The Venn of Cycling Pack Lists

by Rolf Prima professional triathlete, Amy VanTassel

Dang! I have tons of pairs of long-finger gloves at home, and now I have to buy some.”

It’s rare to forget your bike, shoes, helmet, or phone, but doesn’t it seem inevitable that you’ll end up kicking yourself for forgetting some little thing? Even if you have a pack list system already in place for traveling to ride or race, there always seems to be something sitting at home in your garage or medicine cabinet that you wish you brought. I’ve been traveling domestically and abroad to races for nearly two decades, and I used to concede to the inevitability of imperfect packing. That was until I designed a totally fool-proof system.

A few years ago I had an epiphany. It occurred to me that forgetting things, or simply not thinking of them, was a result of variations in my travel and pursuits. My trips are diverse among the types of events, their duration and distance, ranging from iron-distance races abroad to nearby gravel races, and so on. Different weather and different combos of activities (perhaps you’ll also be skiing, clubbing, attending the Kentucky Derby) demand particular little pieces of gear and apparel. Ergo, I designed a suite of packing lists, adjustable for both race destination and genre, all honoring the “Venn of Packing Lists.”

MULTIPLE LISTS. You don’t need your foreign documents when you’re driving to a state-side race, but you can pack all the CO2 cartridges you fancy. You don’t need your Rolf Prima Ares race wheels at a gravel training camp, but you should bring a boatload of extra rags. There are countless items that are handy for one event but not another, so I maintain several lists, and I’m always adding more permutations.

REDUNDANCIES. I found it impossible to segregate each item into only one category, such as shades and hats, which I need for traveling, hanging, training, and racing. I need my mirror lenses and my aviators, my casquettes and my trucker hats. Since the point of a comprehensive list is to not forget anything, I err on the side of listing things more than once.

CONSTANT UPDATING. I’m not sure my lists will ever be perfect. I take notes every time, and am constantly eliminating and adding items. Do you ever say, “You know what, next time I’m bringing *this* thing to training camp?” Add it to the list! How about our political landscape, weather, and cycling regulations changing with the mercurial state of the world? I recently added proof of Covid vaccine, and extra face masks, which I will hopefully remove in the near future.

Got a roomie or partner? If there are two or more of you packing up to travel to race from the same household, print out two separate sheets. My husbo and I do most of our traveling and racing together, so we keep two lists out for the entire packing period, and we’re only allowed to cross-off something on the other’s list if we take full responsibility for getting it in the car or on the plane. 

Most significantly, lists should be highly individualized. I don’t pack compression, but I do pack a torque wrench. I don’t pack body glide, but I do pack crafts. I don’t pack multiple helmets, but I do pack multiple books. I imagine families with kiddos warrant a whole ‘nother spectrum of list items like nappies, plane games, and legal narcotics.

I’ll end with Amy VT’s special packing extra: bring thank-you cards and maybe even little gifts with you to give to homestay families, race directors, or new buddies you meet along the way. I promise you’ll use them, and I truly believe that as travel continues to open up, the gravel scene expands, and race opportunities grow, our adventures to other parts of the country and world can concurrently be a way to make a small difference in the world.  

All words and images kindly provided by Amy Van Tassel. Follow Amy on Instagram @amyvantassel.

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