It's here! It's here! May is National Bike Month and therefore pretty much our favorite time of the year. Learn about our suggestions for the best gear for bike commuting this month – and beyond.
This is a guest post from Jasmin, one of our brand ambassadors in Chicago. All photos are hers unless otherwise noted.
Why National Bike Month?
In 1956, the League of American Bicyclists declared May to be National Bike Month. And for a reason – May is the harbinger of spring in many places, with the days getting longer and the sun shining a little warmer. Which makes it an excellent time to encourage more people to go on some leisurely bike rides and to try bike commuting.
Image source: League of American Bicyclists
Bike commuting is not only a cost effective way to get to work, multiple studies have shown that people who bike to work are richer, fitter, more successful, and, arguably, happier. Bike commuting has been gaining popularity for several years: From coast to coast, the number of people who traveled to work by bike increased roughly 60 percent over the last decade, with the median commuting time of roughly 20 minutes (US Census Bureau).
While bike commuting is on the rise, women are still underrepresented in the bicycle movement. According to a recent National Household Travel Survey, women made up just 24% of all bicycle trips in the United States. The manifold reasons why riding is still not as widespread under women as it is in men is a topic in itself. One of the main reasons is the perceived danger of commuting in traffic, as well as societal conventions. Luckily, a few brands have identified some factors that keep women from riding to work. I would like to share a few gems that have made my life easier, safer and prettier when it comes to biking to the office.
The Perfect Companion: Po Campo Uptown Bike Trunk Bag
For the longest time I commuted with a regular backpack on my shoulders. Which was not only a sweaty matter, but also didn’t look very business-friendly. Enter the Uptown Bike Trunk Bag. In classic black, it works with most outfits, but it comes in various color ways.
The Uptown Bike Trunk Bag has easily become my favorite bag for riding, and I feel it was developed with a deep understanding of the challenges of a woman commuting to work. I absolutely love the bag's versatility and that it doesn't immediately reveal its double purpose as purse and rack bag. It's a fabulous combination of form and function: It is large enough to carry all essentials, a change of clothing and some lunch items, but not too bulky to be a pretty purse. It has reflective accents and a little sling to attach a rear blinky, because despite all things style - it's safety first. For me, it's the perfect companion for commuting and for running quick errands throughout town.
Protected against Wind and Weather: Rapha Winter Jacket
Image source: Rapha
The weather can be unpredictable despite the best weather apps, so it’s important to come prepared. One of my favorite jackets to ride in is the Rapha Classic Winter Jacket. The Polartec Power Shield Pro fabric is waterproof and wind-resistant, which are both much needed features for commuting. With its breathable fabric and underarm zippers, it is versatile enough for almost all seasons. The jacket has three large pockets on the rear and a separate waterproof pocket for valuables which keeps your phone safe and dry when you get hit by rain on your commute. A stowable drop tail has hi-vis detailing for rides in low light, and reflective elements on the shoulders and cuffs offer further visibility. And, most importantly, the jacket looks classy enough for all office environments.
Visibility – See and be seen: Planet Bike Front and Taillight
Having the right lights for early morning or late night commute is key. The Planet Bike Touch 800 features 5 modes, so you are equipped for all occasions: 800 lm (high), 420 lm (medium), 220 lm (low), Courtesy™ (150-240 lm) and Superflash™ (550lm). Depending on the mode, the run times vary between just over 2 hours to 40 hours. The light has a low battery light that reminds you to recharge, which is easy to do via USB. One of the advantages I enjoy is that it uses a Flex Mount™ mount, so it can be easily swapped between bikes and adjusted without any tools. Add a rear blinky such as the Planet Bike’s SuperFlashUSB and you’re making it really easy for cars to spot you on the road. (Don’t forget to take your lights off when you lock it up, because it also makes it easy to steal!).
RydeSafe Reflective Stickers
I really like visibility, so most of my bike and gear is equipped with RydeSafe reflective stickers. RydeSafe designed their decals to keep cyclists safe at night, because they believe in the bike as a transportation and leisure choice. The stickers are made of engineering-grade “conspicuity film” that contains microscopic glass spheres, which reflect light back to its source. So no matter what direction the light is coming from, the stickers reflect it right back to the source. A few on the spokes, a few on the frame, and some on my helmet and I’m hi-vized up!
If you’re as forgetful as I am, the LUMOS helmet is a real game changer that has won several awards for design and innovation. The LUMOS is not only a full protective helmet, it also integrates both front and rear lights. And what makes this wonderful piece of gear even better is that it allows you to visually communicate with fellow cyclists and drivers around you. After switching on the power button at the back of the helmet, the 60 built in LEDs add predictability on your ride because you can easily signal your turns via the wireless remote on the handlebars. Furthermore, the LEDs automatically detect slowing down via the built in accelerometer and indicate it with a brake light to traffic behind you.
The LUMOS comes in black and white and is water resistant. Both the helmet and the handlebar remote can easily be recharged via USB. A charge usually lasts me a week of commuting, or roughly 6 hours. The only downsize to the LUMOS is that it comes in ONESIZE, and as my head is on the smaller side of things, it is a little big for me - but that also means that it accommodates wearing a thick hat during my winter commutes! If you need another testimonial, check out what Bill Nye Science Guy had to say about the LUMOS on their Kickstarter page as well as the founder’s full tour of the helmet.
Be Heard: Knog Oi Bell
Image source: Knog
Bike bells are probably one of the longest known ways to enhance your commute safety. But they surely don’t have to look and sound old. With Knog’s Oi Bell, you don’t only add a charming sound but also some legitimately beautiful design to your handlebar.
Move save and fast: iSSi pedals
We all run late sometimes. But rather than speeding down the bike lane, I’d rather make my pedal strokes more efficient to get me to work. I use iSSi Flip pedals on my commuter bike. These 2-in1 dual pedals have one side platform pedals so I can commute in my boots/flats/ballerinas, as well as a clipless side that allows for more efficient pedaling (SPD cleats). The Flips come in six color ways to match every bike – naturally, mine are pink.
Jasmin Welter is a dedicated commuter and competitive cyclist and triathlete, riding her mostly pink bikes around Chicagoland year-round. Jasmin is an advocate and ambassador for several initiatives and brands to get more women on bikes. Jasmin writes regularly about new products, women cycling, commuting and more. Follow her on Instagram: @tri.heart and @princess_layup.