Bike commuter hacks are a great way to make your ride to work more fun, safer, enjoyable and comfortable. When you are a beginner bike commuter, these are the kinds of things that you can usually only learn over time – until now!
So, here’s the quick list of 21 bike commuter hacks:
- Add spoke reflectors
- Use snap band on pants
- Get a lock to leave at work
- Choose your route based on wind
- Shower cap for seat cover
- USB bike lights with strap
- Loud bell for noisy routes
- Reflective safety vest
- Add cheap fenders
- Change to a Comfy saddle
- Keep shower in a can at work
- Find shoes for work and riding
- Use a pump with pressure gauge
- Raise seat post
- Add rearview mirrors
- Use reflective gloves
- Lock helmet onto bike
- Get a pannier backpack
- Find a bag with water bottle holder
- Use a jacket or helmet with integrated lights
- Switch to puncture-resistant tires
- Carry inner tube repair spray
OK, so that’s the list in brief. To help you get all of these just right, I am now going to look at each point in just a little more detail to make sure you get maximum benefit from each of these bike-to-work hacks.
If you follow these tips and tricks, you’ll be on your way to a better bike commuting experience in no time!
Now, time to roll on into the good stuff!
Add spoke reflectors to your bike
Spoke reflectors are a super cheap, mega safety boost for any bike commuter. They are particularly helpful for anyone riding on roads at night, or even if you think you might forget to charge your bike lights or even lose your lights altogether.
These spoke reflectors are small, plastic accessories that clip on to the spokes on your bike’s wheels. As they are so simple and easily made, they cost very little yet they add a huge amount of reflective visibility to your bike.
I would recommend adding a minimum of 1 reflector every 3 spokes to give your bike maximum visibility. As you can see in the image below, even when stationary, they give off plenty of reflective light. If moving, they look like a circle of light which is both eye-catching and safe.
As far as bike commute hacks go, they don’t much cheaper or safer than this one!
Reflective snap band on pants
These are yet another super cheap option to add to your convenience and your visibility. The reflective, hi vis snap bands are practical in that they keep your pants from getting caught in your bike mechanism while riding.
They are also great for the added visibility in a key area. The reason why the ankle or lower leg is a good place for visibility is because drivers are known to be more aware of lights or reflections on moving parts of a cyclist or any other road user or even pedestrian.
With your legs constantly moving while pedaling your bike, they therefore give a nice boost to your reflectivity that drivers will see.
These snap bands have a thin metal band in the middle and curl up instantly upon being tapped. They wrap right around your leg and are tight enough to keep your pants in order (!) and not so tight that they are in any way uncomfortable.
Lock to leave at work
This commuter hack is a great one if you find that carrying your bike lock adds weight that you would rather do without.
Bike locks can be cumbersome and are often heavy when of good quality. For example, Kryptonite’s New York lock is their maximum security lock but it comes at a premium in that it weighs a hefty 6.1lbs (or 2.76kgs), which is the equivalent of 7 cans of coke. Even one of their standard locks weighs around 3lbs (1.36kgs), so not having to carry one can make for a much easier ride to work, especially for bike commuters with a hilly route.
To do this, you will need to buy another lock and leave it fixed to your chosen bike locking up spot at your work. This might sound strange but these locks are pretty much weatherproof and can be left outdoors for years without any real sign of the weather getting to them. If you are concerned about the weather, leave your lock hanging so that it is off the ground and not in contact with as much moisture.
Remember that nobody will steal a bike lock on its own (especially not when fixed to bike stand or post!), so leaving a bike lock at work, and obviously having another at home, is a low-risk way to reduce the weight on your ride every day!
Choose your route based on wind
When cycling, wind affects your ride far more than you might realise. If you have a headwind, it can soon make a flat part of your ride feel like a mountain climb. Conversely, a tail wind can push you along making your efforts much less and giving a very pleasant to your ride.
However, as you will not get to choose when the wind picks up, my bike-to-work hack for you here is simply to check the wind forecast the day before and figure out a route that is more protected from the wind. If this is not possible, then at least look into taking a few turns that mean you are either diagonally riding through the wind or sideways – going head on into it can be a brutal and demeaning experience (trust me, my coastal cycleway to work is often complete with gale-force winds!)
I’d recommend the free website WindGuru for coastal areas, although your favorite weather app on your smartphone should do just fine.
Even if you can’t change your route for this, you can at least leave your home a bit earlier giving your more time to get to work on your bike on the windiest days.
Shower cap for seat cover
A seat cover comes in handy because it not only stops your bike’s saddle from getting wet in the rain while left outside but also helps to prolong the lifespan of your saddle
I say this from personal experience since the saddle on my previous bike got so waterlogged from years of commuting and being left in the rain that the seams in the leather cover simply split open one day. This was after a heavy downpour and the saddle swelling up yet again.
To beat this, get a humble shower cap from a local homewares store and cover your saddle with it. These are really cheap items and are therefore of no interest to thieves yet they do the job admirably and will make your bike saddle last a lot longer when commuting.
The added bonus is that they come with some pretty snazzy patterns so you can make your bike look a little bit cooler, too!
USB bike lights with strap
USB bike lights offer the maximum in terms of convenience for bike commuters since they are easily charged while at work.
Just as with smartphones, USB charging options are plentiful in most workplaces and they use so little energy that they won’t raise the eyebrows of even the most stingey boss!
This should mean that you will never be without power in your bike lights for the commutes home in the dark or low light conditions.
The point about a strap is that these kinds of lights are then extremely versatile. A strap that looks like a wristwatch strap is best since these can be attached to a seat post, handlebars or even bike helmets.
This quick on-and-off attachment also makes these bike lights ideal for commuting since you don’t want to leave them on your bike during the workday (thieves do go for these sadly). A quick strap on and off then means that you will have them in the office to charge as needed and won’t need to replace them as they won’t get stolen! Win-win.
Loud bell to be heard
I’ve only got a feeble bell on my bike at present, but I know it is enough for my ride. However, if you picture being stuck in traffic in downtown NYC, for example, you’ll probably wonder how to stand out and make yourself heard.
Well, a super-loud bike bell is one way to do this. Some of the loudest bike bells state that they offer similar volumes to car horns (seriously), so why not give one a go if you need the extra boost!
I can tell you that from riding around London on a VanMoof smartbike with a crazy-loud electric bell, the faces of the drivers was hilarious – they all turned their heads quickly every time I rang it, a definite advantage for noisy inner city bike commutes.
Reflective Safety Vest
Another budget safety option is to get yourself a reflective safety vest. These are incredibly light and work over just about any kind of clothing and in any weather. Adding this to your ride will then make you stand out a heck of a lot more on the roads without having to spend on a premium bike commuter jacket (NB: this is something which I do recommend but once you are riding regularly or more than a few times a year).
These vests are so thin that they will pack into any bag and can go just about anywhere with you, making them a no-brainer for cycle commuting.
Add Cheap Fenders
Fenders are a must for bike commuters, especially if your bike doesn’t come with them and you plan on riding to work in your work clothes.
Note that going without fenders on a bike commute can leave you with a sprayed line of mud and grime up the back of your nice work clothes, which is hardly the look most of us want!
Most fenders can be frustrating to fit and quite expensive, which is where the wonderfully named ‘Ass Guards’ come in handy.
These simple pieces of plastic fit in a few seconds onto the seat post of any bike and protect you from the grime on the road for a fraction of the price of normal fenders.
Change to a comfy saddle
Quite a few bikes come with cheap, awkward feeling saddles. These can make your journey seriously unpleasant and feel much longer than it is.
As such, swapping your hard, awkward saddle for a super comfy gel one, for example, can make a huge difference to your bike commute for just a few dollars.
You can also change these with a couple of simple tools and be ready to ride again in no time.
If you want to go deluxe, many riders swear by Brookes’s leather saddles, but I’ve always found the gel comfort ones to be plenty for my needs.
Keep shower in a can at work
After a bike commute to work on a warm day, you might feel a little sweaty and not even have a shower at work to help you out.
This is where the incredibly practical shower in a can comes into its own. As the name suggests, this product comes in a can and can help you to clean up at work without the need for water or even a towel.
You could keep one in your drawer at your desk, or just take on in your bike bag on warmer days.
Having this to hand can then make your ride less of a concern when it comes to hygiene as you can wash away the odors and bacteria built up when riding to work.
Find shoes for work and riding
Shoes to wear at work and that work on your bike are pretty special in that it can save you a lot of time switching between riding and working shoes.
I’ve tried cycling in work shoes before and just found them to be a pretty nasty experience with a lack of give and a hard feeling. It was not something I wanted to repeat so I got looking and found some shoes that I could get away with at work and on my bike.
I found that Clarks had the best range of these kinds of hybrid shoes for me (see image above with snap bands), but you might also find other brands to your tastes.
Note that comfy work and cycling shoes are big hack since they save time, space and even money! With that in mind, keep your eyes out for the right ones for you and grab them when you can.
Use a pump with pressure gauge
This is another thing that I only learned after a few months of bike commuting, but having your tires pumped to a high-pressure level makes you go noticeably faster on your commute!
The way to do this is to get yourself a bike pump with a pressure gauge. These kinds of pumps are inexpensive and powerful, while also giving you the information of just how inflated your tires are.
Be sure to check the ‘PSI’ range of your tires on the sides of the tires because you don’t want to inflate them beyond this as this will risk them being so inflated that they might pop!
On the opposite end of the scale, using a cheap pump without a pressure gauge can also mean that your tires are under-inflated, making them more likely to get a puncture.
Discovering the boost of properly inflated tires was definitely one of my favorite commuting hacks, so be sure to give it a go!
Raise your seat post
So maybe this isn’t a hack for everyone, but something I see all too often is bike commuters riding around with a seat post and saddle that is so low it makes them look like an elephant trying to ride their bike!
In short, your leg should be almost straight when you get to the bottom of the rotation while pedaling. Setting up your commuter bike in this way will mean that you will get more power out of every pedal, making for a faster and more efficient ride to work.
If your bike has a ‘quick-release’ seat post then you can do this in a few seconds, but if not, a couple of simple tools will again help you to make this kind of adjustment in a few minutes, and no more than that.
Add rearview mirrors
Adding rearview mirrors to your bike’s handlebars gives you a massive amount of vision while riding that you don’t have without.
Just as in a car, you can see who’s behind you in a glance, and you don’t have to risk turning your head to check this, something which can both throw you off course and also make you miss something crucial on the path in front of you.
The most common way of adding rear-view mirrors to a commuter bike set up is on the handlebars, with mirrors sticking up and out to the side. If you have a road bike, you can also add rear-view mirrors to the ends of your handlebars, with the upward angle making them clearly visible when in your natural riding position. The other way to do this is to get a rear-view mirror that mounts onto your commuter helmet, although I would guess that this would be the most hassle of the three since this could be quite easy to knock off and might be hard to attach properly.
Whichever option suits you, the vision these simple accessories will provide on your ride seems worth it.
Use reflective gloves
A great pair of gloves is a must for bike commuters as your hands can quickly and easily get cold even on seemingly mild days. The hack here is to get gloves that are not only great for riding in but also that have reflective detail to make yourself stand out when on the road and turning in the dark or low-light conditions.
If you think about a car’s indicators, using your hand to indicate for a turn on a bike commute is only useful in good light since cars will probably not see your indication in the dark. This is where the reflective detail on your gloves really comes into its own since the added reflectivity on this moving part of your body will also help cars to keep their distance and make it safer for you to perform standard maneuvers on your commute.
Lock helmet onto bike
This little trick is just to save you the hassle of carrying your helmet to and from the office.
To do this, simply thread part of your bike lock through an appropriate point on your helmet when locking up and leave the helmet with your bike all day.
I like this one since I can sometimes leave my helmet in the office at the end of the workday, making for a frustrating return journey to the office when I really want to go home!
You also don’t need to worry about leaving your helmet on your bike since any helmets that are attached to a bike cannot be stolen without breaking them, making them effectively worthless. Chances are that people won’t be bothering with a helmet anyway since you can lock them fairly discreetly and they won’t often see them.
The only thing to think about here to lock your helmet somewhere onto your frame so that other cyclists shouldn’t be able to smash or hit it when parking their bikes as this is the only sort of damage you might expect.
Get a pannier backpack
This might be my favorite commuter hack of the bunch but my pannier backpack really has been a huge help for my bike commuting experience.
After a few years of toiling with a thin-strapped pannier bag that served simply as a bucket, I decided to get myself a convertible pannier backpack to be able to switch between a pannier bag while riding and backpack while at work.
Seeing as I work on a university campus, I am often walking between buildings carrying my tablet, documents, and other necessities, for which a simple pannier bag just doesn’t cut the mustard.
Enter the pannier backpack, with a rapid switch between pannier bag and comfy backpack, making it an ideal hack for anyone with lots of ground to cover once at work. Highly recommended!
Find a bag with water bottle holder
If you’re going to get a bag or pannier bag for your bike commute, do yourself a favor and get one with a water bottle holder!
I know that most bikes have water bottle holders on the frame and that this is an easy way to carry your fluids, but when commuting in a hurry, having this on your bag saves time. I say this because carrying a water bottle on your bike frame means that it is one more thing that you might forget when you arrive at work.
Carrying a water bottle on your bike frame also limits you to carry plastic water bottles since the metal ones rattle, make a racket and don’t fit properly. Personally, I can’t stand the taste of water from a plastic bottle so having a bag that allows me to carry my preferred stainless steel water bottle is a huge plus.
Use a jacket or helmet with integrated lights
This is a good option if you regularly ride to work in the dark, at dawn or dusk. I say this because the integrated lights that you can get with several cycling accessories these days offer a great back-up option if anything goes wrong with your usual lights.
Although not super powerful on their own, these kinds of integrated lights will be a reliable source of light on your ride if you forget to charge your lights or if you forget to take them off your bike frame and they get stolen.
I have a commuter jacket with a rear light on it that works at the push of a button and has an impressive 3 modes to choose from. Although I rarely use it, the peace of mind of knowing it’s there and attached to something I carry with me every day anyway makes it a really nice addition.
My wife actually found a helmet in Aldi that has an integrated rear light that also has 3 modes, yet another bonus in terms of safety.
Switch to puncture-resistant tires
If you’re concerned about the quality of the roads on your bike-to-work route, then switching out your current tires for puncture-resistant ones is a good way to go.
Although this might require a little bit of your time, it’s relatively straightforward and promises quite a boost in terms of saving you from getting a puncture on your commute. This is something which seems only to happen on my way to work, in my experience!
If you’re not sure about this, your local bike store that sells these will often be able to fit these for you at a small price, which might in itself be yet another hack!
If you combine these kinds of tires with proper levels of inflation, then you should be pretty well protected from punctures on your way to or from work.
Carry inner tube repair spray
This little addition to your bike bag is yet another ‘peace of mind’ hack for the average commuter. Even with puncture-resistant tires and proper levels of inflation, your tires are still not quite bulletproof and punctures may still happen.
With that in mind, carrying a can of inner tube repair spray can be a useful ace up your sleeve to get you to where you need to go, be it the office or your nearest bike store, without too much stress.
These canisters work by releasing chemicals into the inner tube of the tire which then forms a chemical bond upon any air getting in by way of a puncture. As you can tell, I’m no scientist but all I will say is that they can fix a small puncture rapidly and help you get back on your bike.