The rapid expansion of bike-sharing services, partnered with a renewed dedication to making the city streets of the county more bike-friendly, has created a seven-nation army of cyclists that hasn’t been seen in the States since … forever. And this growth is (finally) happening mainly because it’s easier for the masses to clue into a few central facts about biking—namely that it’s often faster than other forms of commuting, and it’s always more invigorating. To help outfit the uninitiated, here’s a handful of must-haves that offer weather protection, in-the-saddle assistance, and the mixture of stylish sophisticated required in today’s modern, multi-purpose work world.
Tejvan Pettinger, CC BY
1. Chrome Industries Kurst Pro 2.0, $95; 2. Fix It Sticks, $30; 3. North St. Morrison, $189; 4. Mission Workshop Sanction, $205; 5. Club Ride Cog Jeans, $95; 6. Arc’teryx A2B Commuter Jacket, $225; 7. Kitsbow Icon Shirt, $195.
Nathan Borchelt is a gear-obsessed travel writer and adventurer whose collection of shoes, backpacks, jackets, bags, and other “essential” detritus has long-outgrown his one-bedroom apartment (and his wife’s patience).
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Chrome Industries Kurst Pro 2.0
Chrome Industry's SPD-compatible sneakers have been the go-to footwear for discerning urban cyclists who love the control of clicking into their pedals but don't want to sound like a tap dancer (or look like they're racing the Tour de France) when they're off the bike. The original aesthetic is kept with the Kurst Pro 2.0s, but they've been bolstered with "Flexplate" technology that's more than just market-speak—they're stiff enough for solid power transfer when you pedal, but are flexible enough to walk around comfortably for several hours at happy hour. Some users have reported premature wear-and-tear at the heel, but a season of rigorous testing hasn't replicated the issue. And if you're not down with clipping into your pedals, the non SPD-compatible shoes still offer a nice amount bike-friendly stiffness without making you walk like Frankenstein's monster.
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Fix It Sticks
Commuting typically means you're always about a dozen or so blocks away from a decent bike shop, but having the right tools on-hand may save you from a long slog (or calling your best friend…or Uber). In addition to a tube and pump, the Fix It Stick might be the best-designed minimal multi-tool to have on your person. The modular dual T-handle tool breaks down for easy packing and weighs only 55 grams. Standard configurations include four different tools, typically hex wrenches, along with a Philips-head or a torx; select the one to best suite your rig, and roadside quick fixes are a breeze.
Fix It Sticks
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North St. Morrison
This pack easily converts from pannier to backpack, thanks to twin shoulder straps that slip inside the back panel, making it easy to transition from the road to the boardroom. The pack is made from military-grade 1000-denier Cordura nylon (read: strong), with a signature drop liner (read: waterproof), with a drawstring and flaptop closure, a zippered front pouch, side pockets, reflective highlights, and a variety of different colorways, from peacock to minimalist. No rack? Score one from Blackburn for $30.
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Mission Workshop Sanction
Prefer backpack over the rack-and-pannier set-up? Try the Sanction. This bomber 20-liter backpack provides enough space to carry your day-long needs—shoes, clothes, your gym kit—along with a nice front pocket ideal for a U-lock. Inside you'll find a waterproof liner, a zippered back pocket that can accommodate 15-inch laptops, as well as two smaller zip-secure pockets, one that's a bit deeper, the other perfect for quick-grab items like a wallet or phone. The color palate is varied, with everything form burnt orange to dusty green to all black.
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Club Ride Cog Jeans
Unlike some cycle-specific jeans, the Cogs don't add extra stitching or patches of fabric across the saddle's touchpoints—probably because they tried it and realized it wasn't all that great when you're not riding your bike. Instead, they rely on the formidable strength of the 12-oz denim that breaths nicely and—thanks to 1% Lycra—comes with performance-friendly two-way stretch. The gusset crotch means you aren't sitting on any seams, which makes pedaling more comfortable and should protect the Cog from saddle wear. Articulated knees help to amplify movement, and reflective patches at the underside of the legs keep you visible, as does a stretch of reflective fabric at the the leg pocket, which is sizeable enough to fit a larger smart phone…and possibly a bit too noticeable for the full-on fashion obsessed. You decide.
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Arc'teryx A2B Commuter Jacket
As the A2B illustrates, soft shells make perfect commuting outer layers. The fabric repels the all the water, dirt, and wind you'll typically encounter when biking to work, but it breathes better and stretches more than your hard shell waterproof/breathable jacket. The woman's A2B ups the game a bit more, with tuck-away reflection details on the collar and cuff, a zippered back pocket, and a sly wrap-around collar and zipper the slices at a diagonal, stopping just at the collar bone to make it easy to dump heat—or snap the collar into place. Note: the men's version only comes in a Gore-Tex hard shell model, and runs $399.
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Kitsbow Icon Shirt
The Icon is the traditional flannel reinvented. It employs plush wool from the heritage company Pendleton and layers with panels of Schoeller 3X Dry at the shoulders and elbows to fight abrasion from your pack straps and the occasional brush with the S9 bus line. The articulated sleeves and cuffs fold out seamlessly to offer full protection when bent over in a crouch, but they recede for a look and feel of an everyday shirt, ideal for hiking and countless après activities. And it'll last through several seasons of serious abuse, which makes the high price point more reasonable.