helmets meet that same safety requirements (assuming you are properly wearing it), the differences will be weight, ventilation, and the over all style. Mountain bike helmets tend to come down farther on the sides, so a lot of people tend to go that route, but really, the possibilities are endless. The lighter the helmet, and the more ventilation you have, the cooler you will be, and just like any domino effect, the cooler you are the more comfortable you are, meaning you are far more inclined to wear it. A well fitting helmet will start around $40-ish.
- Lock. You invested in a good bike, don't be a fool and leave your beloved two wheeled beast without a strong lock. And not one of those 8mm thick cables you wrap 34 times around your seat. If you go with a cable lock, get the thickest one you can find (10mm-12mm+) or spend the extra dough on a U-Lock. No one wants to leave a hard days work to find an empty bike rack. No one.
- Bag. Oh, the possibilities! This is one of those things that you could most likely get by with whatever you already have on hand. And to be honest, I'd probably recommend that. Reason being, is after a handful of good commutes under your belt, you really know what you actually want. Do you need it fit a laptop and your lunch? Does it need to be water proof or would water resistant suffice? Does your back ache with a backpack/messenger bag? Perhaps panniers and a rack would suit your needs better. The point is, figure out everything you need to carry (remember, you no longer have a backseat AND a trunk to haul unnecessary gear) and do your homework before investing. I can almost guarantee that you will end up investing in a commuter specific bag of some sort at some time, but wait until you really know what you not only want but need.
- Hydration. Stay hydrated! This is as simple as a $10 water bottle cage and the free water bottle you received at that random 5k you did last year. Stopping to get coffee? Get a coffee cup holder that mounts to your handlebar. Voila!
- "Oh Shit" Kit. I know, I said, this was a list of 5, but you should really have this anyway :)
Of course, there are a dozen plus other items you can or may end purchasing later on. But if you want to give commuting a whirl, you can successfully do so with nothing more than the list above.