Although it’s getting warmer outside, the weather is still unpredictable. When you experience snow, rain, wind, and a glorious, warm, sunny day in single week, you know it must be spring. So, dust off your bike and start riding! Here’s the gear you need to stay warm, dry, and happy, as you pedal your way into summer.
First off, let’s start with the bike. The Novara Barrow is brand new for 2014 and it’s a cargo commuter’s dream. Both a rear rack and front basket that can carry up to 20 pounds (attached to the frame, not the wheel), make this a great bike when heading to the grocery store, liquor store, library, work, and (eventually) the beach! Its sturdy steel frame is heavy, weighing in at around 35 pounds. However, the SRAM Via 8-speed drive train gives you 24 speeds, and that granny gear comes to the rescue when you’re hauling groceries uphill. This unisex bike comes in three sizes (XS/S, S/M, L/XL) in an appealing light green color, reminiscent of new spring grass. Front and rear fenders protect you from puddles and debris, and the thick (35c), nubby tires can easily handle gravel trails. The disc brakes are delightfully responsive and give you confidence on all types of terrain, and the cushy, almost luxurious, handlebar grips are dreamy. In short, this bike is best for urban commuting around town and for shorter distances under ten miles. Also, it comes with a bell. Is there a more cheerful harbinger of spring than the bbrring of bike bell? Didn’t think so.
Why aren’t people wearing more capes? Hipper than a Snuggie, but still akin to wearing a warm, cozy blanket in public, the Luhkka is not just a show-stopping garment (just wear it once and see how many people stop to ask you where you got it), but it’s perfect for bike commuting. Your arms are free, your butt stays covered, and yet you look oh so chic. Made from the Swedish company’s proprietary G-1000 waxed canvas fabric, the Luhkka is water-resistant and warm enough for fall and spring commuting. In winter, just add an extra layer beneath the cape and you’re good to go. The half zip at the neck features a fleece-lined gusset that traps heat and the faux fur-lined hood is cute and adjustable. The zippered kangaroo pouch reminds you of your favorite sweatshirt. It also comes in a down version for those who want to stay extra toasty. I wore it in wet, snowy conditions, and stayed surprisingly warm and dry for miles.
Mountain Hardwear Plasmic Trench
A good raincoat is imperative for Spring. Enter the stylish, yet technical Plasmic Trench. This brand new jacket from Mountain Hardwear is long enough to keep your bootie dry, yet has a double zipper in front to allow ease of movement when pedaling. Windproof, waterproof, and breathable, the Plasmic trench can also transition to your favorite downtown bar, thanks to its flattering, feminine cut (it’s slightly roomier than the classic Plasmic, so you can layer up for work). You’ve also got an adustable hood in case you forget your umbrella. If you prefer a shorter jacket, the Super Light Plasmic, shares many of the same features as the trench, with the added benefit of being extraordinarily light and packable (a perfect just-in-case jacket to throw in your backpack).
Days are getting longer, but you’ll still need that light if you’re heading home late from work or from dinner with friends. The Urban 700 from California’s Light and Motion is an ideal commuter headlight. It’s ultra bright, and even provides 180 degrees of periphery light, making you more visible on the road. When I was commuting home in the dark with a friend without a light, the Urban easily lit both of our paths. The Urban comes in four different levels of brightness: 200, 400, 550, and 700 lumens. It’s USB chargeable, and a full charge will last 1.5 hours on high and 3 hours on medium, and the medium setting is ideal for city biking. A handy indicator light shows you when it’s time to charge again. It’s lightweight (only 118 grams) and easily removeable when you’re parking your bike outside.
Believe it or not, bike safety can be fun–like a traveling disco–with this L.E.D. spoke light from Niteize that changes color. Choose between a “glow” or “flash” setting as it transitions through a rainbow of colors. Use SpokeLit at night with your headlight, and cars will see you from a mile away. It installs instantly and is easily removeable.
Sometimes you need navigation when you’re biking. I usually write directions on a piece of paper that I place in my pocket–less than ideal. The Niteize HandleBand works with any smartphone and any type of handlebar to keep Google Maps front and center when you’re pedaling someplace new. You could also use it with Strava or another biking app when you’re out conquering the road. Yes, it’s still hard to read a smartphone in the glaring sun, and, yes, the phone still goes dark, but it’s more convenient than a scrap of paper in your pocket.
Warm and windproof, the Ice Queen Ultra skirt, is great for chilly mornings. This skirt/leggings combo is made from technical fabric that blocks wind but wicks moisture away from your skin, but the Ice Queen Ultra Skirt could still be work-appropriate with a sweater and boots. Although the material is a little stiff and scratchy at first, it softens up after a few washes. The leggings are completely adjustable so you can get just the right length, even if you’re petite. I’ve worn the Ice Queen Ultra Skirt biking, hiking, and even around town. Skirt Sports also makes a version with a chamoix for longer rides.
A bike commuter’s best friend, the Merino Pasha Hoodie is warm, stinkproof, looks great over almost anything, and has thumb holes to protect your hands from the cold. This sleek, comfortable hoodie is multi-purpose. I’ve worn it bike commuting, (perfect under the Fjallraven Lukha cape even on cold winter days). I’ve also worn it backcountry skiing twice, as the hoodie provides just the right amount of warmth when skinning up the hill. I only wish it was slightly longer. Like a lot of women, I’ve got a long torso, and the hoodie tends to ride up in the back, especially if you’re gipping drop handlebars.
I was pretty stoked to discover this pannier bag that can be worn like a backpack comfortably around the grocery store or at farmer’s market. Instead of the awkward, short or non-existent handle of most pannier bags, the Ballard features straps that pull to one side and turn it quickly into a backpack. At 11 by 15 by 5.5 inches, it holds up to twenty pounds of loot and saves me the struggle of hauling it all in my hands. The pannier clips can be concealed under a zippered flap but are easily engaged to hook sturdily onto my bike’s rack for stylish and oh-so-functional convenience. Best of all, the bag’s waterproof base protects it from street spray and the occasional puddle, while a neon rain cover tucked in an interior pocket offers the ability to protect my goods in a storm. The extra exterior pockets allow easy access to my keys and sunglasses, while the straps and small interior pocket keep my things in the big compartment organized. The Detours Ballard Market Pannier is something I’m proud to use on my feminine commuter bike, but the bag is handy and versatile enough that my boyfriend likes taking it grocery shopping, too! –Jennifer Olson