For those of us who have (or choose) to drive to our rides, there’s always a risk that we’ll leave something important at home. And usually, we don’t realize it until we park the truck, unload the bike, reach over to the passenger seat, and … well, shit. Travis Engel knows this feeling all too well, so he’s got a hack to make sure he always has what he needs, as long as he always has his truck.
I am a bit of a train wreck. It’s a wonder that I made it this far into my 40s without burning down a house or cutting off a finger … though I should probably knock on wood while I still have all my walls and all my knuckles. The only thing I can do about my chaos is be aware of it. I write things down. I make it easy to put things away where I can find them. And I build redundancies into my life. One such redundancy is the kit I keep in my truck at all times. It’s full of nearly everything I ever have—or ever could—forget to bring on a ride.
Even if you’re not a train wreck, I’d still be surprised if you’ve never shown up on a drive-to-ride day after a rushed morning or hectic night, having realized you didn’t bring your sunglasses or headphones, or maybe even your shoes or helmet. Or maybe it’s shoulder season, and it didn’t occur to you until you hit that high-altitude parking lot that it might be jacket weather or pants weather or warm-gloves weather. Whenever that happened to me, I would picture the item that I needed, taunting me from the hook or in the drawer that I had ignorantly walked past just thirty minutes before. But the ride is starting now, so those items might as well be a million miles away. Unless, of course, they could be in your vehicle at all times.
I happen to have the luxury of being surrounded by extra shoes, helmets, packs and tools by virtue of my rather inadvisable career choice as a “bike-industry journalist.” So, it was easy for me to find a pretty nice backup for each individual piece of equipment I might need on a ride. For those of you who have real jobs, the strategy will be a little different. Most of us will keep our gear until it’s well past its prime. Maybe you can cope with the finicky zipper on your pack’s side pocket, but you’re waiting for that tear in the main pocket to go from two inches to three inches before you replace it. Or maybe the rubber is delaminating from your shoe’s plastic midsole, but it’s not quite letting in water. Even once those items cross those thresholds, I reckon they’d be better than nothing, and definitely better than driving home in defeat instead of joining a ride. It’s that type of worn-out gear that makes for a perfect back-up kit. You might even already have a kit started if you just can’t let go of a threadbare jacket once it’s collected so many memories. Put it in the reserves, and maybe it can have a second life.
Another category of eligible necessities is stuff that’s still in decent shape, but simply isn’t that great. Like the old Park AWS-9 whose misguided emphasis on screwdrivers got it demoted to the junk drawer. Or the sunglasses that you bought in desperation at The Flying J truck stop. Or the gardening gloves you picked up back when you were, like, totally gonna start gardening. I even extend this logic to the clothes I bring. There’s a packable jacket in my kit that turned out to be way too big, a pair of shorts that are way too bulky, and a jersey I won at an event that’s too ugly to wear in public. Much like the worn-out gear you once loved, the gear you never loved is still better than no gear at all. Building a reserve kit out of sub-optimal gear has another benefit. You won’t be tempted to re-integrate it into regular rotation after using it. You’ll know right where that pump with the sticky O-rings belongs when you pull it out of your pack. Straight back into the reserve kit where, hopefully, you won’t have to ever use it again. But you probably will.
Every situation is different, but my reserve kit hangs out in a canvas shopping bag behind the seat of my two-seater Tacoma. Back when I had an extended-cab Tacoma, I used this milk crate, and I dusted it off for this article ‘cause it looks better in photos. But the bag really doesn’t take up much space. If I didn’t include a helmet, it’d fit under the front seat. That helmet has saved me on one occasion, and someone I was riding with on another, so it’s staying in the kit. Everyone’s needs are different, but below is what’s in my bag:
- Clip shoes AND flat shoes
- Warm-weather gloves
- Cold-weather gloves
- Packable jacket
- Long-sleeve jersey
- Baggy shorts
- Wired headphones (with Lightning adapter)
Hydration pack including:
- Water filter
- Mini pump
- Tubeless plugs
- Spare tube
- 3x Clif bars (rotated semiannually)
Of course, this doesn’t include everything. Most of my every-ride carry kit is already strapped to my bike, and I can technically do without it if I need to. And some of the stuff I carry is too expensive to pack a duplicate, like my InReach messenger. On that note, even if your kit can’t be totally comprehensive, I think it’s still worth putting together what you can spare. I’ve occasionally made the last-minute decision to bring a second pair of gloves or a second jersey for an added layer. It’s like having a little piece of home with me wherever I go. Now, the only thing I really have to remember is my bike (knock on wood).