14 Commuting Upgrades to Help you Spin From Winter to Spring

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If you’ve recently added bike commuting to your daily routine, or have recently stepped up your commuting mileage, you’ve probably already figured out that longer distance commutes are a great way to solve several issues: you can improve and maintain mental and physical health, and you get to ditch the car.

Here’s some gear to consider to help keep you spinning through the winter-to-spring transition:

Fenders
These are an absolute must in rainy climates. Get a fully installed set rather than detachable ones if you can’t take your bike into your place of work. Otherwise, you might get off work and find your fenders MIA.

Pump
Look for a mini-pump capable of inflating whatever valve type is installed on your tubes (Presta or Schrader). Carrying a pump that serves both valve types will make you a life saver to someone with a flat and no pump. Also handy: a round dial gauge that lets you see exactly what your tire pressure is as you pump. The ideal pump is one that pumps to a maximum pressure of 130 psi and includes a mounting bracket.

Spare Tube
Save yourself from having to repair a tube on the street. Of course, if you flat your spare, you’ll be glad you’re carrying a repair kit.

Lock
If you don’t want to walk out of work and find that your ride home has ridden off without you, you’re going to want to get a sturdy lock. One of the more popular locks on the market is the U-Lock. They’re relatively inexpensive but practically indestructible.

Compact Multi-Tool
Here’s the rule: the day you don’t carry tools is the day your bike will break down. Loose bolts, lazy brakes or a broken chain? A multi-tool gives you options. Look for one with seven sizes of hex wrenches, multiple sizes of screwdrivers, an open wrench and a Torx driver. This pretty much takes care of anything short of a broken frame or busted axle.

Lever Kit
‘Cause you never know when you’ll end up with a flat (and without that nifty spare). Be ready for the inevitable flat with an all-in-one kit that includes glueless patches, a durable, reusable stainless-steel scuffer to prep tubes and levers made of a strong, durable nylon composite with a thin, aggressive hook geometry for better leverage on difficult tire beads.

Truing Key
This one depends on the distance of your daily commute and the road hazard risks. If you’ve ever hit a pothole hard enough to throw your wheel out of round, you’ll be glad to have one. Of course, make sure you use the right size or your wheel will never be true again anyway. Also make sure to ask your local bike shop to show you how to use it. Better yet, take a shop class and learn how.

Headlamp
Night falls early well into the spring. You probably already have a front and rear bike light, so you might be wondering if you really need a headlamp. You do. It gives you one more point of illumination and sightline. Look for one with an adjustable beam, LED bulbs that illuminate objects up to 20 meters away, that runs on AAA batteries and has at least two brightness settings, preferably one red. One caveat: if you are on a shared path, be sure to reach up and adjust the beam down, or shut it off temporarily when passing runners, walkers or other cyclists. Blinding people with strobes is a no-no. It always pays to be courteous when you’re sharing the trail.

Shoe Covers
They offer the best protection from the elements for your feet and ankles. Look for covers made with neoprene, which provides just the right amount of dense structure, strength and insulation. The whole thing should cover your entire foot, extend just above your ankles, and seal up in back with hook-and-loop closures. Reinforced openings at the heel and midfoot will provide a more seamless interface between cleats and pedals, and give you the option of walking on your shoe heels when you need to. Reflective elements will help you be seen in low-light conditions.

Full Gloves

Look for gloves that are soft, stretchy and warm, preferably made with a nylon/Lycra blend that’s brushed on the inside to provide stretch and warmth and with a silicone finish on the outside to repel rain or snow. You want gloves that offer cool-weather protection while allowing for enhanced aerodynamics, and good handlebar and brake feel.

Snacks
‘Cause you never know. Yeah, stashing a couple of bars in your panniers or rack pack for a commute sounds weird, but on those days when the weather and traffic are challenging, you’ll be glad you did.

Stashable Rain Pants and Shell Jacket
If you live in a rainy or snowy climate, having these at the ready can make that ride to work or home the difference between doable and curse-invoking miserable.

Packable Stash Duffel
You probably have panniers nailed down if you’re already commuting. But you might want to also add a large, lightweight nylon duffel to the mix if you’re carrying clothes and work stuff in your panniers. That way you can throw your helmet, jacket, gloves, cycling shoes, shoe covers, and saddle in the duffel, and carry that gear separately. If you commute a lot in rain, you’ll especially get why this is a no-brainer.

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Jo Ostgarden

Jo Ostgarden is a freelance journalist who has traveled around the world by plane, train, thumb, bicycle and automobile. She bicycled across Canada, the Pacific Coast Highway from Oregon to British Columbia and throughout 14 countries abroad. Additionally, she's an enthusiastic longtime backpacker who calls the Grand Canyon her own personal energy spot. She's also expert on travel in the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii and Ireland. She edited and re-wrote the final edition of Best Places Northwest Travel Guide, and has written about travel, health, nutrition and endurance sports gear for dozens of magazines and newspapers, including Bicycling Magazine.

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