Bicycles are amazing machines. They delight us with their speed and freedom to take us wherever we want, and they do it while giving us a good workout. All this in a machine with a very low environmental footprint that you can store in your apartment.
However, most bikes 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 additional accessories to make those journeys comfortable and fun. Lucky for you, the vast majority of bicycles are highly and easily customizable, and there’s at least a mountain’s worth of gear out there to choose from.
These picks we’ve assembled below were tested with old-school pedal bikes in mind, but nearly all of them will work for both electric bikes and non-electric (acoustic) bikes. Take a look at our Guide to Ebike Classes and Best Ebikes for more of our thoughts and explainers on electric bicycles too.
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.
- Better handlebar grips. 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 ($ 35) are my favorite grips because they have small wings that correct your wrist posture to prevent these conditions.
- Bike seat. Upgrading your seat (also known as the saddle) can make a huge difference in your riding comfort. The Brooks B17 ($ 94) is an old-school legend for good reason. Even though it’s made of stiff leather, I’ve found it ultra-comfortable after it breaks in. 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). I haven’t found cheap or heavily padded gel aftermarket saddles to be much, if any, of an improvement over the seats that come with newer bikes.
- Suspension seat post. For some extra glide, you can add rear suspension to a fixed, hardtail bike by swapping in a suspension seat post. The Cirrus Kinekt ($ 270) can be customized for riders of various weights by swapping out the coil springs. On unpaved, rough, or just potholed roads, having some cushion underneath your, uh, cushion can really smooth out the ride.
- Padded undies. Even in the most comfortable saddle, you’re bound to notice the effects of riding for many hours and on many consecutive days. These REI Co-op Link Padded Liner Shorts ($ 35) are an easy way to add an extra soft layer between rider and machine on longer rides. 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. Sure, you can use a backpack, and I often do when I’m in a hurry or testing out a bike without cargo-hauling equipment, but a pack can make your back sweaty and limit how much stuff you can take with you. I’d recommend using a pannier instead. This style of bag attaches to a luggage rack that you install over your back wheel (your bike might already have this luggage rack). The pannier clips to the rack and hangs down behind your feet, out of the way and low to the ground, which helps keep your bike stable under load.