The big events loom at the end of the week, part payday, part bill to be paid. How much is investment and how much is collection varies as much as the events themselves. Being ready for the day, whether it’s a weekend away with friends, some tourist-spot century or the season-punctuating stage race, has eaten whole months, the ego kept in a jar by the door. And with the big day at hand, the packing becomes a reflection of what we know of ourselves, what we know of the day.
When the weather is nice, the packing isn’t all that interesting—jersey, bibs, base layer, socks, shoes, helmet, glasses and maybe gloves. That’s it. Packing for a whole weekend of abuse that threatens refrigerator temperatures, rain frequent as a child’s tantrums, days as long as a visit to Disneyland can mean not one piece of luggage, but two.
We examine the course description and ask ourselves questions: How steep is the terrain? Are the descents technical? What’s the most suitable tire? Go with the faster rolling tire, or the one that offers more traction in loose corners? Do the brakes need bleeding? Chain lubed?
Then comes the weather forecast: What’s the high for the day? Will we even be on the bike when the high arrives? What’s the anticipated temperature at the start? How much will it rise during our labor?
Selecting our wardrobe carries the most obvious reflection of strategy. Regular bibs or thermal? Both? Base layers—short-sleeve, long-sleeve, thermal. Then there’s the question of short sleeves plus arm warmers, or just conceding the day and opting for long sleeves. After all, with a long-sleeve jersey we can add a long-sleeve thermal base layer, but a short-sleeve jersey calls for a short-sleeve base layer and arm warmers.
If wet, does the occasion merit a hat? Do we bother with glasses? Road spray to any significant degree makes glasses a joke.
Gravel events seem to throw all these questions in a blender. How cold is the water at the first stream crossing? Is wool enough, or does situation demand the nuclear option—waterproof socks? Is a long-finger glove enough, or will the day be cold enough to call for something insulated? As with so many things, the best response calls for bringing both.
Woe be to those who forget the GPS unit. One wrong turn can be measured in sitcoms. Is it charged? Routes downloaded?
And what of fueling? Relying on sag stop food can mean resorting to Chips Ahoy!, Country Time Lemonade and oranges sliced into sticky quarters. Is it realistic to try to carry enough fluid and food for six, maybe seven hours? Who is really prepared to wear a hydration pack for as long as it takes to drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco?
And what of getting the fuel from home to start? How big a cooler—of the three in the garage—does the onboard feast require? And if the day is that cold, let’s not forget to pipe hot water into a thermos.
With that level of planning, it’s possible to forget the cream cheese for the bagels, the sugar for the coffee. Heaven help those who finish so late the organizer has run out of food.
It’s best to bring the bigger cooler to leave room for a sandwich and a couple of beers to soothe our battered egos, once we have said, our legs have done.