This is Episode 6 in an ongoing series of videos we will be posting regularly to share our mountain biking tips and tricks with our subscribers.
Episode 5: GPS for Mountain Biking
Episode 4: Maps for Mountain Biking
Episode 3: The LBS
Episode 2: 1X Drivetrain Bail Out
Episode 1: Cold Fingers Remedy
EPISODE 6: Ditch Your Camelbak
Back in the early 2000’s, I purchased an aluminum-framed mountain bike with front suspension. With the mountain bike, I was offered 10% off any additional accessories at the time of purchase. After picking out a helmet, pump, patches, spare tube, tire levers, and multitool, I looked over the bike wondering what else I was missing. I saw water bottle mounts and instantly headed toward the water bottle cages. After picking up two, I began looking over the water bottles. The salesman came back to me and said he would throw in a couple water bottles for free if I was okay with them having the shop logo and contact info on them. I said of course, but then I was surprised as he led me toward some small backpacks that he began telling me about. He had started using these packs to carry all the water he needed for his ride, as well as all his trail-side repair tools and supplies. It had a hose and a bite valve that were up by your chest where they were less likely to get covered in dirt and more likely to keep you well hydrated without the fear of losing your bottle while riding. I loved the concept and was sold. I used a Camelbak for a decade straight without even thinking about going back to waterbottles ever again. In fact, with each new mountain bike I purchased, I scoffed at the water bottle mounts on the frame as I thought they were archaic and antiquated since the invention of the Camelbak. I was a huge fan.
Then I started seeing how far I could go in a single ride and entered endurance XC races. I quickly realized that having water mounted to my bike felt much better than on my back for any rides over 20 miles or a couple hours. I started using water bottle cages and water bottles again while using a small seat bag to carry my other items that had previously went into the Camelbak. I mounted up to 5 water bottles on my bike at a time to allow me to go into areas without opportunities to refill, all while keeping my back free from the weight that would be too great of a burden to bear over the extended hours of longer rides.
Then bikepacking bags entered my world. Sure, water bottle cages with a small seat bag are what I often choose to use for smaller, local loop rides, but more often these days, I find myself leaving my frame bag on the bike. Why?
Here are 5 quick reasons as shown in the MTB Tip of the Week video below:
- Get as much weight as low as possible. Putting the heavier items that need to be carried (such as a multitool, spare tube, and water in a hydration bladder) as low as possible on the bike, close to the bottom bracket, gets the center of gravity lower. This in turn enables easier maneuvering of the bicycle when moving the bike side to side than it would if the weight was carried higher up. Think of your bike like a lever. It is moved left to right and right to left as you lean and turn it, the tires, where they contact the ground are the pivot points. Getting the weight as close to the ground enables easier side to side transfer into turns.
- Comfort. If you have had a heavy backpack on for any length of time, you have realized how fatigued you can get in a very short amount of time. Keeping the weight of your water and other items off your back allows you to stay comfortable for a much longer period of time.
- Agility. I already wrote about the ability to keep the weight low on the bike, which helps to maneuver the bike, but it also allows your body to become more agile. Bending and balancing over top of the bike is much, much easier when you don’t have extra weight on your torso. Those of us who have lost weight have undoubtedly experienced this when we pleasantly found it easier to stay on that technical, narrow trail after losing 5 or 10 pounds.
- Accessibility. It is much easier to get into a frame bag to access small, frequently used items while riding than it is in a backpack style bag. the openings are right there beneath and in front of you.
- Ventilation. While this one may not be realized as frequently in the winter as in summer, it is huge, especially where I live in San Diego. Allowing your back to breathe through your jersey by not having any pack against it will dramatically aid cooling and keep you feeling fresh longer than you would if you were trapping sweat between you and your Camelbak.
I hope you find this MTB Tip of the Week useful. Many frame bags available these days have a hydration port that facilitates the passing of a hydration bladder hose through the frame bag and up to your handlebar cockpit area. You may need a hose extension kit, but most likely your LBS will have this available for you to purchase. Many of the frame bag builders are located in the USA and will custom make a bag for your individual bike. There are many all over North America, and there may be a frame bag builder very near to you. You don’t need to have a hardtail to enjoy the benefits of a framebag either. Many designs for full suspension frames are already in existence.
Take a look at what Bikepackers Magazine has put together for the list of framebag manufacturers:
Leave a comment below or send me an email at info@RideAlongside.com .
Thanks for your support! Now get outside and find some trails to ride!