A couple of weeks ago I went back to my MTB roots to ride in the Peak District. After a few months of taking trips to Wales and the Lake District to do some new routes it was awesome to be riding familiar, local trials that I’ve not ridden for a long time! The prolonged hot spell of weather had turned the trials into fast, compacted race-ways and everyone had been raving about them, so I was keen to get out and experience these freak conditions for myself! The sweltering heat slowed me down slightly as I parked up at Fairholmes and immediately turned into a floppy wreck while trying to set up. As I sat with the air-con on, patiently waiting (hoping) it would cool down outside, it gave me time to check out the new kit I had ready to try out. That morning I’d had a package delivery from Bikester – I’m always excited to get my hands on new kit, and a brand new backpack is like Christmas Day! The new smell, the bright, unblemished outer without a single grease mark or mud splat. It’s the first time I have opted to try a new brand – USWE Airborne 15
I am a huge fan of bright clothing on the trials, it helps you to stand out so other riders can see you, it identifies you, and makes you visible from afar so that if anything was to happen you’d be spotted more easily by a rescue team. No one wants to be camouflaged into the landscape, particularly if riding alone or in unknown areas where you never know what could happen. This backpack is SO vivid you have no danger of blending in, and it has reflective sections on front and back.
I have always been faithful to EVOC and their rucksacks are great, but it’s good to try something new and USWE had some interesting styles and design features. Let’s talk about the straps: I’m used to a traditional style fastening – with a upper body and lower strap. On EVOC you have a thick lower Velcro strap which makes you feel very strapped in, and it also means you have a very sweaty back every time you ride. The USWE pack has a criss cross fastener that comes from 4 points to a single clasp on the chest. I felt a bit like a racing car driver. It was very quick to close and open…. no fiddling or fumbling around required. This is useful for cold rides where you have thick gloves and numb fingers. The bag is also vented to help with the profuse sweating I was doing that day!
At 9 litres in volume, the USWE Airborne is smaller than I’m used too. I tend to go out for rides lasting up to 7 hours so I usually want to take a fair amount of food (and when I say food I mean chocolate bars) and water. I’ve recently started taking a water filter out on rides too which has been really useful. Mid-way on the accent up Helvellyn on a blistering day and managed to refill using the filter and water from a stream. Win! The hydration bladder on the bag holds 2.5 litres of water and is so compact in comparison to taking say… 3 bottles!
This means more room for other bits and bobs like essential tools and a spare tube. There was plenty of room for this in a handy compartment and I was impressed with the functionality for the size. Also really worth mentioning the helmet section – this is an area between the main hydration pocket and the front pocket. It’s designed to be compatible with MTB and full face helmets which is really a thoughtful design to suit all types of mountain biking. Personally it’s perfect for putting my knee pads in for rides that involve a long climbing section where you may as well take your pads off and put them on before the descent. The adjustable toggles were very handy for making sure the pads stay secure so you can ride without a care!
So how did the bag perform over bumps and going downhill? My test ride took me over an undulating rocky section which included lots of movement and changes in my position and bodyweight. Without the waist strap I am used to I thought maybe the bag might move but it stayed put and when going down over rocks and little drops it didn’t bobble or budge it was firmly on my back. I forgot I was wearing it and I couldn’t really feel it was there. The No More Dancing Monkey technology was true to it’s word and I really thought that the bag performed amazingly well in this area.
The return to the Peaks was a short but successful one – the riding was fast and fun, but due to the heat I didn’t stay out for as long as intended. I also narrowly missed a heavy rain shower which no doubt the reservoirs would have been grateful for (as the subject of much local chat is how low the water levels are). Screeching down the descent behind The Ladybower Inn in a cloud of dust was a fun experience, and I jumped off for a pit-stop shandy before deciding I’d had enough for one day, peddling the road section back to Fairholmes. Being out for a couple of hours on such a stunning summers day in Derbyshire was wonderful. Can’t wait to be out again now!
Photos: Joanna Shimwell @joannashimwell and Nick Johnson @magicj_uk