Bicycles are growing only more popular as people look for alternative ways to meet friends, head to work, zip across town to run errands, and stay in shape, and electric bikes are expanding accessibility to people who have never considered a bicycle as their primary (or even secondary) mode of transportation.
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 Guide to Ebike Classes and Best Electric Bikes for more of our thoughts and explainers on electric bicycles.
Updated October 2022: We’ve reconfigured the guide for better clarity. We’ve also added the Herschel Heritage laptop backup, which replaces the TimBuk2 Division backpack.
Special offer for Gear readers: Get a 1-year subscription to WIRED for $5 ($25 off). This includes unlimited access to WIRED.com and our print magazine (if you’d like). Subscriptions help fund the work we do every day.
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.
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).
Other great options:
- Cirrus Kinekt for $270: 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.
- REI Co-op Link Padded Liner Shorts for $35: These add an extra soft layer between rider and machine on longer rides and wick sweat away to keep you from feeling clammy. That link is for the women’s style, but the men’s version is available for the same price.
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 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.
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.
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.