When you’re out riding in Singapore, our temperatures here can hit pretty high when the sun is right above you. Staying hydrated during any form of prolonged sports requires constant fluid intakes to keep you going. And while the old water bottle has been a steady companion (until today) for some riders, we’ve found ourselves needing more than the occasional 500ml of water.
Hydration bags are essentially a type of hydration system built as a backpack or a waist pack containing a reservoir or “bladder” commonly made of rubber or flexible plastic. Early hydration bags in the nineties were really basic, and technology has evolved over the years with improvements to it’s function and form.
Shimano Singapore was kind enough to let us review their new hydration system and we were stoked! We’ve always wanted to try one out and Shimano were awesome enough to obliged. According to Shimano, the Unzen U6 6 Litre Volume Hydration Pack is a lightweight, sleek, and crafted to fit your natural riding position. Shimano’s ACCU3D series is precision-engineered to support a smoother ride. They’ve also used innovative materials and accurate 3D pattern technology, which shapes each part of the bag to create a body-hugging fit that stays molded to your back. No moving around. No loose straps.
Our first impressions when we received the bag was really good. While the color wasn’t really our cup of tea (we’d prefer louder colors to help motorists notice us when we’re riding out to the trail head), Shimano has a few other color options which are really nice, especially the blue. The material they’ve used to construct the bag is a kind of stretchy rubber that packs down your gear. There are 4 compartments on the bag, one for the bladder, one at the top which is fleece-lined for your phone, the main compartment which has 2 zippers on either side, and a bottom compartment with a key strap for your smaller all-in-one tools. It also has 2 side pockets on the lower strap which is closed off with velcro, perfect for energy gels. Shimano has partnered with the well-known manufacturer Hydrapak to ensure ease of use and durability.
We had one snag with the 2L bladder though. It came with a tiny little hole 🙁 I discovered the leak as I was filling it up and informed Shimano, which they’ve promptly replaced since. Always, always check for leaks with any new hydration bag. It might be catastrophic to my electronics if I didn’t find the leak. Eeekkk!
The main compartment also has dividers which is perfect for a small hand pump and a tube. I’ve managed to fit in the huge Topeak Mountain Morph pump in the main compartment easily, and still has room for my Oakley hard case, a couple of energy bars, and a small towel. We love the zipper pull tab. It’s large and easy to grab with your gloves on and the bright inner colors makes it easy to spot whatever you’re looking for in the bag.
The top compartment is fleece-lined and it fits my iPhone 5 perfectly. Be warned though, it’s best to put your phone in a plastic ziplock bag just to be safe if it rains.
Finding the most comfortable fit for the bag was easy enough with only 2 straps to fiddle around with. We were pleasantly surprised with the comfortable way the 2 main straps are connected. The bag does indeed feel secure and jumping up and down had minimal effect on the bag’s position.
During our ride, we barely noticed the bag’s existence (which is good) as we pedaled up Bukit Timah and Butterfly’s notorious roots. Most of the time, the bag stayed put and access to the drinking hose was effortless. We also felt a significant difference to the load being spread on our shoulders and under our arms, and the bag was unobtrusive to all our arm movements and shifting our body weight when we’re off the saddle.
We did feel the bag bounce on our back a couple of times during fast and rocky descents along Bukit Timah’s double black sections and the double drop section. It didn’t bother us that much but what bothered us was how the bag makes your jersey ride up on your shorts. Maybe because I’m chubby and I have a big bum, so hopefully this is not an issue with leaner riders.
And yes, we did tested the bag in the rain. Torrential Singapore kinda rain, in Butterfly. That ride was a mess… Hahahaha.. And the bag performed exceptionally well in the rain and all that mud. A small amount of water managed to seep in through the top compartment cos that particular zipper wasn’t closed off properly. The rest of the compartments which carried some of my gear did stay dry, which was good. One word of advise is to always use ziplock plastic bags for your i-devices if you want complete peace of mind.
Our final take: Apart from the brand new bladder with the leak, the bag performed really well on our back. The overall construction and the materials used, along with it’s unique shape, makes this bag one of our go-to bags for a quick ride out to Bee Tee or to Ubin. It has enough space to carry the essentials like tools, a pump, spare tubes, and your phone, and enough fluid in the 2L bladder to keep you hydrated.
So what do you think of the Shimano Unzen U6 6 Litre Volume Hydration Pack? Leave a comment here or on our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/singaporemtb