Hydration Packs – How to Select the One for You

Hydration packs are very useful innovation — it brings forward both the "cool factor" as well as convinience.  Why and how — well, mutliple reasons:  (1) you get to show off with a snazzy multicolored pack with space age construction and aparatus for water intake (2) it is a very comfortable way to carry in some models, a fairly big load of water, (3) you just get compelled to drink more water when you have such a cool contraption attached to your back….and you achieve better results in your exercise without even noticing….Pluses all around!

Joking aside the hydration packs are very useful.  I published already a couple of short articles dealing with new products in that category in the last couple of week – More Hydration Options and Hydration options for bicycling.  

Next, let's look at decision criteria for selecting good and activity appropriate hydration packs:

  • Chose according to the activity you most engage in:
    • Mountain biking – your rides take a long time and you are usually not close to a gas station with bottled water – so choose 2-3L pack
    • Road cycling – since most of you are focused on speed – you want to consider relatively small pack
    • Recreational cyclist – you are probably not likely to spend a very long amount of time on the bike at any one time, so a 1-2L pack with focus on light weight is your best choice
  • Next consider the overall size of the pack.  No matter which type of biker you are (from the above choices) I suspect you are not one that wants to carry around extra weight and be constricted in movement while on the bike.  To that effect consider wisely the water capacity as well as the extra carrying capacity of the packs under consideration.   You want them to fit snuggly on you and become (almost) un-noticeable while you are biking

In the earlier articles I had alread links to several models that offer plenty of good options for bikers, and now decided to include one additional recommendation here.  

It came from a list I came across showing a good set of recommendations and "Best of" listing with 2012 model year products here — check it out.

More on Hydration Options

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about new hydration pack products.  Today I wanted to add some more – as there are additional new products to consider. The products I want to cover this time include a new pack from Camelback — I think they were the folks who started the trend – see this excerpt from their web site:


It's 1988.

Bicycle enthusiast, Michael Eidson, is competing in the "Hotter'N Hell 100." And that's exactly what it is: a 100-mile road race in the grueling summer heat of Wichita Falls, Texas. Water is vital to surviving the race, and there are few places to refill a water bottle. Eidson, an emergency medical technician by trade, decides to fill an IV bag with water and slip it into a white tube sock. Yes, a tube sock. Then he stuffs the contraption into the back of his bike jersey, throws the thin hose over his shoulder and clamps it with a clothespin.

Hands-free hydration is born. And Eidson is able to drink as he pedals…while the other racers laugh and fiddle with their water bottles.

So 25 years later – the company is continuing to put together good options for the mountain biking crowd.  Here is a new one — the Volt 13 LR

  made of ultra-light materials, featurs a hook for your helmet (when you are not wearing it), bike tool organizer pocket, media pocket.   Other important aspects are: it has very good back panel and hip belt — which allows for good distribution of the weight and comfort while using the pack.  The side pockets are great for a camera, phone, some energy bars, or some other smallish item.  The hydration capacity is large 3-litter water volume — should be good for most rides.

Now, the second product is rather different — this is a dual reservoir pack made by Mazama Designs:

 Dualocity – this is a 1.8-liter dual hydration reservoir.  Very interesting idea – why?  because it allows you to carry both electrolytes and water — well, now you can have both your energy drink and water on the trail.  While you can use it as dual reservoir, keep in mind that the design apparently allows you to use it as a single fluid bladder.  Very cool!

Well, next I plan to summarize in another article — the ins and outs of how to select a hydration pack.  I am planning to summarize my search and experience — stay tuned – will post it soon.

27.5 Mountain Bikes

I have been riding on mountain bikes for over 20 years.  In that time period the majority of the bikes were based on the tried and true 26-inch wheels.  That was the case until about 5-6 years ago when the 29ers (the 29-inch wheels) bikes started getting popularity.  In reality, these bikes / wheel sizes were in existence ever since 1999  I think, but the first broadly introduced 29er product line was that from Gary Fisher Bicycles – 

Gary Fisher 29er bicycle Mt Tam 29er Gary Fisher 29er bicycle Supercaliber 29er

These bikes created a whole new category of very stable and great to ride mountain bikes.  Today most manufacturers offer 29ers in their product portfolio.   

But now we have a new solid category to consider — the 27.5inch bikes.  They are coming up fast in the product offering of bike companies.   Why is that?  Well for a bunch of reasons:

  • Lower overall weight when compared to the 29ers.   That helps on those long hills…Here is an interesting chart comparing the 26, 27.5 and 29-inch models (courtesy of Giant-bicycles.com):

Comparisons of 27.5lb, 26 and 29er 

  • Increased efficiency:  the larger wheels decrease the angle of attack – which increases the ease of roll over obstacles.  Yet another diagram from Giant that shows the math behind this phenomenon:

angle of attack for obstacles

  • The 27.5 bikes offer faster acceleration when compared to 29-inch wheel bikes.

acceleration of bikes

  • Better control is being offered by the 27.5 wheel based bikes.  The math here works the following way – the larger the wheel the more contact it makes with the surface of the road / trail — which in turn improves the stability and ability to control the bike.  Now with the 29er you have greatest surface contact but only slightly larger than the 27.5-inch wheels offer.  And given the lighter wheels — you have much better overall manueverability and control.
  • Frame stiffness and geometry — the designers at Giant have pointed out the intricacies of the impact of the 29-inch wheels on making the frame more elongated but that is also easy to understand and see — just take a look at the geometry of the 29-inch bikes' frames — they are quite a bit different when compared to 26-inch ones.  The result is that you have REAL hard time putting those bikes on a regular bike rack that holds the bikes via arms that use the frame for support.  At home with our 29-ers we had to give up on the regular bike rack and switch to roof mounted one that holds the bikes upright.

So all in all the 27.5-inch bikes are making a strong entry — there are plenty to chose from and they should be as fun to ride (as being faster than the 26-inch ones) as the 29ers but with a lot more manueverability and agility.

Giant 27.5 Giant 27.5 Talon Raleigh 27.5

Well, I am really interested now — and I should give the 27.5 (otherwise known also as 650lb) bikes a test ride at least.  Stay tuned for more on that.


Hydration Options for Bicycling

A year ago I tried the hydration packs which were carried by Costco.   Well, they were well priced — I will say that — but they did not work well either.  May be the quick giveaway should have been the lack of any reviews on Costco.com…So I bought, I tried it, and quickly returned it — the pack was really tough to use, it did not fit well on (at least) my body, and the water flow from it was somehow tough to come by….no matter how hard I tried.

I checked out today the Costco.com as I was considering other options – and wanted to see what is new on their web site. Well, not much of new / different options there.  They had only two — so I decided to avoid them.

Now, to my next choice – the Hydrapak products.  



Their newest product – is the Bishop and Bishop EXT which are visible on the hydrapak.com site but I could not find easily in retail yet.  The new packs are supposed to be designed with special air ventilation channels molded in the pack structure, as well as, usage of tough materials to ensure durability on those tough rides you will be taking.

It is also important to check out their reservoir components — they are made for ease of use and versatility.  Check out the YouTube video:

The packs also have plenty of carrying capacity (pockets and storage space) for various biking related items including first aid kit, flash lights, etc. — these features are very useful since you already are carrying the pack.

 So, all in all, these water packs are very promising.

Fezzari Wasatch Peak vs Specialized Rockhopper Comp 29

The model year bikes are here so I decided to look into what is new in the amateur range from a couple of well established and well known bike manufacturers.  The two I am talking about in this quick review are the Fezzari and Specialized.   A disclaimer is due — I own a Specialized Rockhopper Comp 29 SL, which has been a good quality bike for me over the last almost 4 years.

Looking at the new bicycles – I decided to stay in the same price range — sub-$1200.  Why?  The reason is that once you cross the $1200 mark, the prices skyrocket very fast and reach $1800 and $1900 before you blink twice.   So, unless you are planning to join the race circuit, you are better off staying close to the $1K mark — in my opinion.

The next filter I applied is to look for 29er — both my wife and I have been riding "two-niners" for the last several years and have enjoyed the 29-inch wheels they have – and the benefits of greater stability on the trails and their ability to "roll over" obstacles with much greater ease…

So, having done the quick filtering I came to the following two bikes:

Fezzari 29er Wasatch Fezzari Wasatch Peak   2014 Specialized Rockhopper Comp 29Specilized Rockhopper Comp 29

The two bikes – both a 2014 models – are 29er and sport hydralic brakes – also key requirement in my opinion.  The Fezzari is surprisingly low cost bike — I noticed that the 2014 model has dropped below the $1000 mark, being listed on the Fezzari.com site at $919.  This is a great price!  For this you get a Racing design frame, RockShox XC28 29er fork with 100mm travel, and relatively upgraded SRAM X7 rear derailleur.   The brakes are Avid Hydraulic disk brakes;  The shifters are SRAM X5 and enable 27-speeds.

The Specialized Rockhopper Comp 29 is priced significantly higher — per the Specialized.com site — the sticker is $1150.  (I bought mine 4 years ago almost at similar price); The Rockhopper comes equiped with the XC28 fork as well — also 100mm travel.  The rear derailleur is SRAM X5 and so are the shifters.   The brakes are also Hydraulic as in the case of the Fezzari but here you have the Tektro Draco 2 — they are a good option for amateur mountain biker enthusiasts – the brakes could make squel noise but overall they are OK.








Bike Share Programs vs Politics in Kolkata

Interesting developments in the huge Indian city of Kolkata – while the rest of the world is adding more and more bike share programs, as listed in my previous article, and as you will soon find in database on this blog, this Indian city is going the opposite (wrong) way.   Kolkata officials have decided to ban bicycles on majority of the city roads.

Admittedly if you have been in any of the Indian cities, you would wonder – how do the bicycles get around and stay unharmed anyway….!  Being on the road in many of those cities is VERY dangerous to your health.   I remember being in Bangalore a couple of times in the last two years or so and in both cases I was strongly advised not to cross most of the city streets on foot.  Why?  Because that is a significant hazzard..!

Ban to bicycles in Kolkata Here is a view from ndtv.com

Angry protests are going on as a result of the ban.  Some local activists are also expressing their dismay at the decision.  Here is a snapshot from one of the India media sites:

Social activist Medha Patkar has appealed to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to revoke the blanket ban on cycling in Kolkata, saying this will work against poor and working class people who are dependent on this "inexpensive" mode of transport to earn a living.

Net-net, this is a strange move and one that will not improve anything.  The space and dangers inflicted by bicycles are not anything major and will be well surpassed by the chaos that motorbikes bring (and the everpresent Bajaj cabs) — so don't expect Kolkata to be somehow in more ruly traffic….won't happen.

So, once again, I think India will benefit big time from getting more bicycles NOT LESS, on its roads in order to maintain green environment as much as possible as well as allow for more sustainable development.