Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Showers Pass VelEau 42 Hydration System

If you've consumed as many 40ozers as I have you'll know that 40oz is 1.18 litres (it says so on the labels). So a hydration system that holds 42 ounces will be around 1.2 litres of malt liquor, or eau as our Showers Pass friends must call water.

At 1.2 litres I think I could go 30-40km hard in our high humidity under the shade of the jungle. Anything longer and I may need a bit more. My smallest CamelBak holds 1.5 and I hardly ever finish it, even on the hottest of our tropical days.

So when my mom brought me a VelEau 42 straight from the source (Portland, Oregon - where, incidentally they have a lot of good beer as well!) I knew it was about the right size for me.

If the name "VelEau 42" seems cryptic to you, it can mean nothing other than 'bike water 42' in French, 42 obviously being the capacity. Now if I could only figure out what "Showers Pass" means.

Image from the Showers Pass site. Note the tool pouch.
I have three bikes and I don't want to use this for road riding. I'm perfectly happy with my two conventional water bottles, and on the road bike obviously wouldn't carry a CamelBak.

But here in Singapore, it's hot and humid 365 days a year, and a CamelBak worsens that. Any solution that can remove that sweaty hump from my back is welcome, and when I first saw this online I knew I wanted to try one.

So this would be best on one of the mountain bikes - how about the Giant Reign 1, a 6-inch all-mountain?

Installation was super simple and obvious - the strong plastic strap ratchets on through the saddle rails. It is secure as could be, and ought to fit on any bike. I saw some reviews online - no, not reviews - speculation - that it must wobble around, but I can clearly see that it won't.

The tube is secured to the stem/steerer with thin nylon strings on spring-loaded reels which hold it there with little magnets.

Without a pack I need a way to store my tools, tube(s), pump, phone and other junk I keep with me on every ride. The pouch only really has space for one fat MTB tube (way bigger than a little road tube), a larger multi-tool, and my wide Park Tools tire levers.

Phone, pliers, pump and other stuff will have to go somewhere else, or stay home. I do like to carry my phone for emergencies, especially when I ride across the border to our own little Tijuana (Johor Bahru, Malaysia). But I could do it roadie style and put it in my jersey pocket...which then means I have to wear a cycling jersey on my all-mountain MTB...

The pump could be attached to the frame using the bracket it came with, but that doesn't look so great. Or, I could stick to the road style mentioned above and chuck it in my jersey pocket.

Anyway, I have yet to try this, but will soon (race coming up this weekend in Malaysia) and I will post a follow-up with photos.

Time will tell if I stick with this or not.


First impression 

Installed and ready for the trail

I like the hose in the middle of the bar by the stem where I can see it. Sometimes with my CamelBak I can't quite find the hose - it can flip around and get lost.

The flow of water was maybe a tiny bit weaker than any of my CamelBaks, but not so weak that I had to really suck. The valve is just like one of my CamelBak's valve - a simple piece of rubber without any lock like some have (which my High Sierra has but I never use).

The midde magnet

Upon releasing the hose from your mouth, the parachute cord reels it back to the magnet, hitting it about half the time. If I actually cut my hose down it would hit every time. Now the hose is too long but I'm just going to test it like this before trimming it.

The middle magnet on the top tube seemed to connect every time. The magnet and reel on the seat post always latched.

I routed the hose through the saddle as seen on the Showers Pass site - this is a neater and cleaner installation. It runs pretty close to the reservoir but the reservoir is so secure and stable there's no risk of pinching the tube.

I'm a pretty aggressive rider and tend to like to drop behind the saddle quite a lot. Surprisingly the VelEau didn't get in my way - I was able to slide behind it like I was riding down some steep terrain no problems. Let me give it a real ride and see for sure.

I didn't notice the weight (though I didn't fill it all the way with water). If anything I did notice the lack of weight on my back, so that will more than make up for any handling difference!

Some of the nice design features I observed:
  1. The surface of the bottom of it is a rubbery material that will be easily cleaned after picking up the inevitable mud and crud (as opposed to the nylon everywhere else)
  2. There are six small loops on the bottom of it and six on top which could be used to attach anything - pump, small pack, fender, bottle of beer
  3. Reflective tubing around the top of it, as well as a large reflective label that could double as a hook to attach a light
  4. The connection to the seat post is simple and elegant: a rubber block that will fit snugly to any post, secured by velcro. In fact it's strong enough to hold the whole thing on its own - I tested it.
Note the black block between the seat post and the hard plastic tube routing

Obviously a lot of thought and development was put into this product. Again, the real test will be real riding.


The Verdict

A race is the ultimate test for not only the rider and the bike but the supporting equipment. My first trail test of thie VelEau 42 was in a race of about 450 riders in Pasir Gudang, Johor, Malaysia. The course consisted of 45 km of fire roads, plantation roads, singletrack and some paved roads.

The first test was whether or not the bite valve would return home to its position on the stem easily. As per my parking lot test, it did about half the time, but would have more if I had trimmed the hose shorter. By returning home I mean each of the magnets connecting directly and immediately without any intervention on my part. This is good enough for me because I can trim the hose and because adjusting it is not an issue, not even in a race.

The second test, maybe the one I was most worried about, was how securely it connects to the bike. And boy did I ever test this! At the bottom of a hill was a muddy depression which I hit squarely and hard. My front wheel sank 1/3 and immediately froze. This catapulted me spectacularly into the air, over the bar, the bike acting as a lever with the VelEau at the end of it.

Unbeknownst to me, my Garmin embedded itself into the mud (amid hundreds of other racers - this was at the start) but the Showers Pass wasn't phased. It didn't rotate left or right, the hose didn't go anywhere, and everything was secure. (Incidentally, I had to backtrack later when I realized I had lost my GPS. The force of the fall was so great that it completely annihilated the hard plastic bracket the Garmin uses to connect to my bar.)

Throughout the rest of the race, I had no issues. I felt liberated by not having to carry a pack or bottles in my jersey pocket.

The thing got entirely encrusted in mud but washed clean easily.

Overall, I'm very happy with it and I will keep using it.


Alexander Patterson said...

Hrmmm. Makes you wheelie more? I've tried probably five set-ups on my road bike for hydration. Let us know how good it is.

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