The pros have got it pretty good. They arrive at the race and their bikes are prepped and ready, waiting for them to hop on. Pros don’t clean, they don’t tune; all of that stuff is handled.
It’s harder for the rest of us. When we race cyclocross we often have no support and no one in the pit, and somehow we need to make one bike last the whole race. Sure, we might have a second bike, but it’s a bailout, a last resort, not a fresh-bike-every-lap option.
When I started thinking about doing a story on how to prep for races and what equipment to bring along I canvassed a bunch of my friends and asked them about their systems. Turns out everyone is different: Some have buckets; some have a pile of random stuff in the back of their car; some hit up their friends every weekend to make sure they have pit help.
Me? I have The Box.
The Box is a living thing, ever evolving, but one aspect remains constant: It always has everything I need to race tucked away inside. It’s nothing fancy, just an old plastic file box from the office store. It has an attached flip-top lid and some cracks and dings, but it’s what’s inside that counts. Over time, some things, unused and taking up room, have been removed, while other items have been added as they assert their usefulness.
The Box gets checked and reloaded at the beginning of every season. It only has to be done once, and after it’s ready to roll all I need to remember is to replace any used or depleted items. If a spray or lube gets used a lot, I like to carry two in case one runs out.
During the season The Box goes in the back of my pickup on Friday night and comes out on Monday morning. Clean, simple, and self-contained. I don’t have to look for anything or check lists of things I need — it’s all in The Box.
Here’s how to put together one of your own.
Inside The Box
A small but concise tool kit is essential. Tools should be kept in a tool roll, small toolbox, or even something as simple as a pencil case or old toiletries bag (compartments are a nice touch).
Tools to include:
• Set of Allen wrenches
• Cogset removal tools
• Disc rotor truing tool
• Pressure gauge
• Torx wrenches
• Chain tool
• Small crescent wrench
• Scissors/razor knife
• Box wrenches for cantilever brakes and other specialized uses.
• Tire levers for clinchers
• Floor pump (it might not fit in The Box, but you need it)
Lubes and sprays:
• WD-40. General lube/water displacer and solvent. Can be used to keep drivetrain running in wet/frozen conditions.
• Silicone spray. To keep pedals running smooth in dry conditions. Once applied it doesn’t attract dirt/dust.
• Chain lube. A selection of lubes for different conditions.
• De-icer. For frozen and icy conditions, great for pedals and drivetrains in the instance of water splashing up and freezing on contact. Deicer can be harsh on plastics and decals but is OK on metal.
• Pam non-stick spray. Not everyone goes for it but I have used it with decent results to help stop mud from sticking to frame tubes and metal parts.
• Brake pads (disc and/or cantilever)
• Disc brake rotors
• Derailleur hangers (I carry two; don’t ask)
• Spare buckles or fasteners for shoes
• Tire sealant and everything needed to get it in a tire.
• Rags and towels
• Toe spikes for shoes
• Roll of electrical tape or silicone rescue tape
• First aid kit
Ideally The Box should contain whatever might be needed on race day without a bunch of excess stuff that won’t be useful. You still need to clean and dial your bikes completely before the race; the items in The Box are for contingencies and emergencies only.
If possible the tools should be duplicates of tools that are in the garage or at least dedicated to The Box so they don’t get left behind on race day.
If you have doubts about an item, throw it in and see if it gets used. After racing in different conditions over the course of a season it will be obvious what should stay and what should go. Building up a race-day kit and getting the contents right can take a bit of time, so get started now and have it dialed for next season.
For bigger races or races with conditions that will require bike changes, you are still going to need to rope in a friend for pit help. Thinking ahead and making sure you have what you need will ensure that on race day, whether it’s the local series or nationals, you will have the best ride possible.