Friday, April 10, 2009

A Prepared Gentlemen's Race Bag and Prerace Rituals.

Racing season is here. This means regular travel for most of us. Some of us scramble around early every Saturday morning randomly throwing items in a carry-all, only to later find that we forgot a crucial item, such as cycling shoes or that our bibs are visibly soiled and odorific.

This is my 5th season of packing race bags. After lots of time traveling with others, I have learned a few things. One of them is that I am known as a well prepared racer.

While I am not the fastest on the bike, I am one of the best prepared, materially. I have spent the last 5 years refining my packing system. Seldom does a prerace situation come up that I can't deal with using items in my race bag.

But don't take this to mean that I pack everything under the sun...

I pack only what I could forseeably need in a normal prerace situation. Since my bicycle is in good repair and I check it the day before the race , I don't bring stuff like chainwhips, BB tools cassette tools, pedal wrenches or chain tools (outside of the one included with the multi-tool.

Preparing for a Saturday race begins on Thursday night.

It doesn't pay to wash clothes on Friday night and frantically throw clothes ad hoc into the race bag, so I do it on Thursday, since I air dry all cycling clothes. Thursday is also a good time to take care of any pressing prerace mechanical issues (changing cleats, adjusting derailleurs, tuning brakes)

After my prerace openers on Friday, I clean and go over the race bicycle. During the opener ride, I verify that the bicycle is running perfectly. NO MAJOR MECHANICAL WORK THE NIGHT BEFORE THE RACE! Barrel adjusting or rewrapping bars is as far as mechanics should go on Friday night. I also check my tires to make sure there are no slashes or at the very least remove pieces of glass that are slowly burrowing into the tire.

My bag packing system is thus:

1. Create checklist which is broken into two parts, items to be packed the night before and items to be packed the morning of the race.

2. The night before the race: Pack all clothing, bodycare products and equipment and stack everything by the door or in the bike room.

3. Morning of the race- prepare all food and drinks for the whole day- including prerace meals and post race recovery food- pack cooler--verify that checklist is completed.

4. Post race-refrigerate leftovers- clean bottles-repack race bag for next day-clean/check bike

Since I race 4 disciplines (road, track, mountain, cyclocross), there are modifications to the following list reflecting the requirements of each discipline, but for the most part the items in the race bag remain there. To simplify things, I keep the bag always packed, using items out of it over the week of training and cleaning and refreshing needed items on Thursday and Friday.

Items in the bag:

Sloppy weather arm warmers
Fair weather arm warmers
Sloppy weather knee warmers
Fair weather knee warmers
Leg warmers
Cool weather base layer
Windblocker base layer
Long sleeve wool base layer
Rubber rain slicker
Fingerless gloves
Fullfinger non insulated gloves
Woven gloves
Windblocker gloves (30-45 degrees)
Cold weather gloves (25-32 degrees)
Lycra shoe covers
Cold weather booties
Fair weather team bibs
Sloppy weather team bibs (usually old kit)
Short sleeve team jersey
Long sleeve team jersey
Sloppy weather team cap
Fair weather team cap
Winter cap
Lycra beany
Glasses with hard case
Team socks
Tall socks
Wool socks
Trash bag (for wet clothes)
Embrocation (multiple strengths)
Blue nitrile gloves (for Embro and/or unexpected repairs)
Chamois crème
Sunblock (high quality, sweatproof)
15 mm wrench (track)
Extra cogs (track)
Flashlight (you’d be surprised at how often I use this)
Allen keys
Mini bottle chain lubricant (T-9, since the bottles don’t leak)
CO2 inflator
CO2 cartridge
Tubes (minimum of three, b/c sh++ happens)
New tire
Trainer skewer
Clif Bars (6)
Energy gels (6)
Emergency recovery food (Protein bars)
Extra drink mix
Electolyte pills
Ibuprofen tablets
Cycling shoes

As for bag organization, I like to keep like with like. For instance, all of the warmers are together, as are the base layers. I keep paired items attached, gloves Velcroed together and warmers balled up in pairs. I usually wrap my bibs into a ball and wrap those in a jersey, though this is mostly so that my gleaming white bibs won’t inadvertently rub against something that will sully them. Tools and parts have their own compartment, as does nutrition and also bodycare products. Leaky product is kept in zip lock bags.

I used to have an unorganized bag. But one too many times I arrived at races without a helmet or with non-matching socks. Once, I embrocated the chamois on the only bibs that I had packed. Once I got serious about racing, I got serious about preparedness. Now if only my results would reflect my level of organization and preparedness…


pedalstrike said...

if racing requires this kind of organization, i'm pretty sure i'm never going to cut it.

i can't believe all that stuff fits in that bag!

also, thank you for the list of things i should be accumulating (other than the road bike)!

Drew said...

Gillet...Nice! I didn't know you're such an Anglophile.

RMM said...


My first race bag had a skanked waterbottle, an ill fitting helmet, black non-bib shorts, a too big jersey and mtb shoes.


Is there another name for a gillet, "thermal vest" perhaps?

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