If we can grasp for a silver lining from the devastating Covid pandemic, it’s that much of the world fell in love with bicycles, and years later, that relationship has held steady—in some places more than others. Whether it’s your primary or secondary mode of transportation, bicycles often make ideal machines to meet friends, head to work, zip across town to run errands, and stay in shape. Electric bikes, too, are expanding accessibility to people who may have never considered riding a bike for anything beyond recreational fun.
Most bikes, however, arrive from the factory ready for a casual Sunday joyride but not much else. If you want to put your bike to work hauling cargo or commuting to the office, you will need some accessories to make those journeys comfortable and fun. Lucky for you, the vast majority of bicycles are highly and easily customizable, and there’s a mountain’s worth of gear to choose from. Practically all of these accessories will work for non-electric bikes and most electric bikes, too. Take a look at our guides to Ebike Classes and Best Electric Bikes for more.
Updated April 2023: We’ve added the Portland Design Works Payload Rack, Handlestash, Bookman Reflective Fabric Stickers, Rad Power Rad Trailer, Thousand Magnetic Head Light, Grunge Brush, and Feedback Sports Repair Stands. We’ve updated pricing and availability, too.
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Table of Contents
So many things these days are a pain in the back. Riding your bike doesn’t have to be one of them. Swapping out handlebar grips, seats, and even seat posts are some of the easiest modifications you can make that’ll significantly improve your ride.
Poor wrist posture can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome or cyclist’s palsy, where you’re putting pressure on your median and ulnar nerves, respectively. The ergonomic Ergon GA3 are my favorite bike grips because they have small wings that correct your wrist posture to prevent these conditions. Even after long rides, I find my wrists don’t have the soreness that I used to suffer from.
A Perfect Seat
I haven’t found any cheap or heavily padded gel aftermarket saddles to be much, if any, improvement over the seats that come with bikes. The Brooks B17, an old-school legend, is ultra-comfortable despite its stiff leather construction—or perhaps because of it. I’ve spent hours in its saddle without obtaining the sore spots that accompany riding in soft gel seats. Like a good chair, firm support is more important than pure plushy softness. These saddles are also rugged; they usually last for a decade or more. If you don’t do leather, Brooks makes a vegan nylon option ($130).
For some extra shock absorption over rough roads, you can add a suspension seatpost to a fixed, hardtail bike. Some reviewers found its dual coil spring suspension bouncy, but I didn’t have that issue at all. Make sure when you’re buying the Kinekt that you’re buying the right springs for the rider’s bodyweight.
These add an extra soft layer between rider and machine on longer rides and wick sweat away to keep you from feeling clammy. The chamois padding helps provide comfort on longer rides, too, or for bike saddles that lack sufficient cushioning, as many bikes’ standard seats typically do.
Few bikes come with the attachments needed to carry cargo on errands and grocery runs. Whether you wear a backpack or a pannier bag—a style of bag that attaches to a luggage rack that you install over one of your wheels—make sure that you can get real work done by turning your bike into a cargo hauler.
A Good Rack
If your bike doesn’t already have a pannier rack, you’ll need to install one if you want to use pannier bags. The Explorer fits most bikes (with and without disc brakes) and carries up to 55 pounds. It only weighs 1.5 pounds, too, so it won’t noticeably weigh down your bike. The wide gaps between the deck and outer bars makes attaching and detaching pannier bags a breeze.
A Pack For Riders
The Heritage was named the best budget bag in our guide to the Best Laptop Backpacks for its padded laptop sleeve that can fit laptops of up to 15 inches and for its tough, 600-denier polyester fabric. After using hers for years, my colleague says it’s barely showing any signs of wear.
A Stronger Rack
If you need to lug around more than the Topeak’s 55-pound limit allows, check out this beautiful steel-and-bamboo cargo rack that holds up to 77 pounds. It weighs 3 pounds, but the construction is rock solid. You can mount any standard tailbag or pannier bag to it, as well. The Loading Dock for $115 weighs a pound less and holds up to 35 pounds, thanks to its aluminum construction, if you’d rather save some weight but keep the gorgeous looks.
Other Stuff We Love For Carrying
- Handlestash for $38: Ever try to carry a cup of coffee (or any other drink) home from the café on your bike? We can’t recommend going far while holding it in one hand and riding with the other. Unlike a regular cargo basket, the Handlestash’s loose fabric and integrated springs absorb enough vibrations to hold a cup of coffee or can of soda without splashing it all over the road. The Gear Team’s commerce director Martin Cizmar hasn’t taken it off his bike in over a year.
- Rad Power Rad Trailer for $299: Need to carry a seriously bulky or heavy load? It’s best to pull it. This steel bike trailer (with polymer deck) weighs 25 pounds and can hold up to 100 pounds. Senior associate reviews editor Adrienne So paired it with the soft-sided Rad Trailer Pet Insert for $229. Together, the combination can transport any pet weighing up to 84 pounds.
- Banjo Brothers Grocery Bag for $60: It holds up to 1,100 cubic inches of storage in a rectangular form that maximizes carrying space. That’s large enough for one stuffed grocery bag, but you can always add a second one to the other side of your pannier rack to double your carrying capacity. When not in use, it folds flat against your bike. If you plan to carry your laptop, put it in a water-repellent, padded Incase Laptop Sleeve ($45) to protect it from drizzles, splashes, and impacts.
- Wald Basket for $46: This popular, basic option mounts easily onto the front of your handlebars. Even though it looks just as good empty as it does full, you can’t fold it away when it’s not in use. The REI Co-op Beyonder Soft Folding Basket ($40) requires a front rack, but it has carrying straps so you can take it into stores with you, and it folds flat when you’re not using it.
If you ride enough, you’re going to get caught in a storm from time to time, but you don’t have to ride soaked and miserable. With the proper rainwear and protective equipment, you can keep yourself (mostly) dry and make riding in the wet a bearable, if not pleasurable, experience.
The Best Fenders for Most
These environmentally friendly fenders are made from 97-percent post-recycled bottles and are incredibly easy to pop on and off the bike. They don’t provide as much coverage from wet road spray that full fenders provide, but they’re easy to take off when the skies are sunny. As long as your bike has a hole in the fork crown, they’ll likely fit.
Even Better Fenders
They’re pricey, but I’ve found that with bike fenders, you tend to get what you pay for. The PDWs provide fuller coverage than a lot of competitors that don’t extend as low to the ground, and their aluminum construction is tougher than plastic fenders, with hardly any extra weight. If your bike doesn’t have eyelets for fenders, these come with extra hardware you can use to mount them.
This hardshell rain jacket will keep your upper body dry during a rainstorm. The women’s sizing sells for the same price. Take a look at our guide to the Best Rain Jackets for more picks.
Cover up your saddle if you know it’s going to rain, and you won’t have to ride home with wet pants. The Planet Bike cover’s elastic drawstring cinches down tight over the seat so that it doesn’t threaten to blow off, like some seat covers. Some people use disposable grocery bags, but they tend to need constant replacing, and they can blow away and become litter.
Few American cities are designed with bicycle infrastructure at the top of city planners’ minds. And even when you do find yourself in a blessedly welcome bike lane, you have to contend with other cyclists, scooter pilots, and pedestrians. Make sure you’re visible with a light and keep that noggin protected with a helmet.
The Best Bike Helmet
Swaddle your melon with all the protection you can get. Seriously, a trip in the back of an ambulance is much less comfortable than today’s well-vented and nicely padded helmets. And stylish, when you’re talking about Nutcase. This helmet comes with MIPS, meaning Multi-directional Impact Protection System, which allows the inner liner of the helmet to rotate within the outer shell, reducing the likelihood of rotational brian injuries in the event of a crash.
A Good Helmet With Lights
The Vio (8/10, WIRED Recommends) has LED lights built-in 360 degrees around the helmet to improve visibility on the road so that you don’t need to put separate headlights and tail lights on your bike. It comes with MIPS, too, which means that it can rotate slightly to dissipate the rotational impact force of a crash, and its front light’s 200 lumens is good enough to see down city streets, if not completely deserted country roads. It only runs for three hours before you need to recharge it via a mini-USB cable, though. If you’re planning on hopping onto an ebike, the Bern Hudson ($140) is rated for up to 27 mph, which is just about as fast as a class-3 ebike can legally go at full speed.
Other Stuff To See and Be Seen
- Kryptonite Incite X3 and XR Set for $80: The 30-lux headlamp and 0.06-lux tail lamp aren’t the brightest on the market, but they’re enough to make sure motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians notice you. They’re USB-rechargeable and last for up to 24 and 36 hours on a charge, respectively. For a more compact, convenient alternative, So has been a big fan of the Thousand Magnetic Head Light for $35. It’s USB-C-rechargeable and clamps quickly onto any standard handlebar. Just pop the little 2-ounce light off and into your pocket when you head indoors.
- Bookman Fabric Reflective Stickers for $10: Lights are important for being seen, but an easy way to pick up extra visibility on the cheap is to add reflective stickers to catch cars’ headlights. You can stick them on your bicycle, or you can do like senior associate reviews editor Adrienne So and stick some on your cycling clothes.
- Portland Design Works King of Ding II Bike Bell for $25: If you want a polite way to tell people to get out of your way or just give nearby bikers and pedestrians a heads-up, get a bell. (Many states require them.) There’s something charming about its classic “ding-ding!” that makes it pleasant—although attention-grabbing—to hear.
- Park Tool Rescue Tool for $34: You could just pick out the necessary hex keys that fit your bike bolts and carry them in your pocket or pannier bag, or you could get a pocketable, bike-specific set like the Rescue Tool. Its 16 included tools fold into a compact package that you can slip into a bag or pocket when you head out for a ride.
The Best Bike Locks and Trackers
Make sure your bike stays your bike with the right locks, GPS trackers, and security bolts. Check out my guide to the Best Bike Locks for more picks and additional tips on how to secure your bike.
The Best U-Lock for Most
No lock is going to deter the most determined thief with an angle grinder, but at least half the battle of security is making your bike a less attractive target. At 2.9 pounds, the KryptoLok strikes a healthy balance between reasonably light weight with adequate (but not top-level) security. It also comes with Kryptonite’s Transit FlexFrame bracket, which lets you mount the lock to your bike’s frame for easy transportation around town.
A Better U-Lock for City Dwellers
For the highest level of security on a bike lock that you can take with you on rides, upgrade to the Granit X-Plus 540. Both ends of the U-bar lock into the cylinder, so in order to grind through this lock a thief would have to do it twice—once on either side of the thick, 13-millimeter-thick bars. Thieves don’t like to spend a long time thieving, as it means more chance of being caught, so this is top-notch security.
Other Great Stuff
- Abus Steel-O-Chain 9809 for $85: If you lock up at awkward spots, such as fences and railings, you might need something longer than a U-lock. Even though it’s heavy at 5.5 pounds, it was plenty flexible and long enough to tie up anywhere, and even around thick-frame ebikes like the Super 73 that won’t work with U-locks.
- Invoxia GPS Tracker for $129: Rather than try to shove a Tile tracker inside the frame, you can purchase a stand-alone bike tracker that relies on GPS rather than Bluetooth for much wider coverage. The Invoxia syncs up with a smartphone app to show your bike’s location and alert you if it moves, and it lasts from 15 to 49 days on a single charge. The price includes one year of wireless data coverage (additional years are $30 each).
- Security bolts. Bikes use common bolts to make maintenance and assembly easy. It’s an unfortunate side effect that using standard bolts makes it easier for thieves to steal the valuable parts off your bike when it’s parked. Replace the bolts on the most vulnerable parts (seat post, saddle, handlebars, and wheels) with Pitlock or Hexlox security bolts. The bolts are individually keyed and can be unfastened by a personalized tool that only you own. Thieves hate these things. Secure your front wheel first, then move on from there.
Gear for Bike Maintenance
Keeping your bike on the road is usually just a matter of keeping the tires properly inflated and the chain well lubricated. But slack on maintenance, and you could eventually be looking at a repair bill. Fortunately, maintaining a bike is very easy. (Your local shop or REI also offers yearly tune-ups at a reasonable price.)
Our Favorite Pump
Metal pumps are worth the expense over plastic pumps, which don’t tend to last very long. The Lezyne’s parts are steel where it counts. It works with the three common valve types (Presta, Schrader, and Dunlop) and inflates tires up to 220 psi, which is well more than enough for most road tires. It’s effortlessly quick to change valve adapters, the psi gauge is clear to read without stooping over, and it doesn’t take too many pumps to fill a tire.
For Cleaning Chains
You’ve got to keep the chain clean to keep it functioning correctly. There are lots of basic brushes out there, but the aluminum Grunge Brush is my favorite. With three adjustable-width brush heads, you can scrub your chain more quickly than with a typical brush. The stiff bristles work stubborn grime off much better than a toothbrush ever could. I use it on my motorcycles, too.
Other Great Tools
- Park Tool Bicycle Chain Cleaning Kit for $40: You’re going to need to periodically clean the bike chain to keep it from gunking up and malfunctioning. This kit includes a brush and a bottle of cleaning solution, in addition to the cleaning tool itself.
- Feedback Sports Recreational Repair Stand for $135: Sooner or later, you’re going to need to work on your bike with the wheels off the ground. Before you think you’ll just get cute and save a buck by balancing the bike on a box, take it from me: it’ll fall, and either you or the bike will end up hurt. It’s happened to me. This stand is steady on its feet and has a sturdy clamping mechanism. Step up to the Feedback Sports Sport Mechanic Repair Stand for $180 to gain a foldable, more stable, 3-foot stand with adjustable height.
- Finish Line Dry Lube for $10: The chain needs to stay lubricated to work properly. Every so often (and after cleanings), spray it with the little dry lubricant, which is slightly less messy than the old-fashioned lube. Wash your hands after using this stuff; it has Teflon in it.
- Finish Line Brake Cleaner for $9: If your bike has disc brakes instead of pull-brakes or calipers, you’re going to need to clean the brake hardware periodically to keep your stopping performance from degrading. This stuff removes stubborn brake dust, which is difficult to remove without purpose-made solvents.
- Sram Disc Brake Bleed Kit for $55: For years, hydraulic braking systems (operated by fluid) were found only on high-end bikes. In recent years, though, they’ve begun to trickle down to mid-priced bikes, especially on bikes with electric motors. They provide smoother stopping but require the owner to replace the fluid regularly. You need a special bleeder tool, such as this one, to replace fluid. This kit comes with a bottle of brake fluid, but if you need more, a 4 fluid-ounce bottle of Sram 5.1 Dot Fluid ($14) should do the trick.
- Feedback Sports Velo Hinge Bike Rack for $32: Whether you stash your bike in a cramped apartment at night or in a garage, you could always stand to free up a little more room. It was easy for me to mount the Velo using three anchor bolts in a wall. It holds up to 50 pounds, and once mounted the bike could be swung nearly flat against the wall and out of the way.