A friend of mine who owns a bike shop here in Albuquerque, New Mexico, says his business is booming. He’s put important safety precautions in place to keep everyone healthy but has been flooded with questions and customers. That’s because people are realizing that their old bike, which more than likely gathered dust in the garage, is one of the best ways to get outside responsibly and enjoy some fresh air during the pandemic. Others who’ve never owned one might want to finally give pedaling a try. To help those of you who are either returning to a bike or getting on for the first time, here’s a list of some essential gear that will make your ride safer and more comfortable.
Kali Protectives Therapy Helmet ($100)
Cheap helmets will protect your head, but they’re often uncomfortable, hot, and hard to adjust. That’s why I suggest the Therapy, which isn’t stupid expensive and comes with features that make it much easier to wear. It’s one of the comfiest helmets I’ve ever used, thanks to a deep head cup and a micro-adjuster on the rear headband that provides a precise fit. Tons of vents dump heat on hot days, and the chin strap stays in place and never rubs. Kali also uses a low-density layer of foam that helps cut down on the impact your head is subject to in crashes.
Bontrager Ion Elite R Front Bike Light ($100)
You should always ride with lights on—even during the day (it’s been proven that daytime lights can prevent cars from running into you). I like the Elite R because it costs just a Benjamin and beams 1,000 lumens, or enough light to help drivers see you from over a mile away, even at high noon. At night it’s bright enough to light up the street or a bike path so you can cruise at full speed. Mounting it to your handlebars is a cinch with its robust, easy-to-adjust clip. Match the Elite R with Bontrager’s Flare R rear light, which can also be seen from the same distance during the day.
Velocio Men’s Foundation Bib Shorts ($129)
You might think bib shorts are overkill for a short ride or a work commute. They’re not. I wear bib shorts if I’m on a bike for longer than ten minutes. Why? Because the padded chamois makes sitting on your saddle twice as comfortable, and the sleek fit cuts down on chafing. This pair is more expensive than some other options, but I think Velocio makes the best bib shorts in the business, thanks to a precise fit and high-quality materials that breathe well. If you don’t want to look like a Tour de France cyclist on your ride, slip on a pair of overshorts (see below).
Chrome Union Short 2.0 ($110)
I’ll admit it: I’m vain when I’m on my bike. I don’t want to look like someone who’s out to win a European race. And if I want to stop for a to-go coffee, I don’t want to walk around in just bike bibs. That’s why I always wear the Union 2.0 over them. Made from durable, four-way-stretch nylon and spandex—and sewn with a gusseted crotch—they move well and never slow me down. They also come with many useful features, including a zippered phone pocket, a rear one big enough to carry a mini U-lock, and a reflective hit on the back hip that helps drivers see me at night. Paying more than $100 for a pair of shorts may seem ridiculous, but they’re great off the bike, too, so the value is there.
Hiplok DX Wearable Keyed U-Lock ($90)
U-locks are the safest way to protect your bike. I’m a fan of this one because the bar is made of a 14-millimeter hardened steel that will ward off all but the most determined thieves. (If someone does decide to hack through it, they’ll need serious time to finish the job.) At about six inches long, the locking bar is easy to get around your frame and the fattest bike rack. The keys it comes with are easy to use and don’t require any jiggling or finesse. If you don’t ride with a backpack, the DX comes with a sturdy plastic clip that slides through your belt and allows you to confidently carry the lock on the back of your shorts.
Patagonia Men’s Capilene Cool Trail Bike Henley ($55)
You can bike in any shirt, but this one will feel the best, I promise. That’s the work of Patagonia’s Capilene material, a recycled polyester that wicks sweat quickly to keep you drier and less stinky. (The textile treatment that fights odor also allows you to use the shirt a couple times in a row without washing.) Patagonia designed this Henley for riding a bike, with a longer hem that covers your back and butt when you’re bent over the handlebars.