When I started biking, it was on a used Schwinn that was made before I was born. It had 5 speeds, and I thought it was fantastic. Eventually my father couldn’t take the fact that I was doing over 100 miles a week on such a heavy, old bike with limited gears, and bought me a Trek for my birthday. That started my path to getting the “perfect” bike setup. The suggestions below are a result of years of research and testing by riding my bike daily in Los Angeles.
Step 1: The actual bike!
There are nearly limitless options to purchase a bike, way too many to list here. My criteria:
- something that’s comfortable
- something you can afford
- something that has a built in ecosystem for parts and repair
For those reasons, I chose Trek, which has the largest marketshare in the U.S. Even though I often ride for recreation (yes, sometimes I’m that guy in spandex), I wanted a bike that was versatile enough for me to carry groceries, my kids, etc. For those reasons, I chose a hybrid design (flat handlebars) instead of a road bike. I don’t find road bikes comfortable, and even though I’m probably losing ~10% efficiency when going up a hill, the convenience and comfort are worth it for me. I also wanted disc brakes, which I find more reliable, especially if the road is wet.
Step 2: Key accessories
You want your bike to be as versatile as possible, so you’re ready for any situation. For me, that meant a rear rack with panniers. There are a ton of racks out there, but I went with an Ibera Touring Carrier+ ($157.49). I especially like that it has a special insulated bag ($69.99) that clips in, which I find really useful for carrying stuff that needs to be kept cool from the farmers market or food to a park. I also highly suggest getting a couple of bungee cords and storing them on the rack — they’re super useful for securing nearly anything on the rack. My bungees are two of the ZHOUBIN 24 Inch Black Bungee Cords ($8.88).
Helmets are highly personal and mostly a stylistic choice. My only suggestion is that you get a helmet with a MIPS rating — that is what you want in the event of a fall where you hit your head. My choice is a Bontrager Velocis MIPS Road Bike Helmet ($224.99).
Comfortable grips are key for a comfy ride. I’m a big fan of the Bontrager Satellite IsoZone Grip Set ($46.99).
I can’t tell you how much comfort I get from my mirror — I spot potential threats further away, and am able to react quicker to erratic drivers. I also use my mirror frequently when one of my kids is biking behind me, making sure they both stay out of the door zone and move over if a car is trying to pass. My favorite mirror actually integrates into the Bontrager grips — the Mirrycle MTB Bar End Mountain Bicycle Mirror ($12.59).
The stock seat often isn’t that comfortable, especially for longer rides — I love the Serfas Road/MTB saddle ($59.95).
Good lights are really key to safely riding at night. A general rule of thumb is you want the lights to be as bright as possible and to be blinking/moving as opposed to static. My favorite front light is the NiteRider Lumina 1200 Boost ($70.99)— it’s incredibly bright and has different settings including a powerful blink. For the rear, I like the Planet Bike Grateful Red light ($29.83). It’s super bright and long lasting.
Putting a horn on your bicycle is one of the best safety investments you can make. I love the Loud Bicycle Mini ($179) — it has a long lasting battery and honks as loud as a car. I can’t tell you how many close calls I’ve avoided because of my ability to honk and “speak car.”
Attaching your phone to your bike in a way that’s seamless but also protects it from drops requires more than an off-the-shelf bike phone mount. My favorite system is by Peak Design, with their Out Front Bike Mount($69); their cases are thin and MagSafe compatible, and they use a magnet plus clips to keep your phone securely attached to your bike.
WATER BOTTLE HOLDER
An important detail, especially for long rides. I don’t think you need to get fancy here, you can go with anything. I went with the FiveBox Lightweight Aluminum Alloy Bicycle Holder ($7.99).
For the actual bottle, I wanted something that was PVC free, and would keep water cool during warm weather. The winner for me is the CamelBak Podium Chill Insulated bike water bottle ($15.30).
While kickstands are frowned upon on road bikes, they’re super convenient and I highly recommend getting one, especially on a hybrid. My kickstand is a Bontrager Rear Mount Adjustable Kickstand ($22.99).
Sometimes you need to re-tighten the mirror or adjust something. For this, get a hex tool — I like the Park Tool Fold-Up Hex Wrench Set ($10.95) as it’s compact and has every size you’ll likely need.
I carry a spare intertube, levers, and a small pump just in case I need to change a flat tire en route. While it might be intimidating at first to change a flat, it’s surprisingly easy once you get the hang of it. While each bike is different, for my bike, the BWSHLF Bicycle Inner Tube fits ($24.99 for a 6 pack). For levers (which you need to easily take off and put on a new tube), I recommend plastic ones as metal ones can puncture the inner tube when you’re putting it back on — I have a pair of Pedro’s Tire Lever ($6.95). For a pump, you don’t want to be pumping with a tiny pump on a random road, so quick inflates with CO2 cartridges are a good idea. I have the WOTOW CO2 Inflator ($17.99).
An under seat storage pouch is key — I store my wrench set, arm coverings, spare intertube, levers, and a MagSafe battery pack for my phone there. My go-to- is a Bontrager Pro Quick Cleat Seat Pack ($35.99), which has the added benefit of being easily removed with a built in clip.
It doesn’t rain often in LA, but when it does, I’m super grateful for my Cleverhood Rover Rain Cape ($99). It keeps you dry during rain and has thoughtful details like places to put your thumbs that keeps the cape attached well while you’re holding the handlebars.
Step 3: Security / loss prevention
There are a ton of locks out there — U-Locks are typically better than wire or chain locks, unless you go with a really thick and heavy chain. I eliminated keys in my life a few years ago and didn’t want to have to carry a key just for my bike, so I got a Noke U-Lock (~$80). Unfortunately, they have now discontinued it, but you can still pick one up on e-bay. Then you download the Noke app and unlock your U-Lock by pushing a button while having the app open on your phone. I’ve modified the Noke U-Lock to use a Transit FlexFrame U Bracket ($17.95) — I’ve found it mounts better to the bike.
Having your bike stolen is an awful feeling — but now, thanks to the Apple AirTag, it doesn’t have to be fatal. The AirTag, a $29 device from Apple that has a removable battery that lasts over a year, is a game changer. It works by pinging off of nearby Macs, iPhones, or iPads, and using their bluetooth to let you know where it is. Recently, a friend had his bike stolen, and was able to track and recover it just by using an AirTag. I would recommend an AirTag mount, I got the EFEALL AirTag bike mount ($16.99).
I recently purchased and am testing the Scout Bike Alarm & Finder ($59.99)— a bike alarm that has a built in “AirTag” using Apple’s FindMy technology. So far I like it, although I can sometimes forget to arm it. The advantage of the Scout is that it won’t notify a stranger than a foreign AirTag is tracking them — which could potentially defeat the purpose of the AirTag to begin with.
If you have renters or homeowners insurance, nearly all of them will cover a non electric bike (and most will cover a Class 1 electric bike). But if you have a high deductible, you might want to consider getting a dedicated policy. I have Lemonade homeowners insurance and was able to purchase an add-on for a few dollars a month that covers by bike in full. On my Class 3 e-cargo bike, I purchased a Velosurance policy which specifically covers that bike in full.
Step 4: Carrying stuff (and kids)
When it comes to panniers, Ortlieb is in a class of its own. While there are many less expensive ones you could get, the advantage of Ortlieb is never having to worry about the bag ripping or the contents getting wet. I got a set of the Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic Rear Panniers ($209 for the set) and I’m able to carry nearly anything with them. They also make an awesome pannier / backpack combo — The Ortlieb Vario — which I’ve used when biking to the airport for a short trip.
FRONT KID SEAT
When your kid is under ~3 years old, they often feel safest in the front. They love the feeling of being “hugged” by you while you’re biking, and they can see everything from up there. I’d recommend the Thule Yepp Nexxt Mini ($219.95).
REAR KID SEAT
Your kid will eventually outgrow the front seat, but they can sit behind you (mounted on your bike rack) up until age 6/7 (depending on their weight). My favorite rear seat is the Hamax Caress Rear Child Seat ($209) — it’s got shocks which makes a bumpy ride smoother, and it also has this cool reclining feature, useful if your child falls asleep on the bike. What’s really cool about this seat is that it doesn’t need a special adapter and can bolt on to nearly any rear rack.
Sometimes you need to carry more than a pannier can handle — and that’s when a trailer can come in handy. My favorite is the Burley Flatbed trailer ($251.82) — it’s very versatile and when you pair it with some bungees, you can carry nearly anything. I use it when I bike with my 4-year old to school and return with her bike in the trailer.
When your kids get too big for seats on the bike, a trailer is a great solution. My favorite is the Burley Honey Bee ($335.36) — it fits two kids, has nice big wheels for their comfort over bumps, and even has a “trunk” that can store shopping bags, backpacks, and many other things. It also has a front wheel that can come down when it’s not connected to your bike and it doubles as a stroller — very useful when taking kids to the zoo by bike.
Step 5: Sun protection
When you bike every day like I do, putting on sunscreen gets old. And while I still use sunscreen on my face, I use Louis Garneau Arm Coolers ($39.99) on my arms. These have SPF 50 protection and also help keep your arms warm if it’s cold.
To avoid having to put sunscreen on my ears and neck each time, I use a CoolNES UV Sun Protection Neck Drape ($17.99). This is a lightweight thing that goes over your hat (I also highly recommend wearing a hat all the time when cycling for sun protection), and it protects your neck, ears, and the side of your face.
I hope these suggestions are helpful. There’s no “perfect” solution, and ultimately, you should get the gear that makes you most comfortable, keeps you the safest, and makes it most likely you’ll love using your bike!