Riding without a pack makes me feel like a kid again. Like I’m hopping on my GT Performer to look for plywood in the dumpster behind White Hen. It’s why I love packless solutions like frame bags and other on-bike storage methods. But one packless solution I don’t love is bib pockets. I admit that I’d rather have them than not, but I can never tell if my stuff is properly secured in the shallow side pockets, and I have to dislocate my shoulder to reach the deep middle one. So, if a ride demands more gear than I can fit on my bike, I bring a hip pack. And recently, my definition of “hip pack” got a little more broad.
The original Evoc Race Belt seemed like a great idea when it dropped in 2019. It was a sleek, subtle way to carry aaallllmost all the little things you’d want easy access to. Inexplicably, that first-gen Race Belt had nowhere to securely hold a phone. Maybe because “racers” don’t have time to stream podcasts or audiobooks. The new Race Belt does have room for a phone, plus a couple other design updates. While the original Race Belt latched its wide elastic chassis with nothing but velcro, the new one added a buckle, mirroring the closure system on Evoc’s other hip packs. It also ditched the external CO2 holster. Otherwise, it’s got mostly the same ingredients: An easy-access mesh pocket on the left hip and a nylon zipped pocket on the right, sandwiching some small mesh pockets at the back with the new felt-lined zippered phone pouch dead-center.
- $55.00 USD
- o.8L total capacity
- Elastic waist band
- Evoc “Airo Flex” closure (combination velcro and buckle)
- Three elastic velcro-closure pockets
- Two nylon zipper-closure pockets
- Available in black or olive
By design, each of these compartments offers very limited volume. The only one that feels remotely three-dimensional is the zippered hip pocket. That makes for a pretty clear line between what you can’t carry and what you can. Sandwich? No. Snickers? Yes. Windbreaker? No. Vest? Yes. Sunglasses? No. Sunglass lens? Yes.
This was a difficult adjustment on my first few rides with the Race Belt. I had to commit to the minimalism. I know how to stretch a traditional hip pack to last all day, and I was tempted to try a smaller-scale approach with the Race Belt. But that’s a losing battle. It’s not a smaller hip pack. It’s more like a bigger hip pocket. On top of a few go-to staple necessities, I once tried cramming in spare winter gloves, a tiny shock pump, a bag of Corn Nuts, and yes, even a windbreaker. It worked, just not well. My Hunter Cycles Waist Basket would have been a much smarter way to carry that load. But when properly managed, the Race Belt is a joy to ride with, which I’ll talk about later. Since we’re still covering the vital stats, what better way to illustrate its true scale than with a tedious list of what I actually carried in it?
- Clif Bar (2x)
- Multi tool
- Dynaplug Race
- Sunglass lens
- ID, credit, & insurance
- Katadyn BeFree
- Toilet paper
- Garmin InReach Mini
- iPhone 7
- Car key
- Wedding ring
And that’s kinda’ it. This doesn’t even include the things I already carry on my bike like repair essentials or first aid. But what it does include is the stuff I might want easy access to at any given moment. I’m always switching lenses, or pulling off my gloves, or filtering water, or pooping. Each task is significantly less cumbersome than fishing around my open-floor-plan frame bag, where much of this stuff would tend to rattle around anyway. And that’s why the Race Belt’s skin-tight configuration is such a pleasure to ride with. You really don’t notice it’s there.
Including the above loadout, my Race Belt weighed 895 grams. For reference, a burly set of riding shorts with my wallet, keys and cell phone weighs 710 grams. That barely-there feeling is why, at first, my instinct was to maximize its capacity. When that didn’t go so well, I thought my thesis on this review would culminate in a demand for just a little more versatility. But the more time I spent riding within its limitations, the more I embraced them. Unfortunately, this is not a great time of year to do that. L.A.’s winter is like everyone else’s spring or fall, where the weather varies widely with time of day and elevation of trail. If I had one note, I’d maybe request a bungee or gear strap, just to use in a pinch. Without that sort of external support, Race Belt Season is limited to the months when conditions are predictable. But while testing it on appropriate days, it made me feel like a kid again.
Because none of its weight was cantilevered away from my waist, the Race Belt stayed completely mute, in and out of the saddle. And it didn’t matter how high or low I wore it. I like to position my hip packs low—ya’ know—at my hips. That’s where they hug bone, not guts. But fully loaded hip packs have a tendency to bounce out of my torso’s natural taper. Not the Race Belt. Its wide, elastic surface makes it behave more like another article of clothing and less like a pack. It distributes that minimal weight across all of its generous surface area, so I never felt any hotspots, even though the new design includes a buckle. Speaking of which, I usually find Evoc’s buckle-and-velcro system a bit annoying on their traditional hip packs. It adds some extra faff when adjusting tension and position. But since the Race Belt is so set-and-forget, I appreciated the combo of comfort and security. Plus, it made my hip-pack-handlebar-bag hack an option if I still got a little sweaty.
Oh, and I almost forgot the Race Belt’s most underappreciated perk: It fits underneath your shirt! That might seem like just a fringe benefit of its slim shape, but it actually solves an issue faced by hip packs since when they were called fanny packs. Which is, they’re kinda dorky. I feel like I’m racing enduro at Euro Disney whenever I’m seen in public wearing a full-sized hip pack and a half-shell helmet. The Evoc Race Belt is nice and subtle. It bridges the gap between the reality of packs and the fantasy of packlessness. I say “fantasy” because there’s always some stressful compromises required to achieve that stress-free aesthetic. You’re either going without something you need, or you’re putting that thing somewhere hard to reach. But now, you can stay prepared while looking casual. That’s good. Nobody will be suspicious when you’re stealing plywood.
- Smart layout
- Fits underneath shirts or jackets
- Offers no “in-a-pinch” excess storage capability
- Oversized “phablet” phones might have a tight fit in phone compartment
- More expensive than some similar non-bike-industry options
See more at Evoc