I used to race in a tank top and baggy shorts, and just carry a bottle and stick cut-up pieces of energy bars on my helmet, but soon found that a bike jersey or skinsuit with three pockets is far more practical. Here’s what I take with me on raceday now: H2O is the heaviest thing I’ll carry and feels best if it’s centered on my back, so I reserve the middle pocket for my bidon. The pro pack is usually moving along at such a fast clip that trying to grab a stationary water bottle whose cap has already been removed can be quite comical. Since the NorthShore is typically a cooler race and there’s always a chance to get a handoff along the way, I’ll probably not fill my bottle up to the top. (Incidentally, a water bottle can also function as a good squirt gun to ward off unwelcome advances from dogs.)
I’ve learned the hard way that carrying a skate tool is also essential. Hex wrenches are sharp though, and I’ve poked many a hole in my Lycra suits over the years, so now instead of taping the end, I slide a length of garden hose over the hex wrench and stick it into my left pocket, handle towards the bottom. The hose is flexible and a little smaller in diameter than the underside of the handle so it wedges on nice and tightly.
My favorite skate key is a torque wrench that prevents overtightening, and it has a beefy handle with a metal bearing puller. Visually it just looks formidable, so it also comes in handy to frighten any overly courageous canines. Just the other day I had the occasion to pull it out and remove it from its “holster” as I skated past some food concession stalls. “He’s got a gun!!!” a woman yelled as the dogs barked — and backed off. This is my “weapon” of choice in Thailand, because I rarely carry water since it’s so readily available and well-chilled at every little store and roadside stand.
Food usually goes in the side pocket with the tool so it doesn’t muck up my electronics pocket. For me, the NorthShore is a little too short a race to carry food, but generally if I do carry food I want something on tap so I don’t have to be fishing around in my pockets for a bar or a gel packet mid-breakaway. That’s why I’ll just stuff something under the suit against my thigh for easy access.
The right pocket is the reservoir for my point and shoot camera and/or my phone. My camera is pretty beat up now but it’s still water resistant and can tolerate sweat and rain. I can pull it out and flip in on fast. My phone on the other hand, which I use for Strava and sometimes popping off an odd shot, has a permanently plaid screen from getting wet with sweat and rain, so I tend to either double wrap it with twists and knots in plastic bags, or zip lock it twice and keep a bubble of air inside like it was a bag of potato chips.
I can’t wait to see you all at the races and see what’s in your pockets!