There are cage-mounted water bottles for road warriors and pack-based bladders for mountain bikers, but it’s always been an either/or for pannier-toting long-distance tourers and daily commuters. For those riders who want hands-free hydration without sweaty packs, there’s the Showers Pass VelEau 42. The system consists of a wide-mouth 42-ounce reservoir, which fastens under your seat, and a polyurethane tube, which snakes its way from the reservoir to just below your handlebars. Mounted by the neck of your bike is the nozzle with a retractable cord. There’s also a small zippered pouch with enough room for a bike tool, patch kit, and power bar.
Setup took us about 10 minutes, and the system fastened securely when we tested it on road, mountain, and commuter bikes, thanks to a family of O-rings, mounts, and ratcheting ties. We liked the magnetic reel with a parachute cord for affixing the nozzle to our top tube; when sipping water, the cord extended and retracted back into place without a hitch, and kept the nozzle from dangling or getting caught in cables. On a pair of 20-mile rides, drinking proved easy – the bite valve offered enough suction to successfully bring water from the back to the front of the bike without any extra effort, and we were able to easily bring the tube to our faces or lower our heads and sip, hands-free. We found ourselves drinking more during rides too, since the system made access to 42 ounces of water so easy.
When filled, the VelEau 42 added 3.73 pounds to our bikes. Sure, serious spandex-clad types won’t strap it to their Cervelos, or go down hilling with it at Whistler, but if you’re a long-distance cycler headed on a extended tour, or even a casual rider looking to lose the backpack or water bottle, the VelEau 42 makes mid-ride hydration refreshingly easy. [$80; showerspass.com]