Extras Reviews

CamelBak Charm 2011

camelbak charmThe new CamelBak Charm 2011 is a women’s specific hydration solution from the market leaders of such accessories and being from CamelBak you probably don’t need telling that it’s well made and does it’s job well (it is and it does) – but Cyclo just loves this new version so we thought it worth highlighting a few of it’s finer points.


First things first then: women’s specific means not only a shorter length (or ‘back profile’ to use the unnecessary buzzword) but also a more comfortable s-shaped harness that curves across the shoulders and around the front in a way that won’t get in the way of any important anatomical bits. It does also mean that it lacks, for obvious reasons, a sternum strap but the fit is snug enough that the pack still sits incredibly close to the back even on the lumpiest of off-road down hills.


With a 1.5L (50oz) capacity reservoir this is a fairly minimalist pack but should be sufficient to keep you well hydrated in the saddle for up to two hours depending on weather conditions. The reservoir itself is the newly reworked ‘Antidote’ design, low profile (less ‘sloshy’ water), with a wide opening port for quick filling and with improved integration into the pack itself via the ‘click-link’ system that does exactly that and ‘clicks’ into place. The shoulder straps are mesh, keeping things cool, but have only the bare-minimum of padding, not a big problem given how light the pack feels.


There are, however, a couple of minor issues in our opinion. The adjustments straps are incredibly long, particularly given the short length of the pack itself, and have a tendency to flap wildly unless tied together – a simple clip or buckle to fasten these back around the middle would have improved things. Also the tiny zip pocket on the back is just that – tiny. Just enough to fit a key or emergency cash but unlikely to accommodate most phones and certainly too small for a gel, let alone two. With safety firmly in mind Cyclo would also have liked to see more reflectives on show rather than the single, rather miserly, 3inch strip tucked away right at the bottom.


Minor issues as we say, because all in all the Charm (which is available in blue, red and purple – CamelBak have sexier names for the colours) is still arguably the best women’s specific hydration pack we have tried. Widely available, RRP £34.99.


Extras Reviews

Camelbak Extras

CamelbakHydration systems and packs, such as those produced by market leaders CamelBak, can be an excellent investment on a long ride. Not only do they allow you to carry more water (or sports drink) than a regular bottle, but the “to hand” nature of the drinks tube is likely to encourage more regular imbibing – “little and often” – rather than the all too common practice of riding for miles without drinking and then glugging to make up for it.


If you have taken the plunge and bought yourself a hydration system there are a number of useful additions worth considering. Firstly the Camelbak Thermal Control Kit (RRP £15.99) is worth considering for hard winter rides when, in the most extreme conditions, the feed tube can be become inflexible and even freeze. This simple solution is an insulated 42” tube (complete with bite valve and bite cover) that keeps things flowing at just the right temperature. It can also prove useful in hotter weather when the water in the main bladder may well be protected from the sun but the slug held in the tube has a tendency to heat up with unpleasant results. Basically whatever the extreme of weather the Thermal Control System comes in handy in our experience.


Adequate cleaning of Camelbaks can also be problematic and, if left to fester unused for extended periods, the results can cut your ride seriously short as you head for the nearest hedge. The Camelbak Cleaning Kit (£19.99) includes a two flexible brushes – one for the feed tube, one for the bladder, cleaning tabs (also available stand-alone at £10.99 for eight) and two hangers for drying the system out effectively.


Finally, and arguably for riders with more money than sense, there is the Antidote Insulated Tube with Flow Meter, which combines the insulating properties of the Thermal Control Kit with a nifty flow meter that gauges both how much you are drinking and how much still remains in the bladder – it can also be set to keep track of your “personal hydration goals”. At £39.99 I think Cyclo might continue on without one, but would still highly recommend the Cleaning and Thermal Control Kits.


Extras Reviews

Camelbak Hydrobak 1.5litre

camelbak hydrobakAs cyclists we know you must be aware of good hydration (if not, read our feature here) and Camelbak have been market leaders for more years than Cyclo cares to remember. With the warmer weather upon us – at least at time of writing – we’ve had our hands on the Camelbak Hydrobak 1.5litre for a spot of in-saddle testing and have enjoyed its use every bit as much as we had anticipated. This is a low-profile, lightweight hydration solution, barely 33cm in back length and weighing in at only 160g (excluding reservoir and water) that should make it suitable for riders even of the slightest build and frame. It has a close fitting strap system that holds the pack tightly in place and the meshed pad reduces sweat and heat build-up which would otherwise be counter productive to keeping well watered. For the fashion conscious (!?) the Hydropak is available in four colours – black (for stealth mode), white (to show up the grime), lime green (for the extrovert) and red (which probably makes you go faster, but tests at Cyclo were inconclusive…) Importantly there are also front and rear reflectives to keep you safe.


Admittedly 1.5litres isn’t the most generous of reservoirs, but should be enough to keep you topped up for a good two hours on the road, and the tiny zipped pocket is barely big enough for a car key and an emergency mint humbug. But for its size and price point (in the region of £35.00) it’s a good choice of packs.


Being the responsible bunch of people that we are, Cyclo thought we’d share some top tips for the use of this (or indeed any other bladder system):


To prevent the unpleasant “sloshing” that can interrupt the most tranquil of rides, invert the bladder after filling it and gently suck on the bite valve to remove all excess air. Bingo, no slosh.


A dash of lemon juice in the bladder post-ride will help to clean it and neutralise the taste of iodine or other water purification tablets. If you’re of an adventurous nature and find yourself on a multi-day desert adventure chip shop vinegar sachets work well too – but stock up on them before you head to the Sahara (and rinse well afterwards…)


Finally, to keep the bladder from developing its own “special cultures” between uses, store it in the freezer and defrost when needed.



Cyclists: Don’t Sweat It

camelbakMost cyclists don’t have big elephant ears to flap around or long slobbery tongues like a dog – or Gene Simmons – which is why, as humans, we primarily use sweat as a means of heat control. We’re oversimplifying a little here; technically we control heat through the complex relationship between our central nervous system and various interconnected parts of our brain, primarily the anterior hypothalamus. But when it comes to cooling us down, sweat’s the thing and that’s why as cyclists we should spend a little time trying to understand, perhaps even love, the 2.6 million sweat glands that cover our skin.


Sweating cools us because of some pretty basic physics: it takes a certain amount of heat/energy to vaporise  the liquid (sweat) on your skin. Whisking away 500ml of sweat (a not unreasonable hourly rate on your bike) removes in excess if 250,000 calories of heat from the body. When the sweat glands are stimulated on a long hot ride they produce a fluid with high concentrates of body ‘salts’ (including sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium) As this fluid moves up through the duct that leads to the pores on your skin a percentage of the ‘salts’ are reabsorbed into the body, helping to maintain a healthy level. With regular exposure to hot conditions or strenuous rides your body becomes better adapted at reabsorbing these ‘salts’, meaning, in effect, that you can train yourself to sweat more effectively. Pretty cool, so to speak.


With this in mind here are Cyclo’s Top Tips for Cyclists


Keep it handy – A bottle of water close at hand is far more likely to be used and with greater frequency than a bottle stashed in a backpack/pannier/cupboard back at your house. Simple.
Save money – For all the “science” talked about around sports drinks, water is what your body requires and water (fresh, free tap water if you like) is what you can adequately nourish it with. Splash out on sports drinks if you so wish, it’s your money…


Replace the ‘salts’ – Replacing the ‘salts’ that you shed couldn’t be easier. Invest in some nuun tablets, Elete Water or similar product and your body will thank you. However (more money saving here) a ride of an hour or two is unlikely to be significantly improved by using products like this, so save them for the really long chugging challenges.


Start as you mean to go on – Begin your ride well hydrated, but avoid coffee which, although there is some evidence to suggest it improves both VO2Max and lactic acid threshold, is a diuretic likely to add to dehydration. Same goes for alcohol. Sorry.


Wear the right kit – A well ventilated helmet will keep you cooler and good “wicking” clothing will whisk away the sweat. Neither of these necessarily reduces the amount of sweating but it all fits together for a sensible “hydration strategy.”


Drink now, not later – Because modern apparel is so effective at keeping cyclists feeling cool (and because we are dashing onwards at a rate of knots being cooled by the air) cyclists are at some risk of not noticing how much they are sweating – so drink before you feel thirsty.


Don’t over-hydrate – In extreme conditions taking on too much water can be just as damaging (arguably considerably more so) than not drinking enough. Unless you are carefully monitoring your bodies ‘salt’ loses, or ensuring that you replace them – nuun, Elete, etc. – drinking excessive water can lead to all manner of complications; Google “Water intoxication” for all the gory details… It’s possible to calculate your personal “sweat rate”, but as this invariably involves lots of weighing yourself naked, you can largely rely on the ready-reckoner of between 500 and 700ml per hour, so aim to drink around this amount too.


Image (c) camelbak –


Nutrition Reviews

For Goodness Shakes Sports Recovery

The post-exercise recovery drinks market is awash, if you’ll forgive the expression, with products and For Goodness Shakes have been around for some time serving up nutritious (and mostly yummy) solutions. But now, according to their publicity, after a challenge thrown down by The English Institute of Sports and two years of research and development they have unveiled their new Sports Recovery powder mix.


In Cyclo’s opinion the first hurdle at which this kind of recovery powder normally falls is in its ability (or otherwise) to mix well, but on this point the FGS powder performs well, dissolving almost completely for a non-gritty milkshake-style drink.


So, let’s crunch the numbers:


FGS Sports Recovery delivers a 3:1 carbohydrate to protein mix (pretty much standard and recognised as the optimum ratio for absorption) but unlike many of its competitors this drink mixes both fast- and slow-release proteins (whey and casein). The bulk “carrier” is skimmed milk (so lactose intolerant cyclists be warned) which will give around 80% of your RDA along with around 6g of essential amino acids for muscle repair. Like all FGS products this is based on the “NutriMIX” formula which combines a mix of vitamins and “salts”. The vit break-down includes A for general muscle repair, D largely for bone benefit, E – an antioxidant that also aids muscle repair and growth, C (a symbiotic vit that works with E) and B6 which aids the body’s absorption of both carbohydrates and proteins. Potassium and Sodium (along with, but to a slightly lesser extent, Zinc and Magnesium) are also in the mix which work to replace “salts” lost from sweating – but if you’ve been careful with your hydration strategy during exercise, maybe using Elete, nuun or similar electrolytes, then this is really belt and braces stuff.


Phew! That was a lot to take in. But easier to digest is the product itself which is available in Banana, SuperBerry, Vanilla and ChocMalt flavours and retails at around the £1.60 per sachet mark. This could well be Cyclo’s recovery drink of the summer…


Extras Recovery Reviews

Elete Water

If you’re interested in good hydration on your ride (if not, why not? Drink up) and you have a sensible aversion to stuffing your body full of unnatural goo, then Elete Water could be just the product for you.


Sourced from the evaporation of the mineral-rich water in the Great Salt Lake in Utah and processed on its shores in an environmentally protected area, Elete is an electrolyte mix that can be added to water (or squash, juice, etc) without any noticeable “salty” taste and which provides replacement minerals – magnesium, potassium, chloride and sodium – in ionically charged form to those lost through strenuous exercise. In addition to the medically-proven fact that stabilising your salt losses from sweat benefits endurance and helps in maximising your performance, there is also anecdotal evidence that using Elete can reduce your overall quantity of liquid intake which in turn helps avoid the danger of hyper-hydration (known as “water intoxication”).


From a rider’s point of view, and aside from the natural credentials, there are two other benefits to Elete that Cyclo really rates: Firstly it comes in a tiny 25ml ‘dripper bottle’ which, despite its minuscule size, can be used to make up to 10litres of electrolyte-rich drink. Secondly at around £6.50 per bottle that equates to just 30p for a 500ml drink. Larger bottles are available in 120, 240, 480ml sizes that can be used either to make up drinks pre-ride or to refill the “dripper bottle” (it has a nifty pop-off top) with economy of scale on these larger bottles bringing the price of 500ml of refreshment down to just 8p. We love a bargain at Cyclo.


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