Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How To - What To Carry On A Training Ride

Throughout my cycling life I've had this recurring cycle (heh) of "preparedness" versus "minimalist" loadouts. As I go through one phase I start to yearn for the other.

"Minimalist" refers to racing, usually in a criterium. I set out on tubulars, no spares, no lights, no nothing. Just the bike, a bottle or two, and me. If anything happens I either head to the pits or the car; there's no second chance, no repairing the bike. Minimalist is an all or nothing mindset.

For road races and mountain bike races there's an element of self-support. If you flat 30 miles from the car (or at the other side of the course in a huge park), replacing the tube allows you to at least ride back to home base. In mountain bike races I flatted in I think every race I did and I seemed to finish 12th a lot (after flatting). I did do a minimalist race once and, of course, flatted after killing it in the opening single lane gravel section, before the trails even started.

In the same vein, one year, a long time ago, a Junior that typically won the state time trial by a few minutes flatted. He lost his chance to go to Nationals because of the flat (back then the top 6 qualified for Nationals, otherwise you weren't allowed to enter). I figured that even if he fixed the flat and kept riding he'd have won.

The next year he did the time trial with a pump and a spare tire.

"Preparedness" is the extreme opposite of the Minimalist mindset. After a season of racing, as the weather starts to cool, I get into the Preparedness mode. I start bringing more and more stuff on training rides, maybe a vest for the chilly end-of-sunlight, a tail light, maybe shoe over covers. I bring more food than normal, in case my body burns more energy than expected to stay warm.

Of course I use clinchers, and I prefer wheels with exposed spoke nipples so I can, if necessary, do some emergency spoke tweaking to get home.

The Preparedness season peaks on my training camp dates. I've set out with 3 extra tubes, vest, arm warmers, long sleeve jersey, warm gloves, shoe covers, all jammed in my pockets, along with my Regular loadout. I'll set off for a Palomar attack loaded down like a pack horse - if anything happened in those long stretches of no-phone-coverage I had to be prepared.

I mentioned something just above - the "Regular" loadout. This is the Minimalist version of Preparedness. A contradiction, sort of, but when I go for training rides during the season I acknowledge that I may run into some normal problems - a flat, bent chain, stuff like that.

The Regular loadout is so often used that I keep a ready-to-go kit which slips easily into a jersey pocket. With warm temperatures I rarely worry about bringing extra clothing, I slip a gel or two into another pocket, and my phone (for Strava) goes into the center pocket.

I've used my Regular loadout to help others less prepared, hence this post.

What should you carry on a training ride?

I fit everything in a convenient, abundant, and free container - inner tube boxes.

There's a key item missing here - my frame pump. I now put it under the top tube but I've also mounted it a bit more creatively in the past.

The "ess-ploded" view.
There's an extra box, in the middle above.

Clockwise from the top left (skipping the boxes and such on the perimeter):

1. Multi Tool
2. Multi Tool with chain tool on it
3. Dropout
4. Tire levers including one with a metal core, screwdriver, and 5mm allen key
5. Food (granola bar)
6. Black spoke key (fits my wheels)
7. $20 bill
8. Extra master link

The perimeter is, clockwise from left, is:

1. Phone (Strava!)
2. Box with second tube in it
3. Empty box (used to boot a cut tire if necessary)
4. Wallet
5. Empty box

I'll list, in short order, the minimum, for a regular road ride using clincher tires. All the #1 items go in one box; #2, #3, and #4 go into 

1. Extra inner tube. Throw out the valve cap and the thing that screws onto the valve, or realize that you'll need to bring them back. I keep them on - I know if they're on then the tube is new since I never leave them on (they're not necessary).

1A. If you need a valve extension for your fancy aero wheels put one on this tube and leave it there so you never forget it. If you have two different height rims then get one for the taller one.

1B. Tire levers. At least two. I use plastic ones, but one is a metal reinforced one so I use that first.

1C. Some cardboard to boot the tire in case I cut the casing badly. Money works but cardboard is better - it's thicker, resists deformation, and doesn't bulge out like money does. I like the cardboard that most innertubes come in so it's easy to find some - just use the inner tube box.

2. Multi tool. You should have an 8mm Allen head on here, in case your pedal or cranks loosen. You should have every other tool you need. If you have Campy brake pads that use the Torx head you may be able to get a Torx fitting that will slip over a particular size Allen wrench or a quarter inch fitting. If you're desperate see if the straight blade screwdriver blade fits in the Torx head.

3. Mini chain tool. Regardless of whether you use a master link or not you should carry a chain tool. If you twist or bend your chain the master link won't help. You need to remove any damaged bits of chain, and you can't do that without a chain tool. Some multi tools have chain tools on them. Since this is an emergency thing almost any chain tool will work, but you should practice on scrap pieces of chain (a shop will have 5-6 link lengths of chain that they'll probably give you).

4. Master link. If you use a master link (I do now) carry an extra. You can use the chain tool but the master link is easier if for some reason you break or drop a piece of the master link.

5. Drop out. Get an extra dropout for your frame (or a few of them - I think I have 5 or something for the three frames that use them). It's meant to fail readily and unfortunately it can fail before it's really supposed to fail, like when you're just shifting normally.

6. Black spoke wrench (the one that fits my spoke nipples).

I slip all of this stuff into two tube boxes and slip those in a jersey pocket. Easy cheesy.

Now to go for a ride.

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