GUIDE TO COMMUTER BIKES AND GEAR

Tips on choosing a bike and essential gear to improve your commute.

Having the right bike and gear ensures that you have a more comfortable and enjoyable ride, increasing your safety on the road. The right gear can transform your bike from a leisure vehicle into a savvy year-round mode of transport.

CHOOSING YOUR BIKE

Choose a bike that complements your lifestyle – where you want to ride it (e.g. off road or on road) and what you want to use it for (e.g. commuting or racing). The kind of bike you so choose should reflect your preferred riding style: positioning, gears, etc… and be suitable for the majority of journeys you intend to make. Although you can commute on any bike as long as it is good working order, each bike comes with its own set of benefits. Here is what to look for:

COMFORT

Choose a bike that fits you properly, ask your local bike shop for advice on bike fit. An incorrectly sized bike can cause muscle fatigue and discomfort. If you are new to cycling you may find it more comfortable to commute on a hybrid, touring or mountain bike as their relaxed geometry and fatter tires absorb the bumps. Their additional gears also help when carrying cargo or when dealing with hilly terrain.

COST

You don’t have to spend the earth to get a great commuter bike. Many bike shops offer second hand bikes, fixies and vintage bikes that make super commuter bikes.

K.I.S.S

Sometimes bikes have lots of extra features (e.g. front and rear suspension) that may be unnecessary for the kind of journeys you intend to make. Keep it simple.

RELIABILITY

Always ensure that your bike is in good repair before you hit the road. Learn how to do a basic bike check and keep your new best friend well maintained.

 

 

ESSENTIAL GEAR & TOOLS

The right gear can transform any bike from a leisure vehicle into a savvy year-round mode of transport. These essential items not only keep you safe on the roads or trail, but some of them are necessary to ensure that you comply with South African bicycle legislation *.

HELMET*

A helmet won’t stop accidents from happening but can provide some protection to your head in case of a fall or crash. In South Africa, helmets are required by law. Always buy a new helmet and check it’s adjusted properly and fits comfortably. Replace your helmet after a crash or impact.

BELL

Use a bell when cycling on shared paths to let pedestrians know you’re approaching.

LIGHTS & REFLECTORS*

When cycling in the dark or in low light, you’re required by law to have a white light on the front and a red light on the rear as well as a front white reflector and a rear red reflector. Check batteries and replace them as soon as the light begins to dim.

FENDERS

Mudguards /fenders help keep rain, dirt and mud off of your legs and can be easily fitted to your bike in wet weather.

LOCK

Keep your bike safe and secure with a reliable, strong lock (like a U-lock or a heavy duty chain lock). Secure both wheels, frame and other components if they can be easily removed. Find out how to lock your bike properly.

TOOLKIT

Be prepared carry the right tools with you so that you can do basic repairs. A pump, puncture repair kit or spare inner tube and tire levers can be used to keep your tires well inflated and fix any punctures. Learn how to fix your own bike – view our online resources and/or join a bike maintenance and repair course.

MIRROR

Fitting a bicycle mirror to your bicycle will help you monitor traffic without constantly having to look behind you when turning or changing lanes.

CARRYING STUFF & KIDS

There are lots of options when it comes to carrying stuff on your bike. What you choose will depend on the weight of the cargo, length of the journey and your riding style. If you would like to carrying your kids on your bicycle, make sure that you have the right equipment make your ride together safe, comfortable and enjoyable.

REAR RACK & PANNIERS

This setup works is best if you are carrying heavier loads or making longer or more regular journeys. For really heavy loads bike trailers also work well.

BACKPACKS & MESSENGER BAGS

These are good for carrying light loads, but they can make you hot and can put strain on your shoulders. Instead of carrying your backpack, strap it onto a bike rack, or place in a basket on the front to enable quick and easy access to items.

BASKETS & HANDLEBAR BAGS

Baskets/ crates come in a variety of materials (ie: wire, wicker, etc. even plastic milk crates can be used as inexpensive baskets) and can either be detachable or mounted permanently. Soft handle bar bags also make for good carrying solution.

KIDS ON BOARD

There are many different types of child bike seats, carries and trailers available. When it comes to choosing, there are a few factors that influence your decision – budget, age of your child, where you plan to ride and of course your bike type and setup. Find out more about cycling with kids.

BIKE CLOTHING – WHAT TO WEAR?

For most short, local cycling trips there is no need to wear special cycling clothing – everyday clothes work just fine! Depending on your ride, you can even cycle in smart or work clothes, provided they give you enough freedom to pedal and don’t cause chaffing or irritation. Follow these tips to stay comfortable on your ride throughout the year:

EVERYDAY CLOTHING HACKS

If your bike doesn’t have a chain guard, you can keep your pants away from the chain by rolling up your pant leg or using a leg band. Bike shorts can worn alone or under another pair of lightweight shorts or even a skirt. If you are cycling in a dress you can stop your skirt flying up or getting caught in the bike by using this handy cycling in a skirt hack.

FOOTWEAR

Shoes that are good for walking are also great for cycling. It is best to wear closed shoes to protect your feet. MTB cycling shoes are a great option for longer rides as they allow you to comfortably walk when off the bicycle. For very short trips slip-slops or sandals can be worn, but watch out for your toes.

TECHNICAL APPAREL

For those looking for commuter wear with more technical features, like breathe ability, elasticity or reflective or waterproof, then there are a range of local apparel manufactures and importers who stock everything from rain gear to stylish commuter wear.

RIDING AT NIGHT

Make yourself visible to other road users. Wear bright colors and reflective gear (vests or jackets) when riding at night or in rainy or overcast conditions. Vests are a cheap solution and can be easily stored in your bag; and reflective bands for ankles and sleeves also work well.

COLD WEATHER

Wear layers to keep warm. Gloves and ear muffs are particularly helpful.

WET WEATHER

Don’t let a little rain stop you from riding. Waterproof and breathable fabrics keep you comfortable and dry. Look for waterproof cycling jackets and pants or cycling poncho. Wear bright colors and reflective gear to be visible. Find out more about riding in the rain…

HOT WEATHER

When it’s hot, wear light colors and fabrics that wick and breathe easily. Skip the backpack. Fit a rack and get some panniers to carry stuff. Sunglasses (or clear glasses at night) work well to protect your eyes from dust and sun. Find out more about staying cool in the heat…

ON LONGER RIDES

Cycling jerseys work to pull moisture away from your skin, keeping you cool. They also have pockets on the back for food, tools, and money. Cycling shorts provide cushioning. Bike gloves help spread pressure across your palms and protect your hands from a fall.


SHOP FOR BIKES & GEAR

  • Author Posts
Director & Founder of BICYCLE SOUTH
Cape Town based designer & bicycle activist, Leonie is passionate about sustainability and green living. When she is not busy advocating for bicycle cities or blogging on Cape Town’s bicycle culture, you’ll find her adventuring beyond the city limits on her steel frame touring bike.
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Director & Founder of BICYCLE SOUTH
Cape Town based designer & bicycle activist, Leonie is passionate about sustainability and green living. When she is not busy advocating for bicycle cities or blogging on Cape Town’s bicycle culture, you’ll find her adventuring beyond the city limits on her steel frame touring bike.

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