Bicycle-mounted alternatives to the conventional bottle and cage have been around for ages – especially in triathlon – but VelEau's unique system caught our eye as we wandered the aisles at this year's Interbike Outdoor Demo.
For one, it actually looks like it works. The thinking behind it is also impressively thorough, and even in supposed 'prototype' form, it's remarkably well finished.
Hidden inside what looks to be a standard saddle pack is a 1.2L (40oz) reservoir, easily filled (and refilled) using the top-mounted cap.
The bag attaches to the saddle rails with a pair of ratcheting buckles similar to those used on high-end cycling shoes and to the seatpost with a semi-rigid block – even when the reservoir is full, there's no sign of unwanted rattling or rocking about.
Tucked into the back corner is a handy flip-down section spacious enough for a few essentials like an inner tube and mini-tool.
A hose attaches to the bottom of the pack and routes up and under the saddle shell, then across the top tube via a clever array of magnets and retractable cables.
To take a swig, simply reach up by the base of the stem, grab the bite valve, pull it up to your mouth and drink away. Once you've had your fill, simply let the bite valve fall out of your mouth and the retractable cable and magnets quickly pull everything back in place so it's ready for the next round.
Though it sounds complex and bulky, the system is actually quite tidy and is quick to install and remove. In fact, that's just what inventor Frank Bretl was doing as he was test riding different bikes.
Perceived drawbacks include a high centre of gravity (fluid is heavy!) and difficulty in scooting behind the saddle in technical sections when mountain biking.
Even so, that hasn't kept pros such as Monavie-Cannondale's Sue Butler from using the VelEau in endurance races such as the gruelling BC Bike Race and Intermontane Challenge in British Columbia.
VelEau isn't quite on the market yet but final production is slated for this coming spring. Target retail price is US$90 (£54 at current exchange rate).