Commuting on a light electric vehicle such as an electric bicycle or motorcycle can have a number of benefits. From reducing your carbon footprint to making your commute enjoyable, electric bicycles and e-motorcycles are full of advantages. I haven’t owned a car since high school, and have spent the past decade commuting almost entirely on e-bikes, e-scooters, e-motos and just about e-anything.
But to make light electric vehicle commuting safe and fun, you’ll need the right kit. Here’s a list of recommended gear you’ll need when transforming your commute from a four-wheeled traffic-laden slog to a two-wheeled fun-fest. Each piece of gear described below is something I have used in my own commuting and can personally vouch for.
[Update: Check out my newest 2019 e-bike gear testing article!]
Storage for e-bike or e-motorcycle commuting
When switching from commuting by car or even public transportation, one of the first things you’ll likely miss is being able to carry whatever you want.
Without a trunk to use as a rolling storage locker or the ability to carry a briefcase at your side, you’ll need another solution.
My GenZe 2.0 electric scooter actually has a decent sized cargo trunk, but I end up using a backpack for most light electric vehicles.
You can spend a lot of money on fancy dry bags, but unless you plan to commute daily in rainy climates, a standard school bag or hiking bag is probably enough. I used a High Sierra hiking bag for my last 500-mile e-bike tour, but you can get away with something smaller for daily use.
One of the coolest bicycle or motorcycle commuting bags I’ve used in a long time is the Henty Wingman. The Australian company designed the bag for cyclists and motorcycle riders who need to wear a suit to work, but don’t want to give up their two-wheeled commute.
The Henty Wingman is a wardrobe bag that rolls around a central duffel bag. The rolling outer portion keeps your fancy clothing nice and pressed, while the inner bag has enough storage for shoes, gear and other extraneous items you might need.
In addition to using the bag for commuting, I’ve also found it to be a great garment bag for flying as well. I hate carrying a big wardrobe bag when I fly, and the small but effective Henty Wingman is perfect. It stays nice and rolled up in a small format, but keeps my shirts wrinkle-free. Plus I can carry my laptop and other gear all in the same bag. It worked wonderfully on my trip to cover the Paris Motor Show, and I recently returned from covering the Milan Motorcycle Show where once it again it proved to be a great international travel bag in addition to a cycling bag.
The Wingman comes in either a messenger or backpack style. I’ve only used the messenger style, but I’m sure the backpack works just as well. The main difference appears to be the style of straps.
I really can’t recommend this bag enough for anyone who needs to carry nice clothes while riding.
For those that want to add some on-board storage to their electric bicycle, you can’t go wrong with these Ibera panniers.
They aren’t too massive and don’t stick out very wide from the bike, but still carry a decent amount of stuff. Perfect for light grocery runs or stashing just about anything quickly on your bike. They also have a quick release that works well, so you can easily remove them from the bike if you want to use them to carry your groceries into your home.
Safety equipment for electric bicycle or motorcycle commuting
This is important. Electric bicycles and motorcycles are a lot of fun, but they can be dangerous depending on riding style, conditions, or whether someone in a car is out to get you.
Unlike a car that might just spin out, bikes have a nasty tendency to lay down.
The right protection gear is an important part of preparing to commute on an e-bike or e-moto.
A good helmet is paramount. Think of it like insurance: you don’t want to use it, but if you ever need it, you’ll be glad it’s there.
For everyday e-biking, I like to use this triple eight helmet. It’s lightweight, breathes and stays out of the way when I don’t need it.
In the winter, I wear a full-face helmet with a lifting face, which makes it easier to talk to someone or answer the phone without removing the entire helmet. I also use this helmet year-round for electric scooter or motorcycle riding.
Some people don’t like how cumbersome a full face helmet can be, but that’s why I like the style with the lifting face. It allows the helmet to open up more than just a lifting visor, but still gives you full face protection to protect your good looks in the event of a slide.
For an electric bicycle, a good helmet is probably the minimum amount of protective gear that you’ll need. It’s still a good idea to wear long sleeves and pants to provide some protection from road rash, though I admit that I rarely do this in the summer.
However, on my faster e-bikes, especially ones that go over 28 mph (45 km/h), I wear protective clothing. I also wear protective clothing on electric motorcycles and scooters.
In the summer, I wear a breathable armored jacket. The armored pads are removable, but I just leave them in. It’s great for summer riding, but doesn’t really work for winters as the wind chill gets right in.
My crash jacket for the winter is actually just an old leather jacket I got at a consignment store. If you’re wearing a leather jacket for protection, find one with thick leather. Mine isn’t necessary a good quality or fancy leather jacket, it’s just a thick chunk of leather. Basically, it serves as a layer of sacrificial skin to get ground down by the pavement in case of a slide. Better the cow than me. It doesn’t have armor inside, but its thick enough that it should absorb the blow from the ground decently well. No jacket is going to protect you from a car bumper though, so defensive driving is imperative no matter what clothing you’re wearing.
I use protective pants with insertable knee and hip armor. I get a size that’s a bit big, so I can slip them on over my jeans in the winter. In the summer it can be a chore to wear protective clothing, and I am often tempted to skip it due to the heat. But if you can spring for nicer gear, it is often more breathable and makes it easier to protect yourself in the summer.
Gloves are a good idea all year round. If you ever go down, your first instinct is to put out your hands to brace your fall. Not only is this a good way to injure your wrists, but say goodbye to the skin on your hands.
I use these inexpensive gloves for summer riding. They breathe and even have knuckle protection. Don’t expect them to protect your bones, but they’ll keep your hands more or less in good shape.
For winter, I use cheap snowboarding gloves that are good enough if you add bar mitts. “What are bar mitts?” you might be asking. Please allow me to blow your mind.
Bar mitts are these insulating pocket-like things that mount over your bar ends. Your hands are the body parts that probably get the coldest while riding in the winter due to their location exposed out front and your body’s natural inclination to cut off blood flow to the extremities when cold. With bar mitts, you can wear normal winter gloves and still have warm hands.
I use a pair actually meant for snowmobiles and ATVs, but they work just as well on electric motorcycles or scooters.
There are also bicycle versions as well.
Locks for commuting
Locking is an area where electric motorcycles and moped-style scooters have an advantage over electric bicycles. It’s a lot harder to carry off a motorcycle than a bike, so many people don’t even worry about locking heavier rides.
However, it’s still good idea to lock up if possible. For motorcycles and scooters, a disc brake lock is a good way to add some security without having to carry a heavy, cumbersome lock. With a disc brake lock, the bike is immobilized, meaning a thief can’t roll it away or drive it after hot-wiring. I personally like this bright yellow one from Kryptonite.
Just remember to stretch the orange “reminder cable” from the lock to the handlebar. It serves two purposes: reminding you to remove the lock before riding off, as well as alerting would-be thieves to its presence.
If you live in a high theft area, a disc brake lock won’t stop someone from dragging your electric motorcycle or scooter into a van or truck though. For that, you’ll want to add a heavy-duty chain lock. I use this OnGuard chain lock on my electric scooter. It’s heavy-duty but doesn’t break the bank.
For electric bicycles, there are a few locks that I use.
Kryptonite’s New York Lock line includes some the highest security bike locks on the market. I have used their large size U-lock for years and been happy as a clam with it.
Their highest security lock, the New York Fahgettaboudit U-lock is nearly impenetrable. You’d need an angle grinder and a lot of time to get through it, making it difficult to do in a public place.
However, it’s also rather short which severely limits what you can lock to, plus it’s quite heavy at nearly 5 lbs.
Since then I’ve found two other locks that I’d recommend more based on the combination of their security, convenience, locking versatility and weight.
The first is the Foldylock Classic, made by the company Seatylock. They first made a name for themselves with the original Seatylock, which is a pretty neat innovation. The lock is part of a bicycle seat, which is removed to reveal a foldout bar link lock. It makes it easy to carry a lock with you at all times, hidden out of the way until you need it.
I haven’t used the Seatylock myself, since it isn’t their highest security lock. It’s likely better for non-electric bikes. For me, I use their Foldylock Classic, which is the highest level security. It was actually designed by Israeli security experts, and feels bulletproof to me.
It folds up to a small package – much smaller than a U-lock. However, it opens back up to the size of a chain lock, meaning you can lock around wider items like street lights that wouldn’t work with a U-lock.
In addition to the Foldylock Classic, my other favorite lock is the TIGR titanium lock. These things are simply amazing. The lock is around the size of a U-lock, meaning you can lock to sign post, parking meters, and other objects around 4″ or less in diameter.
However, the beauty of the TIGR titanium U-lock is that it is extremely lightweight yet still very strong. The entire lock weighs barely a pound, but is still super strong due to the titanium. You won’t be able to cut through it with bolt cutters, and it would dull a hacksaw until the front and back of the blade were indistinguishable. It won’t stand up to a disc grinder, but then again no bicycle lock will, even the ones that say they do. However, it will hold out for a good long time, shrieking and throwing sparks the whole while.
In fact, I caught up with the lock’s designer at Interbike this year. He told me that during a demonstration, a pretend thief actually caught his jeans on fire from all the sparks while trying to cut through the lock with an angle grinder.
These locks are hand-made in the US and the craftsmanship is impressive. It’s the answer to anyone who wants a minimalist lock that still features high security.
I own the larger of the two sizes, which I think is better for electric bikes that can be a bit bulkier, but they offer a smaller size as well that can save you a few bucks.
Speaking of cash, don’t expect good locks to be cheap. I usually spend anywhere from $50-$125 for a high security lock. I think this is reasonable considering that I’m usually locking a multi-thousand dollar vehicle.
However, I also have a few cheap chain combination locks. At $14.99, they are the cheapest locks I own. I rarely use them by themselves since they could be cut by a big pair of bolt cutters, but they are still convenient for quick stops in low-risk areas or places where only a slight deterrent is needed. I use them often in my building’s bike room. The place has cameras and theft isn’t really a problem, but a cheap lock never hurts to remind someone not to even try it. Plus I like that I don’t need yet another key for my key ring, and I set all the locks to the same combo so it’s easy to remember.
One other trick I like is to use is a motorcycle or bike cover. This can help keep eyes off your vehicle, reducing the chance that anyone gets a wise idea about lifting it.
Helpful accessories for e-bike or e-motorcycle commuting
The above are the main pieces of kit that I find helpful for the important tasks like storage, locking, and safety. But below are some of my favorite smaller accessories that make commuting easier or more convenient.
A phone holder is pretty important for me when trying out a new route. I like to use turn-by-turn navigation, and Google Map’s bicycle directions feature is quite helpful. I use this minimalist phone mount for when it’s dry out. It gets the job done, and for $10 I can’t complain.
One thing I hate with an irrational passion is replacing batteries in bike lights. These lights are USB rechargeable, which I really like. I can even charge them on my e-bike by plugging them into a DC-DC converter connected to my battery.
A good horn can be an important piece of gear as well for an electric bicycle. I like the Airzound horns because they are nice and loud. However, the downside is that you occasionally need to refill the air. You can use a normal bike pump, but it’s still a bit of a hassle. You can’t beat that nice loud honk though!
For those that prefer an electric solution, I like to mount scooter and motorcycle horns on my e-bikes. This one runs off of 48V, so you can power it directly from the battery with an inline switch on the handlebars.
Air horns and motorcycle horns are strictly for warning cars though. Please do not use them for pedestrians – it gives all cyclists a bad name. Stick with a bell for pedestrians. My favorite is the Knog bell because it takes up less room on the handlebar than any other bell I’ve seen, and it has a nice ring to it. Another great Australian product! Those Aussies know how to make bike gear, apparently.
Lastly, having a tool kit with you is always a great idea when commuting on an electric bicycle. You never know when you might need to do something as simple as tightening a bolt.
From my experience, this is all of the gear that I have found to be most useful when commuting by electric bicycle or electric motorcycle.
But surely there are other parts out there that I haven’t found yet. What is your favorite piece of commuting gear? Let me know in the comments below!
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