Now that we’ve laid a foundation for bike commuting, discussing routes and bikes, we’ll look more deeply into some tips, tricks and gear for commuting. Whether you choose a backpack and a sporty road bike or a rack-n-pannier urban cruiser, there are some things that all commuters will need to address.
Just like any other bike ride, you’ll want to be equipped with the basic tools necessary for roadside repairs. A multi-tool, tire lever, inflation system, spare inner tube and extra random bolts are good to have.
Pro Tips for Repairs:
- Latex inner tubes are much lighter and pack smaller than standard butyl tubes, though they aren’t cheap.
- Use CO2 when changing a flat; it’s much quicker and you won’t get sweaty. Make sure to practice at home if you’re not familiar with one.
- Nitrile gloves pack small and keep your hands clean, should you need to do a repair.
- Alcohol or citrus-based cleaning wipes are great if you manage to get dirty changing tubes or fixing a dropped chain.
- Whether you choose panniers or a backpack, make sure they’re weather proof or water proof. You might sweat enough to get the contents of your backpack wet, or you might ride through puddles and splash your panniers.
Upon arriving at the office, your co-workers might consider you fragrant, even if it was an easy 2-mile commute. Just like camping, there’s no way to return to that shower-fresh feeling at work (unless your office has a shower), so embrace it. Your workplace should have a bathroom large enough for changing clothes and doing a little wipe down. Hopefully you have room to stash a toiletries bag at work.
Pro Tips for Freshening Up.
- The bathroom door closing mechanism is a great clothes hanger. Just wipe it off before the first use; it’s probably dusty.
- Toilet seat covers are great ground mats to stand on while changing.
- Body odor is largely due to bacteria breaking down your perspiration. Use nice smelling spray hand sanitizers and wet wipes to kill and remove sweat and odor. The original Old Spice deodorant is full of alcohol and will also do the trick.
- You can spray your sweaty clothes with hand sanitizer to keep them from stinking up your desk.
- If your bathroom only has hand blow dryers, bring a “go! Towel” or an ultralight camping towel to dry off from a “sink bath.”
- Leave a couple sets of work clothes at the office. You can change out tops and bottoms to get 4-5 days out of them.
- Eat breakfast at work. Workouts up to an hour on an empty stomach train your body to better burn fat.
- Bonus points: keep your hair short so it’s easy to style upon arrival. Also, dry shampoo can keep your hair from getting too oily.
Moving over to the bike: if at all possible, store your bike inside. Thieves can steal any bike with enough time. If you need to lock your bike up outside, change locking locations each day. Don’t be predictable. High quality U-locks with non-cylinder keys are the safest option. Most lock companies have a description of how strong each of their locks are, and many also make keyed wheel and seatpost locks, as well.
Pro Tips for the Bike:
- Keyed/locking wheel skewers and seatpost bolts are lighter and easier than using a cable or extra U-lock to secure your wheels and seat.
- Don't need a U-lock? Carry a seatpost cable and a small locker combo lock, for unexpected/quick cafe or grocery stops.
- Use your front and rear lights no matter the time of day. Visibility is key to safety.
- If riding during darker hours, add reflective tape to your bike frame.
- If you are able to bring your bike into your office, get a nice stand or wall mount to make your bike look like it belongs there.
- Most commuter oriented bikes have tires wide enough to smooth out broken asphalt, but road bike commuters would do well to widen out to 32mm tires to mitigate the extra weight of your gear.
Every bike commuter will develop their perfect style, gear and pro tips over time. The most important thing is to simply get moving, get out there and give it a try.