Rapha asked me to contribute to a series of accounts they were compiling about what people carry in their jersey pockets. I think much of jersey pockets, and by luck I had just done a ride loaded not only with more stuff than usual but more meaning, too.
Time and Distance: About 90 minutes (I don’t ride with a computer or GPS or even a watch these days). I rode out, alone, after working late, from the Bicycling office in Emmaus, meandering west and up, then back down, south, into Powder Valley where I happened to pass a small graveyard at Hosensack that made me understand why I’d purposefully on accident skipped the group ride at lunch and gone solo. With intent, now, hard on the pedals, I rode east and up and over the mountain I live on, back into Emmaus, then into the cemetery where my old coach, Alaric, is buried. I’ve been struggling lately as a cyclist, as a husband, as a writer, as an editor, as an employee, as a friend. Sometimes if I go look at the piece of stone that sits here I can remember something Alaric said to me that didn’t seem like much at the time but turns out, in the present, to be important.
Rapha Galibier Jersey: It’s a good jersey functionally and I like the colors and the typography and all that, but on the first day of the Crazy Bet that goddamn mountain set me up to be broken the next day and I kept myself together. I like to remember that.
$20 bill: I always keep one stuffed away and forgotten in the internal zippered pocket of the Essentials Case. This one’s been there about three months, I think.
CO2 cartridge: I buy Genuine Innovations, 16 gram, in bulk, but one day I flatted a few counties from home and used my cartridge so for the trip back I stopped in a general store stupidly hoping they might carry cartridges so I’d be covered if I punctured again—and they did. I don’t even know what kind this is. The label says it’s a “radical CO2 cartouche,” if I’m reading the faded print right.
Zefal Air Control inflator: I like to keep it simple with the interface between vapor and tube. No pushing or jiving or chucking or fiddling—screw the adaptor on the valve, screw the cartridge in the adaptor. Zefal actually makes a simpler one, the “Air Adaptator,” which is a one-shot deal. With this one, you can screw the pieces against themselves to cut off the flow and save a little inflation for later. These are like 2 bucks each, but really hard to find.
Rodale Swipe Card: You need these to get in the doors at work. The picture is circa 1999.
Paul Smith Rapha Essentials Case: This holds my $20 bill, cartridge and inflator, and spare tube. I never open it unless I need one of those things, never have to wonder if I have what I truly need. As the name says, essentials.
Kenda 700×23 spare tube: I’m typically a Vittoria guy, but this is what I found that day at the general store. If you don’t live in a place with true general stores, I think you ought to move. That place also sold bib overalls, Yahtzee, motorized come-alongs, fresh popcorn made to order.
Outlier Tailored Performance Clothing rubber band: I think I got this wrapped around a wool shirt from Outlier. It’s the most luxurious spare-tube compactor I’ve ever used.
Knog blink: I don’t think they even sell these anymore. I usually don’t carry it but on my way out I had a thought that I might wander beyond good sense that day. I didn’t. Maybe because I took the light, the way we voodoo rain away by carrying a rain jacket.
Brooklyn Chewing Gum wrapper: I brought a bunch back from my last trip to Italy. When I grabbed this to take with me I had no idea why I was doing it. When I got the cemetery and sat down and felt awkward being there, I pulled this out and opened the wrapper and chewed some gum for a little while, and that helped somehow.
iPhone 3: Yeah, it’s seen better days. Though it’ll probably see worse, as well. I guess, of course, it might say the same thing about me if I ever asked for its divination and could understand its answer.
Gran Fondo New York case: This is a cheap pleatherette Rapha knockoff sort of thing but because of that it’s thinner and lighter all around than the Paul Smith, so I’ve taken to using it to hold my phone, Rodale card and whatever other items I need to carry from day to day—this is the one I empty out after every ride and refill with what I think I’ll need for that specific ride. On this ride it also held my gum and my notebook and pen.
Scout Books notebook: My club had these made by Scout, a custom notebook company out of Portland. Vegetable-based ink, recycled materials and all that. The cover is chipboard, the paper is a nice, 70-lb white stock. And the printing is actual offset, which doesn’t matter to anyone except those it matters a lot to. I don’t carry this on rides unless I know I’m going to stop at some point and want to capture something, and I didn’t know that about this ride, at least not in the part of my brain where I know what I’m thinking. On this ride, I ended up making a drawing of Alaric’s gravestone. I hardly ever draw. I’m a writer, not a visual artist. But when I draw, I don’t care how bad I’m doing. I have no expectations so all I really care about is anything I happen to do good. Some of those lines that are grass look right, for instance. The top of the gravestone feels true, though it is not correct in any way. When I write, I guess because I’m better at it, there’s more pressure to erase the faults, to carve away at the mediocre until it becomes good. I couldn’t have enjoyed this awful picture as a piece of my text the way I do even now.
Bic 537R 0.7 black marker: The last time I did a book signing, the organizer gave this to me. You want a quick-drying, black marker instead of a pen. And you want a fine point. It was a signing for Tour de Lance, but a few people brought their old copies of Ten Points. The Lance people want to know about him or the Tour or ask questions about pro racing. The Ten Points people, they all tell me something about the lives they’ve managed to get through.
Peanut-butter-and-turkey sandwich: I’ve been eating real food this season. A local kid, Wes Kline, inspired me. We were going out for some ridiculous winter ride, and he had about five peanut-butter sandwiches his mom had made for him. I just loved that. My plan was to eat this and skip dinner but it didn’t work out that way. I think my wife, Beth, made enchiladas or something. I know when I got home that we had some great white wine she’d found. The guys at Garmin showed me how to fold the foil this way, a multi-seamed double-wrap deal so each corner can be easily peeled away and you can eat your sandwich in quarters. I can’t find the same papery foil they used over in Europe, though.
Kapelmuur Independent cap: This is my club. I started the ride with it on—I wasn’t wearing a helmet that day—then wanted to take even that off. My pockets were pretty full, so I ended up wrapping the cap around the sandwich like a burrito and cramming it all into my left jersey pocket. When I put it in there, I must have depressed the Knog’s button because when I got to the cemetery and took everything out, the light was blinking. Let me tell you, there’s no not-symbolic way to extinguish a light, even a blinking one, at a cemetery.