Bike commuting. It’s cheaper than driving, obviously. It’s good for both your cardiovascular health and your mental health. It saves you money on healthcare costs. It’s even good for your bone health. Depending on your employer, Uncle Sam may even pay you to ride a bike to work. And with the wave of bike-share programs in major cities, you don’t even have to own a bike.
Still, in October the backwards fall of clocks plunges commuter cyclists into near-total darkness on evening commutes and during the frigid chill of morning. As the window of daylight shrinks, temperatures fall and the chance of inclement weather increases, the importance of being comfortable and visible to drivers escalates.
Lights, reflective decals, jackets, pants, baselayers, gloves, footwear, headwear, panniers, packs, bells and cameras allow you to focus on your commute, personal comfort, and all the health and financial benefits that come with getting to work on your own steam. Here’s what we recommend.
LIGHTS – LIGHT AND MOTION COMBO URBAN 800
Light and Motion Combo Urban 800: Considering that a car’s single headlight is roughly 700 lumens (give or take a few), the 800 lumens of the headlight certainly alerts drivers of your approach while illuminating dark streets and bike paths. The reason I love the Combo Urban is because the headlight and rear blinkie light come as a set, saving you money and increasing your safety and visibility. It features four settings, of which the first three are high (800 lumens), medium (350 lumens) and low (175 lumens). The fourth setting is a slow flash mode, which is the one I predominantly use in the city to get the attention of cars. An amber side light provides additional visibility.
ILLUMINATION – NITE-IZE HELMET MARKET PLUS
Nite Ize HelmetMarker Plus: Not a bullseye for cars but a beacon in the dark at head-level. I like the options you have with this one little red blinky light. You can attach it to the back of your helmet, your pack, your rack or seat post.
ILLUMINATION – NITE IZE SEE’EM MINI SPOKE LIGHTS
Nite Ize See’Em Mini Spoke Lights: These nickel-sized lights clip onto your spokes to create a rainbow of color in the dark. Not super bright but bright enough to catch the attention of drivers, especially if you do a cool color scheme.
REFLECTIVE DECALS – BRILLIANT REFLECTIVE SAFETY STRIPS
Brilliant Reflective Safety strips: An important piece of illumination gear because they are available in both iron-on (for clothing or packs or panniers) and as stickers for your bike. For the cost-conscious cyclist, this is a very inexpensive way to make any jacket or pack more reflective.
REFLECTIVE DECALS – RYDESAFE
RydeSafe is another brand of reflective decals that I have been using for years. An investment of $30 worth of stickers placed artfully on your bike makes it even harder for motorists not to notice you. I like combining flowers, butterflies and chains in contrasting colors for a campy look during the daylight hours.
SHOES – SPECIALIZED MOTODIVA
Specialized Motodiva: Wait, what is a pair of mountain biking shoes doing in an article about bike commuting? Simple. Bike shoes are expensive and you don’t need to run out and buy a special pair for commuting to work. Even though I use and love these for mountain biking, they’re still effective and functional for fall bike commuting because the recessed cleat allows for decent walkability and not a ton of clickety-clack on the pavement. Plus, they’re narrow enough to easily fit into a pair of thermo overshoes as the temperature gets colder.
SHOE COVERS – GORE ROAD WINDSTOPPER SOFT SHELL THERMO OVERSHOES
GORE Road Windstopper Soft-shell Thermo Overshoes: Footwear for fall commuting isn’t much different from that of summer commuting, depending on where you live. In Minneapolis where I live I can get by with my Specialized Motodivas until the morning frost of mid-October. That’s when I add shoe covers, like these Windstoppper soft shell thermos overshoes.
GLOVES – PEARL IZUMI ELITE CYCLONE GEL GLOVE
Pearl Izumi ELITE Cyclone Gel glove: The reason I like these gloves so much is because they offer the perfect level of warmth for fall and its outrageous pink color will almost always catch the attention of motorists. The reflective elements for low–light visibility of these gloves is very good. Not just a little strip but a healthy swatch of reflectivity across the top of the hand.
BOTTOMS – CLUB RIDE IMOGENE PANTS & JOY RIDE KNICKERS
Club Ride Joy Ride knickers: In Minneapolis where I live, fall weather ranges from brilliantly beautiful days with temperatures in the 60’s to the misery of rain, snow, sleet and hail and temperatures in the high-30’s. On the brilliantly beautiful days in the 60’s, I love these knickers because they hit the sweet spot between a bike short and capri-length and they’re very comfortable.
Club Ride Imogene pants: But when Fall bestows the misery of rain, snow, sleet and hail and temperatures in the high-30’s, the Club Ride Imogene pant are my choice. They’re midweight, waterproof, not the least bit bulky, can be worn with any chamois, have six pockets, two zippered side leg vents, and good reflective accents. I also love that I can wear these for winter fatbiking because I can still wear a pair of thermal cycling tights under them.
BASELAYER – PEARL IZUMI TRANSFER LS
Pearl Izumi Transfer LS: Baselayers come in synthetic or wool. Wool is my preference because it’s naturally anti-microbial, moisture-wicking and I can get a full week of use before it needs to be washed. This saves money, reduces wear and tear on the garment and your water bill, making it good for the environment. What I like about these baselayers is that it doesn’t feel bunchy under a cycling jacket like some thicker wool baselayers can. The cut is streamlined for cycling and cyclists with a longer cut in the back. I also like the mesh fabric along the shoulders and arms because it helps to encourage sweat to wick out and air to flow in.
OUTERLAYER – PEARL IZUMI ELITE THERMAL ARM WARMER, PEARL IZUMI ELITE ESCAPE THERMAL HOODY, PEARL IZUMI ELITE ESCAPE SOFT-SHELL
Keeping your arms and core warm in the fall is a science. Mornings are typically cold but the afternoons can be pleasant. Depending on where you live, jacket weight is a gradual progression from arm warmers to a mid-weight jacket or even a convertible jacket.
Pearl Izumi ELITE Thermal Arm Warmer: For arm warmers, I like these particular thermal arm warmers from Pearl Izumi because the color is highly visible for the dark morning commutes and they’re small enough to stash conveniently in your pannier or pack for the commute home in the afternoon when it’s warmer and you want to catch the warm rays of the sun for as long as you can.
Pearl Izumi ELITE Escape thermal hoody: However, my go-to September outer layer has been the Escape Thermal hoody. Though the hoody is hardly helmet-friendly, I love how high the zipper zips up my neck sealing out any morning chill or afternoon wind. The longer length in the back and the length of the arms make it ideal for all cycling positions. Plus the pocket in the back makes it ideal for carrying an MP3 player.
Pearl Izumi ELITE Escape soft-shell: The ELITE Escape soft shell is a cool-weather, wind- and water-resistance cycling jacket with a sleek fit. Its light fleece inner lining will keep you warm up until November when paired with a good wool baselayer. But it isn’t bulky and it’s fairly packable for the warmer commutes home. I’m confident that paring this with ELITE Escape thermal hoody will get you further into late November.
PANNIER – ARKEL SIGNATURE V URBAN
There are two types of panniers. The saddle-bag style and the single-clip.
Arkel Signature V Urban: With twenty-eight liters of cargo capacity, the Arkel Signature V Urban is a high-volume, high-quality pannier that is made in Quebec, Canada. Its Cam-Lock® mounting system makes it fast and easy to attach and detach and its TPU- laminated nylon liner with fully-taped seams and roll-top closure makes it waterproof. A small zippered pocket inside the main compartment is ideal for carrying smaller items that need to be secure and protected from the elements, like keys, phone or wallet. A padded laptop sleeve holds up to a full-sized iPad or a fifteen-inch laptop.
BACKPACK – DEUTER GIGA BIKE
Deuter GigaBike: If you think the pannier is too hipster, or your bike does not have a rear rack, you’ll need a good commuter pack. While I’m a confirmed pannier user, there are occasions where it isn’t feasible. Like those few times my regular commuter bike had a flat and I’ve had to ride my mountain bike to work. My pack of choice? The GigaBike because it was designed for the discriminating bike commuter. It carries a laptop, has outstanding balance on the back and it has an integrated rain cover to protect the pack’s contents in inclement weather.
HEADWEAR – GORE UNIVERSAL WINDSTOPPER SOFTSHELL HEADBAND
GORE Universal Windstopper Shoftshell headband: There are many factors that make commuting to work by bike in the cooler months of fall the most enjoyable moment of my day. The sights and sounds of fall, like colorful leaves and birds flying in formation in preparation for their flight south. But a set of cold ears means miles of misery no matter how beautiful the sights, sounds and smells. A quick and easy fix is this headband. And because it’s made by GORE, it’s helmet-friendly.
BIKE BELL – KNOG OI, SPUR CYCLE
Along with lights and other illumination accessories, every bike commuter needs a bike bell. The ding! ding! ding! of a bike bell improves relations between cyclists, pedestrians, dog-walkers, slower riders and, most important, motorists distracted by texting or talking on their phones. In Minneapolis, one bike bell isn’t enough so I have two.
Knog Oi: This bell has a very unique shape and design and emits a long-lasting ding! The different anodized finishes of silver, copper, brass and black add a touch of class to your handlebars.
Spurcycle bell: Then there is the Spurcycle bell. It’s made of premium brass and stainless steel and delivers a ding! that crescendos to a long, loud and resonating CLANG! It’s so downright obnoxious and annoying that it’s truly the perfect bike bell.
CAMERA – CAMILE BIKE CAMERA
Camile Bike Camera: Built for cyclists, this camera is equipped with a GPS cycling computer and a 140-degree wide-angled lens with electronic image stabilizing technology to capture the beauty of your ride—or to document an unfortunate incident or accident. This is a handy gadget that can prove useful in a wide variety of situations.
That’s it! Our picks for the very best gear for fall cycling. Now grab your bike, head outside, and don’t let the cooler weather prevent you from having a great ride.