The week before last, I looked into the importance of appropriate hydration before, during and after training and racing sessions (Hydration 101). In theory it doesn’t look that hard but the reality of carrying and consuming the prescribe amount of fluid to maintain an ideal fluid balance on a hot day vindicates a camel. Sunday week ago, I rode/raced the Garapine Gathering, a 3 hour XC ’race’ organised by the Gravity Mountain Bike Club and Venture Cycles to help raise money to send our local junior riders to the National XC Series 2012/2013. Garapine is a hidden treasure located at Traverston just south of Gympie and in its previous life I believe Garapine was an educational facility that became a casualty of the dam project and subsequently sold to the Government. The facility now lies dormant but the land surrounding hides some truly amazing mountain biking trails and the buildings around provide for the best shower I have ever experienced at a one day mountain bike event. Anyway on raceday, the thermometer on track smashed, somewhere in the vicinity of 35-37C, and I was consuming a 500mL bottle every lap (approximately 7km)….how do I carry that much fluid on a training ride at this time of year?
Summer is here and my neighbour from the ‘land’ says it will be long, hot and dry, he can read it in the bugs and I honestly believe the bugs are more credible that the weatherman so a long hot summer it will be!
I consider myself fortunate as my Bianchi Methanol 29er carries 2 bidons but there are many bikes, especially those dual suspension varieties, which hold only one bidon and for riders of these bikes a hydration pack is essential. I have never been a hydration pack wearer, I have always found them them hot and cumbersome, but with spring so dry and a 100 mile race on the horizon I am concerned that the rainwater tanks on the trails will be an unreliable source of water and the thought of the wrigglers concentrated in any puddle that is left is deterring me from opening the tap.
So, with bugs, wriggles and a 100mile race (the 100 mile BRIARS HIGHLAND FLING 11th November) on my mind, I tapped into our wonder sponsor Sola Sport and checked out their range of amazing SOURCE hydration packs, I chose myself a Whistler as a commuter pack (15Lt carrying capacity) and a Dune as a training hydration pack (1.5Lt water).
My initial impression is that both are lightweight and comfortable, far from the hot and cumbersome stigma I had come to believe applied to hydration packs and each pack had its own little quirky individualism.
The Whistler (3L bladder and 15L cargo) is used as my commute pack so I removed the bladder leaving a mound of space for my work clothes, lights, tools, rain jacket, breakfast etc. The outside of the pack is laced with a multitude of straps and clips for shoes and other odiferous equipment that should not be in contact with the pristine inside. The pockets on the inside of the pak are well proportioned and well placed with the mandatory clip for keys and, on one morning as rain was threatening, I was stoked to discover the pack has its very own silver rain jacket tucked away in a secret underneath pocket. The waist straps sit low and comfortably with some very useful and well positioned zip mesh pockets that can be easily reached while riding, as can the other stuff pockets on the side of the pack . No neck or back pain issues, no pressure points and super comfortable to ride with, even when fully packed.
The DUNE (1.5L) is used as my training pack so the bladder is left in, interestingly the bladder is split and has a hole in the middle to ensure the fluid is balanced aerodynamically across your back instead of a hump in the middle. This is a great idea as it means the pack sits comfortably over your spine instead of the bladder using your spine as a pivot. The design is ‘X-fit’ to allow a superior contour to your body and independent shoulder movement, the waist strap sits low and comfortably with well positioned mesh pockets each side and I was most excited about the magnetic clip that allowed easy and secure attachment of the water spout without having to ‘tuck’ it in the breast strap. There is a pocket on the outside, more than sufficient for the essential snake bandage, gas bomb, multi tool, snacks, pump, spare tube etc, and again the lacing to allow exteriorisation of odiferous gear. Last Sunday I rode 4.5hr through the Sunshine Coast Hinterland with this pack and I found it comfortable and well fitting with no unnecessary movement, the valve on the bladder didn’t leak and its little cap ensured it remained dust free.
So there is no need to be scared of hydration packs anymore, I am a convert and I am looking forward to setting out on a balmy summers morning heading west with no concern of dying from thirstation or wriggler ingestion. Source packs, especially the DUNE 1.5Lt have revolutionised my perception of hydration packs…..Bring on the long hot dry summer!