Best cycling to work gear and gadgets
The sun is out, the clouds packed off on holiday for a few days and suddenly the UK is transformed from polar ice cap to that lush green and pleasant land that we all remember from last year. Long may it last.
One of the best ways to enjoy the weather to its full is, of course, to make sure you're out in it for as much of the day as possible and what better way to do that, get fit and save money at the same time than by cycling to work and back each day?
So, if you're looking to get yourself kitted out to make sure that you've got all the bags, accessories and ways and means of protecting yourself on the road, then take a look at what Pocket-lint considers to be the best cycling to work gear and gadgets around.
Brompton P6R folding bike (£870)
Easily mistaken for a child’s bike at first glance, the appeal of models like the Brompton P6R are three-fold. As well as taking up zero space at home in hallways, and especially well-suited to those living in an upstairs flat, folding bikes are ideal for taking on public transport and can be stored securely under a desk at work. This one’s got six gears (just about enough to cope with hills and for making good progress on the flats); there’s a handy, dependable rear rack; and some lower grips on the handlebars that mimic a racing bike.
Although we were impressed by both this P-Type Brompton’s build quality and a comfy commute in our test, its success hinges on fold-ability. After some practice, we got it down to a tee and managed to get the P6R up and riding in a touch under two minutes. It does take a few attempts to get it right since there’s an order to each lever flick and fold that can’t be deviated from. Carrying it is fine in theory, though it does weigh around 12kg, so gaoling it down to the Northern Line isn't quite as easy as it seems.
Orator jacket (£250)
Brompton also makes a light brown cord Oratory Jacket - turn-up the collar and unzip a hidden back panel flap to reveal some very reflective material that’s handy on the commute. It's very comfy and water-repellent and its styling could be handy if you need to appear smart at work and don't want to carry extra clothes.
There's also a certain dapper air to its design that might even be enough to get you a few looks on your travels through the trendier parts of town.
Ortlieb Waterproof Office Bag Plus QL3 (£108)
About the size of a briefcase, but with more width, less depth and slightly less length, the QL3 appears to have been designed with the dimensions of a laptop in mind, though there is an optional sleeve available for those traveling to work with tech. That’s a wise move indeed and, though we love the organiser on the inner wheel side and the full pocket opposite, we’re not sure about the credit card slots in the organiser panel. Not in Britain, anyway.
The top folds in and over on itself and clicks into a buckle at each end, which takes a bit of puzzling out. The rack fits on to a carrier and is easy and quick to clip the bag on to. A neat release action is built into the straps of the handle, and as you pull that handle up it withdraws the holding tabs in the top two locators, allowing you to lift it off in one movement. With easily enough room for a couple of folders, a laptop and some lunch, the QL3 is more than a match for any backpack.
Tubus Vega Rear Pack (£71.48)
Well put together and manufactured to a high standard, the horizontal rack on this Tubus is quite narrow, but for good reason. The idea behind it is to carry side panniers rather than camping gear. It also gives a more streamlined look as it tapers with the wheel profile. Fitting is the usual mix of working it out for yourself and looking at the brief instructions, but it’s simple enough.
We weren’t totally convinced with the push-through rods that connect the front struts to the bosses on the bike below the saddle. It relies on a friction fixing under the carrier - as opposed to a solid mechanical arrangement - to maintain the attitude of the carrier. That isn’t necessarily wrong.
The fixings supplied are NYLOC nuts, which have nylon inserts to stop them coming loose, and it does allow a more flexible mounting as it can adjust to the position as you need. Also the down struts, which attach to the eyelets on the wheel hub, are solid screw fixings and easily bear the weight and most of the shock and vibrational forces. Weighing just over half a kilo and capable of carrying 25kg, this is a smart-looking bit of kit that’s well up to task. Comes in two sizes - 26”/28” and 29”.
Magellan eXplorist 610 (£400)
The screen is bright enough and the 2D or 3D presentation simple to glance at with a tough, waterproof design adding to the appeal - though the handlebar mount quaintly relies on a couple of cable-ties that don’t give much confidence.
Garmin eTrex 30 Select Bundle (£230)
Dropping extras like a camera and camcorder that the eXplorist offers, the super-light Garmin eTrex 30 Select Bundle keeps it simple with a 2.2-inch display that’s easy to read in direct sunlight and is complemented by a tough, waterproof design and a battery life of up to 25 hours.
Designed primarily for walkers - the barometric altimeter is the giveaway - the handlebar accessory has a similar problem as the eXplorist, but stays in place well enough.
Berghaus Limpet 10+ backpack (£44.99)
When cycling, it’s best to avoid carrying baggage on your body since it tires you out and restricts movement but, if you're not ready to invest in pricey panniers, this tiny daysack from Bergahus is ideal. Although it’s able to take a hydration pack in an internal elasticated pouch, we managed to get a netbook in there instead alongside and a pack of sarnies in the main compartment, with zip-up pockets both inside and out for storing phones, keys, etc.
The Limpet has excellent shoulder straps and a dual harness to keep things steady, and is slightly expandable, thanks to a U-shaped zip that stretches out the width of the bottom half. That done. It easily takes some gym kit or a jumper, too.
G-Form knee, elbow and shin pads(£39.99 each)
Getting clipped by traffic or slammed in the face by car doors is a constant worry for cyclists, but it’s usually your knees, elbows and shins that bear the brunt of minor incidents. Strap-on these flexible, moulded exoskeleton impact pads for some surprisingly comfy protection with a decidedly pro feel that’s, unfortunately, also reflected in the price.
Designed for mountain bikers and BMX bandits, the G-Forms absorb around 90 per cent of the energy in a fall, with the material stiffening on impact. Housed in a comfy and breathable Lycra sleeve, these pads stay in place best when worn close to the skin.
thumbsUp! Bike Signals (£24.95)
Cyclists always like being seen and these waterproof and super-bright LED indicator Bike Signals are designed to complement those crazy arm movements of yours. The control module is wireless, which makes it simple to mount on handelbars, while the indicator itself is very bright - and audible - with double arrows on each side.
The control panel is simple to understand and well designed in a tactile soft rubber body that loops over the handle bars very nicely. The size of the arrows that indicate which way a cyclist is turning aren't big enough to fully replace arm signals, and nor can they be seen from the front (crucial at junctions), so we’d advise finding a hi-vis top and not giving-up on manual signals, but these definitely make motorists take you more seriously.
Sea To Summit Pocket Towel (£10.99)
Whether you want to dry-off after a drizzly commute, recover from a puddle-in-the-face on the way to the office, or take a proper shower before you get to your desk, a pocket towel is a must-have for cyclists looking to keep gear down to a minimum.
Unlike most absorbent travel towels that have the feel of a damp dishcloth, this example from Sea To Summit uses an unusually smooth and shiny ultra-fine woven microfibre fabric that can dry-off three times its own weight in water. Best of all, this 58g towel stuffs into a small zip-up pouch that can be hooked on to the outside of a bag, or even keyring. The downside is that it measures just 40x80cm, though a bigger 60x121cm, 112g version is also available for larger frames.
Breo Pulse watch (£12)
Elsewhere in your wet weather preparation is the completely waterproof and inexpensive Breo Pulse watch which can even be worn underwater (in our test we took it up a soggy mountain, then wore it in both a swimming pool and sauna).
It's made of soft rubber, will work in temperatures down to -10 degrees and in water up to 5 atmospheres which is certainly enough for a dip in the sea or down at your local swimming pool. The Breo Pulse also happens to look quite funky in a choice of blue, black, pink or white, and it's dirt cheap too.
SealSkinz Waterproof Socks (£28)
Meanwhile, the SealSkinz mid length waterproof socks are hard to resist. Designed to be worn in warmer weather, these socks with patented technology will even keep out some chemicals and microbes - meaning that they shouldn't smell too bad once you get into the office either.
They're as useful while walking as they are when cycling and it's their three-layer construction that makes them comfy to wear and with waterproofing that stretches up all the way to the calf. Surprisingly they're breathable, too, so don't leave you with sweaty feet.
Odlo Gloves Short Endurance (£34)
Sore hands after a bumpy ride? Pressure on your hands is alleviated by a decent pair of cycling gloves like Odlo’s Short Endurance, a lightweight Lycra design that offers gel pads at the two pressure points - lower thumb and at the base of the fingers - and helps absorb some of the shock from Britain’s pot-holed roads.
With extra grip from the silicon print on the palm and a short finger design that might keep your pinkies chilly, but fully in control of your vehicle, these Odlos are comfy and snug thanks to a soft-touch construction and a Velcro strap around the wrist.
Vaude Discover Classic Back Pannier (£89.99)
We tested this pair of panniers with both the Brompton and a regular street bike, and found them very easy to mount and remove. You pull the handle up to release the spring-loaded clips, and simply shut them over any bike rack’s frame. Measuring 42 x 33 x 18cm, the Vaude Discover Classic Back Panniers are made from a tough, coated polyester that, along with an overlaid fastened lid, makes them waterproof, with a shielded zip pocket on the outside alongside three reflective logos.
Although they're well up to spec for the commute, they won't fit an A4 file or laptop. They really come into their own for overnight cycling trips, where the drawstring-closed main compartment crushes down clothes and sleeping bags well. Best paired with Vaude’s Discover Pro/Classic Front panniers if you need to load-up with gear.
Case Mate TANK iPhone case (£44.99)
There are two distinct options for phone holders here - one for those who cycle to work primarily for fitness, and another for cyclists just desperate to keep their smartphone safe. If you fall into the second category, the Case Mate TANK iPhone case is for you.
Waterproof and easy to snap off and on, the TANK has a nifty little screen that covers the touchscreen, a bit like a garage roller door. It only fits the iPhone 4 model, though.
Griffin Adidas miCoach Armband (£24.99)
Aimed at fitness fans, the Griffin Adidas miCoach Armband has a twist. It’s just a nylon sporty armband with a touch-through screen protector that feels secure and safe enough, but download the miCoach app and the pace changes.
This free app offers a cycling-specific training routine complete with charts, goals and accomplishments. Great, though what we love most about the armband itself is the oh-so-small pocket for hiding a key. Mmm, secret pockets.
TripNeeds Alarmio Personal Cable Lock (£19.95)
Leaving your bike in the elements or even in the office can be tough - especially if it’s brand new - but work must be done, and risks taken. A cable lock with a built-in motion sensitive alarm, the Alarmio uses a 60cm high tensile retractable steel cable that’s nicely coated.
Lockable using a four-digit code, if Alarmio is disturbed it lets out an initial beep, and if its motion sensor, err, senses more motion - or a cut cable, obviously - it lets out an almighty 100-decibel screech. The only drawback is that to reach those levels requires four LR44 watch batteries.