Cycling to work is a great way to commute and adds an opportunity to get fitter and feel healthier into your workday routine.
However, commuting on a bicycle needs a few things at all times to make it work for you, so here’s the cycling to work checklist for commuters:
- Waterproof pants
- Waterproof shoe covers
- Cycling multi-tool
- Stainless steel water bottle
- USB lights with straps
- Neck warmer and face mask in one
- Rear rack
- Pannier bag (for rear rack)
- Reflective cycling jacket
- Waterproof cycling gloves
- Comfy, breathable clothes
- Helmet that you like!
With the list above, you can’t go far wrong when bike commuting on a regular basis in most weather conditions.
However, to help you perfect the art of cycling to work in no time, I’ve written about all the points in the checklist in a little more detail.
The subtleties here can make a huge difference when trying to make a habit of bike commuting, so keep reading to get all the key insights into choosing the right items and why they made it onto this cycle to work checklist.
What do I need to bike to commute?
You might think that you can get away with just a waterproof jacket when cycling to work, similar to when walking to work. However, when in a cycling position, your legs will get soaked in no time with even a little rain!
It’s hard to fathom just how much wetter your legs get when cycling, but knowing this means that you will definitely want to add waterproof cycling pants to the list.
I personally just have waterproof cycling over pants (i.e. they go over my work pants) as these are the most practical for my needs.
If you plan on changing clothes and riding in full cycling clothing, then look into getting cycling pants that are as waterproof as possible to keep you comfortable since there’s little worse than arriving at work soaking wet to start your day!
Waterproof shoe covers
Again, waterproof shoe covers were something that I initially thought I could get away with, but a dozen rides to work in the morning with soaking shoes and socks made me think otherwise, and hence their inclusion on this checklist.
A couple of tips here are to look for shoe covers that suit the type of shoes you are wearing. Searching for ‘waterproof cycling shoe covers’ might bring up only the kind of shoe covers suited for slimline cycling shoes, not normal work shoes. Obviously, this would be fine if you wear cycling shoes while riding to work.
However, if you plan on wearing normal work shoes, I’d recommend going for a pair of ‘waterproof bike gaiters’ as these will cover your shoes well and are the best option I’ve found for keeping my shoes and socks dry. I’d recommend the Vaude waterproof bike gaiters as these are the pair I currently use and are performing brilliantly, although don’t expect anything hi-tech as they are quite a simple item!
These are a simple and practical item for your cycling to work checklist since carrying a cycling multi-tool allows you to fix any niggling annoyances on your ride to work.
Chief among these annoyances are things like brakes rubbing on your wheels, or your seat post being too low, both of which can be fixed in a few seconds or minutes with a good cycling multi-tool.
For the security conscious, fear not – these do not come with knives so you don’t need to worry about someone having one in a workplace.
Again, you can get a good quality cycling multi-tool for less than $10 and they sit in the bottom of your bag, so carrying one on a daily basis is an easy win.
Stainless steel water bottle
Stainless steel water bottles are a must for bike commuter since they are low maintenance, easy to clean in a dishwasher (if you get the right one) and offer much nicer tasting water than the standard plastic bottles that you usually see on bikes.
Another bonus to having a stainless steel water bottle on your commuter bike is that it won’t break if it falls off during your ride, unlike some of the plastic cycling water bottles.
USB lights with straps
Yes, you will know that you need bike lights but getting USB lights with strap attachments takes this up another level in terms of practicality.
The USB charging option is extremely convenient for almost all workplaces these days, with many bike lights charging in the same way as a smartphone and being discreet enough for you to leave them at your workstation.
The strap attachment option adds even more functionality since you can then attach them to your bike’s frame or helmet, as you prefer. Go for the helmet option if you are worried about forgetting to take your bike lights with you and leaving them attached to your bike when locked up outside during the day – I say this because people do steal these lights unfortunately!
Neck warmer and face mask in one
This bike commuter accessory took me a while to figure out but should definitely be on your list if you plan to ride in cooler temperatures.
These multi-functional items are cheap, comfortable and last for a long time so getting one is a no-brainer.
I wear mine all winter and like that I can cover my head and my mouth in one go, giving me a balaclava to protect much of my face from the cold wind while riding home from work at night. Added to this is that I can wear my ‘snood’ just as a neck warmer on less intense days, as well as a variety of other ways in between.
You shouldn’t need to pay more than $10 for a good one of these for your bike commute.
Rear bike rack
Having a rear rack, or pannier rack, on your commuter bike gives you many more options when it comes to carrying bags.
This added flexibility means that you can easily carry spare clothes if you need to change, as well as allowing space for things like your commuter lunch box, gym clothes or bags for grocery shopping on the way home.
Since rear racks are relatively cheap, easy to fit and can be attached to most commuter bikes, getting one is recommended for all cycle commuters.
Pannier bag (for your rear rack)
To go with your rear rack above, you’ll want to get a pannier bag to clip onto your rear bike rack. This is a great functional option as they clip on firmly to rear racks and are usually waterproof or at least come with a waterproof cover. mean that you don’t get sweaty as you would when wearing a backpack when cycling.
Pannier bags are also helpful to take the strain off your back, as explained in the video below.
Reflective cycling jacket
A good commuter cycling jacket is one that has reflective elements since this material makes you exponentially more visible to other road users.
Reflective detail on your jacket is preferable even to hi-vis colors since the reflectivity shows up in dark and low-light conditions, a time when most road accidents happen.
This simply bounces the light of cars back at them, making you stand out far more than any other material and as such should be on any serious cycle commuter’s checklist.
Waterproof cycling gloves
This seems like a small thing but your hands will quickly turn to ice blocks in a wintry downpour without fully waterproof cycling gloves.
Having been through the unpleasant experience mentioned above, I can tell you that pulling the brake lever and gripping the handlebars suddenly becomes that much more difficult, making your ride less safe.
When fully protected with waterproof cycling gloves, you’ll be able to fly through any heavy downpours without issue and stay that bit safer on your ride to work.
Comfy, breathable clothes
The key thing about bike commuter clothing is that it is both breathable and comfortable.
Breathable because your body temperature will increase as you ride and you might even come close to breaking a sweat if pushing hard or climbing up a hill.
Comfortable because when you ride a bike, some clothing can suddenly feel restrictive or unpleasant and thus make you have a less positive riding experience.
Remember to take a mental note of which clothes work best for you and look at the materials used and also think about the cut and style of them. This can then inform your choice of clothing when you buy any new garments in the future.
It can be quite hard to find office friendly bike clothing but once you do, make sure you remember where you got it from and keep going back for more!
There are quite a few brands offering bike to work pants, even with some offering commuter bike jeans. Unfortunately, finding bike commuter clothing for women that doubles as work clothing is still quite hard at the time of writing.
Helmet that you like!
This might seem a little strange at first, but one of the key points about having a helmet for bike commuting is that it is one you like.
If you don’t like it, you probably won’t use it and, as we all know, a bike helmet that is not used is of no use to protect us from any falls!
If you currently have a bike helmet that you don’t like, think about getting another one that is more comfortable, more portable (i.e. collapsible), more stylish or just more discreet.
I’d recommend getting a helmet with the added MIPS safety feature as these will give you more protection than standard helmets for a few extra dollars – money well spent.
One of the best-looking and most practical helmets for commuters on the hunt for urban bike gear is the folding baseball-cap style helmet by Park & Diamond, which could go a long way to helping more people wear helmets regularly.
How do you bike commute in the rain? Get fully covered in waterproof clothing, including good quality shoe covers since you will get soaked without these. Use powerful lights to make you stand out on the roads in rain and also get all clothing and accessories with reflective elements.
The other point here is to set off a little earlier than usual as you should go a bit slower when bike commuting in the rain on roads given that your stopping distance will be longer while your visibility will be poorer.
Remember also that it will take you a few extra minutes either end to put on and take off your waterproof clothing, so don’t overlook that when allowing time for your ride to work.
What should I bring on a bike ride to work? Take waterproof clothing from head to head to avoid getting to work wet. Pack USB bike lights, a good quality U-lock with a cable, a waterproof cover for your bag and a cycling multi-tool for any mishaps on the way.
I’d also recommend always packing a water bottle to stay hydrated on longer rides, although you might find that half-filling it before setting out on your bike commute journey is enough. I say this because carrying liquids adds a lot of weight to your bag and for carrying, so pack wisely here.