Gear / Accessories
The right add-ons might cost 10-20% what your bike cost, but make it 10x more useful.
Before I e-biked, I lived out of a backpack while in+around the city. Getting that weight off of me and onto the bike while in transit has been a huge improvement. The options for letting the bike roll things along with you – from "a purse" up to "several suitcases" – are worth exploring.
Here are a few bags/mounts I put on basically every bike:
For carrying substantial weight or bulk, a back-wheel rack is the platform you build on. Front baskets/racks also range in size, and can significantly add to your carrying capacity.
- my Tern has a super heavy duty "Atlas" rack that can hold 2 panniers as well as a giant Market Basket; I also put a smaller "holdem basket" on the front, for maximum grocery capacity.
- I got great use out of a Topeak "Explorer" rack on my main non-electric bike (if not buying from the same brand that made your bike, you have to check a little more that things are compatible).
There are a lot of incredible bags you can put on your bike. Panniers are the workhorses, but Revelate in particular offers dozens of bag shapes you can put basically anywhere else on your bike based on where they fit and how much capacity you want:
this is the bike version of SUV commercials that show ridiculous off-roading the average SUV-owner will never do
Revelate image of a dirty touring bike with may bags attached all over
I bought 1 (or 6) of nearly every bag they offer (see my Creo bikepacking setup), and typically mix-and-match which bags make the most sense on which bikes for a given ride.
Getting weight off of you (esp. your back!) and onto the bike – where it just rolls – is an amazing part of getting around by bike (as opposed to walking or other transit modes where you may sometimes wind up standing).
Panniers are bags you can attach to a rack on the back of your bike, and are a great way to haul stuff by bike:
VanMoof X3 outside apartment building with 2 Ortlieb panniers on the back rack
Tern Vektron Q9 in elevator with two full panniers and front and rear baskets with grocery bags
I've tested a few kinds:
- Ortlieb Back-Roller Classics ($190/pair, 40L ea) are a well-regarded set that I've had the best experience with.
- I ordered VanMoof panniers (€78/pair, 18L ea) for my VanMoof, but they haven't arrived yet, and the Ortliebs fit and work well (and are larger), so I'm not sure I'll need them.
- I also have a set of Banjo Brothers Market Panniers ($120/pair, 24L ea) that I've never really gotten in to using.
Biking on 6th Ave with battery in feedbag charging phone mounted on handlebars
Between them, I'll carry a battery that charges my phone while riding (and sometimes other fun lights, GoPro batteries, etc.), a glasses case, tissues/chapstick/hand-warmers/snacks ("it's like a deli up here", someone who borrowed my bike said recently), airpods, extra masks, resealable zip ties, etc. They are easily opened and closed with one hand, work on pretty much any bike, and are easy to transfer b/t bikes). Very useful.
The Revelate Mag-Tank 2000 (and earlier/smaller Mag-Tank) are great bags that can sit on top of your top tube and hold lots of good stuff. Sometimes I'll have one up front and another at the base of my seat, and between them store wallet/keys, cable lock, full flat-change kit (tire levers + spare tubes, CO₂ cartridge, multi-tool, patch-kit), etc. They're also easily openable/closeable with one hand, and the magnetic clasp is nice.
I have used Revelate's 8L "Terrapin" bag and 16L "Spinelock" bag; both are great, especially for bulky but lightweight items like clothes.
There's no substitute for secure bike parking infrastructure, but some locks I use that I think are basically good enough for occasional, short, daytime outdoor parking in NYC:
Other lock systems worth noting:
People that have to lock bikes outside in cities can use stronger locks – like Kryptonite's "New York Fahgettaboudit" line – and heavy chains. However, these are heavy, and can still be cut by thieves with angle-grinders and time (especially overnight, having observed bikes locked in the same place every night).
Bike theft is clearly organized crime in many cities, but is not something law enforcement seems to spend much energy on. Increasing cooperation between national bike registries, bike insurers, and bike- and lock-manufacturers (adding location-tracking to bikes and even sending their own teams to find them) will hopefully improve this in the future.
I fear theft but I purchased an insurance policy from Velosurance. This helps me sleep at night; as long as I've locked the bike to a fixed object, I'm covered. You should think about it.
My monthly quotes were around 1/300th the bike's cost, or 4% / 1/25th per year, which was cheaper than I expected! Thankfully, I haven't had to use it yet, but having it has given me peace of mind.
- Bells: this $6 Amazon bell has worked well for me 3x. I also got a Spurcycle ($49) after hearing that it is the best, but I think I prefer the Amazon one 🤷🏼♂️.
cockpit view of Creo roadbike with mirror attached to end of left drop-bar
I wear a Lumos light-up helmet on all my rides. In the past, I used this more compact+lightweight Giro helmet, which I would clip onto a backpack and take on the subway, into the office, etc.
Having my phone mounted up front on my handlebars has been surprisingly useful. I typically have Google Maps' turn-by-turn directions or Strava's speedometer up while riding:
Chest-cam shot of phone mounted on handlebars displaying a Google Map, another e-biker is in front, and the George Washington Bridge is in the background
When getting started, you're mostly riding in areas you're less familiar with. Having the map handy helps to not feel lost or get lost, as well as to e.g. find detours if a road doesn't feel safe.
I've exclusively used Quad Lock handlebar phone mounts (the Wirecutter's choice) and associated phone cases. They are good products, though a bit pricier than I'd expect: $60 "out front PRO" mount, $10 black plastic "lever" (you'd think you could just replace the included blue one for free…), $30 for a compatible phone case ⟹ $100/bike, and I've outfitted 5 bikes at this point! One-hand releasing is easy and convenient, but getting the right angle to rotate the phone into the mount still takes me a minute (I expect I'll get better at that over time).
You want a white "headlight" facing forward and a red taillight facing backward. There are many options and they're mostly all good. Here are some I've used and like:
- KNOG (set) ($29): front+rear, very convenient; plug lights directly in to any USB-A port to charge, easy to clip them to things. Good backups to keep in a bag
Brompton Electric with cheap Amazon party lights, waiting for ferry
One of my "leg-bikes" with disco lights illuminating pavement around it
Image of bike with color-changing lights along wheels and frame
In warmer months, I wear "MOREOK" gloves ($17) on most rides. Some light gel-padding is nice on hands/wrists during longer rides.
In colder months, Brooks LSD Thermal Gloves ($50) are great touchscreen gloves with retractable, waterproof mitten covers. I can use my phone at like 90% with them, but they're also pretty warm with mitten covers pulled over. I've used them below freezing (mid/high 20ºF's) by putting hand warmers in the palm or mitten cover parts; wearing them inside pogies is an even warmer+easier setup. They're very light and easily crumple/fold into small pocket spaces, so I keep them on me ≈6mos/yr.
I often wear BALEAF padded bike shorts ($29); padded shorts seemed a little silly at first, but they're pretty good for biking but also misc other outdoor activities. I got some baggy swimsuit-style padded shorts and some spandex-y ones like this, and liked the latter better. The pockets on these are great as well. As it cooled down, I would wear them over tights.
I got some Clever Hood "Rover" Capes and they seem good, though I haven't used them a ton / haven't 100% integrated them into my routine yet. People I follow swear by them, and I basically get the vision of a well-designed + reliable "protection from wind+elements" system. They pack down well, so I bring them along as mix of a rain / optional-warmth layer sometimes.
I grew up in Miami and have bad hands/feet circulation. I don't like the cold and I'm bad at it. Biking in cold weather (let alone cold rain/snow) generally sounds miserable to most people.
I think people think it's colder in greater NYC more of the time than it is. January is the coldest month in NYC (avg daily hi/lo 39°/26°F); for sure there are days and times when it is annoying to go out, but for the price of a couple car payments you can move that from "days under 50°F" (several months of the year) to "days under 30°F" (odd days here and there).
In the winter, cars often function as "2 ton, internal combustion parkas". Clearly they maximize internal comfort for riders, but they also externalize a variety of costs. It turns out it's not that hard to keep warm in most situations while traveling more efficiently.
This winter I discovered heated gloves, and they are amazing (though also less necessary once I got pogies):
- VELAZZIO Thermo1 Battery Heated Gloves ($90-10%):
- These are my go-tos: charge via USB-C, sleek form factor, good warmth.
- Below freezing (and without pogies), I wear them over my thin Brooks gloves, and put them on high.
- Sizes run large (I got a "S" for my wife (5'4") but they ended up fitting me (6')), underside of button can borderline-overheat against bare hand on "high" setting
- LUWATT Heated Gloves ($50): good all-around, but became backups/loaners for me behind the Velazzio's above (a bit bulkier?)
- Volt WOMENS 7V ALL PURPOSE HEATED GLOVES ($150): after the "S" Velazzio's were huge, I found this higher-end brand that made me believe their palm measurements etc. were actually accurate. Size "S" does fit women 5'2"-5'4" I ride with. They generally seem sleek and good.
This ARRIS Heated Vest ($139 - $10 coupon; also women's version) is an excellent accessory, and dramatically changes what it's like to go out in the cold:
- 3 independent heat toggles for chest, stomach, and back+neck, and 5 heat levels on each.
- Comfortable, feels high-quality.
- Great zippered-pocket design.
Pushing buttons on the vest lets you control your core temperature across a ≈50ºF range without carrying bulky layers, and the 4 pockets are really useful. Highly recommended.
I started with these neoprene ODIER's and found them to be a revelation. Later I upgraded to these fleece ODIER's and they are incredibly warm and nice. My hands always limit how cold I can be outside, and these completely solved that problem (I rode comfortably down to about 20℉; and other things start to limit me at that point).
I have a 40-pair box of disposable hand warmers, and keep 3 pairs in a side pocket of my handlebar bags when it's cold out (just in case). They're a good fail-safe if heated gloves or socks aren't enough (or you didn't think you'd need them). Supposedly you can "recharge" them with boiling water, so as to avoid single-use waste, though I've not tried that.
I film basically all my ride with 2 GoPros: one chest-mounted and one rear-facing, seat-rail mounted. They're mostly a nice-to-have safety measure (though presumably only useful if something truly horrible happens 😔), but some of my rides also feel like incredible ways to see the city, and I am working on processing+sharing them in ways that convey that. They're also useful for mundane documentation of road conditions, filing 311 tickets, etc.
One day last winter, I lost a glove on a ride, and was able to find on my tapes where it had popped out of my front basket.
Cockpit view showing extra glove falling out of basket onto road while hitting a pothole
We went back the next day, and someone had put it up more visibly:
Lost glove on a mailbox near where it was lost
My GoPros are a Hero 9 and a Hero 8, and I choose which one faces forward vs. backward each ride (rear-cam gets good front-on shots of people I'm riding with, so sometimes I'll put the higher-quality Hero 9 back there, otherwise I face it forward to get the best shots of what I'm seeing). The Hero 9 is the latest GoPro, and seems noticeably better than the Hero 8; it has a bigger battery, supposedly better stabilization, and can sit on my desk with no battery in for longer before resetting its date+time to 1/1/2016. Both are much better than the Hero 5 Session I started with.
I have ended up with 5 batteries and 2 2-battery chargers for each of my GoPros (this 3x-USB-C cable is handy):
GoPro Hero 8 and 9 cameras and 5 batteries – including 2 2-battery chargers – for each
I get ≈90mins of film time per battery at 1080p24, so swapping batteries on longer rides is common. It's a bit annoying to have to pay attention to, but I guess it also ensures I don't go too long without a break / sip of water.
My chest harness came in this $30, 50pc gear kit, and my seat-rail mount involves several more adapters than one might hope:
Schematic of a seat-rail GoPro mount and various adapters to give me a permanent "quick-release" buckle on my bikes, that I can quickly clip cameras into and out of