I've never used a CamelBak before. It's not that I have anything against them, it;s just when I started to seriously train, I was introduced to different methods of carrying hydration and stuck with what I knew.
My first intro to Camelbak was this year at the Chicago Marathon when they were nice enough to send me a Podium water bottle to keep me hydrated along my journey. According to my wife, I have 10 million water bottles. I' m a bit of a pack rat when it comes to stuff like that.
However after using the Podium, I actually threw out a few dozen of my crusty old bottles and started using my new bottle exclusively. On my bike, on runs this is a great bottle to have along with you, reason being the bottle incorporates Jet Valve, a self-sealing valve that lets you suck as much liquid as you want out, without spilling or leaking any liquid when you don't want. Nice.
My first CamelBak experience was a good one. However, if you are riding long 40-100 miles, you know the pains of packing food, hydration, etc. The best bottle in the world doesn't matter, because you need several and space on a bike can become limited.
Once again, Camelbak has a new product that peaked my interest, the Velobak Men's Wearable Bike Jersey. It's a bike jersey with a integrated reservoir compartment in the back that stores a traditional CamelBak bladder, and a tube that runs from your back to your front for easy access to hydration.
It sounded cool, but I was also skeptical, if they pulled this off right, it would be a great solution to packing for a long ride, the Velobak holds 72 ounces of liquid, which is a lot. However, done wrong, toting 72 ounces on your back could be uncomfortable, cold and even throw off your balance.
I am not what you would call graceful when it comes to handling my bike, normally on group rides, I get dropped when I am sitting up to hydrate or fuel up. I have to slow down, find my water bottle, drink and then reinsert the bottle, it's not pretty. However with the Velobak, all that fiddling was gone, the nozzle that leads from the back tucked right into the front of my jersey and all I needed to do was pop it into my mouth and suck (insert joke here), it was easy.
In my first test ride, I rode for 45 minutes, joined a group that did 40 minutes of sprints and then 45 minutes back home, a good amount of riding. It was during the sprints that I noticed how easy it was to use the Velobak. I was working hard (winning!) and was in need of hydration, I was able to keep on cranking away, not leaving the race position to hydrate. No fumbling, no slowing down, very easy to use.
The same basic scenario happened in my second ride, except this time I was getting my butt handed to me by Steve Thordason, owner of Smart Cycling in Glenview. Looking at Steve, you don't think, this guy is a rock solid stud on a bike. Looks are truly deceiving, he has been kicking my butt for years, the man is a machine. Steve put the hammer down and took off on me, I quickly jumped into gear and started to chase. I am 100% sure Steve was working 1/4 as hard as I was, while I was killing myself to keep up, I didn't need to slow down to get the much needed hydration, the Velobak kept me going.
So we know it works and yes I do recommend it. Here are a few things I think they can improve on and hiccups I see as they move down the road.
- 1. The jersey itself is OK, not great, but OK. The
pockets seem small, obviously because the jersey needs to accommodate
the 72 ounce pouch, but still a little more room would be nice.
- 2. Very much like most of Nike's running stuff, this is a very
proprietary piece of gear. As far as I know, there aren't other bike
jerseys that can hold 72 ounces of liquid, so you are faced with
wearing the same jersey over and over or buying several of these, which
can be costly. It would be great to get more jersey companies involved
with this type of technology.
- 3. The chug glug sound. Not really a problem, just
funny. For the first few miles of my inagural journey, I kept hearing
a sound that sounded like a flat footed runner chasing me, at first I
kept looking over my shoulder to see who in the world would be chasing
me? Then it hit me it was in fact the liquid shifting in the jersey
and making a chug, glug sound. No big deal, just a funny sound.
If you are planning on racing or training longer distances, then the CamelBak Velobak
is a piece of gear worth investing in. It's easy to use, solves the
traditional storage problem we all face while riding, easy to maintain
(slip the bladder out and wash) and at $130, it's worth the cost for a
jersey/hydration system. I will be wearing it all Summer long as I
begin to ride and race longer distances, first stop, The Udder Century,
keep an eye out for me, I will be the guy that is working hard, but