If you recently bought a new commuter bike or resolved to start riding to work more frequently, you may have realized that your old backpack simply isn’t cutting it as a comfortable way to carry all of your gear to work.
Or maybe you keep catching your pant leg on your chain, or you’re feeling a little nervous about safety when rolling through the city. And what about those rainy days?
Here, we’re rounding up the gear and accessories you need when riding to work (or riding for work) in busy cities. This isn’t our usual list of superlatives, rather, we’ve compiled a list of the accessories, lights, locks, and kit that we love for riding around town, to school, and to work…
Best Bike Gear + Safety Tools
FULL FENDERS: SKS Chromoplastic Longboard Fenders
While a clip-on fender might be great in a pinch, if you’re serious about commuting in all conditions and you have a dedicated commuter bike, installing full fenders is the best way to stay dry and comfortable on the road. The Chromoplastic Longboard Fenders from SKS are some of the best easy-to-install fenders on the market. They’re also relatively inexpensive for a full set of fenders.
Note the flared, flexible “foot” on the bottom of the front…that’s key for keeping overspray from soaking your shoes (though you may still wanna slow down a bit through the puddles…at least until the ride home!). They come in two sizes (700c and 29-inch) so make sure you order the right size for your bike.
PROS: Great for staying dry, easy to install
CONS: More permanent, so not ideal if you don’t always want fenders attached
EASY FENDERS: Ass-Savers
For rainy days, we love Ass Savers (now available in front and rear options!) as quick bike additions that will keep you relatively dry without weighing down your bike, costing a fortune, or taking a long time to mount. These small strips of plastic don’t look like much, but they’re shockingly durable and long-lasting for the price.
Admittedly, an Ass Saver is not as protective as permanent full fenders. It will—ahem—save your ass in a pinch, but we highly recommend opting for full fenders that are permanently installed if you ride to work in bad weather often. They are great if you use your regular road or gravel bike for riding to work and don’t want to have fenders installed all the time, though!
MSRP: $10 for front, $12 for rear
PROS: Super easy installation, takes seconds; easily moves between bikes
CONS: Not a permanent solution, not full coverage
BEST BIKE LOCK: Kryptonite New York Cinch Ring Chain 1275
When it comes to a lock that’s as close to bombproof as you can get, the Kryptonite New York Cinch Ring Chain is the go-to. It’s a favorite for a few Bikerumor staffers, despite the heavy weight. If you really, really want to feel secure leaving your bike locked up while you’re in the office, this is the lock to use.
The Kryptonite New York Cinch Ring Chain 1275 uses a small U-lock to secure the ends of the massive 12mm, hexagonal manganese-steel links together, and it comes with three keys so you can always keep a spare hidden. We also like that the lock has a dust cover, helping it stand up to bad weather. And Kryptonite also offers its own theft protection for up to $4,000 (free for the first year), in addition to being certified for most bike insurance companies through Sold Secure.
Fair warning: This lock will weigh you down at nearly 7 pounds. It may be overkill for a commuter who’s usually bringing the bike into the office, or who works in a quiet neighborhood where he can see his bike through a storefront window.
Looking for a different style of lock? Check out our top Bike Lock Buyer’s Guide for more options.
PROS: One of the most secure options out there
CONS: Heavy, just on the short side, pricey
PRE-PACKED SADDLE BAG: Blackburn Local Ride Kit
Yes, even commuters can get flat tires. That’s why you should always have a pump or CO2 cartridge plus inflator (preferably both), a good multitool, tire levers, a spare tube, patches for tubes, and somewhere to carry all of it.
This simple pre-packed saddle bag from Blackburn is just missing a tube and some patches, but otherwise, it’s ready to go. Of course, you can build your own, and we have recommendations for the best multitools and tire levers. But if you want to keep your commuting bike tools simple and separate, this kit from Blackburn has a solid multitool, a great mini-pump, and tire levers that will help fix a tricky flat… Plus a seat bag that stores them all, at a price that’s cheaper than buying each piece separately.
PROS: Great starting point for new cyclists, includes a blinky light loop
CONS: Still need to add patches and tube
LIGHT SET: Knog Plugger Twinpack
Every commuter should have lights on their bike for safety, even if you’re not riding at night. Bike lights make you more visible, while also helping you see what’s coming up ahead on the road. Commuters will want front and rear lights, and unless you’re pulling lots of late nights and riding in the dark regularly, the Knog Plugger Twinpack with front and rear lights is the perfect budget-friendly option.
They’re easy to charge with USB cables and have really long battery life in “flash” modes. They attach with a simple silicone band that can be replaced if broken, so they’re ideal if you’re switching bikes, running late, or you don’t want to leave them on your bike while at work. (Often at the office after dark? You’ll want something brighter—think 1000 lumens—and we have a whole roundup of the best bike lights right here.)
PROS: Great price, easy to mount, sleek looks
CONS: Not the brightest for night riding
NIGHT RIDING LIGHT: Light and Motion Urban 1000
If you commute through the winter, even 9-to-5 workers will be riding in the dark before and after work, which means a front light that has 1000 lumens is critical for seeing what’s up ahead. A rear light is also critical, so we’re big fans of the Urban 1000 Commuter Combo from Light and Motion. While it’s pricer than the Knog set—it’s $150—the front light is significantly brighter.
It’s a great, easy to install light that takes seconds to clip onto your handlebars to light the way home after a tough day at work. Two Bikerumor staffers have had this light for years and both are still going strong. They’re easy to recharge, easy to operate, and just a simple, no-nonsense light that works. (Looking for something different? We have a whole roundup of the best bike lights right here.)
PROS: Easy to mount, great for night riding on roads
CONS: None, really
BIKE BELL: Spurcycle Compact Bell
Find yourself riding on the bike path or city streets and dodging pedestrians who are talking on their cell phones or listening to music with headphones on? The Spurcycle Compact Bell may be tiny, but it’s also loud as heck. But, you know, the friendly kind of loud. We appreciate the subtle style and construction of this bell, and unlike cheaper bell options, this one is built to last. Plus, it just looks really good!
PROS: Loud noise, small bell, good looks
CONS: Pricey for a bell
BOTTLE CAGE-FRIENDLY COFFEE: 18oz YETI Rambler
The leakproof Yeti Rambler is our top pick for commuters, cyclocross racers, college kids… basically, anyone who wants to put something other than water in the bottle on their bike. Bring your latte to the office without fear of spilling it while also being more eco-friendly than picking up a to-go cup from your local coffee shop. And you’ll still have hot coffee well into the afternoon thanks to Yeti’s double-walled construction.
Make sure you get the 18-ounce version, as it’s the only one that will fit in the bottle cage. It comes in five colors and you can also swap the included cap for a chug cap, making drinking iced coffee easier—and gain nine extra colors to choose from.
PROS: Keeps drinks hot or cold all-day
CONS: None, really
PHONE MOUNT: QuadLock System
Trying to navigate to a meeting across town, or just trying to make sure you never miss a call from your boss while heading into work? We get it. Bikerumor staffers try phone mounts regularly, and many come back to QuadLock and keep mounts on all of their bikes (read our full review here).
The QuadLock system includes a case, your choice of two out-front handlebar mounts, or a strap-on stem mount. Your phone connects in the same way that cycling computers attach to their mount – pop it on and twist it to lock. The mount holds your phone securely, yet it’s easy to detach it quickly. The cases are slim but protective, and the mounts are sleek enough that they won’t look out of place on rides without your phone on it.
While this case/mount combo is pricier than others upfront, additional mounts are relatively inexpensive. You’re committing to a system, but QuadLock has been around since 2011 and keeps up with new phone technology, so you can rest assured that your new phone will have a QuadLock case that works with it (they were shipping iPhone 13 cases just a couple weeks after Apple debuted them). And they make mounts for everything: Dash, moto, suction cup, tripod, armband, stick-on, desktop, and more. There’s even a clear silicone “poncho” cover to protect it from inclement weather.
Got a case you already love? Just order the stick-on adapter to use it with any of their mounts. The company makes cases for iPhone, Galaxy, Pixel, Huawei, and a even universal option.
MSRP:$60-$90 for case+mount kit, depending on mount
PROS: Full system with different mount options, ultra secure, camera ready
CONS: Case may not work well with all wireless chargers
FLOOR PUMP: Topeak Joe Blow Sport 3
If you’re not a longtime cyclist, you may not realize that even if your tires need air until it’s too late. Best bet? Top them off each week with a decent yet affordable floor pump. Maybe more often if they feel squishy at all when you press into them with your thumb.
The Joe Blow Sport 3 will never let you down. This pump excels when it comes to rider-focused, thoughtful design. The pressure gauge is easy to read, since it’s a full three inches in diameter, making it ideal for those cyclists who need reading glasses. The handle on the Joe Blow Sport 3 pump is lightly padded and wider for a more comfortable grip. The simplicity of the pump head -the TwinHead DX- makes swapping between inflating Schrader or Presta valves a literal snap. These little details add up to one deluxe pump that’s perfect for the whole family.
PROS: Ergonomic design, great price
CONS: Short-ish hose length
Bringing Your Work Home With You
BACKPACK: Ortlieb Velocity Backpack
This Bikerumor editor has had an Ortlieb Velocity Backpack for eight years and it still looks new—and has never once failed to keep gear dry even in the worst downpour. It looks simple, and it is: No bells and whistles and pockets, just a single compartment and simple roll top with a velcro fastener. But that’s what makes it great: It’s just a simple backpack that keeps everything dry. The back has a plastic frame that keeps your pack comfortable and the weight well distributed across your back, and it has chest and waist straps if you’re carrying a heavy load. This pack is bombproof.
PROS: Will last forever
CONS: Back will get sweaty on hot rides
BACKPACK-STYLE PANNIER: Blackburn Wayside Backpack Pannier
Don’t love the bright colors of the Ortlieb bags and want something a bit stealthier when going into the office? Panniers that convert into backpacks or totes are ideal for bike commuters, and we like the Blackburn Wayside Backpack-slash-Pannier is a great stylish option for someone who prefers a more vintage style.
The waxed canvas bag looks chic, but is conveniently water repellent, comfortable, and tucks onto your bike rack with ease…which keeps it off your back on your way into work! The only downside is that there isn’t a ton of room, so it’s not optimal if you have a lot of work gear to bring into the office.
PROS: Looks great as a backpack and works well as a pannier
CONS: Not a ton of storage space
TOTE-STYLE PANNIER: Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic Panniers
The Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic Panniers transform from pannier to tote bag handily—perfect for leaving your bike outside but bringing your bags into the office—but their best quality is just how waterproof they are. Unlike many other bags that are water-resistant, just like the backpack from Ortlieb, these can handle monsoon-level rains without getting a drop on your laptop.
The two-pack allows you to have one bag for work supplies, and another for your change of clothes and your lunch. They securely click onto most standard bike racks (see below for our recommendation), then pull off easily to carry inside. And, they come in several bright colors – gray, yellow, red, blue, and orange – which helps make you more visible to traffic, especially in a downpour!
PROS: 100% waterproof, durable, easy to carry on and off the bike
CONS: Expensive (but worth it)
EASY PANNIER RACK: Topeak Explorer
This simple aluminum rear rack is easy to install on your bike and lets you get those books off your back and into pannier bags on either side of your rear wheel. The Topeak Explorer can hold 57 pounds of cargo and it has an integrated spring clip to help secure any extra cargo on top of the rack. You can also add a rear basket if you want to stick with your regular backpack and skip getting panniers right away—a great option if you have a work bag or briefcase that you love. (On rainy days, simply pop that bag into a garbage bag for instant waterproofing.)
This rack is available in a range of sizes, though most bikes can use the basic version, which fits 26″, 27.5″ (650B), and 700C wheels. You’ll need to specify disc brake or non-disc brake version, though, and just make sure your bike has the necessary mounting points (see FAQ at the bottom of this post for details).
PROS: Great to carry bags without getting sweaty, easy to use
CONS: Requires installation, may make it harder to mount a rear fender
Bike Commute Friendly Apparel
BUDGET HELMET: Specialized Align II
The Specialized Align II scored the second-highest safety rating on Virginia Tech’s STAR ranking—just behind a helmet 5x its price. At 355 grams, it’s not the lightest helmet on the market, but at $50, you can’t beat the price.
We like having a spare commuter helmet for a couple reasons: First, it’s nice to have a spare helmet in case you forget one or a friend needs to borrow one, or (eek) you drop a helmet and crack it right before a ride. Second, more aero-style road helmets or more protective mountain bike helmets might feel a little silly (and less comfortable) when worn with your suit as you pedal your commuter bike to the office.
We also love that it comes in seven colors—lavender, light purple, metallic blue, high vis yellow, black, white, and red—and three sizes.
PROS: Great color range and features for the price
CONS: Heavier than “performance” helmets (but still lighter than most urban lids)
RAIN WEAR: Chrome Storm Commuter Jacket & Pants
A raincoat that works for riding comfortably is critical if you want to be a year-round commuter, and we love the Chrome Industries Storm Salute Commuter Jacket. It’s roomy enough for your regular clothes underneath, unlike a racier “cycling” raincoat. But it also has features that make it bike-friendly, like a dropped back to keep spray off your bum, and interior pockets to keep your phone safe and dry. The zip is two-way, so if it starts to get warm, you can ventilate from top or bottom. Available in olive and black in men’s and women’s sizes from S to XL.
If you’re really serious about commuting in the worst weather, add the Chrome Storm Rain Pant. It has a reinforced seat and 3-layer stretch material that’s breathable, yet totally waterproof. Gussetted ankle zips keep it snug while pedaling, but open wide so you can easily pull them on or off over your regular clothes. They also make a great wind shell in cold weather! (Note: Men’s sizing listed, but the fit is unisex.)
MSRP: Jacket $185 / Pants $125
PROS: Great fit for commuting, keeps you dry and comfortable
PANT CUFF: RockBros Pants Clip
If you ride bikes in pants, chances are really good (as in, basically 100%) that you’re going to get them caught between the chain and chainring at some point. Best case, you only get a little grease on them. Worst case? They rip a big chunk out of them. And that’s not how you want to show up for the big presentation at work!
The RockBros Pants Clip Strap wraps around your pants leg opening to hold it close to your leg, Velcro’s shut, and has reflective elements all around it to help keep you safe at night, too. They’re sold as a two-pack, and you could even use them to strap something to your bike rack in a pinch.
PROS: Simple, effective, cheap
CONS: None, really
FLAT PEDALS: Crankbrothers Stamp Pedal
If you’re repurposing your road bike or mountain bike to ride to the office, you may want to consider swapping pedals from clipless to a flat pedal option, especially if your ride is short.
Some people prefer riding to work in cycling gear, then changing at the office, but if you’re just pedaling in your work clothes, flat pedals allow you to wear regular shoes rather than your cycling shoes. We like the Crankbrothers Stamp because unlike the cheaper pedals that come stock on most commuter bikes, these have a wider platform and small pins for traction, and they’ll last longer and spin smoother. This makes them ideal for wearing a flat sneaker and still feeling somewhat connected to the bike when you pedal.
PROS: Great traction, smooth & quiet pedaling performance
CONS: Don’t need if your bike has flat pedals already, but still a nice upgrade
BEST ACCESSORY: Buff
We love buffs for how they can instantly make a chilly ride feel warmer by protecting your head, neck and face. But a buff isn’t just a critical under-helmet implement for many months of the year, it’s also now doubly useful since if you forgot your mask at home or the office, or it’s simply tucked way into your backpack, you can pull a buff up as a quick mask solution when running errands after work. They can also be used for taming helmet hair in a pinch.
CONS: Soggy when wet
Buyer’s Guide for Commuter Accessories
Think about your daily usage. If you ride to work every single day, it’s worth spending a bit more time and money streamlining your riding setup to make your ride easier and more comfortable. If you only ride to work occasionally, you can likely get away without a specific bike commuter-friendly backpack, though some gear like a sturdy bike lock is non-negotiable.
Consider where you’re riding. If you’re doing a longer or harder ride to get to the office, you may want to streamline your accessories with a focus on saving weight and wearing cycling gear that’s more cycling-specific, then changing at the office. If you’re doing a short commuter by bike, you can likely use a heavier bike that allows you to carry all of your gear comfortably. And if you’re doing a half-and-half commute where you take a train or bus partway, commuter accessories that are just as useful when walking are great options.
You always need a lock. Period. Even if you normally keep your bike in the office, you never know when a bike room is going to be closed for repair, or you need to run a quick errand on your way home. (We have a list of the best locks right here.)
Focus on safety. We included plenty of safety-focused accessories in this roundup because prioritizing safety on your commute is key. That means a helmet, reflective gear, appropriate lights, and even clothing that won’t get caught in your chain as you pedal!
Frequently Asked Questions About Bike Commuting
What kind of bike do I need for a commute?
Different styles of bike might suit different types of riders. For instance, commuters who ride the train or bus for part of their commute before pedaling the final stretch may prefer a folding bike that can be stored under a seat. For longer commutes, a road bike (and a full change of clothing at the office) might be preferable and more efficient.
Alternatively, for longer commutes or for riders who need a bit of a boost, an e-bike might be ideal. And if you live in a small apartment or you’re on a tight budget, your best option for a commuter bike might simply be whatever type of bike you prefer to ride when you’re riding for fun. Don’t feel like you’re locked into a strictly “commuter” option, consider your needs and how you prefer to ride. But if you are looking for something new, we have a roundup of our favorite commuter bikes right here.
Do I need a messenger bag, backpack or panniers?
It depends how much you bring to the office! We don’t really love messenger bags unless you’re actually a bike messenger who needs to regularly swing your bag around for easy access. Because they will swing down, and, honestly, can be kind of annoying.
We do love a good backpack, though, especially if you’re only bringing a laptop and maybe a few small items to and from work. But if you bring a lot with you to and from the office, a bike with a rear rack and panniers (that can convert into easy-to-carry tote bags) is a great solution. It helps avoid back sweat, and allows you to carry everything from your computer to your lunch to a full change of clothing. They’re great for farmer’s market runs, too!
Do I need a commuter helmet?
Absolutely not—you can use whatever helmet you have at home. We do like having a commuter helmet in addition to your nice road or MTB one, though, because commuter helmets tend to be a bit less pricey, a bit more comfort-focused, and less likely to leave you with Helmet Hair.
What should I keep at the office to make my commute smoother?
We suggest keeping a small bag of ‘extras’ at the office to make your commute easier. They can include:
- Office shoes (especially if you only wear one type of shoe in the office, like a basic loafer, so you can change out of cycling shoes or sneakers when you get there)
- Body wipes for sweatier-than-anticipated rides
- Full change of clothing, including underwear (you never know when a sudden rainstorm or—unfortunately—a crash can mess up your work clothes during your commute, so having a spare set can be helpful in a pinch)
- Any easy extras that you would normally bring to and from work every day, like a coffee mug
- Charging cables for your bike lights (in case you forgot to charge at home)
What should I carry with me on the ride?
You may be tempted to leave your mini-pump at home, but carry all of the same bike tools you’d take on a normal ride—bike pump, spare tube, patch kit, and multi-tool. If you’re not great at fixing a flat, take some time and practice so that if you do get a flat on the way to work, you don’t miss the morning meeting because you’re on the side of the road trying to pry a tire off.
How do I attach a rack or fenders to my bike?
If your bike has eyelets (also referred to as bosses, rack mounts, or fender mounts) near the dropouts on the frame and fork and some higher up near the seat post clamp or fork crown, chances are you can use the bolt-on style rack like the Topeak one we recommend here.
If not, you’ll want to look at universal racks like the Thule Tour Rack and its optional side frames if you want to add panniers. These strap onto the fork or seatstay tubes and fit almost any bike, but they generally only have about half of the load capacity.
How can I keep my bike safe, in addition to a lock?
By locking even your wheels to your bike with locking axles, a sneaky, tiny addition that can make your bike much more secure. Ever seen a wheel-less bike frame still locked to a rack? If you’re leaving your bike locked outside, especially in higher crime areas, then you need a locking axle on the wheels if you want to keep them.
These replace your quick-release skewers and require a special key or tool (or both) to remove, and more time, all of which are very strong deterrents for would-be thieves. Left to right, here are our three favorite options:
Perhaps the sleekest, lightest, and coolest anti-theft wheel skewers out there, the Hexlox bolts use a proprietary plug-and-key system to effectively block access to the bolt. Meaning, you can’t insert an Allen wrench to loosen the axle until you’ve removed the plug…and you absolutely can not do that unless you have the key. You can even buy just the plug-and-key sets to secure your seatpost, saddle, stem, and almost any other part on your bike! MSRP is $70 for a complete set, available directly from Hexlox. Or just add the cap to your existing thru axle!
Pinhead Quick Release Skewers
Similar to Hexlox, except using a keyed pattern on a matching lever that acts as both key and tool to remove the bolt. Not quite as stealthy, but a little more affordable at $60 MSRP. Available through Amazon and Trek Bikes.
These work a bit differently in that you’ll need a thin 8mm wrench (like these) to remove your wheel, and the NutFix caps simply prevent access to that bolt while the bike is upright & locked to a rack. Meaning, you’ll need to lay your bike flat on the ground for the cap to lift and allow access to the bolt, and we doubt any thief will figure that out. MSRP is $70 for the set, available on Amazon. They also make larger versions for the bolt-on wheels commonly found on 20″ – 26″ kids’ bikes, must make sure you order the correct M8, M9 or M10 version to match the solid axle’s size!
All three of these brands also make locking seatpost bolts, too—no one wants to ride home on a bike that no longer has a saddle.