Go Bag Essentials For The Gnar

I live in earthquake country and sadly I am more prepared to run out the door for a chance at some hero dirt than I am for a big shaker. But then again, maybe it just means I have my priorities straight. Because statistically I feel like I am more likely to get invited to a knobby tire adventure, than I am to be around for the “big one.” This might be foolish thinking and in the end I might regret my decisions, but it is much more fun shopping for new knobbies, than shopping for bottled water and C-rations.

Oddly, I have given this a lot of thought. Since I mostly travel with my road bike I am always trying to find some way to get in a little dirt when I am on the road. This means I have to beg, borrow, plead or rent my way onto a mountain bike. Below is the short list of things I try to pack to make sure I am not only able to ride, but am stoked when the opportunity arises.

Kali, Interceptor $180

Rolling over the top of a blind-pitch, headed to god-only-knows where, the last thing going through my mind is whether-or-not the person who designed my helmet knew what they were doing. Luckily, for me I’m wearing a helmet designed by protection nerd, Brad Waldron, at Kali Protectives. The Interceptor is one of many choices in the newish “enduro” helmet market, designed to give more protection than a weight-weenie cross country helmet, but not the no-holds-bar protection of a downhill helmet. The Interceptor has great coverage, style and plenty of ventilation for all day comfort and just the right amount of “holy shit, about to have an epic yard sale” piece-of-mind for your melon.

Five Ten, Freerider Pro Shoes $150

Sticky feet make for happy trails and the Five Ten reputation defining Freeride Pro is the perfect go-bag shoe. Pull them on, wear them through the airport, out to dinner and onto the gnar from the trailhead. The Freerider Pro is perfect for rolling all over the mountain and honing your mountain biking skills. If you’re not wearing Five Tens, what are you wearing?

Mission Workshop, The Hauser $215

Who knew staying hydrated could be so sexy. So very sexy. Mission Workshop’s Hauser hydration pack falls on the pricier size of packs to strap to your back during your shred and we know form is supposed to follow function, but in this case we wanted a Hauser long before we ever figured out if it was any good. Luckily, for us and for you, this is one quality ripping sack.

To start, let’s get the double bummer out of the way. First, the hydration ready bag, even at over 200 clams, does not come with a hydration bag. It seems a little silly to design a backpack specifically for hydration and to not include a bladder. Fortunately, for me I had one of Osprey’s Reservoirs on the way and can now attest it is one of the nicest and easiest to use bladders on the market. Second, this may not be the best backpack to pack on a scorching hot day. Although, we don’t get many of those here in NorCal, but having this in my go-bag as I prepare for a trip to the Arizona desert has me a little concerned. It just does not vent against the back as well as my Camelbak Mule.

Now on to what we did like about the Hauser. We already mentioned how amazing it looks, but with those good looks comes stellar construction. This pack is built to withstand any major yard sales, comes with an additional tool roll, has plenty of pockets for organization, is waterproof and we chose the larger 14 liter version which sits nicely on the back without hindering mobility. And we would remiss if we didn’t mention these beauties are made right here in the ol’ U.S. of A. and comes with a lifetime guarantee.

We like it. And we think it brings out the color in our eyes.

Shimano, Saint MX80 $60

These Shimano flat pedals are not the lightest or the thinnest pedals on the market, but they are reasonably priced and workhorses ready for anything you can huck off of or pedal up. The other nice part about packing these MX80 pedals instead of clipless is they will, arguably, make you a better rider. They will make you find a better balance on the bike, teach you to weight and un-weight more efficiently and will give you more confidence on a strange whip.

DynaPlug, Air Tubeless Repair $74.99

The hardest decision I have when putting my go-bag together is which tool, hell how many tools, do I “need” to feel comfortable on the trail with someone else’s bicycle. The first thing I make sure I have is some duct tape. I usually wrap a nice helping around a hand pump I bury deep in my bag. I then pack a giant multitool, with a chain breaker, into my bag. I love the tools from Lezyne, Park and Crank Bros. Which brings us to the DynaPlug Air and our love of all things DynaPlug and CO2. With this little wonder you just find the puncture, push the repair dealie into the punture and twist on the air. The air plugs the hole and fills your knobbies back to pressure at the same time. Of course, this won’t help if you have a side tear, but that is why I carry a tube, extra C02 and duct tape.

Silca, Maratona Gear Bag $180

I have been using my North Face duffel bag as my catch-all, stuff it full and go-bag for the last couple of years and I have had no complaints. The only problem being that although the duffel swallows everything I can think to throw into it, but that also means I can spend way too much time, sometimes in a panic, digging around in its gluttonous innards in search of this or that.

Along comes Silca’s new Maratona gear bag with a spacious amount of room and ample organizational opportunities. You have the option of three different carrying straps or make the quick conversion to make it a backpack. The Maratona is designed to meet airline carry-on regulations, so whether you are going around the corner or around the globe, your go-bag is ready to go.

Clif Bar, Crunchy Peanut Butter $1.79/ea, $17.88/box of 12

Sure they are better when they are fresh, but even an old Clif Bar is better than no Clif bar at all. Sure you could do a gel or a block or another bar, but I’ve been gnawing on Clif Bars so long they feel almost like comfort food. Ok, maybe not like a big bowl of mac-n-cheese, biscuits and gravy or a piece of pumpkin pie, but these bars have gotten me through plenty of oh-crap-I-am-about-to-bonk situations.

Light&Motion, Seca 1800 $350

Let there be light. With the days shortening, but the weather still within acceptable riding temperatures, it is the time of dawn and dusk patrols. It is also time to break out the blinky lights and headlamps. The Seca 1800 is an excellent choice for these extend the day jaunts. The quad LED array throws enough light to gobble up the dark and make you feel secure in your line choices on any trail you find yourself pedaling. We ran the Seca on our bars and we ran the Seca 1800 (as in 1800 lumens) on our helmet and didn’t feel like we were asking too much of it in either spot. Add in the fact this chubby, but lightweight light is waterproof and it will get you where you need to go, even if you should have gotten there hours earlier.

Giordana. Monsoon Jacket $380

The cycling rain jacket has come a long way in the last 5 or so years. Not that long ago rain jackets made for cycling were basically fancy garbage bags with zippers stitched in for good measure. You basically pulled it on and let the sweating begin. And lord forbid the rain eased before the ride ended and you had to remove your jacket… you were soaked through and through. The new generation of rain jackets is not only windproof and waterproof, but also “somewhat” breathable. The Monsoon jacket is cut plenty long, with great length on the elastic sleeves, taped seams and packs down to a surprisingly small footprint. I also love my Mission Workshop’s The Orion jacket, the Castelli Tempesta jacket and the Shower Pass Club Pro.

Kitsbow, Shorts $125

This is the first version of Kitsbow’s Base Shorts and I keep them at the ready for any last minute rides. They are beautifully constructed, bombproof and super cozy. I’ve put them permanently into my go-bag, knowing full well they are ready for anything the trail can throw at me. If my bits are protected and comfortable, I can always ride in a pair of jorts and a flannel shirt, so as long as I have my Kitsbow base shorts I am good to roll.

8 Must Have Gear For The Summer

Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Oh hey, summer solstice will officially begin on June 20. That’s 11 days out.

There’s plenty of time to freshen up your stash of gear for the next adventure. Here are 8 pieces of gear we’ve been loving lately:

Read on for our reviews.

Silca Pocket Impero

Silca Pocket Impero Mini Pump
Silca Pocket Impero Mini Pump. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Pocket pumps are such a polarizing item because of their bad rep from all the shitty ones you can buy. Tires just don’t seem to inflate nearly fast enough, they’re slippery when wet, essentially rendered useless when the barrel gets inhumanly hot right about the time your arms are all warmed up trying to make a PR on how quick you can get to 90PSI. Oh, and shitty pump heads that either don’t seal or seal so well it pulls the valve off the tube. The Silca Pocket Impero, though, seems to solve all of that. Situated inside a CNC aluminum head, the 3mm Italian leather gasket slips onto a presta value with just the right amount of resistance. So smooth you’d swear it’s a match made in heaven. Not only that, its mirror-honed interior and generous use of precision metal parts (as opposed to plastic) will stand up against years of last minute roadside abuse.

SciCon Race Rain Bag

SciCon Race Rain Bag
Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Usually seen stacked in the back of a ProTour team car, the SciCon race rain bag is popular for a reason: To keep a rain kit neatly organized with its many labeled pockets (shoes+covers, warmers, gloves, jersey+shorts, jacket+vests) so there will be no frantic fumbling when trying to fish out some shoe covers in the back of a moving car flying down the French countryside. I don’t have a team car following me on every ride, but nevertheless I love my Race Rain bag whenever I am driving to a race or to a ride. The bag doesn’t take up much real estate in the trunk and as long as its packed properly in advance, it’s pretty much a no-brainer to use: unzip pocket labeled “jacket” and viola, jacket. Bye bye pre-race frantic fumbling in search of your glove. Each bag is also customizable (for free) to include your name and a country flag of your choice, just like what the pros get.

Wahoo Elemnt Bolt

We’ve been smitten with our Wahoo Elemnt for a while now with its trove of smart features and ease of setup. The Atlanta-based company‘s newest offering, the Elemnt Bolt, seems to continue their tradition of forward-thinking design. It is much more than just a compact and less expensive version of the original Elemnt. Rather, it’s been race optimized much like a BMW M3 within the 3-series itself. The screen is about half an inch smaller (at 2.2″ instead of 2.7 “) and 39 grams lighter, but the bigger story here is that the Bolt is designed with aerodynamics in mind, down to its flush computer mount. Existing Elemnt users will instantly feel at home with its easy to use interface and it’s a perfect unit for those who prefer a smaller computer coupled with the additional benefits of marginal aerodynamic gains. Yea, it’s all about the details.

DynaPlug Air Tubeless Tire Repair Kit

DynaPlug Air Tubeless Tire Repair Ki
DynaPlug Air Tubeless Tire Repair Kit. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Tubeless tires rock but unfortunately they’re still susceptible to flats. And when they do, they suck. Worst, flatting in the middle of a race. Luckily, DynaPlug has a pretty ingenious solution just for that. Similar to the company’s repair solution for automative tires but with a twist, DynaPlug Air will first inflate the flat with CO2 through the plug applicator. Once inflation is complete, simply pull the insertion tool and the DynaPlug situated in the end of the tool will seal the puncture with a sticky strip of rubber… Just like the ones used to repair car tires. Pretty sweet to be able to use one tool to inflate and repair in one go.

Victorinox BikeTool

Victorinox BikeTool
Victorinox BikeTool. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

While some might overlook the Victorinox BikeTool because of the lack of a cycling-specific function such as a chain tool, spoke wrench, or even a bottle opener, Victorinox essentially convinced me with its robust practicality. Unlike many mini-tools that don’t nearly generate enough torque to loosen a bolt roadside, I really like the BikeTool’s full-length 5mm allen wrench, plus the 8 additional bits connectable to the 5mm via a magnetic adapter. Heck, there are two beefy tire levers on each side of the tool too. It’s also worth noting that BikeTool is a manufactured by respected Swiss toolmaker PB Swiss in Switzerland. For $40, it’s as good as killing two birds with one stone.

Rumpl Beer Blanket

Orange Rumpl Beer Blanket
Rumpl Beer Blanket with a 16oz Cellarmaker/Modern Times Clear and Present Dankness. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

I must admit I didn’t give them much initial thought since who reviews beer sleeves anyway. But these Rumpl Beer Blanket are not the faded red neoprene sleeves you find in your parents’ garage. True to its name, the blanket certainly feels and works like a sleeping bag. It’s good to know it’s fluid resistant so there’s no need to worry about toasting your friends after that gnarly gravel grinder. At $8, you can pretty much give them to every single member of your family and still be able to buy some of those hot IPA cans from Alvarado, Moonraker, and Monkish.

GripGrab Arm Warmers Light

GripGrab Arm Warmers Light
Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Summer doesn’t usually call for arm warmers, but summer living in San Francisco means living at the mercy of Karl the Fog. It gets chilly when you least expect. I used to swear by DeFeet ArmSkins (still have two pairs on rotation) but my new favorite are the Arm Warmers Light from Denmark’s GripGrab. Founded by three brothers in 2000, the Arm Warmers Light are silky smooth to the touch with the right amout of insulation and elasticity. Once in place, grippers on both ends of the warmers serves as anchors while the highly elastic fabric moves along its now defined area like second skin, even with those chicken arms of mine.

MODe Anti-Cramping energy shot

MODe Anti-Cramping energy shot, hanging out with some friends
MODe Anti-Cramping energy shot hanging out with some friends. Photo: Stephen Lam/ Element.ly

Cramps suck. I am one of those unlucky ones that literally make it rain the second the weather gets warm so I am constantly looking for ways to prevent cramps from happening. MODe’s Anti-Cramping energy shot is different in such that it’s not a pill, nor is it some gel. It’s an easily digested juice shot with a kick that one of our testers described, “It’s like I just ate some fresh spicy Mexican mangoes”. Think of this energy shot as the happy medium between going to a cold-pressed juice bar and getting more supplements from GNC – except MODe is all natural with no added sugars and preservatives. As for that spicy kick? It’s from a combination of ginger, turmeric, and black pepper extracts that is said to help to combat cramps and to prevent sugar spikes that plague the more commonly used gels.