Everyday commuting on electric-hybrid bikes is all about the system of gear in support of the program
Bike commuting is inherently good. It's good for the environment by reducing traffic congestion and pollution. It's good for the body by way of exercise and good for the mind by pumping more oxygen to the brain in preparation for the workday. According to a study done by the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia, even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. Nevertheless, bike commuting can be a chore. It's not something you necessarily look forward to, especially after a hard day at work (or a hard night, as the case may be). Unless, that is, you pilot a human-electric hybrid bike, such as the Specialized Turbo I reviewed last year.
Since then, I've surveyed a number of people who commute on bikes like these -- bikes that give you superhuman power -- and the feeling is unanimous: riding to and from work is the best part of the day.
With an extra 250 watts of power in the form of a silent electric motor, the chore of bike commuting is transformed into an urban joy ride. Hills and headwinds are completely neutralized, and traffic becomes more of a feature than an obstacle. You still have to pedal. You still have to exert energy, but you can dial the effort to your liking as opposed to being at the mercy of terrain, weather, or your individual limits.
In order to fully adopt an electric-hybrid bike commuting program, though, you need a system. You need the proper gear and apparel that make it safe, sustainable, comfortable, and even fashionable. In addition to the bike itself, the following gear is my system for five-days-a-week bike commuting on the West Side of L.A.
Giro Sutton MIPS helmet ($100): The fit and feel are more like a baseball cap than a helmet, yet the Sutton features the leading-edge safety features in the form of the MIPS system. This isolates the head from the rotational forces of a crash.
Thule Pack 'n Pedal Commuter pack ($160): Designed with Seattle bike commuting in mind, this pack has a roll-top closure and deployable rain cover to keep your various mobile electronics safe and dry. The harness is both comfortable and breathable to minimize sweaty spots on your back.
Smith Dockside sunglasses ($209): You need eye protection for the ride to and from work, but you also need style for lunches with your colleagues. The Dockside has both. Fit-wise, the spring hinges are like suspension for your temples, providing a customized fit while keeping them firmly in place.
Volcom Frickin Mod Stretch pants ($55): These chinos are the best bike commuting pants you'll find. Designed with skateboarding in mind, the unique blend of cotton (59 percent), polyester (39 percent), and elastane twill (2 percent) offers maximum range of motion for pedaling. The poly blend offers some breathability, as well, and the styling is equal parts surfer and business casual. I wear these to meetings with a button-down shirt and sport coat just as naturally as a weekend BBQ. It's worth owning at least one pair in each of the 11 colors.
Giro Insulated Vest ($150): Electric-hybrid bikes cruise at more than 20 mph with very little effort, which can generate a wind chill even when it's not that cold. This super-light-yet-insulated vest is an ideal antidote. Plus, the "glowing red" color way makes you highly visible in traffic.
Sombrio Vagabond shirt ($99): Style-wise, it's a great looking plaid button-down shirt. Functionally, though, it's designed for hardcore cycling with stretch fabric, underarm ventilation, reinforced elbows, and stealth stow pockets. Can also be worn as a jacket layer, as it provides ample wind protection.
Giro Mobility Snap Polo shirt ($90): This is my go-to shirt for commuting to the office on days when a t-shirt won't do. It's a blend of polyester (79%) and Merino wool (21%), which means it breathes well, wicks sweat, and can also provide some warmth. There's a single pocket in the rear for a wallet or keys, since you don't want those in your pant pockets when pedaling.
Volcom Fall Switch Pocket Tee shirt ($25): As a rule, you don't want to wear anything that's 100% cotton. These versatile tees are a 50/50 cotton/poly blend, which balances the needs of riding to the office and not looking like you rode to the office. The longish cut also means it won't rise above your waistline in the hunched-over riding position.
Giro Hoxton LF gloves ($35): Regardless of temperature, I prefer a full-finger glove such as this. It's mostly protection against a crash or getting "doored" by a car. The Hoxton is also touch-screen friendly, which is essential if you're mounting a smartphone to your bars as a bike computer.
Maxxis Roamer tires ($40): A new class of e-rated bike tires has emerged to support this type of use. They are less weight conscious, given that you have power on tap, and more focused on durability. The Roamer tread pattern is ideal for the beach paths and other surfaces where you need traction through the corners, and it features a reflective strip on the sidewall for more lateral visibility going through intersections.