Are you a new bicycle commuter? It is a great way to sneak in some exercise, save money on gas, and stretch your legs every day, but without the right supplies, you and your bike could end up at the side of the road. Nothing is worse than a morning with a busted bike, and then showing up to work late because of it. With just a few supplies, you can drastically reduce the chances of your bike being anything other than a joy.
At your home, you need spare tires, chain lubricant, a stand-up pump, and rags to clean your bike. Some basic tools to doing real repairs will help as well. If you can afford one, outfit a car with a bike rack, since that will make an emergency rescue of you or your bike much easier. Essentially, have everything at home you would need to do a quick repair or tweak on your bike.
On Your Bike
To have a good commuter, you need a couple cheap things on your bike. While none of them are absolutely necessary, they typically pay for themselves in convenience quite quickly. First, You need a bicycle emergency kit. These are tiny, and can usually be assembled for less than $50. You can read more on them in this article.
Also, it helps to have some storage on your bike like a rack and panniers, especially if you need to change when you get into work. If you anticipate being sweaty or wet when you get in to work, you need to change when you get in, and carrying a backpack with your clothing is a recipe for a sweaty back in the summer. Still, I see plenty of bicycle commuters using a backpack, so it must not be so bad.
Lights are a must have if you ever have to ride in low light conditions. Legally mandatory in most states, a front light and a back light are the bare minimum for you to ride safely. Remember, most lights are not for you to see by; they are there to make you more visible to cars that might miss you otherwise.
Finally, if you are going to ride in all weather conditions, you should look into mudflaps. It doesn’t take much mud to make you a mess, and these will usually spare you some indignity upon arrival to work. With the exception of lights, don’t let the need for one of these items slow you down. Just be prepared to deal with being caught without one if you get unlucky.
You also need to be prepared for anything. Light raingear is a lifesaver for foul weather commuting. Bike commuting becomes far safer if you have a cell phone on you as well. This allows you to call for help should something go wrong, and eventually, something will go wrong. Also, have copies of your ID and emergency contact information in every pocket of your riding gear. Should you be in an accident, photo ID and contact information could help your rescuers get you help fast.
Over the course of my first 3 months of bicycle commuting, I assembled all of these things at almost no cost to me. You can make your own panniers or use a messenger bag at first, and lights and repair kits are fairly cheap. With this preparation, I hope you have as much fun becoming a greener, cleaner, bicycle commuter as I have had.