Author Topic: Need some input on which bicycle equipment to buy for commuting to work  (Read 7336 times)

decessus

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So I bought a hybrid bike to start commuting to work, roughly 6-7 miles each way.  I'll be bringing:

1)  a lunch with a small tupperware container
2)  hot coffee
3)  my work folder / leather portfolio
4)  a change of clothes (business casual), including dress shoes

I was thinking of buying a rack and bag to carry this stuff:

1) Which rack should I buy? $12.99 Panier or $39.99 Topeak rack?
2)  Which bag should I buy? Topeak MTX trunk rack @ $80 or Roswheel Panier black @$11.90?

Obviously the mustachian way is to buy the cheapest yet highest quality good you can buy, but I've found that sometimes if you buy too cheaply you lose out on quality, so I'm looking for some advice to strike that right balance.

Thank you so much, this forum is great!

CanuckExpat

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Re: Need some input on which bicycle equipment to buy for commuting to work
« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2014, 12:07:57 AM »
I don't have experience with either of those, but unless you need it for a reason like quick on and off, I would avoid a rack that clips on to the seat-post. Get one that attaches to your frame eyelets (assuming you have them). Topeak is a well known brand, and if you buy their rack, you can use their proprietary quick-clips bags, which are probably slightly more convenient, but you will pay a price for the convenience.

For what it's worth, this is the rack I use: Delta Cycle Ultra Megarack , I bought it from Amazon in April 2011 (I think because it was the cheapest they had) and it has held up fine. It was a little bit of a PITA to put together, but no major problems since then.

I sometimes just use it with a cargo net: http://amzn.to/MmsThK
But usually with a Seattle Sports Titan Pannier Bike Bag, I bought this much cheaper at REI, but it seems to be one and off in-stock: http://www.rei.com/product/800388/seattle-sports-titan-panniers-pair-special-buy

GuitarStv

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Re: Need some input on which bicycle equipment to buy for commuting to work
« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2014, 07:32:15 AM »
Axiom Journey rear racks are cheap, sturdy, durable, light, and easy to install.  They're a great rear rack.  It will work fine with most panniers.  http://www.amazon.com/Axiom-Journey-Tubular-Alloy-Black/dp/B002994ES4

You might want to check out some Wald folding baskets rather than panniers.  They attach to the rear rack and then can be pulled out in a second or two when you want to stuff things in there.  You can easily stick a backpack or cloth grocery bag full of crap into one.  http://www.amazon.com/Wald-Folding-Bicycle-Grocery-Baskets/dp/B007FRCIDI/ref=sr_1_2?s=sporting-goods&ie=UTF8&qid=1407763662&sr=1-2&keywords=wald+folding+baskets  The only downside is that they're a little bit heavy, (also I managed to mangle mine in a bike crash . . . but that's not  really their fault).

hybrid

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Re: Need some input on which bicycle equipment to buy for commuting to work
« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2014, 07:44:15 AM »
Axiom Journey rear racks are cheap, sturdy, durable, light, and easy to install.  They're a great rear rack.  It will work fine with most panniers.  http://www.amazon.com/Axiom-Journey-Tubular-Alloy-Black/dp/B002994ES4

You might want to check out some Wald folding baskets rather than panniers.  They attach to the rear rack and then can be pulled out in a second or two when you want to stuff things in there.  You can easily stick a backpack or cloth grocery bag full of crap into one.  http://www.amazon.com/Wald-Folding-Bicycle-Grocery-Baskets/dp/B007FRCIDI/ref=sr_1_2?s=sporting-goods&ie=UTF8&qid=1407763662&sr=1-2&keywords=wald+folding+baskets  The only downside is that they're a little bit heavy, (also I managed to mangle mine in a bike crash . . . but that's not  really their fault).

I second this. And by heavy Guitarstv means a few pounds, not that big of a deal in the long term. I have two of these and usually use just one, but it's awfully nice having the second one available when I need it. Here are a few things I do that might help you, I commute 7.5 miles each way.

On off days when I have to drive to work for some reason I take advantage of the opportunity to haul as much stuff to and/or from work as needed (like Coke Zero, which I drink entirely too much of). Instead of packing a complete change of clothes each day I typically have several pairs of pants and shoes at work already. This helps quite a bit. If you pack your lunch days in advance bring it in on these off days when you can.

Keep a small pantry of food at work. This morning I had a dental appointment and cycling was out, and I don't have my typical jar salads for lunch this week. I have multiple cans of soup and granola bars already in place, so there is no scrambling for something to eat, there is always a backup.

gt7152b

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Re: Need some input on which bicycle equipment to buy for commuting to work
« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2014, 08:23:50 AM »
Those trunk racks are too small for what you need to carry. Get a good set of water resistant panniers if that's not enough storage add a trunk later.

GuitarStv

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Re: Need some input on which bicycle equipment to buy for commuting to work
« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2014, 10:24:49 AM »
I wouldn't pay extra for water resistant panniers myself.  I put clothes or electronics in plastic grocery bags inside my panniers right now (used to be inside my Wald baskets) and everything stays dry just fine without paying a premium.

Ashyukun

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Re: Need some input on which bicycle equipment to buy for commuting to work
« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2014, 10:48:38 AM »
I've got Topeak racks on the back of both my commuter bikes and on my wife's bike, and use a set of waterproof Axiom panniers I picked up when I first started commuting on the bike 7 years or so ago. They've held up incredibly well, and it's just easier knowing I can just stuff everything in and close the bags up and everything will stay dry vs. worrying about packing everything in plastic bags.

TrMama

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Re: Need some input on which bicycle equipment to buy for commuting to work
« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2014, 12:14:33 PM »
I've been biking to work for years and I'd like to humbly suggest that you leave your shoes at work. Chances are, you only ever wear them there and won't miss them when you're home. Shoes are big and heavy and are frankly a PITA to haul back and forth. Dress shoes are also easily scuffed from being packed every day.

I'd also skip transporting coffee to work. Surely coffee is provided for free? If not, brew your own in a small french press once you get there.

I only pack my clothes and lunch and therefore don't need to bother with either a rack or panniers.

Dascmo

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Re: Need some input on which bicycle equipment to buy for commuting to work
« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2014, 12:24:09 PM »
I've been bike commuting for 20 years, and I agree with TrMama! Make your load as light as possible, and carry it in a bright colored backpack or courier bag with plenty of reflective material. Save some money to get some high quality (bright yellow) fenders, bright raingear, and good waterproof hiking/biking shoes.

If you are really going to use this stuff spend what it takes to get high quality gear you will enjoy using. Buying from local shops with good service, or from REI / LL Bean with their great warranty policies, is the best way to go IMHO.

decessus

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Re: Need some input on which bicycle equipment to buy for commuting to work
« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2014, 08:06:07 PM »
Thanks everyone for all the suggestions so far - yes, work has coffee available, so I won't have to carry that, though sometimes I like that Starbucks ;)  I found this review http://bicycletouringpro.com/blog/axiom-journey-tubular-alloy-rack/ and decided I don't need the Topeak for commuting.

Eric

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Re: Need some input on which bicycle equipment to buy for commuting to work
« Reply #10 on: August 13, 2014, 08:38:15 PM »
I've been bike commuting for 20 years, and I agree with TrMama! Make your load as light as possible, and carry it in a bright colored backpack or courier bag with plenty of reflective material.

You've worn a backpack or commuter bag for 20 years!  Wow!  I only made it 1.5 weeks before I added a rear rack and a milk crate that could hold my backpack.  I thought wearing a backpack totally sucked and made me 3 times as sweaty.  Doubles as a nice grocery carrier too.  I just bought a new bike last weekend and the first thing I did was add my old rear rack and milk crate to it.  I'm hooked!

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Need some input on which bicycle equipment to buy for commuting to work
« Reply #11 on: August 17, 2014, 07:16:14 PM »
That Roswheel bag is garbage. My Mom got it for me as a gift - used it for about 4 months before replacing it.

I went the spendypants route and sprung for Ortlieb panniers.

Don't forget lights. They are a MUST.

When getting a bag, consider having enough room to carry a few bike tools. My minimum set is: tire levers (Pedro's), vulcanizing patch kit (Park Tool VP-1), a mini pump (Topeak Pocket Rocket Master Blaster), and the allen wrench which fits 99% of the fasteners on my bike. In bad weather or at night I prefer to also carry a known good tube, that way I don't have to try and find the hole in the bad tube.

I've also needed (and thankfully had) a chain tool (either a masterlink pliers or a link popper) but breaking chains is pretty damn rare.

decessus

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Re: Need some input on which bicycle equipment to buy for commuting to work
« Reply #12 on: August 17, 2014, 07:21:46 PM »
Quote
Don't forget lights. They are a MUST.

When getting a bag, consider having enough room to carry a few bike tools. My minimum set is: tire levers (Pedro's), vulcanizing patch kit (Park Tool VP-1), a mini pump (Topeak Pocket Rocket Master Blaster), and the allen wrench which fits 99% of the fasteners on my bike. In bad weather or at night I prefer to also carry a known good tube, that way I don't have to try and find the hole in the bad tube.
- Great ideas, I hadn't even thought about biking at night.

marblejane

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Re: Need some input on which bicycle equipment to buy for commuting to work
« Reply #13 on: August 17, 2014, 10:17:41 PM »
If you want to bring the coffee, I'd suggest an extra bottle cage on your bike to hold a Thermos- I got this one at Target and it will definitely keep your coffee hot until you get into the office.

http://www.target.com/p/thermos-hydration-bottle-white-18oz/-/A-15186714#prodSlot=dlp_medium_5_5&term=thermos

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Need some input on which bicycle equipment to buy for commuting to work
« Reply #14 on: August 18, 2014, 05:17:27 AM »
I like the Hydro Flask bottles. They fit great in standard bottle cages and work for both cold and hot liquids

Example of the best size:

http://www.amazon.com/Hydro-Flask-Stainless-Drinking-18-Ounce/dp/B009JADGRG/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1408360609&sr=8-4&keywords=hydro+flask

High FIdelity

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Re: Need some input on which bicycle equipment to buy for commuting to work
« Reply #15 on: August 18, 2014, 05:23:32 AM »
I just started myself this year.  I sprung for the Topeak Explorer Rack (1.5lb) and the integrated MTX Bag which is part of their integrated system that slides on to the rail and locks into place (no bungee cords or other jury-rigged solutions).  Yeah it was $120 outlay, but totally worth it.  2 huge fold out panniers (I used one for my change of clothing and the other in case I have a small package delivered at work or for shoes occasioanlly) and a top section for anything else you might need.

I'd also recommend the Lumina series of lights to make sure you are seen in low light.  My 550 is super bright though I think they go as high as 700 lumens.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Need some input on which bicycle equipment to buy for commuting to work
« Reply #16 on: August 18, 2014, 05:28:01 AM »
I'd also recommend the Lumina series of lights to make sure you are seen in low light.  My 550 is super bright though I think they go as high as 700 lumens.

That seems like overkill/potentially blinding cars. I know at least with my Cygolite they warn that the Day Flash mode (a pulsing 500 lumens flash) is only for daytime, not night. And even at night, I rarely use the high (360 lumens). Usually the medium.

darkadams00

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Re: Need some input on which bicycle equipment to buy for commuting to work
« Reply #17 on: August 18, 2014, 06:33:22 AM »
My wife and I have Topeak racks on our commuter bikes. I use an MTX bag for commuting to carry small repair items, change of clothes (business casual), and lunch (leave shoes at work). Only in the wild variant temps of spring and fall is space even a thought--pants/long sleeves in the colder mornings but shorts/short sleeves in the evening. Carrying office clothes and the extra set of AM or PM clothes pushes bag capacity to the max, but I've always been able to make it work (2+ years or so). After several thousand miles, my Topeak bag is still in 9.8/10.0 condition--a few small scratches on the reflective tape sewn around the bottom edge.

Also, we use a Topeak rear basket for light grocery runs, trips to the strawberry/produce farm, library, park/picnics, and small-load shopping trips. The basket is also slide-on/slide-off. The Topeak system allows us to interchange either the bag or the basket easily. For some who have used other products, the Topeak route might seem trivial or a waste of cash. This system made sense when we started using our bikes more and more, and the cash outlay is trivial if you're using your bike 5+ days/week like we do. Heck, very few bike accessories are noticeable cash dumps if your bike replaces one or both of your cars (one car in our case).

Finally, I agree with others about lights. If you're commuting in the US after the time change (Nov-Mar), then you will likely be biking in the dark either in the AM, PM, or both. Not an issue during the summer but definitely an issue to consider later on.

GuitarStv

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Re: Need some input on which bicycle equipment to buy for commuting to work
« Reply #18 on: August 18, 2014, 07:40:03 AM »
I'd also recommend the Lumina series of lights to make sure you are seen in low light.  My 550 is super bright though I think they go as high as 700 lumens.

That seems like overkill/potentially blinding cars. I know at least with my Cygolite they warn that the Day Flash mode (a pulsing 500 lumens flash) is only for daytime, not night. And even at night, I rarely use the high (360 lumens). Usually the medium.

Low beam headlights on most cars are between 800 and 1500 lumens.  High beams get up around 3500.  Cars can quite comfortably deal with a small 550 lumen bike headlight without being blinded.

usmarine1975

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Re: Need some input on which bicycle equipment to buy for commuting to work
« Reply #19 on: August 18, 2014, 07:57:04 AM »
I use a military style Backpack to carry my gear to and from.  I also will try to keep what I am carrying to a minimum.  I only ride 2 days a week at this point and have just started.  I was intrigued by this post as having something to carry gear has been a thought.  I have a bike I am going to get rebuilt and will most likely look at adding a rack to it at the least.  I believe the local recycle bicycle shop had a few hanging up that I may be able to trade time for.  We shall see.  Next time I go I plan to take this bike and will hopefully get it up and running to have a second bike.  And a possible upgrade to the huffy I am riding now.  Good luck.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Need some input on which bicycle equipment to buy for commuting to work
« Reply #20 on: August 18, 2014, 08:30:14 AM »
Low beam headlights on most cars are between 800 and 1500 lumens.  High beams get up around 3500.  Cars can quite comfortably deal with a small 550 lumen bike headlight without being blinded.

Good to know! Thanks.

TrulyStashin

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Re: Need some input on which bicycle equipment to buy for commuting to work
« Reply #21 on: August 18, 2014, 10:08:10 AM »
I have a rack with a milk crate-type bin strapped to it.  I love it because I just plop my purse/ lunch/ coffee travel mug/ backpack/ briefcase (whatever a given day needs) into the crate and off I go.  If it rains, I have "high-tech gear" (plastic garbage bags) that I put everything in before dropping it in the crate.  I've even carried a crock pot in that thing!

And it was free -- a gift from a local grocery store that promoted itself with the tag line "Bin shopping at Ukrops."   Clever.

I have a fancy-dancy clip-on garment bag pannier that I'll happily sell you.  Never used...........

CanuckExpat

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Re: Need some input on which bicycle equipment to buy for commuting to work
« Reply #22 on: August 18, 2014, 01:28:55 PM »
I have a fancy-dancy clip-on garment bag pannier that I'll happily sell you.  Never used...........

This is the kind of thing I almost certainly don't need, but if I came across cheap on my local Craigslist I would be very tempted to buy <-- Guilty