What are Your Desert Island Bike Commuting Accessories?

What are Your Desert Island Bike Commuting Accessories?
Photo: Hiroyuki-H

Suppose you were going to be on a small deserted island for up to a year and you had to pick some bike commuting accessories to take with you.

Madagascar Map
If you need me, I’ll be here.
Okay: Not you, but me.And not a small island, but the fourth largest island in the world.And definitely not deserted: Population 22 million or more.What I’m trying to say is that in September I’ll be going to Madagascar for awhile — for nine months — for work. The gig? I’ll be workingHuman Network International (HNI), an NGO which has developed a mobile data collection and communications service designed for international development organizations worldwide.I will be bike commuting in the capitol, Antananarivo.

Banana Are Devo
Antananarivo — rhymes with “bananas are Devo.”
Photo: Weeping Elvis

This is the intersection of bike commuting and bike touring. I’ve purchased plenty of low- and medium-quality accessories with the thought, Hell, I can always replace it. But this time crappy equipmentis not an option.I’ve been to Africa a few times, although never to Madagascar. Based on my previous experience, I’m assuming that I will be far from the well-stocked bike shops of North America, or the two-day delivery we demand here in The Land of Instant Consumer Gratification.So I’ll be sitting in front of a computer everyday, just like I do now. That means I’ll be able to use USB rechargeable bike lights.I’ll get a bike once I’m there; probably a steel-framed mountain bike like this one, more or less.

Trek Mountain Bike in Madagascar
Nothing Fancy | Photo: Red Island Living

As you can see, I probably won’t need a bike rear rack, but who knows what kind of rack will come with the bike.From among the accessories that I already have, I reckon I’ll bring my Velo Orange Saddle— I’ve finally taken to this saddle after initial skepticism.And since the saddle is already set up for it, I’ll bring myOrtlieb Mud Racer LED Saddle Bag, but I could probably be talked out of bringing this. It’s a little cramped for space, plus the integrated tail light is pretty feeble. And unless I get creative with zip ties or something, there’s no easy way to attach my Light and Motion Vis 180 Tail Light, because it’s my favorite tail light ever, and it reminds me of an Alien.

Light and Motion Vis 180 Bike Tail Light
Light and Motion Vis 180 Tail Light

I will also bring my Ortlieb Back Roller Classic panniers, which may come in handy if I do any extracurricular touring while there.

What would you recommend, Dear Readers?

I’m thinking I could probably use a good loud horn. I say this because of my previous experience in other African countries where drivers use horns almost constantly in traffic — not in the hostile and/or terrified way we use them in this country, but as an audible notification no more aggressive than a turn signal.I’m really into using an Android tablet these days. So maybe a bike backpack and/or sleeve for that? Also one of these smallish pumps like BluesCat recommends.What about tools? A headlight? Gloves? Lemur carrier?Seriously. I’m sure I’m forgetting something.

Ted Johnson is a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Antananarivo, Madagascar. Follow his hardly-ever-about-bikes blogging at Half-Hearted Fanatic, and tweeting at @TedJohnsonIII.Note that the opinions expressed here by Ted Johnson are solely his own and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

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11 thoughts on “What are Your Desert Island Bike Commuting Accessories?”

  1. Darren says:

    Gotta recommend a mirror most highly. Especially if you’re in a place with an unfamiliar traffic culture.

  2. Bernie Connors says:

    The best accessory I have purchased lately is a collapsible rear basket, $19.99. I can quickly drop my bag or back pack into the basket when getting on the bike and then quickly throw it over my shoulder when I lock up my bike. If you are going to be in a congested, high crime area you may want a front basket instead so you can keep a better eye in your cargo.

  3. Max says:

    Read up on World Bicycle Relief. Look at the type of equipment they outfit their bikes with. They are meant for the worst conditions that africa can throw at a bike.

  4. Chuck Cheesman says:

    Congrats & safe travels! Will you be reporting to us about your experiences via this blog or your own? It’d be great to get some reports from you.

  5. Matt says:

    Zip ties! Regardless of what you put on your bike, they’re more secure with zip ties.

  6. Alden says:

    Bike lock! Those water-bottle locks are pretty solid and they fit so conveniently.

    Also, not sure what the culture/crime is like, but a thing of pepper spray that attaches to a bike frame can’t hurt to bring. Great for people, and even more importantly, animals.

    Depending on the weather (rainy a lot? Not sure about the climate their) getting a good pair of glasses could help. Bonus points if they are light sensitive so you can use during early mornings/late evenings.

    Have fun and GL!

  7. Reece says:

    Perhaps a good frame mount mini pump..? I don’t know what the weather is like, but one of my favorite new add-ons are my SKS shockblades… Easy on/off fenders!

  8. Rideon says:

    I would fold up and old used Dahon or any decent quality folding bike with small rear rack for optional use, quick release handlebar basket and a good quality hydration pack. Small seat wedge bag packed with repair items, spare tube, patch kit, etc. that can be stuffed into hydration pack if needed. I like the Detours Grassy Handlebar Basket as it is collapsible, drawstring interior lined bag and rain cover. I would fold up the Dahon in it’s travel bag, and board with basket and hydration pack, with the exception that I won’t get on an air plane that’s how I would approach that situation. Oh ya, Cygolite Metro 300 and hotshot tail light kit are USB rechargeable and would be annoyingly bright day or night. Cheers!

  9. Tim Sherman says:

    It rains more there than in the Pacific North West. J&G rain gear is my go to. I can wear layers under it in winter or unzip it in the spring rain. The helmet covers are the one thing that I would take. It will get you through a downpour. The J&G rain gear fit keeps rain out of your pants and the length of the legs and sleeves keep it out of your booties and gloves. At over 4000 foot elevation it would be good to have some cover. Take two of the helmet covers just in case that you can’t find one when you’re late for work and it is raining again.

  10. Tim Sherman says:

    Zip ties are the best defense against speed bumps!

  11. Graham Wilkinson says:


    Darren is spot on with a mirror. Can I suggest a Bike Eye mirror. Light, stable and potentially a life saver. Easy to fit and I have them now on all my bikes, including my Dutch town bike.

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