With traffic moving ever slower, trains and tubes getting more expensive every year but bike facilities (gradually) improving there’s never been more reason to use your bike to get around town.
It’s easier than ever to get brilliant biking to work kit too, with a wide selection of gear from bargain to boutique. That means you don’t have to look like a lollipop lady, smell like a tramp or buy shares in a battery company if you want to stay safe while getting fit and saving time at either end of your 9 to 5.
Here’s our round-up of the kit you need, and what to look for in each item.
It’s not a legal requirement to wear a helmet, but we wouldn't ride anywhere without a one, and with more accidents happening in town traffic than any other situation, you'd be mad to hit the city roads without protecting your head.
Wear a helmet to protect your head in the case of an accident. There are many styles and designs available these days
As well as all the usual extra vented road bike helmets or extra protective MTB and BMX ‘piss pot’ helmets there's now a new breed of urban lids. These mix decent venting with more chic 'civilian' or snow sports styling.
Add quick drying pads and adjustable cradle systems for a snug fit and you can still be vain while protecting your brain.
Bag or pack
There are loads of ways to carry your work clothes, laptop and lunch. Rack-mounted panniers are great for heavy loads but not so good off the bike. Baskets look cute but can affect steering. Rucksacks let you leap straight into action off your bike but can result in a sweaty back. Single-strap courier bags are super versatile and as hip as their natural position.
Messenger bags are easy to carry on a bike, and look stylish when you're off it
Whatever your payload preference look for good weatherproofing with no leak spots, separate protective sleeves for laptops or tablets where appropriate and reflective detailing to augment your lights.
If your place of work doesn’t have cycle storage, you need a good lock. Bike security isn't as simple as lock it or lose it, and we're constantly shocked by how easy it is to cut, burst or otherwise defeat many of the locks we test. So when buying your lock, look for ‘Sold Secure’ ratings and buy the highest rating you can afford.
Make sure the lock can reach through any removable components and whatever you're locking it to. Lock your bike where thieves are likely to get disturbed and remove anything (seatposts, front wheel, panniers, lights and so on) that you can't secure.
A lock is essential if your employer doesn't have secure bike storage
Never skimp on bike security just because you're "only leaving it for a minute" either, because your precious velo can vanish in seconds, and your average working day is a lot longer than that.
The stats say that on average the stats say if you commute an hour a way each day you’ll only get properly soaked once a month. Given that full waterproofs - however expensive - will always leave you sweaty, that makes more breathable ‘Windstopper’ or softshell jackets the best bet.
Choose a water-resistant, breathable jacket to keep you dry and comfortable on your commute
There’s a vast range from 50g microlight shells to beautifully tailored water resistant Epic cotton jackets so you can look as peloton or catwalk as you like without getting wet or cold.
You can buy a cheap set of flashing lights that meet basic legal requirements for a few quid. Being visible in a sea of car, bus, motorbike, shop sign and other lights of a typical cityscape or spotting potholes early enough on a canal path or country road needs something more powerful and focused.
Look for a 300-Lumen output as a minimum, in a compact, easy to remove (so it won’t get stolen) unit that you can recharge at your computer or any room corner with a USB charger lead.
The sort of light you need depends on whether you need to see or be seen. USB charging is great if you work at a desk
Designs with replaceable rechargeable cells are great for backup if you’ve got other things besides batteries on your mind too.
Fighting with a filthy tyre to fix a puncture on a wet, cold night just plain sucks. That means all the usual tyre performance parameters take a back seat to puncture-proof durability when it comes to commuting.
Make puncture resistance your highest priority when choosing commuting tyres
Luckily the latest puncture protection technology still keeps tyres fast and grippy enough to make your commuting fun and some even add reflective stripes for safety.