16 Essential Things-To-Do and Gadgets-to-Have to Make Your Bicycle Commute Safer (and More Enjoyable)
Updated - October 2020
This blogpost has been updated in the light of the new upswing of COVID cases all over Europe and elsewhere. The edits reflect the new reality bike commuters face, especially in bigger cities. We sincerely want you to stay healthy and what better way to do that than commuting to work by bike. Safely!
Recently the European Parliament issued a memo urging employees to avoid public transport.“Walk or bike or, as a last resort, use your private car,”Kristian Knudsen, the director-general for personnel, wrote. “The risk of transmission of Covid-19 in public transport is much too high.”
Mass transit systems like trains, metros, and buses are riskier choices for commuting and pose a greater threat of catching a virus because it is next to impossible to avoid the large crowds. One is vulnerable if an infected fellow passenger sneezes or coughs inside compact bogies, stations, buses, and check-in counters. Using common utility facilities like ticketing machines, holding safety handles, pressing lift buttons, arms rests, etc. can be carriers of the virus if it was previously used by an infected person.
Hexlox is on a mission to get people to“Worry Less and Ride More” essentially getting more people out on their bikes and onto the road, streets, tracks, and trails all around the world.That’s the reason for this Top-16 list
A lot of us arecommuting to work every day. Some with the subway, bus, and train, some walk but a growing number of people use their bikes. If you have been commuting by bike for years and years then some of the following tips might be common sense for you. For the rest of us, yes, us :-), read, and perhaps learn a thing or two.
It’s important to feel safe when cycling. While it might seem an easy thing, trust me it’s not. Just getting on the bike and heading out can sometimes be difficult, but it’s great if you are prepared and make sure the dangerous things are avoided. After all, a big part of any commuters journey is shared with cars. And Trucks.
Any commuter’s dream is a quiet lane with enough width to be able to accommodate cyclists in both directions and ample room for overtaking. This is not always the case so here are some tips and tricks to make your commuting by bike safer, easier, and more enjoyable.
1. Get started
Make sure you take time to practice riding a bike. If it’s been a while, then just take out the bike in the area where you live. Just get on it and get comfortable with what it’s like to just ride. A park would be a good spot to get reacquainted with riding again. Practice stopping and changing direction as you definitely will have to do this in a real situation - possibly with lots of other traffic.
Don’t have a bike? Here a few bike brands that we love.
For those of you with kids, dogs, and shopping-after-work to take care of there is the gorgeous cargobikeBullit byLarry&Harry The Bullit has quickly become a familiar sight, hauling all kinds of loads on city streets, all over the world. Here at Hexlox, we have one colleague who rides up to 200 km. every week on a Bullit. And loving it.
If you are in the market for a do-it-all-and-enjoy-it-all bike that can function as a commuter/road/adventure/gravel bike look no further than the Italian-based3T Bike. Gravel riding has been the buzzword for some time and it’s hard not to love the possibilities that come with the wider tires that gravel bikes use. Getting a dedicated gravel bike means that you can truly ride anywhere, from racing your mates on the weekend group ride to rocky backcountry and adventure riding.
2. Do a bike check-up.
Make sure your bike is in order. Take a good look at your bike. Being able to quickly come to a stop whenever you need is of utmost importance. Therefore make sure your brakes are in good condition. Secondly, check the chain. It should be tight. You don't want to have that fall off or slip when you are halfway to work and don't have any other means of transportation close. And it might be raining. Third, make sure the wheels are pumped up and that all normal skewers orsecurity skewers are in good condition and securely in place. Having a wheel come off when riding, it's not fun. Trust us on that one
3. Protect what you love - Always wear a helmet
Always wear a helmet. Period. There is simply no good reason not to. Today's helmets are great looking, extremely comfortable, and yes they are cool. At the office at Hexlox, we have some very happy riders that swear by the HJC’s bike helmets
4. Spice it up - Change your route to work - Every week.
At Hexlox, we like the route building features atKomoot, as well asStrava. Also, well-knownGoogle Maps work well, even if it’s not as bike-centric as the other two. Komoot and Strava work pretty much the same - set a start- and endpoint, and the platform will suggest a route for you - based on other users’ rides. You can of course map your routes manually on both platforms! Plan ahead. Ask other riders about traffic patterns at the hours you ride. Also, talk to the local cycling clubs and indeed ask your friends onFacebook for advice, I'm sure many of them also ride.
5. Ride defensively. Always
You are never alone on the road when you commute. During rush hours there will be plenty of other riders around and some of them will ride faster than you. E-bikes. They are very fast!. There is a good chance they might come up behind you and swish past you, and you didn’t hear/see them coming.Always check you have plenty of space to turn in case there are obstacles, or unexpected traffic, or other cyclists. Also, make sure youalways check your blind spots when turning or coming to crossings.Always look behind you before changing direction.Always assume that someone else will make a mistake or do something unexpected - or even downright dangerous.
6. Make sure people know where you are going
Use hand signals. Use your bell. We believe that the Spur Bell by Spurcycle is the best bicycle bell in the world. It’s beautifully designed with meticulous craftsmanship and the ring tone goes on almost forever. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing... We happen to sell theSpur Bell here on our website 😏 If nothing else works, use your voice. Also, make sure the motorists around you have seen or heard your signals. Always try to make eye contact. If you can see their eyes looking at you, the chance is they also see you. Simple.
7. Protect yourself - and others
Even if the risk of catching COVID while outside, on your bike, is minimal we still wanted to share with you thisUrban Air Mask by Airinum because of pollution & smog, pollen & allergens, and other nasty things…. According to the WHO is air pollution & smogresponsible for 1 in 9 deaths and is the single largest environmental health crisis we face, The Urban Air Mask is KN95 certified and filters out more than 95% of particles down to 0.3μm in size. As a bonus - You’ll look a wee-bit like Bane, the Batman villain, played by Tom Hardy.
8. Be considerate to others
This is of course a no-brainer. We really would like to encourage a respectful and considerate bike culture. Be considerate to others around you - including motorists!. Don’t race others on bike paths - even if it’s tempting when someone passes you. Save racing for more open and wider roads - or the weekend group ride. Strava just rolled out a brand new leaderboard - Local Legends - awarding consistency over speed.“The Local Legend achievement is awarded to the athlete who completes a given segment the most over a rolling 90-day period regardless of pace or speed. Local Legends is currently available for athletes located in the US, UK, France, Spain, Germany, Japan, Brazil, Canada, and Australia.” It’s also nice to give a thumbs-up to a motorist who stopped for you or gave you some extra space passing you. Spread some good vibes. Smile - a lot!
9. Follow the traffic rules.
Red light. Please stop. It’s so easy and you are never in such a hurry that your life is worth it. Never. Make sure you stop when there is a stop sign. Stop at crossings since there might be people walking that can't see you. Always use common sense. If you think it’s a bad idea to do something, then it probably is. Bike in the direction of traffic and stop at red lights. There, I said it again.
10. Make sure people can see you.
Use bike lights. Both front and rear. We like the offerings by Lupine, especially theirSL AF that in our view is perfect for commuting. You can switch between high- and low beams with the press of a button.“With the sensor-controlled daytime running light and glare-free 1000 lumen low beam you're moving safely through the traffic at any time of the day. By pressing the button of your Bluetooth remote you unleash the 1300 lumen high beam and make your bike racing through the most challenging trails.”For a more minimalist approach have a look at Plugger by Knog. Stylish, great visibility, and most importantly both the front and rear lights are fully USB rechargeable. Designed to work with all genres of bicycles from commuters to aero road bikes, the Plugger comes with three different silicone bands for securing it to handlebars, seat stays, and of course, seat posts.
If riding a lot in the dark also consider investing in a reflective vest. It’s not very pretty to have reflection stickers on the wheels, but it works. It’s a very cheap life insurance. Make sure also that cars are always seeing you before you turn and always make sure to be careful when cars are turning right at crossings.
11. Rain, no problem. Just use the right gear.
Rain…. Great 😄
One of the absolute most essential items of clothing - apart from the helmet of course - is a pair of rain pants. You can go for full-length pants of course but here at Hexlox, we love the flexibility and ease of use of theRainLegs which are covering your upper thighs and front - apron style. Easy and super quick to slip in- and out of. As an added plus they now come in a reflective model. Used together with a really good pair of rain over-shoes, like theShawa Overshoes by Pedaled, you will be covered for most wet situations. Just a quick side note. If you get caught in a real downpour on your bike, you will get wet, no matter what you wear.
Another essential piece of gear is theAss Saver Mud Guard. It’s a foldable, extremely lightweight rain- and mudguard that you easily can carry in your back pocket or bag and quickly attach to your bike in case of rain. We love them and it’s an essential piece of kit for all of us here at Hexlox.
12. Invest in a comfortable saddle
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room - your bottom! We recommend you to invest in a comfortable saddle that will help you enjoy your commute. There is nothing worse than a sore behind - this is probably one of the main reasons some people stop commuting. It’s simply no fun. Brooks England is our go-to destination when it comes to saddles and other accessories - for riding in impeccable style. TheBrooks B17 is a timeless, classic saddle that just grows more beautiful the more you ride it. You also might want to check out theSQLabs saddles for their very expertise in ergonomics. SQLabs was the first saddle manufacturer to introduce a system to measure the distance between the sit bones and to calculate the optimal saddle width. All SQlab saddle models are available in up to five different widths.
13. Enjoy it!
It’s very important to like what you do, otherwise, you won’t do it. Get a nice bike if you don't feel like riding the one you have. Make sure its comfortable one and by all means try to get a saddle or seat that makes the whole commute enjoyable. Also, make sure you get a good bike lock for the whole bike and a goodbike component locks. You don't want to come out after work and find yoursaddle has gone or the wheels missing. Then the idea of commuting is not so nice anymore. And who wants to take the train anyhow? Not us :-)
14. A few thoughts on bike style...
For the sartorially minded ones out there we’d like to expand a bit on a few things that will set you apart from the crowd. Your bike looks impeccable with all the right accessories but what about yourself? Today when everyone rides inRapha - (we admit, we do too 😉) there is an argument to make to seek out some less common brands. At Hexlox we love everything Pedaled puts out. Sleek, minimalist Japanese design, expertly manufactured in Italy. One perennial favorite isPedaled’sAttakai Wool Cycling Jacket It strikes that difficult balance of looking good in the office and still function well on the road. Wool.
15. Carrying your stuff
Ortlieb. TheClassic Messenger Backpack that spawned a myriad of copies. Get the original. Helmut Ortlieb started by sewing his own bags, making a pack-container out of red truck tarp on his mother’s sewing machine. That was in 1981. Today all Ortlieb products are manufactured employing a high-frequency welding process and are exclusively manufactured at the company headquarters in Heilsbronn: “Made in Germany” and sold all over the world.
While Ortlieb has a street/messenger/urban vibe going you might want to check out another great brand, with a slightly more adventure-riding/backcountry feel. London basedApidura. They design and manufacture gorgeous looking, ultralight, rackless packing systems that take their love of cycling further, and allow riders all across the globe to unlock their instinct for adventure.
16. You will get a flat. Eventually.
If you ride you eventually will get a flat. Period. Be prepared for that. This is how we deal with those dreaded situations. Always carry these 5 tools in your back pocket or bag.
ASpare Tube - don’t fix a flat on the road. Simply replace the flat tube with your spare and fix it at home, later on. Or simply goTubeless. The tubeless technology has now expanded out from pure MTB and is more and more common in both road and commuting circles. About one-third of us at Hexlox are riding tubeless every day and there is at least one person who is serious about switching. When riding tubeless it will seem that you get fewer flats, but what really happens is that the tubeless tire is actually fixing punctures as they happen and most of the time you will actually not notice!
1-2Tire Levers - You need to use tire levers to open up, or completely remove the tire from the rim.
APatch Kit. Yes, we told you not to fix the flat on the road - but just in case, you could actually get a second flat. It has happened to us. A few times 😠
Compact Pump - TheLezyne Micro Floor Drive HPG. Lezyne develops, designs, and manufactures outstanding tools for bikes. We ride with their gorgeous Micro Floor Drive because we feel this is a must-have item for any commuter. (We ride with this pump in the back pockets of our jerseys) This pump delivers floor pump efficiency - up to 160 Psi/11bar - in a super-compact, hand pump size.
Of course, alternative you can also use aCO2 Pump. A cartridge with a screw-on nozzle. The advantages are smaller size and quicker inflation. Much quicker.
Multi-tool-There are multi-tools and then there are Multi-Tools... We really like theCrankbrothers F10 Multi-Toolbecause it actually turns any emergency repair job on the road into a... pleasurable task, Yes, really! The F10 just works - in a clean minimalist style! It’s small and light and has everything you need for a quick fix on the road.