Packing your jersey pockets for a ride is as important as the breakfast you eat in the morning, whether you're going for a short spin before work or embarking on a 100 mile sportive over hilly terrain. But just what do you need to carry with you, what's essential and what's not? This the kit we deem as essential, the stuff we won't leave home without.
My advice for carrying essentials to get you out of any mechanical pickle (so that's an inner tube or two, a multitool with a chain breaker and tyre levers) is to stow them inside a saddle pack and strap it to the underside of your saddle. An alternative is to use a tool keg and slide it into a bottle cage, but that, of course, means you can only use one water bottle, fine for short rides but not ideal on longer rides.
The SILCA Seat Roll Premio is a top quality 'traditional'-style saddlepack (with some nice modern touches like the BOA adjuster to make it easier to use). Or SILCA's new Seat Capsule provides an interesting alternative, a "hardshell" design that's extremely neat and doesn't touch your seat-tube.
Certainly, some purists will scoff at the idea of fitting a saddle pack to a bicycle, but with the tubes and other small parts fixed to the bike you free up much more space in your jersey pockets, and that makes a big difference on longer rides. It also means you're less likely to forget an inner tube as it's permanently attached to the bike. Some people also like to add more things like chain links, patches, tyre boot and even cable ties for getting out of any mechanical situation.
So with tubes and tools stashed on the bike, your jersey pockets can be free to accommodate that other essential you'll need for any long ride: food. Because you've fitted the tubes to the bike, you've got loads of cargo capacity to take loads of food, from gels to French baguettes. Okay, maybe that will stretch the pocket loading a bit far!
There's also space for extra clothing as well. Whether you're cycling in the UK or in the French Alps, the weather can be changeable so it pays to take some extra clothing. After that, you'll probably want to carry a phone, for emergencies and photos, and some money for cake stops.
There's no right or wrong when it comes loading your pockets, but here's how I do it:
I use this pocket for the bulkiest items I carry for the best weight distribution starting with a mini pump if it's not already fixed to the frame. I have a small Lezyne pump that just pokes out of the top of the pocket and is so light you don't notice it at all. You might prefer CO2 canisters but I prefer a pump, it never runs out of air.
Alongside the pump, I like to take an emergency rain jacket like the incredibly packable 7Mesh Oro rain jacket (right), especially if the weather forecast is looking suboptimal.
If it's warmer, I'll regularly carry a lightweight gilet (like the ultra-compact Pas Normal Studios Stow Away), and possibly some arm warmers. Both are ideal for the first chilly hour of an early ride or long descents to keep the chill at bay.
I use this pocket for storing my smartphone. You don't need me to tell you how sensible it is to carry a phone in case of an emergency. You might also want to use it to snap some photos to record some memories of your ride, or share them on Instagram - we like to do that over on the Bespoke Instagram page.
I also use this pocket for taking some money and a credit card, both for emergencies (you never know when you might have to call a taxi) and for buying cake and coffee mid-ride. There are some good wallets like the SILCA Eolo Wallet that will organise all of this in one compact case.
The final pocket I use for food. How much food you carry comes down to how long you're riding for, but even on the shortest lunch rides I always stick an emergency gel in the pocket. You know, just in case it all goes bad and I hit the wall!
For longer rides I always urge on the side of caution and carry more than I might need, I'd personally rather carry around a bit of extra weight than run out of food, especially if it's a ride with few or no food stops.
The last essential item that I'll usually have are either my car or house keys, depending on whether I'm starting from home or an event car park. Ideally, I wear a jersey with an extra zipped valuables pocket to safely store the keys, but if not I'll hide them in the bottom of the middle pocket.
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