Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Commuting Gear: Can't live without this stuff

I've been riding my daily commute for almost 4 years now.  In that period of time, I've collected some gear that has become essential for me, stuff that I am absolutely thrilled with.  I thought I would share those thoughts with you, dear reader!

1) Surly Long Haul Trucker

I love my LHT.  It is not fancy or decked out.  But it works, all the time.  Bought stock in 2008 I have made very few changes.  I added a cheapo rear rack, Jandd low rider front rack and Planet Bike fenders.  Recently I switched out the Tektro Canti's for Avid V-Brakes which I have been very pleased with.  When my stock tires wore out I put on some Schwalbe Marathons (700x32), and I have of course replaced the chain, cassette and middle chainring.  She was also graced with a Brooks Pro saddle that was given to me last year.  The LHT is just a champ.  I imagine she ticked over 10,000 miles recently although I haven't any proof of that.

Would I buy the LHT again?  In 2008, yes.  Today, I would give some serious consideration to two bikes that did not exist at the time:  The Salsa Vaya and the Civia Bryant.  Both are similar to the LHT but with some changes, namely moving from canti's to disc brakes.  If I wrecked the LHT tomorrow I would probably buy a Vaya frame and move over what components I could, and spring for BB7s.

2) Jandd Commuter Garment Bag

(images stolen from Jandd)

I have reviewed the Jandd Commuter Garment bag before and again I will say that it is fantastic.  I work in a professional office and wear a tie every day.  My commute (currently) is long enough that I don't want to ride in work clothes, so the Jandd bag allows me to take a change of clothes every day.  Also in this bag every day I stuff the following:
  • Lunch
  • Book or eReader
  • ipod
  • spare hat/gloves for changing weather
  • occasional work papers, etc
  • sunglass case
  • tire levers
  • tube
  • patch kit
Also it should be known that Jandd is one of the highest quality companies around.  The bags are built to LAST and worn-out parts can be replaced on the cheap.  I also have a set of Mountain Panniers, one of which lives on the LHT and the other lives on the icebike.  They have also both been on a bike camping trip and the capacity is surprisingly large.

If something happened to my garment bag, I would buy another one immediately.  This may be the highest quality bike item I own.  If you are looking for utility or touring panniers, I would start with Jandd.

3) Bush & Muller Ixon IQ

I have to start with a hedge.  Yesterday (yes, yesterday) my Ixon IQ fell about a foot out of my pannier onto the floor in my office and the clasp that holds the battery compartment closed broke.  It is a very small piece of plastic.  I talked to Peter White and he said the piece is replaceable and he is sending me a new latch.  I was disappointed that the light is currently useless, but I am hopeful it will be an easy fix.

That said, the light has performed flawlessly for me for over 18 months now.  Here's why I love it:
  • AA batteries.  This was a huge factor for me in looking for a battery-operated headlight.  I didn't want to spend $150-$200 on a light system that was tied to a proprietary battery that would eventually render the light useless.  The batteries that came with my Ixon IQ finally bit the dust last month so I spent $10 on 4 Eneloop AA's.  $10 and my light works like it did the first day.
  • LED light.  The bulb will last practically forever, and allows for a bright light from the power of 4 AA batteries vs. the high draw required for a halogen bulb.
  • In-light battery charging.  I have a hard time expressing how great this is.  The light acts as a battery charger.  Simply plug the charger into the light body and it charges the AA batteries without taking them out.  I can (and do) easily charge the batteries every night without removing the light from it's mount.
  • Well-engineered light distribution.  Some people are going to look at the Ixon IQ and say "a 1W headlight for $100?  I can get a PB 1W Blaze for $40."  Let me assure you, these are not the same thing.  B&M has actually made an effort to control the spread of the beam coming from the headlight so none of the 1W of power is wasted.  No light is thrown into the eyes of oncoming cars, bikes or pedestrians.
I have a good amount of other commuting gear, but most of it is replaceable. I've had several different tail lights and while I like my PDW Radbot 1000, it is not irreplaceable.  Pedals, helmets, grip tape, shoes and clothes all come and go.  These three things above are an integral part of my daily commute.


Chris said...

I absolutely could not do without my NiteRider MiNewt 250. Its a great front light. I see people getting out of its path in fear of its brilliance.

I dig my Planet Bike fenders too. Fenders are a must for daily commuting.

And of course I now have the Xtracycle (ClassicCargo) and it has made my commutes so hassle-free (Xcept for the spilled tea yesterday) that I wouldn't go back for anything now.

Sharri said...

Thanks so much for the info. Just bought a cargo bike and a friend suggested I check out your site.

James said...

@Sharri -

Probably the best comment ever on this blog. What did you buy?