Since there’s no better way to finish off a day than with a little afternoon ride, I recently found myself in a rush to get out the door for a little sunset shred. Unfortunately, I forgot to grab my fanny pack, but since I’ve been issue-free on the trail for quite some time, I didn’t give it a second thought as I headed out to one of my favorite local trails.
As the top of the climb approached, I couldn’t wait to start my descent to open it up and test out my freshly rebuilt fork. About 100 yards into the descent, I spotted a big, sharp rock in the middle of the trail. Already committed to my line, it was too late to avoid the rock and I ran straight into it with my front wheel – for a few seconds, I thought I got lucky and didn’t puncture, but as I slowed down to see tire sealant spewing out of my tire, I knew I was in trouble. With no tube, no tools, and not nearly enough water, I started my hike back to my truck. Luckily, situations like this are completely avoidable with the correct planning and gear. Had I turned around instead of rushing out the door filled with hubris, I would’ve had a tube and all the necessary tools to repair the flat, and been on my way in a matter of minutes.
With so much innovation in carrying tools, food, air, and water, at both the mass-produced and grass-roots levels, there is no excuse for being stuck out on the trail due to a flat tire or minor mechanical issue. Between hydration packs, fanny packs, storage bibs, and on-the-bike stashes, there are plenty of options when it comes to trail storage. Always in search of the next best thing, I have tried just about all of these options and they each have their strengths and weaknesses.
Unless your ride parallels a river with fresh flowing water, longer rides require a hydration pack. Of course, the term “longer” is relative, some people may consider five miles long, while others might consider sixty miles long. Regardless of your scale, if the ride is going to push your physical ability, you simply can’t beat a hydration pack. It is also important to consider the conditions, if it is hot, a hydration pack is a great choice because your water is easily accessible and you can carry a lot of it. When it comes to mass water storage, there is not a more efficient way to carry water on the trail. Hydration packs offer varying amounts of additional carrying space for tools, nutrition, and air depending on which model you choose. You may be wondering, “Why would you ever ride without a hydration pack?” Unfortunately, all of that storage comes at a price, every tool or piece of nutrition is added weight to your back, which some riders think is too much of a burden. Some may scoff at the idea, but shedding the weight of a hydration pack can lead to faster ascents, better handling on the descents, and a more liberating ride. We just recently reviewed Camelbak’s newest pack, the Kudu 12. You can check that review out here.
Although you may look like you’re straight out of the 80’s, a fanny pack can be a very useful piece of equipment on the trail. In cases where you feel a hydration pack might be a little much, a fanny pack is a great alternative. With most fanny packs you can still carry the essentials (multi tool, water, nutrition, etc.), but you are more limited on how much you can carry. For example, I raced an Enduro earlier this year where they had water at the end of every stage. Knowing that I would be able to keep refilling my water bottle, I decided to save weight and just stuff my multi-tool and some nutrition in my fanny pack, and it worked out great. To the same point, fanny packs are great for shorter rides because you almost forget that you’re wearing one. On the other hand, it is important to be conscious of weight when packing a fanny pack, because they can move around and become uncomfortable when they get too heavy. If you like to pack heavy and bring a little extra on your rides, a hydration pack is a better option. However, the fanny pack works great for lighter loads, or when combined with some of the other trail storage options like on-the-bike storage.
Road jersey pockets have been storing tubes, pumps, nutrition, phones, Advil, and probably even some things we can’t mention for likely as long as cycling has been a sport. Storage bibs are a new innovation and are becoming increasingly popular in mountain biking because they allow mountain bikers to keep their baggy style while offering the simplicity and convenience of a road jersey for storage. Current storage bibs feature varying amounts of storage volume, so it is difficult to lump them all into one category. For example, the Race Face Stash Bib has a pocket for a full hydration pack bladder along with extra storage pockets, whereas the Louis Garneau Equipe bib features only a small pocket. Although the storage volume differs, the benefit remains the same; you are able to store things closer, lower, and more securely to your body, which means less weight moving around on your back. As a close relative to storage bibs, road jerseys offer similar benefits, but can be a bit easier on the wallet. The downside to the storage bib and road jersey is that they can be slightly uncomfortable if the pockets are overstuffed or unbalanced. However, if you want a very lightweight, low profile way to carry things on the trail, storage bibs and road jerseys are the way to go.
Another phenomenon that is splitting between tried and true traditions and new applications is on-the-bike storage. The bottle cage is not a new invention by any means, but nonetheless, it is almost a necessity, especially if you aren’t wearing a hydration pack. Whether it’s a flat or just adding a little air on the trail, frame pumps can be a lifesaver. Most frame pumps even include a simple mounting system that attaches underneath the bottle cage. As for your tools, nutrition, and tube, seat bags can be a very effective form of storage, however they are limited in size. With innovations like the SWAT Box (Storage, Air, Water, Tools)—Specialized’s in-the-downtube cubby hole— there is no doubt that the industry is picking up on the desires of the consumer. But when you don’t have the latest and greatest, you have to get creative. Strapping or taping things to your frame is a quick and easy solution that keeps weight off of your bike and in your wallet. While on-the-bike storage has its limits, it’s really convenient because it goes with you on every ride and can be used in conjunction with all of the other types of trail storage. If you need a little inspiration, here are a couple on-the-bike techniques found around the shop here at Art’s.
The keys to trail storage are: 1. Having the trail essentials (Water, tube, tools, pump, and nutrition) and 2. Being creative. I’ve found that best solution is a combination of the options listed above. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference and what best suites your ride-de-jour. As a rule of thumb, it helps to have heavier objects like tubes, pumps, and CO2 attached to the frame, and save the lighter things like nutrition and multi tools for your pockets, fanny pack, or hydration pack. Taking the heavier objects off of your back and hips will help you feel more comfortable on the bike and take your riding to the next level. Don’t fall victim to the surprises of the trail, be prepared, and shred on.
Do you have any unique ways of bringing your essentials with you on your rides? Let us know in the comments.