I’ve been a bike messenger in New York City for the past three years. Shortly after I started, I was delivering food in the pouring rain. My head was wet. My back was soaked. After wringing out my socks — twice — I ditched them completely and wore plastic bags on my feet to finish out the day. Another time, I was carrying so many heavy orders that the weight caused my saddle to break away from the seat post. If there’s one thing I’ve learned on the road, it’s that you need the right gear.
Now that I’m working again, after a brief pandemic-related hiatus, I’ve noticed an uptick in riders sharing the streets these days. It’s cool that more people are getting into cycling, but when you’re just starting out, it’s hard to know what accessories are worth investing in (helmet, yes) and which ones are not (kickstand, no).
Through a lot of trial and error — I ride two to three times a week, and in an eight-hour shift, I’ll sometimes do 60 miles — I’ve learned which products really are necessary and which brands don’t rip, bust, or deflate. (You may have already heard about my love of Giro shoes.) These are the things I’ll never ride without, including a thief-resistant backpack and waterproof socks.
I like a good tread because the NYC streets are gnarly. In one shift, I go from cobblestones to flat ground to dirt. There’s glass everywhere, too. I get a lot of flats because I’m out there so much, so a thick wall and lining is important. I once had tires that would go flat almost every day (even twice in a day, once), but these have lasted me at least six months.
This has a really long cutout in the middle that makes it so that both sides of the saddle flex as I turn and shift my weight. When you’re riding for hours and you’re a dude, well … let’s just say I’ll probably be able to have children someday.
Having a bag attached to your bike isn’t a great idea when you’re a messenger. People will straight up take your stuff when you park. Someone stole a light out of my saddle bag. So, I like a backpack. This one is basically a big pouch with just one interior pocket, but it has a roll-top closure and is totally waterproof.
When I’m just commuting and it’s not raining, I like Baboon To The Moon’s Go-Backpack because it doesn’t shift as you ride, and it has a lot of small pockets inside, plus interior and exterior water bottle pockets. There’s also one big cushioned pocket for a laptop.
This was my first spring with this jacket, but it’s already my favorite. I sized up because I like space for layering when it’s chilly, plus I can always open the air vents under the armpits if I need to cool down. It’s also pretty inexpensive for a waterproof jacket, and it’s also good for most, if not all, seasons. I switch off between this one and my Showers Pass one, which is starting to show wear after a couple of years.
These stretchy shorts are my summer uniform. They’re breathable while also being super durable. And even if they do rip, you can take them to the Chrome store in Soho and they’ll fix the stitching. I also like that they don’t look like athletic gear.
When it’s raining, these are the only socks that keep my toes dry. They’re thick but still breathable, and the layers of fabric keep my feet warm. I know $38 sounds like a lot to spend on a pair of socks, but it’s worth it to never have to wear plastic bags on my feet again.
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