Speedfils, Camelbaks, even the humble bottle – there are plenty of ways to take some water with you on your ride. West coast US cycling accessories and clothing company Showers Pass have their own suggestion to add into the mix – the VelEau 42. (Get it? Velo? But with L'eau in it! Tough crowd.)
With a capacity of about 1.2 litres, this is a shaped plastic bottle mounted behind the seat, with a tube and bite valve at the handle-bar end. The bottle lid is a large screw-cap, not dissimilar to a regular waterbottle lid. Part of the bottle assembly is a tough fabric casing that also provides a small zipped saddlebag pouch. The bottle is shaped like a large saddlebag, with the tubing at the lowest point, close to the seat post.
The tubing is intended to be run along the top-tube, and is connected to the frame with three magnetic clips. Two of these are connected with thin nylon cord to a spring that snaps the tube into place. The third is on a mid-line magnet that fixes to the top-tube via a mount held in place with O-rings. The idea is that you pull the tube to your mouth to drink and then it returns to whatever position you prefer when not using it.
In practice, this works okay; with a little tinkering the magnetic clips do their job smoothly enough. I found that the mid-line magnet wasn't all that secure, though, and the elastic O-ring that held it to the frame made an exit mid-ride not long after I'd attached it. Unfortunately the best place for it in relation to the length of the top-tube is close to where your knees are and so likely to get knocked about. The system still worked pretty well without it, though.
The fabric casing is robust and the saddlebag pouch is just about big enough for a tube. Or a repair kit/tools, but not both, unfortunately. There are no loops for attaching a light or mini-pump, which is a bit of a shame given the size of the bottle area means that there isn't much seat post, or saddle rail, available for a rear light.
Showers Pass suggest this design is suitable for all riders and cycling types – mountain bikers, leisure, road and time-trial are all suggested in the literature. Of these, I could see it being most useful for time-trialling, because it is easy to get the tube at a consistent position in front of your mouth while riding the aerobars.
The reality is that this feels like a complex solution to what is quite often an easy 'problem' to solve. For me, having odd-shaped bottles and tubing to maintain isn't going to win out over swilling a water bottle out (but then I never really got Camelbaks either, and I know plenty that swear by them). It could really work for time-trialling, but only longer distances – who would want to lug this over a 10? Conceivably this might work for longer triathlons, but then refilling would be a pain compared to a Speedfil or between-the-aerobars unit on a longer distance event.
It is an interesting idea, and executed pretty well, but I'm struggling to imagine many cyclists for whom would be the best way to carry water. This unit was partially inspired for mountain-bikers – and I'm not one. I can't imagine swapping from a back-mounted system for this as it means taking a hand off the bars, but there may be a pay-off to this that I don't appreciate. Touring cyclists might go for it, I suppose, but it's not like they're poorly-served by bottles.
I can't imagine this making to many road bikes. Practically it might work, but it just isn't a 'road' solution. The setup behind the seat is pretty chunky and all that tubing and clips would spoil many riders' view of what their ride should look like.
Interesting idea that is well executed, but possibly a solution in search of a problem
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Showers Pass VelEau Bicycle Mounted Hydration
Size tested: 1.2 litres, black
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Seems to be aimed at everyone according to Showers Pass - they identify it as a practical solution for leisure riders, mountain bikers, time trialing, tri and road cycling. Of these, the ones that I can imagine it working with are short TT and tri's, leisure riders and maybe the odd mountain biker. I'm not sure it has the right pitch to a roadie.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Neat sprung cords with magnetic locks to keep the tubing in place. The two of them - at the headtube and seat-pin - work pretty well in returning the tube to a neutral position after use.
The mid-tube clip (simple magnet on the water feed tube, with matching piece O-ring fixed to the bike top-tube) didn't last long for me. The rest of the assembly is solid, particularly the ratchet fixing to the bike seat rails.
Simple to use and behaves much exactly as intended (like the best things with bikes - once set up and fettled). It works particularly well on a turbo-trainer.
Apart from the loss of one clip it survived regular rides well.
There's quite a lot to the bottle part with fixings and clips. I don't think the weight is objectionable.
Using it is straightforward, and in theory should be more comfortable and safer than taking bottles from cages.
£60 isn't cheap compared to a bottle/cage combination, but relative to similar 'systems' (speedfil, etc) it is competitive.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It generally performs well once set up to work the way that you want it to (where the tube-end is at the handle-bars). It consistently returns to the set-up position when you aren't using it, although occasionally needs a little nudge. When used in a time trial position this improves because it generally stays in one location close to the rider's mouth.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
When riding TT or tri position it was easy to use.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Having handily saved me the hassle of using a water bottle I then needed to carry a bottle to take all the usual paraphernalia of tubes, multi-tool, patch kits (etc) that were previously in the saddle bag it replaced. There is something reliably low-tech about a bottle.
Did you enjoy using the product? Sort of. I wanted to like it more than I did.
Would you consider buying the product? No.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Probably not.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
It's a well executed solution to a problem that many will feel is already solved.
About the tester
Age: 37 Height: 182cm Weight: 69kg
I usually ride: Specialized Allez Sport 2008 My best bike is: Moda Tempo 2010
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, Triathlon