25 April 2008

Accessories for a chic commuter

Gotta have the right tool for every job. Here's a list that will keep you in good shape.

A Pump
You will be much happier on your bike if you keep the tires correctly inflated. It is amazing how much of a drag a low tire can be, in addition to putting you at a greater risk of punctures. I keep a pump at my office, because no one sees it under my desk and I have more room here than at home.

A Bike Lock
All locks are vulnerable, consider them only to be a deterrent. There are two general types:
  • Cable lock - intrinsically more flexible, faster to cut through
  • U lock - generally stronger, harder to find suitable locking locations
Only you know which lock will meet your specific needs.

A Tool Kit and Spare Tube
I carry a spare tube, and usually a small pump. On occasions when I don't have the pump I'm relying on a kind cyclist with a pump to stop if I'm distressed, but I'd never expect even the kindest of comrades to give me a tube.

For my minimalist tool set I carry plastic tire irons, regular and Phillips screwdrivers, a small adjustable wrench, and a small Allen set. I don't try to patch a tube while dealing with a commute.

Headlights and Taillights
Lights are legally required after dark in Massachusetts, and a good idea wherever you are, laws or not.

The old-fashioned romantic in me would like to be using dynamo hubs to power my lights, but that hasn't happened for me yet ($$). In the meantime I've been very happy with a rear red blinkie and a handlebar mounted headlight. These run on batteries and are very safe. The handlebar light lives in my bike bag when not on the bike. The rear blinkie is mounted on my helmet, so it is theft-protected as well.

A Helmet
My philosophy on helmets is that they don't hurt and they might help. I don't want to live with the regret of not having done all that I could to stay safe in the unfortunate event of an accident. So I wear one. The only difference between an expensive helmet and a cheap one is how it fits, so buy the cheapest helmet that's comfortable on your head.

I love my fenders. I do ride in the rain but I'm more likely to ride right after the rain. My fenders keep the road grime and wet from splashing back up onto me.

A Rack
I have a rear rack on which I clip my bike bag. It also works well for carrying parcels to and from the post office and even bulkier options, like my new living room carpet.

Almost a requirement, bags which attach to your bike allow you to carry things without having them weigh down your back (and arms, and wrists). You can leave them partially packed with tools and a spare tube. They come in many styles depending on your bike and your needs:
  • Rack bags and panniers
  • Handlebar bags
  • Underseat wedges (usually quite small)
There are some lovely bags out there (many profiled on this blog) or you can see the Sartorialist's photo of a woman using her Louis Vuitton as a handlebar bag. Whatever works for you is the perfect bag.

Cycling Clothing
Whatever you happen to be wearing today! (with possible accommodations if you live in a hot climate and your clothes are delicate) Bicycles work just fine with no special clothing.


JPTwins said...

Great list. Great blog.

regarding lighting, i saw this a while back, and unless i find a cheaper set in holland this summer, i'll probably get this: http://velo-orange.com/spsaset.html

I just installed a basket on my bike, and then found this. pretty stylish, and ever so practical. i could also just throw a bag in there, but this site is about begin chic, right?

Geoff (jp, ma)

Charlotte said...

That bag is the coolest! I'd really like to see it in person some day. I might have to get one like yours.
Thank you for the links!

Liz said...

And you need a pleasant sounding bell!

I saw you on the bridge this morning. Come to the bike film screening I'm doing May 12


Charlotte said...

Ooooh fun! Tuesday nights are hard for me, but the evening looks great. Thank you for the invite, and good to see you this morning!

Michelle B. said...

Have you seen these new bags from po campo: http://www.pocampo.com/
They are ultra cute and useful! Thought you might like.

Scott Phillips said...

Hi Charlotte,

I have designed some accessories that I'd like to introduce you to. If you are interested I could send you a sample and you could review them on your blog.

Details are all at:


Kind regards,