Bike Commuting Gear: The Essentials

Bike Commuting Gear: The Essentials


By Columbia Staff

Columbia Sportsgear

Don’t leave home without this essential bike gear.

The rapid increase in bike share programs, more cycle-friendly urban areas, and a generally wider embrace of cycling culture has introduced a welcome flood of bike commuters. And if you’re riding to work wearing your loafers or respectable high heels, we salute you. But we also want to make that ride a bit more comfortable.



Cycling gloves with nominal amount of padding in the palms will help reduce hand and wrist fatigue that results from riding on uneven, pothole-laden streets. And they also protect your hands if you end up taking a spill on the pavement. Consider full gloves with nice venting, rather than the fingerless models.



You’re en route to work, so you’re likely lugging a laptop or a change of clothes—or a whole lot more. Messenger bags popularized by bike couriers can carry a lot, but may be overkill unless you need quick access to the pack interior. Otherwise, consider a weather-resistant backpack that can fit your stuff with some room to spare. Or go for a pannier—basically a saddlebag that rides parallel to your rear tire, hanging off a bike rack—which lets you ride unencumbered.



Most waterproof/breathable shells will get the job done, but there are a lot of great bike-specific designs out there as well, which incorporate longer sleeves and a lower back hem to cover you while you’re crouched in the saddle. Some also incorporate reflective material, back pockets (much like you find in bike jerseys), and other cycle-friendly features, typically with a more stylish urban aesthetic. Whichever you choose, be sure the jacket is at least windproof and has zipper closures—much easier to manipulate mid-stride than buttons. Pit vents are also nice to keep the heat under control.

Columbia Sportsgear



If you’re going hardcore or have to pedal for long distances, consider a more tech-oriented pair of pants with abrasion-resistant fabric and a fair degree of weatherproofing. Some cycle-specific pants and jeans also come with stretchy material to accommodate your stride—and your bulging quads, along with strategically placed elements of reflective fabric. But if you’re more of a fair-weather cyclist, you can likely just use whatever pants you’ll wear throughout the day.



If you’re comfortable with clipless pedals, where your shoe is literally attached to the pedal, there are plenty of models out now that are more sneaker/urban-centric; you don’t need to look like you’re trying to charge the peloton. Otherwise, go with comfortable shoes with a bit of hard rubber at the pedal’s touch-point to get the best power transfer.



Just like with helmets, lights are another no-brainer. You want a white light at the front and a red one at the rear, preferably ones that blink—unlike headlines on a car, bike lights are meant to let you be seen by other cars. Unless you’re traveling in truly dark situations, the city’s ambient light should be enough to let you see where you’re going. You can drop $100 for the best on the market, or just opt for a few inexpensive blinking lights and strap ‘em to your bike frame.


The Little Things

Bike accessory lists are long. A few basics to consider would be a fender to keep the water and road gunk from getting kicked up at you from your tires, a basic repair kit to handle flats on the fly, and a Velcro strap to secure your pant cuff away from the bike chain. But as you become a more experienced commuter, you’ll quickly create your own custom kit that appeals to the way you ride. And that’s when you know you’ve truly embraced the bike commuting spirit.

Watch how Columbia Sportswear employee, Lisa Eriksson, rides her bike to commute to work every day to test gear: