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New Commuter: What cycling items will I need regularly as a commuter or full time Cyclist

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A bike.


Duppie 13.5185km said:

A bike.
Seriously. You need a bike. Beyond that you don't *need* much. That's the beauty of biking. You can surely buy a lot of stuff (lord knows I do) but very little of that is necessary.

Oh, and a good quality U-lock. That's it.

Bike and lights are all need really but I recommend a rack, fenders and some kind of pannier.  

I bike 8 miles to work and back.  I see a lot of women dressed in the same clothes they are likely to be working in, but of course each work place attire expectations are different.  At my work place (I'm a guy) there is an expectation of "business casual" but fortunately for me we have a changing room and locker.   So I keep my work clothes folded in a plastic bag inside my satchel which is inside my bike crate in th back (which is handy if you are carrying stuff - others carry their backpacks on their backs but I have failed to do that without causing big time sweating down my back and huge sweat stains on the back of my shirt).  Anyway, I won't make assumptions about your maintenance skills, but I think all commuters should know how to change a tire just in case (though in Chicago you can always put a bike on a bus home so even that is not a complete requirement) - thus, I would recommend 3 plastic tire levers, a spare tube, and a portable pump.  But I have never had to use them in years of going to work - been lucky I suppose that my flats did not happen during my commute, but I am ready.  I would attach a battery-powered light to your helmet (I have two - the red one that flashes at the back and the white one that flashes at the front) in case you are heading back when it gets dark.  I would add a bell to warn people of your approaching in those cases when you need to.  I can keep my bike in my workplace's basement, but just in case something happens and I can't get in or I have to leave my bike in the Loop for any reason or park it in the Loop, I always bring my two Kriptonites - the long one to attach the frame and front wheel to the bike rack or street sign pole and the small one to attach the back wheel to the frame - I take no chances in the Loop!  That is about all I can think of.  But the best teacher is experience.  Just do it (start doing a few miles on evenings or days off before you do a big commute if it is a bit of a distance for you).  We humans are amazing animals when it comes to adapting.  You'll quickly figure out what you need in accessories and clothes.  Oh, the obvious - under arm deodorant when you arrive!  But do it - the more of us on the road the better!   I am already looking forward to the commute to work tomorrow - it gives you great energy and a sense of calmness throughout the day - and then when you see all those people biking for exercise in the morning you'll realize you won't have to anymore now that your bike is your prime means of transportation.

That was so helpful thank you! 

I got out of the habit of regularly carrying any repair items, and just try not to stray too far from major bus routes.

Besides a quality U-lock, I'd say:

1) Helmet

2) Protective eye wear

3) cycling gloves so you don't end up with bloody palms if you have a spill

Anything else depends greatly on what time of day you ride and how far your commute is.

I always keep an extra pair of lights in my purse. I also keep a stash of make-up and face wipes in my desk. It's easier to slather on the sunscreen and do the rest of the routine there. Dry hair shampoo is a lifesaver if you wear a helmet. I usually bike in what I wear to work but if it's super tropical or rainy I bring my work clothes in a plastic bag. If your ride is long you might want to pay attention to your shoes. Sturdy soles are best. Flimsy soles can get ruined pretty quickly. I swap mine out or keep an extra pair at work. In the end maybe I'm advocating for a giant bike friendly purse or a desk with infinite drawers :)

You're going to love it. A bike ride in the morning is the best way to start your day.
+1 on fenders and front or rear rack. I use a soda crate.

Lots of good ideas here.  I'd add: a water bottle and bottle cage.  I often keep a thin rain hoodie rolled up in my pannier or knapsack for rainy mornings.  And if you're riding any distance, a granola bar or an apple in your bag can be nice at a rest break.

you'll figure it out as issues come.

Ive seen too many people go out and buy a bunch of stuff prior to riding, and the end up using very little of what they purchased.

I just started commuting in earnest last fall, and picked things up piecemeal along the way.  

I second the rack and pannier, tube changing tools, and the pair of shoes at work.  

I bring my work clothes in a plastic bag in my pannier (two plastic bags on rainy days) and ride in bike shorts and a bright yellow jacket.  That way I don't have to worry about things getting wet, dirty, torn, etc., and I don't have to sit around the office all day in clammy work clothes in the cold of winter (or the air-conditioned cold of summer).  Depending on your commute and riding style, this may not be an issue for you. 

For winter riding, I wore long-fingered cycling gloves, a pair of long bicycling pants, and long johns and a fleece under my jacket, with a balaclava on top.  That kept me going down into the 20s last winter.  

If you can manage it, I definitely recommend finding a route that passes through someplace pretty.  I go over the hill in Lincoln Park and come down by the North Pond, getting a nice view of the skyline over the water.  It slows me down and gives me a moment of peace that I look forward to every morning.   


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