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Get Into Gear

by Gavin Potenza, Bekah Wright

June 11, 2011


This post is in partnership with the CLIF Bar 2-Mile Challenge

Having the right equipment can make all the difference between a good cycling experience and a bad one. First things first: choose a bike that fits.  “Find a bike you can stand over comfortably,” says Kat Cummings, owner of San Francisco’s Missing Link Cooperative. “The seats should be at the proper height, so when pedaling legs get almost straight, but don’t lock out the knee.” Cummings says the seat may be the culprit if you get left behind when riding in a pack. Finally, she advises, when seated, make sure the handlebars are a comfortable distance away. Another tip from many commuters – consider getting cycling gloves to prevent slipping (plus they help keep hands warm).

Next, don't forget a helmet. Cummings doesn’t recommend a specific brand, citing that all helmets are safety-tested by the same agency. “Choose a helmet that fits you well and isn’t damaged. Most helmets are designed to be good for only one crash. They crack when dissipating the force of a crash. This is the time to replace them.” And for those living in areas with inclement weather, Debbie Dust shares her stay-warm strategy for cycling in Chicago – a Craft Scandinavia knit cap to wear beneath the helmet.

Commuters traveling at various times of days make good use of lights when cycling. When purchasing lights, Cummings suggests starting with at least one white light in front of the bike and one red one in back. “Most lights will do,” she says. “Flashing ones are even more visible.” Two brands she personally likes – RAVX and Light & Motion. Dust, considers lights a worthy investment. Her faves – Blackburn Flea. Margaret McGlynn goes all out with lights for her Los Angeles bicycle commute. “I light myself up like a Christmas tree.” For McGlynn that includes a NiteRider lighting system and Princeton Tec headlamp for her helmet.

Rain doesn’t stop some cyclists from their daily ride. Dust maintains her route on wet days by equipping her bike with fenders. “I like the non-permanent ones,” she says. “When it’s raining and windy, they keep the road spray off your body.” On rainy days, Dust also dons her Assos of Switzerland micro-climate jacket in hard-to-miss white. “It breathes, vents and keeps the water out. It’s a good wind jacket as well.” McGlynn adds arm warmers and rain pants to the mix for cold, wet days in LA.

Also key for commutes or errand runs by bike is lugging equipment. A basic setup includes an under-saddle pouch containing tire tubes, pump, C02 cartridge and patch kit. A CamelBak bag can be worn as a backpack when biking long distances.

Robyn Cooper makes her LA commute with a bike basket strapped to a rack in the back of her bike. In the basket she keeps a backpack and bike locks. McGlynn has a similar set-up using panniers. “Being able to carry things on your bike instead of your back is a huge upgrade,” says Cummings. “Most modern bikes, unless they’re intended for racing or training, come equipped to install a rack.” She loves her Planet Bike rear rack.

When cycling from the Oregon border to Santa Cruz, California, Rob Morton knew exactly how he wanted to outfit his bike. “Jandd panniers,” he says resolutely. “They held five days worth of camping gear, clothes, food and fluids.” Want even more? Consider Riley McAlpine’s favorite gear for lugging. “Xtracycle is my top pick,” she says. “It easily attaches to bikes, has pannier bags and lots of attachments and can carry human passengers. It’s so fun.” And isn’t that what cycling is all about?

Read more about urban biking in our GOOD Guide to Biking for the Planet.

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