This Gear Will Make a Cold Bike Commute More Bearable
Fall is actually the best time to ride to work
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I’m not a big fan of commuting to work during the summer. It’s too damn hot, especially in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I live. I have to bring a full change of clothes, because I sweat through whatever I’m wearing, and it takes a full hour to cool down at my desk. But when falls rolls around, I’m all about pedaling to work. Cooler temps mean I can wear just one outfit and step into a nine o’clock meeting without overheating. Yes, I have to bring a jacket and use a light (thanks to shorter days), but these are tradeoffs I gladly make. Here are some useful pieces of gear that let me ride through the fall and into early winter.
Velocio Merino 210 Long Sleeve Shirt ($120)
It’s no surprise that my first pick is a merino wool shirt. Merino is the ideal material for cool-weather riding: it’s warm but breathable, and because of its natural moisture-wicking properties, bacteria doesn’t linger and cause a stench. Velocio does a particularly nice job with its version. The inside is brushed for a soft feel against my skin, and the outside is reinforced with polyester to make it more wear-resistant. The cut is also perfect—svelte enough for the bike, but not so tight that it looks silly at a lunch meeting.
Beryl Burner Brake Speed-Detecting Bike Brake Light ($55)
I ride with a rear light throughout the year (and during the day), but this piece of gear becomes even more important when I’m commuting home in the dark. The Burner is my favorite. With a built-in accelerometer, it intensifies its brightness as I slow down, signaling to motorists that they should watch out for me. The Burner can also be seen from 180 degrees, thanks to the orientation of the bulbs. It also has a bright blink mode, lasts 17 hours on a charge, and is waterproof, so I can ride through the rain. For a front light, which you’ll need, check out the Bontrager Ion Elite R ($100).
Green Guru Upshift Frame Bag ($40)
If you’re not commuting with a laptop, most of your daily essentials (wallet, keys, water bottle, jacket) will fit in this 2.7-liter bag that quickly and securely attaches to almost any kind of bike frame via Velcro straps. Made from upcycled nylon scraps that would otherwise go to the landfill, each bag is unique and handmade in Boulder, Colorado. The bags aren’t waterproof but they’re still highly water-resistant, so you’ll be fine in a drizzle.
Abus Pedelec 2.0 Helmet ($150)
Two things make the Pedelec my favorite commuter helmet. The first is an integrated blinker light that’s built into the rear, which I turn on to complement the Beryl. (Or use by itself if I ever forget the Beryl on the charger.) Second is the integrated rain fly that pulls out from the back to cover the top vents. I use it to stave off icy air from my scalp when I commute home at night. Other features include a deep shell that provides lots of coverage for the sides and back of my head, and a magnetic chin strap that can be operated with one hand.
Ottolock Cinch Lock 30-Inch ($50)
At just 0.4 pounds, the Ottolock weighs almost nothing and takes up very little room in my bag. It looks flimsy, but it has bands of stainless steel and kevlar that make it ridiculously hard to hack through (we tested it with bolt cutters) and significantly more durable than a traditional cable lock. You pick your own three-digit combination to open it, and the outside is coated with an antiscratch cover, so I never have to worry about the lock marking up my bike frame.
Rapha Explore Hooded Gore-Tex Pullover ($345)
Yes, $345 is a lot of money for a rain jacket. But the Explore has a long hem that covers my back when I’m leaning forward on my bike, and it’s roomy enough that it can double as my everyday rain jacket. Made from Gore-Tex Active, I’ve found that the jacket keeps out every drop of October rain, but it’s also fairly breathable, so I can dump heat and sweat when I’m pedaling hard. The large chest pocket is great for everything from my cell phone to snacks, and reflective stripes and dots are another way to ensure motorists see me at night.
Giro Privateer Lace Bike Shoes ($140)
Bike shoes and clipless pedals aren’t overkill when you’re commuting. The reinforced nylon sole of the Privateer, matched with the clipless pedals, helps make each pedal stroke more efficient. That means I can get to work faster and don’t have to sprint as hard. I’m also a big fan of Giro’s lace-up style, which is simple to use, far easier to fix than a Boa system, and a breeze to dial in for a snug fit. When I’m not commuting, the Privateer also makes great mountain-bike shoe.
Norrøna Fjøra Windstopper Gloves ($80)
Windstopper is the perfect commuter material because it dulls icy air but is breathable enough that my hands don’t get clammy when I’m sweating. Norrøna’s gloves have a huge temperature range—I’ll wear them from about 50 degrees all the way down to freezing—and they come with a reinforced synthetic-leather palm that guards against wear from my handlebars. Off the bike, the Fjørå also doubles as a great cross-country and uphill-skiing glove.