Put the Right Things in Your Cycling Jersey Pockets To Avoid Big Problems

January 07, 2022 0 Comments

Backside of a man wearing an orange cycling jersey with three pockets across the back

Cyclists have to bring a lot with them on their rides. From tools for bike maintenance to simple personal items, preparation is key when you hit the road. That’s why most cyclists have cycling bags and jerseys with pockets to help them carry what they need.

But far too few cyclists give much thought to what should go in those places — especially their pockets. Why? They might not use them or simply stuff things in there willy-nilly. Either case is not a good way to ride.

Never fear! Longtime cycling coach Darryl MacKenzie has a tried-and-true system for what goes in his cycling jersey pockets. Here’s a little about how he does it — and why knowing what every cyclist should carry is so important.

The General Rule: Safety First

Why does what you put in your cycling jersey pockets matter? Three words: your personal safety. Consider two scenarios Darryl has witnessed first-hand.

Protect Your Back

In the first, he saw a fellow rider hit a bump and go tumbling over the handlebars, only to land flat on his back on the pavement. It doesn’t take much imagination to envision the pain and trauma your back would experience in that situation — even if you land perfectly flat with nothing in your pockets.

Now, consider the fact that jersey pockets are usually laid out in a row across your lower back. Imagine what the damage could be if you had the wrong kind of item in one of those pockets.

If you stow any sort of blunt, hard object in those pockets, you’re asking for trouble. You could damage your kidneys on either side — or worse, your spine in the center.

“It would be absolutely horrible to land on a hand pump that was parallel to the spine in the center pocket,” says Coach Darryl. “I cringe when I see a cyclist who has a hand pump in the center pocket.” 

So, the first general safety rule is that anything in your pockets should be relatively soft and flat.

Protect Your Personal Items

In the second scenario, Darryl was on a Saturday ride with two friends, a husband and wife. They were cycling in separate groups, and the woman had an accident. The mishap was serious enough that she had to be picked up and taken to the hospital. The only problem was, all of her important personal items — identification, cell phone, insurance card and wallet — were in her bike bags, not in her pockets.

As often is the case in these situations, the bike was taken to the local fire station and locked away until Monday. The husband had no idea his wife was injured and couldn’t reach her once he found out. And when she got to the hospital, she didn’t have important items she needed for checking in.

That brings us to our second general safety rule of what to carry while cycling: If it belongs to you, keep it on you. If it belongs to your bike, keep it on your bike. In other words, use your cycling bags for bike tools and the like, but use your pockets for important personal effects. 

So, What Goes in Those Cycling Jersey Pockets? 

Coach Darryl has more precise advice than that, though. When he’s preparing for a ride, he puts specific personal items in each of the three cycling jersey pockets.

The Center Pocket

The rule of thumb for your center pocket? Soft. Remember, this is over your spine. Darryl pretty much only stores his jacket here or a couple of Clif Bars. In fact, even when he knows he probably won’t eat on the ride, he puts the Clif Bars there for a little padding and protection.

The Dominant-Side Pocket 

“There is one thing you’re more likely to take out and use than anything else, and that’s your phone,” says Coach Darryl. That’s why he reserves his right pocket (the side of his dominant hand) for his phone — and only his phone. 

He stuffs his phone in a regular Ziplock bag to keep it free from sweat, then puts it in his right pocket for easy access whenever he needs it. However, note he does not recommend taking it out while you pedal! 

The Weak-Side Pocket

On the side of your weak hand, you can keep all other personal items you might need. Again, Darryl protects and organizes them — keeping all items together — in a single Ziplock bag. 

  • Cash (clipped with something not too bulky)
  • Patch kit for flats
  • Boot (cut up pieces of tire for patching a hole in the tire, not just the tube)
  • Tums (for leg cramps)
  • Ibuprofen
  • Mask (it’s post-2020, after all)
  • Wallet

A note on the wallet: Darryl actually carries one he uses only for cycling. In this spare wallet, you can keep an expired license or other form of identification, an insurance card, a little extra cash, a credit card, a spare AAA card, parks passes, business cards, and any other essentials you might need on the road.

Those cycling jersey pockets are quite handy for the cyclist. Now that you know the best way to use them, it may be time for a little reorganizing before your next ride.


Look for more insights from Coach Darryl over at his website.

Photo by David Dvořáček on Unsplash