Unique new drink system from VelEau

Saddle pack hydration

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).

James Huang

Technical Editor, US
James started as a roadie in 1990 with his high school team but switched to dirt in 1994 and has enjoyed both ever since. Anything that comes through his hands is bound to be taken apart, and those hands still sometimes smell like fork oil even though he retired from shop life in 2007. He prefers manual over automatic, fizzy over still, and the right way over the easy way.
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: Up in the Colorado high-country where the singletrack is still single, the dirt is still brown, and the aspens are in full bloom. Also, those perfect stretches of pavement where the road snakes across the mountainside like an artist's paintbrush.
  • Beer of Choice: Mexican Coke
  • Location: Boulder, Colorado, USA
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