Okay. So I have realized that in addition to being filled with countless stories about a drunken Nick Burns, my brain also contains the lessons of four years of racing bikes in college.
Racing bikes in college is different than racing bikes in any other atmosphere – especially racing bikes with UNH, or any other school whose riders are, for the most part, missing a chromosome. You have to deal with the shitty weather of racing in March, long van rides to PA (or, if you’re in PA, long van rides to Vermont) and the struggle to afford food on a race weekend while simultaneously affording beer during the week.
So, instead of letting this knowledge stagnate in my head and go unused (until I become UNH’s coach in five years, at least) I decided to share it on the internets. I don’t know how many parts there are going to be, but I’ll to write one somewhat occasionally so that a decent “manual” exists before the first weekend of March.
So, I give you Part 1 – which covers the most important and confusing aspect of collegiate cycling for a new rider – what to bring.
Okay. So you’re a freshman. It’s a Thursday night. You’re packing for your first collegiate bike race (or, perhaps, your first race ever) which just so happens to be in New Jersey in March.
Yeah. I know. It sucks. It’s going to be cold. It’s going to get dark during the A race. And it’s pretty far away. But get used to it, fucko, because this is how your spring semester is going to go.
There are hundreds of questions running through your head – How is the race going to go? What if I crash? Who is this Josh Lipka character I keep hearing about? Who is this exchange student from the Sudan screaming at me to get in the van? – but ignore those questions, and stare down at your empty duffel bag and start thinking about what the fuck you are going to bring on this journey to the garden state.
Now, there are a few different levels of things that you need to bring. A items, which are items that if you forget you absolutely cannot race. B items, which are items that you had better not forget, or else you’ll be bumming them off of someone else or freezing your ass off in shorts and a short sleeve jersey during a 35 degree crit. And C items, which are things that you might be able to bring if you have room, or if you want to try to do homework on your new 17 inch MacBook Pro (which will inevitably be used to look at porn, play an NES emulator, and will almost certainly be dropped on the floor of a van and covered in spilled piss from a gallon jug).
First, the A items. Check nine times that you have these, because if you don’t, you’ll spend the weekend giving feeds to A riders, putting bikes on trainers and taking the van out for food runs:
- Bike – Obviously, you can’t forget this. If you’re walking to the Whit, that is probably an indication that you have forgotten to bring your fucking bike. Idiot.
- Helmet – The spirit of Ed Spuler will fucking shut you down if you don’t have this or ride with it on. An important note – Never ride around without your helmet on at a race, lest you should get dinged/relegated by an official. Although, in a worst case scenario, you can borrow someone else’s, but you’re better off sweating in your own.
- Shoes – I could never get away with borrowing someone else’s shoes, as I have freak feet. And you shouldn’t try to borrow someone else’s because doing so will probably screw you knees up. And asking to borrow someone’s shoes is probably the most annoying thing in the world.
- Student ID – They won’t let you race without this. For serious.
- Racing License – Sure, you can not bring it. But then you’ll have to pay $10 each day to race. And it’s a hell of a lot cheaper/easier to just go to usacycling.org, buy one, print out the permission to ride slip, and give it to the coach on Friday night/Saturday morning.
- Team Kit – Okay. There are two parts to this. Part 1 is – oh my god do not forget your chamois and try to borrow someone else’s. That is akin to borrowing someone’s lucky condom – you only do that if you absolutely need to. You go to the bike shop and buy one. Ideally, two – one for each day (I spent the first weekend of collegiate season with one pair of shorts. I’m glad my balls still exist). Or you buy some from the clothing order. Whatever. But, for the love of God and in the interest of limiting the spread of STDs on this already incestuous cycling team, keep your own stuff against your own stuff. Part 2 is about jerseys. Now, it’s sort of difficult in the first weekend for freshman to have clothing, especially if the clothing order is coming from a factory in Euroland. So, if you don’t have a team jersey, plan ahead and borrow one. Talk to mountain bikers (who spend the spring semester thinking about getting sick air) or alumni (or sit at their desks pining for the better days of college) to borrow one for the weekend.
Okay. So that’s the A list of items. You’ve got to have that. The B list of items is stuff that you pretty much should bring, unless you’re on welfare and can’t afford them – but if that’s the case, what are you doing wasting your time and money racing bikes? So, bring this shit, or suffer the consequences of being known as the freshman who’s too dumb to bring a long sleeve jersey to race in March:
- Weather appropriate clothing – I’m not going to beat around the bush. There is no sane reason why anyone should be racing bikes in New England in March. But, that’s when the season starts, and it makes us tougher than anyone else, so suck it up and deal, and also pack accordingly. For the most part, you are going to want to bring (in addition to team jersey/shorts) to the earlier weekends: arm/knee/leg warmers, long sleeve jersey, jacket, winter riding hat, full-finger gloves, tights, booties, thick socks, thin socks, base layer(s), rain jacket. As well as appropriate “regular” clothes. As the season progresses, pretty much the only thing you will stop packing will be your winter riding hat and riding jacket. The weather sucks in New England no matter what month it is. It will probably be raining. And it can possibly be 40 degrees in late April. So always bring that long sleeve jersey. For whatever holiday you celebrate, you should ask for this stuff. There is nothing worse than freezing finger tips during a race.
- Cash for the hotel – When the vans pull up to a hotel in Pennsylvania at 11 p.m. on Friday, the last thing that anyone wants to hear is “Oh…I have to go find an ATM,” (or “Will the hotel take a check?”). You’ll have a decent idea of how much the hotel is going to cost…so bring that shit with you, so everyone can get inside and to sleep before the sun rises. There’s an ATM at the Whit. Take care of it then.
- Multitool/chain lube/a tube – bringing the basic bike tools/spare parts is helpful, so you don’t have to cannibalize a team wheel for a tube or borrow someone else’s multitool, eventually losing it in the abyss of the van. Put a tube in your duffel bag at the beginning of the season and never take it out. Then you’ll never forget it.
- A bike that isn’t about to explode – Now, I’m probably guilty of ignoring this tip, as my bottom bracket has been known to drive people to the point of suicide during a race. But no one is perfect. At least try to bring a bike whose chain isn’t a solid, immobile piece of rust.
- A towel – Oh, bringing a towel is probably the greatest thing in the world. It keeps your junk from being spied on by other people (unless you want them to see it), it helps clean off Pennsylvania from your skin and it can be used as a deadly weapon in a worst-case scenario. Many a time bringing a towel can make your weekend bearable.
- YOUR OWN DAMN GELS – Listen, just because someone was smart enough to buy their own box of gels/Clif bars doesn’t mean that they want to feed the entire fucking team. Don’t be a mooch.
- Water bottles – C’mon. Seriously. Don’t think about borrowing these.
- Garbage bag – This way, your disgusting, soaking chamois won’t be touching someone else’s clean clothes in the van. Or accidentally end up as a pillow.
- All of your necessary personal care products – You’re going to smell bad no matter what you do. You can at least try to alleviate the issue by throwing some deodorant on the stink-factories of your armpits.
Alrighty. That’s the important stuff. Although I’m sure I’m forgetting some things, which will likely be noted in the comments – I hope. And this isn’t to say that I’ve always brought these items – I have been known to be a Gu mooch.
Now on to the C shit. Shit that you might bring, if for some reason you’re a midget and your cycling clothes only take up a cubic foot and you therefore have excessive room in your bag:
- Homework – I mean, you can try to do homework. But it’s not going to happen. First of all, if you spend the time you’re not racing (which is when other teammates are racing) in the van studying, everyone is going to hate you and Ed Spuler will come kill you in your sleep. Also, the van is constantly being entered/exited by people changing, eating, bothering you, etc. Secondly, there is no fucking way you can get homework done in the van. Unless you are a huge loser and want to ignore any sort of interaction with your teammates. In which case, everyone is going to hate you. Thirdly (is this a word?), you can try to do homework in your hotel room after racing. But you’ll be really tired. And Kickboxer will probably be on, so you should be watching that. And time in the hotel room is a great time to bond with your teammates, so if you ignore them, everyone is going to hate you. So, bring homework if you want to be friendless on the cycling team.
- A camera – You should probably bring a camera, so you can catch all the fantastic antics of the race weekend. Now, I’m not talking about the racing itself – who gives a fuck about that? – I’m talking about when you’re in the hotel room having an ugly woman contest. That shit has got to be preserved for generations. Note – I have never competed in an ugly woman contest.
- iPod – It’s 8 or so hours to State College. There is going to be some down time. It’s also helpful to have an iPod to drone out the snoring of the person you’re sharing a bed with, or the roommate who is being lulled to sleep by explosions in Die Hard. Also, you’re going to want to listen to Maiden when you’re warming up. And the team is going to need a tape adapter/iPod transmitter so obnoxious music can be played while driving in. Because attention is great!
- Something else to do in the van that isn’t homework – I may have lied about homework – the only kind of homework that you can probably get done is reading. So bring a book to read in the van. Bring something that sounds smart so you can attempt to woo the one single girl on the team. If you’re a girl, you probably don’t need to worry about getting the attention of the guys on the team, because they’ve probably already played Cleveland/Money/Salad (don’t ask) and your name has come up.
- Bring your laptop, only if you want it to be destroyed – I brought mine to every race freshman year, because I’m an idiot, and it has since needed two new hard drives. Now, whether that’s due to the abuses of a team van or my hard drive committing suicide due to the quantity of porn stored on it is up for debate. But when people are coming in and out of a van during a rain storm, everything gets wet – including your $2,500 internet machine.
- Your own trainer – The only way you can actually secure a trainer is if your name is written on it and you purchased it yourself. That way you can order someone off of it. Plus, when you’re not using it, other team members can. Although your trainer will probably be destroyed by the end of the season.
- No morals – Yeah…this should probably be in the category of A stuff to bring. But you can probably get away with keeping your morals, but you’ll have to wear noise-canceling headphones and a sleep mask the entire time you’re in the van or any time you don’t actually need to be aware of your surroundings. There are going to be lots of dick jokes. And probably lots of dicks. Choose your van wisely – if someone says “Van’s full,” you should probably not try to get into it – unless you want to lose your innocence before passing through Newington.
Alright. I think that about does it for things I suggest you bring.
And keep in mind – you need to cram all of this stuff into a reasonably sized duffel bag. If you bring two bags (aside from a backpack), you’re an asshole. If you bring a giant duffel bag full of your poop stored in Tupperware, you’re both an asshole and weird. There isn’t much room in the van. Don’t be a dick and take up all the space because you needed to bring hair curlers. Or five pairs of Crocs. Those things are fugly anyway.
If I forgot something important, put it in the comments.
The next part in this series will be up when I feel like it.