Many people who live frugal lifestyles swear by alternative transportation. They ride mass transit. They commute by bicycle. They walk. Many don’t even own a car.

Summer is approaching. Maybe you have considered biking to work. But what sort of gear do you need? An AskMetafilter user wondered the same thing:

What’s the essential gear for bike commuting? I’ll be commuting to work by bike, and I’d like to know what’s considered the essential gear, especially clothes. I live in Vancouver, and it rains here. I plan to leave most of my office clothes at work, but what products can people recommend to stay dry on the road? Finally, what else is indispensable on your ride to work?

User eriko provided a fantastic answer, which is indispensable reading for anyone who is interested in bicycle commuting. He recommends the following:

  • Fenders
  • Big road tires — not knobby mountain bike tires, nor the narrow road slicks, but something in-between: a fat road slick for shock absorption.
  • An extra tube.
  • A piece of gauze — use this to check the inside of your tire whenever you get a flat.
  • A tire boot — which can apparently be made from a dollar bill.
  • Lights — if you’re going to be riding after dark, these are a necessity. They’ll save your life. And they’re required by law in many places.
  • Reflectors — these don’t replace lights, but they can complement them. Reflective tape or a reflective vest work best.
  • Tools — only the basics: tire change kit, patch kit, a pump, and tools for important bike fasteners (a collapsable hex usually works).
  • Locks — a U-lock and a cable lock.
  • Bike cover — in case it rains. (I’ve used a plastic garbage bag in the past.)
  • Helmet, gloves, and perhaps a sweatband.
  • Pack towel and a bar of soap — you’ll need these from time-to-time.
  • A rear rack makes it easier to carry all of this gear: get a rack bag or panniers.

For a decade, I lived in a small town only 5.8 miles from my place of employment (which is located in the middle of the country). During the summer, I would often bike to work through rolling hills, green nurseries, and farmland. This served several purposes: it helped me stay fit, it assuaged my liberal guilt, and it helped me save money.

In addition to eriko’s suggestions, I always carried some spare change, some nutrition bars, a compact bike repair manual, and a cheap camera. Obviously, the latter is not a necessity, but it came in handy on several occasions.

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