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Preparing to race a criterium: A comprehensive guide to the gear you need for your crit

For most people, criterium racing (crit racing) is going to be the most accessible and available discipline. Lots of cyclists start racing with crits. Criteriums are short, only require a small amount of road, are contained within a few blocks and are spectator friendly.

However, crits are hard! Especially for beginners. They’re always faster than you think and efficiently cornering in the pack at speed is a skill you have to learn through many nervous reps. 

We’ll assume you have the training and corner practice covered. To make sure you can focus on the racing, we put together a comprehensive guide to the gear you need to pack for your crit.

So, pack The Bag, and cya with the list below at the races!

Below these full descriptions is a checklist version you can download or print.

  • Bike: Speed is king  Your bike is your most essential gear, obviously. Check your bolts, pedals and tire pressure before racing. Aero bikes are popular, but not always the best on technical courses that have racers constantly turning. Be sure to get your position in the drop bars dialed, through practice and tweaking, or a professional bike fit.
  • Helmet: You will crash  Lots of crashing in criteriums. No way around it, sometimes literally. If you race crits, you will crash. Just a matter of when and how. Keep that helmet strapped tight.
  • Cycling Shoes and Pedals: The Connection  Clipless pedals are basically mandatory to race, and everyone will be wearing proper road shoes. Pro tip - if you wear shoes with laces, always pack an extra pair of laces. If you have a spare set of pedals, pack ‘em, and don’t forget a pedal wrench. For boa wearers, you can buy spare boa sets and replace them yourself in case a crash breaks one.
  • Clothing: Get aero Any jersey and shorts will do, but the real racers will be wearing kit that fits as tight as possible. Every watt counts, so get aero! Depending on the season, be sure to pack for all possible conditions. We like to keep 3 seasons worth of kit in our Bag at all times, year-round. That way, we never worry about what we have when we head out the door. As stuff gets used and dirty, we just wash it and stick it back in.
    • Race jersey and a spare jersey
    • Bibshorts/shorts
    • Extra pair of bibshorts/shorts
    • Long Sleeve jersey
    • Vest
    • Warm jacket (that you can ride/race in)
    • Rain jacket (that you can ride/race in)
    • Race socks, and extra pair.
    • Thermal socks
    • Shoe covers
    • Very warm gloves you can ride in
    • Lightweight full finger gloves you can ride in. Like a mountain bike glove.
    • Short finger gloves
    • Short-sleeve or sleeveless base layer
    • Long sleeve base layer/thermal layer
    • Arm warmers, leg warmers, knee warmers
    • Neck warmer
    • Winter hat that fits under your helmet
    • Thermal headband that fits under your helmet

Again, this is our three season list of gear. Just keep it in The Bag all year to avoid being without the gear you need. Also, we know this is a lot, and that this stuff is not cheap. You don’t have to have all of this to race. Race what ya got!

  • Eyewear: Crash proof Protect your eyes from debris and the sun with a good pair of glasses. Any sunglasses work, but cycling specific models should be shatterproof (in case of crash) and offer better than average field of vision when bent over in a riding position. Look for models with interchangeable lenses to adapt to different light conditions, including clear lenses. These are great to have when it’s overcast and wet.  You can get good ones with a couple extra lenses for well under $100.
  • Tubes and tires: Or extra wheels The pros and serious amateurs will have an extra set of wheels in the pits, so if they flat or break a wheel, they get to the pit, change their wheel, and rejoin the race. You don’t need this. If you flat during a crit, your race is probably just over. But, always good to have good race tires. Consult your local bike shop for help choosing. Then, pack a couple tubes, a patch kit, tire levers, and a pump and/or Co2 inflator.
  • Tool Kit and spare parts: Be Self-Sufficient A good cycling specific multi-tool with a chain tool and Allen keys can save the day. You should have the right tool to adjust anything on your bike that is adjustable. A good full size pedal wrench is always good to pack as well, just in case you need to swap pedals. The leverage of the big wrench is key. Most races will have a mechanic on site to help racers also. Then, in terms of spare parts, it’s good to have an extra chain link, a couple extra bolts for things like your stem, or saddle or bottle cage. It’s always a good idea to take an allen key and check every bolt in your cockpit, saddle and seat tube collar before hitting the start line.
  • Nutrition: Fuel up beforehand If you’re racing over an hour, bring a gel or put a high carb mix in your bottle. Before the race, eat a good carb rich meal three hours before race time. What works for you and your stomach and tastes is personal, but be sure to test it out. Avoid fiber and anything else that might have you rushing to the toilet. An hour out, get some hydration and maybe a bit more carbs. Sipping on a carb mix drink is great. If you want to do some caffeine, down a caffeine gel about 20 min before race time. Lastly, have plenty of water and some recovery drink for afterward. At Parc, chocolate milk is a favorite post race treat, for after our stomach calms down.
  • Race Numbers and Safety Pins: Don't Forget Your ID Bring your ID, your safety pins for attaching a number, and your number if you already have it, obviously. NEVER rely on the race organizer to have pins left for you. We always have about 50 packed.
  • Towel: Pretty Podium PicsIf all goes to plan, you’ll get sweaty. Have a towel to get photo ready before your podium celebration! Also helpful for protecting car seats on the drive home.
  • Warm-Up and Recovery Tools: Take Care of Your Body Anything you have that helps you warm up, get limber, stretch out or recover. For some, it’s a massage stick or foam roller. Others rely on massage guns. Personal choice and not a necessity.
  • Cycling Gear Bag: Your Command Center Every time we race, we are warming up, about to line up at the start, and realize our gloves are missing. Or our glasses, or bottle. It’s always something. If we’d thrown all our gear in a duffle bag, or bin, or backpack, we’d miss the start while we pulled everything out searching like madmen. You put so much time into your gear choice. Don’t waste that effort by dumping it all into a bin or cycling bag that isn’t keeping you organized and making your life easier. We’re clearly biased. The Bag was created because no other gear bag or product met our needs. Nobody made a gear bag for cyclists that satisfied us. We wanted a gear system, not just another big bag. A good gear solution should have a few things:
    • Pockets that allow you to see your gear, so you can quickly grab what you need without any searching. 
    • Utility at home. Why have two things when you can have one? The Bag works at home, allowing you to store and access the items you use every ride. When it’s time to pack the car, just stick The Bag in the car and go. No running around the house, shoving items into some black hole of a bag!
    • Compartments to separate clean and dirty items. 
    • Varying sizes of pockets
    • Enough room for the gear you need, and the gear you MIGHT need
    • Easy ways to carry and be accessed.
    • Weather and moisture resistance
  • BONUS: Pro items 
    • Toilet paper: Two words for you - Porta Potty. Do not let some poorly serviced port’o’jon ruin your race day. Pack your own, rolled up in a ziploc bag. This is something we actually just keep in the car at all times. 
    • Hand warmers: Those air activated little packets you buy for skiing are perfect for cold races, whether you’re racing with them in your gloves, or the family you dragged to the race to watch is using them.
    • Electrical tape:Whether you’re doing a quick fix on the bike or taping your gloves or shoes for extra warmth, just having a bit of tape can be a lifesaver.
    • First aid kit: Like I said, crashes happen all the time. Stick a small first aid kit in The Bag or the car. Crits will have medical staff, but just in case, good to have your own supplies as well.
    • Trainer:A good warmup is critical for a crit, because it will be fast from the start. You'll see serious riders on a trainer before their race. It's much easier and convenient than riding on surrounding streets. This won't fit in The Bag, obviously, but worth mentioning.

The item by item checklist can be printed at the bottom! 

Racing crits requires focus on all fronts. From the essential bike components to the often-overlooked details like a well-organized gear bag, each item plays a role in your success. By packing strategically and investing in quality gear, you'll be ready to take on the beast that is crit racing. And remember to have fun!

P.S. Please remove any bags, lights, frame pumps and mirrors before lining up. These don’t belong on the race course.