How to Pack Your Jersey Pockets

By Martin Atanasov

Cycling without a backpack is nothing new for roadies. However, for XC riders, especially those who prefer long-distance trails, having no extra storage space on their back sounds like hell. Well, it’s not. In fact, it’s quite liberating to have your back breathing and sweating without having some heavy sack pulling down on your shoulders. Still, as most XC riders know, you need to carry some stuff on your rides. That’s where cycling jerseys come into play. These are the ones with pockets on your waist, which look weird at first, but once you get used to them, you won’t want to go back.

Getting all the necessary supplies for your XC race or joyride is tricky but definitely not impossible. Even if you don’t have an additional bag on your bike, you can still manage to get all the necessities in your back pockets. All you need is a bit of organisation, and we are here to help you on that end.

Where to start

Typically, the cycling jersey has three pockets. It’s a good idea to start with the middle one. This is the place where you’d want to keep your biggest items. If you put the biggest items in the side pockets, it will make it harder for you to reach the middle pocket.

If the weather is normal, you can take your wind jacket, roll it up, and put it right inside the middle pocket. If you are using a small pump instead of a CO2 cartridge inflator, you can put it in the middle of your rolled-up jacket, and this will be it.

If the weather is scorching, you might want to substitute the jacket with another water bottle. This is mandatory if you are going to climb on sunny, open trails, where there is little chance of refilling your bottles. So, take a 750ml sports bottle, fill it with water, and put your pump beside it. Make sure to drink this bottle first, as it will relieve some tension from your back, and the water won’t get extremely hot during the ride. And that’s it for the middle pocket. Keep in mind that on rougher terrains and during jumps, the bottle might fly away, so make sure your pockets are not worn off and loose. After all, we are talking about typical XC, not DH, so not jumping with loose items on your back is probably a good idea.

The left pocket

We need to clarify that I am writing this from the perspective of a right-handed person. So, if you are a lefty, just mirror this packing system. In your left pocket, you need to place items you rarely use while riding. First and foremost, make sure to put your ID, a bank card, and some cash inside your phone case. This way, you won’t need to carry a wallet. Put your phone, which now doubles as your purse, in your left jersey pocket. It also might be a good idea to put it in a protective, water-proof case. This will keep it safe from the inevitable profuse sweating and any water spraying from going through puddles, ponds, or mud.

You don’t want any pocket to be too loose, so you can put your extra inner tube (it’s good to have one even if you’re tubeless), patches, and multitool there as well. It may sound crowded, but your pocket jersey can fit it all. If you feel it’s way too crowded in your left pocket, you can roll up your spare tube inside your jacket.

XC Race
How do you pack all your stuff for that cross-country ride without a backpack? © Profimedia

The right pocket

Once again, if you are a lefty, you should do this in reverse. The point is that you will put the items you want to use during your ride here. Those are mainly food, electrolytes, and magnesium shots. In general, this is the pocket you will reach for most during your ride.

Of course, how much food you will take depends entirely on how long your ride will be, how many feeding stations there are along the way, and your energy needs. Still, taking a bit extra than you think you need is advisable, as we often tend to overestimate our abilities. Plus, it’s always better to have it and not use it than to need and not have it.

So, take a couple of energy gels, some electrolyte tablets, and at least one magnesium shot, though it’s better to have two and help someone if they cramp. Also, get some carb bars to take care of your energy needs while riding.

You’re ready to go

There you have it. Now, why would you need a backpack again? You can put everything you need in your jersey pockets and enjoy not having something pulling your shoulders constantly and making your back extra sweaty. And believe me, that’s a feeling you won’t miss at all. Once you go bagless, there’s no going back. Well, there is, actually, especially if you are riding rougher terrains with many jumps and harsh landings. But that’s a story for another time.