Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Big Review: Camelbak HAWG

Well here's my first Big Review!

I chose the Camelbak HAWG for the first test subject for a couple of reasons:

  • All of my stuff goes in here when I ride
  • I'm a bag junkie. Love bags. My wife on the other hand hates bags because I have too many.
  • I use it every time I ride
So here we go.

First things first. I tend to research the hell out of things before I buy them. In most cases if I bought it I spent hours online researching reviews, descriptions, photos, and user feedback. Along the way I research where the best place (hopefully) to buy something is. That isn't always the place with the lowest price. I go for a combo of lowest price, reliable shipping, reasonably priced shipping, local presence, local price, and great customer service.

I am a BIG fan of buying from a local bike/specialty shop when possible. Don't get me wrong - I'm an avid e-consumer. But isn't going to help me out with an emergency repair when I run into a problem on the trail. Although can if you have internet access.The local brick & mortar shops need our business and (usually) deserve our business. That being said if something is twice the price locally (and they're not flexible on pricing) then the online retailers are a very viable option.

So, back to the review.

Product: Camelbak HAWG (NOTE: Link is to the HAWG NV, the model I purchased is not exactly the linked model - my guess is this was a closeout purchase by the retailer as Camelbak does not have the model I purchased listed).

Purchase Price: $60

Purchase Location: Bass Pro Shops - local store

Rating: *****

Value: *****

Clydeosaur Fit: ****

My Stats for the Fit: Height 6'2"; Shirt Size: 4X; Pant Size: 4X

Pros: Lightweight, durable, good organization, all my stuff fits
Cons: Waist belt didn't fit (big surprise there), some fraying on elastic tube holder, shoulder straps could be longer. But nothing major.

Would I buy it again? Yes
Would I recommend it to people? Yes

Other Products Considered: Camelbak MULE; various other hydration packs


I knew I wanted a hydration pack and I had used small camelbaks previously. I was comfortable with the brand and I knew they made quality products. More importantly I knew they usually fit my shoulders.

After a bunch of research I was pretty sure I wanted a MULE. The HAWG was appealing but I thought I'd go with the lower price of the MULE and it would still hold my stuff. In the clydesdale range it's important to try it on before purchasing or shop with an online store with good customer service. I tried the MULE on at Bass Pro since my local shop didn't have any in stock. It fit, I liked the layout and I was set. Unless research indicated that BPS was way overpriced I'd get it there. I did find some good deals on ebay (half the price) so I was taking my time.

One day the mail came and I was flipping through my local bass pro sales flyer and I spotted the Camelbak HAWG on sale. Advertised price was $60. Wow. That was good for the HAWG. That was about the range used ones were going for on ebay. Unfortunately the sale hadn't started yet.

So I waited. The day the sale started I went to my local BPS and picked one up. Very happy with my purchase!


So how does the HAWG fit a Clydeosaur?

Pretty darn good.

As with most backpacks and my shoulders the straps ride high. The backpacks I use day in and day out are the ones that have long straps in place to accomodate people of my size. There are a few brands that accomplish this: Kelty, Spireusa, Camelbak and a few others are on the shortlist.

The HAWG is close on the shoulder fit and the tube attachment rides a little high. But once it's on and adjusted I find I can even tighten the straps a bit. On a good day I can even attach the sternum strap. :) One feature I thought was nice was the addition of velcro at the bottom of the strap so that those of lesser stature can control excess strap lenght. That way they won't have to complain about the extra clyde-worthy strap material. And camelbak can keep making products that fit. Well done.

The only downside from a fit standpoint is the waist belt. Now I really didn't expect it to fit so from that standpoint it met my expctations. It comes close though. And the waist straps are removable so I don't have to worry about them flapping around. They're currently residing in my drawer for "one day".

Build Quality:

Good build quality. The materials seem durable. I do have some minor concern about the interior organization pocket. The divider seems to be lightly attached but no problems yet. And the elastic on the shoulder strap seems a little stretched out and frayed from the first use. But it's holding up. I'll keep this updated as time goes by.


For a backpack features mean organziation. I like the way the HAWG is laid out. Starting from the back you have a well padded section that rests against your back. This holds the main water bladder compartment. Some will complain that there isn't an external fill for this pack. I haven't found it to be a problem as this compartment is easy to get to and there's a nice little fabric tab to hold the bladder in place so it's easy to tke the bladder out.

Moving forward from the bladder compartment we go to the main cargo compartment. A nice feature here is another tab to hold another bladder for those really long rides. Or use it for storage. I've put my rainjacket in here, a first aid kit, spare tubes, and stuff. And there's room to spare.

On top of/in between these compartments is a pocket for an mp3 player. One very nice feature is that the zipper for this compartment seals so it's waterproof/water resistant. Well done. I find this pocket is perfect for my blackberry bold. I've been taking this on every ride and logging my rides with Sanoodi. A cool, free app that tracks route basics and overlays them on a map.

Next up we have the smaller front compartment with a couple of divided sections for small stuff. This is where my lip balm, keys, small SKA (Swiss Army Knife), mini pump, a couple of tools, and whatever else I have on me goes. It works well. It's a little snug to dig deep with my hands and one of the dividers seems a little flimsy but so far no problems.

In front of that we have the external mesh pouch that clips shut. This is where a bandana (one of the original Dirt Rag magazine bandanas), my trail tag (required for county park mt. bike trails), and stuff goes.

Moving to the sides we have zippered pouches on either side with elastic mesh inside to keep things straight. These pockets hold my trail tools & related items (multi tool, tire lever, zip ties, presta valve adapter, etc).

Wrapping it all up are side compression straps so that you can keep the pack's load from shifting around.

So overall the layout is easy to use and holds everything I need. I actually still have room to spare. Well done camelbak, well done!


This pack is a winner for me. It fits. It holds my stuff and has room to spare. I got it at a good price. It serves it's function very well.

Would I buy it again? Yes. When it wears out I will look for it (or its equivalent).

Would I recommend it? Yes. I can wholeheartedly recommend it to other clydes and to anybody who wants to carry the kitchen sink with them like I do.

I will be monitoring how well the pack wears over time and how does when I get back to doing rougher stuff. But for now it's comfortable and I'm happy with it. 5 stars overall.

Big Reviews!

I'm going to add a new feature to the blog. It's something nobody's ever done in the blogosphere before! Product Reviews!

Well, okay, maybe one or two people have done it but here's my take.

Many products on the market (not just related to cycling) are geared towards the "average" person. I don't know about you but I haven't fit some of these "average" measurements since I was in the 5th grade. Even when I wasn't as overweight as I currently am I was always "big boned". Not big boned as a euphemism for fat. Seriously big boned. In high school I was shopping at the big & tall stores for b&t athletic cut clothing. If I remember correctly I had 52" shoulders and a 38 inch waist (close to that anyway). Now I still shop at the big & tall but we'll just say the shoulders and the waist don't require that much of a taper.

My point is this - whether or not you're naturally big, you got big through the joy of beer and fried food, or some combo there is a bunch of stuff in the marketplace that just doesn't fit.

So I'll be taking a look at products I've bought, borrowed, or some kind vendor gave to me to test (HINT). To start off I'll be using products I've purchased with my own hard earned $$ since that's all I have at the moment (vendors: HINT AGAIN).

My goal in this is to provide some real world insight for other big mt. bikers. I'll only be reviewing stuff that I've used and I'll go over pros & cons. Most all of it will be related to mt. biking but there could be some stuff from other hobbies and everyday use jumping in.

Expect to see reviews on some (or all) of the following:

  • Camelbak HAWG
  • Aerotech Designs clothing
  • Merrell Shoes
  • Ergon Grips
  • WTB Seat
  • Redline d440
  • Park MTB-3 Rescue Tool
  • And other stuff I found to be good (or not so good) for your average clydeosaur
So stay tuned. The first reviews will be appearing soon.



Monday, June 22, 2009

Vacation can really throw off the schedule

Back from vacation over a week and still working on getting back into a routine.

Before vacation I was getting a nice little routine going and riding frequently. Since vacation not so much. I rode a little bit on vacation but not much. I did get some good fishing and kayaking in. Managed to land a nice redfish from my kayak. That was nice.

Since being back I've had a lot of catch up at work, we're reorganizing stuff at home, and I've been making sure to spend lots of time with my wife & kids. Being on vacation reminded me how great it is to have highly focused time with them. So trying to manage work and not get wrapped up in that.

But my bike routine has suffered. And along with it our eating habits have slid to convenient rather than healthy. So today I'm "back on the wagon" and focusing on sensible meals that don't come from a fast food/pizza place. Started off the day with peanut butter on whole wheat toatst, a yogurt, and a granola bar spread throughout the morning. Lunch was turkey on whole wheat with carrots. Hoping to maintain through dinner. :) Planning on hitting a bike ride (pavement in the neighborhood) after work. If all goes well I'll follow up with a mt bike ride before work tomorrow.

I did install a new seat so that knocked me out of commission for a few days. Okay, so it was really maybe 5 minutes of install time but it's they psychological impact of adjusting it. :)

Speaking of new seats I picked up a WTB Speed V Sport from ebay. I've only done a couple of short rides with it (to be honest all of my rides are short rides right now) but it feels pretty nice. I was getting used to the stock Redline saddle but felt that a little more padding would be in order. Not too much though. The WTB saddle seems to be right in there. Need to get it into the dirt and see how it does there.

So now with new saddle, new stem, and new grips I'm really starting to feel at home on my d440. I'm finding that as I ride more I'm adjusting more as I get my body used to that exercise thing.

And there you have it. Time to stop being lazy and get out and ride! I need to remember I live in Paradise and EVERY day is like being on vacation. Yeah...that's it. :)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cryin' oh the dreadful wind and rain...

That was my thought this morning when the alarm went off. No riding for me.

Keeping with the Grateful Dead theme this lyric would have worked as well

Lazy lightning
That sleepy fire in your eyes
Is that desire in disguise
I keep on trying but I
I can't get through

No desire to ride in a thunderstorm. But by the time I was ready to go to work the skies were blue. Still, I was a good worker bee and went in rather than ride.

But the bike, helmet, gloves, and camelbak are in the car. Riding shorts and a t-shirt are in my gym bag here in the office. I'm wearing my riding shoes (going casual today).

No, my riding shoes aren't clipless yet. I'm still on platform pedals w/o toe straps at the moment. Never rode clipless - thus the dinosaur half of "clydeosaur". Back when I was actively riding the first time they were still fairly new for mt. biking (at least in our riding group) and there wasn't any feedback on how they worked for those of us with larger physiques.

So I'm wearing my trusty Merrell hiking shoes. I used to ride in them "back in the day" when there was pretty much one choice in Merrell hiking shoes. My wife lovingly referred to them as my "ugly" shoes. Eventually she owned some Merrells as well. But they were still the "ugly" shoes. I don't care, I love them. They've consistently been some of the most comfortable shoes I've owned. They do alright for biking. Probably could have a stiffer sole but I'll worry about that as my fitness level increases.

Well, if I want to hit the trails before they close that means I need to leave work on time. And that means I should probably stop screwing around on teh interwebz.

Happy trails!

Oh the difference a stem makes...

So as I posted in the clydesdale forums I swapped out the stem on my Redline d440.

The fit for the d440 wasn't perfect for me out of the box. But I also have a weird build. Kind of Gorilla-ish - long torso & arms, shorter inseam. Couple that with the fact that 29ers don't seem to be super prevalent in South Florida. So I ordered the bike blind. Fortunately the shop I go to (Jim's Bicycles in Deerfield Beach, FL) is a good one. We took a guess and ordered the large frame. Turns out it was a bit too big so they brought in a medium.

The medium frame fit reasonably well but I was too stretched out. This surprised me given my gorilla build. But I'm guessing my not inconsiderable gut probably had something to do with it as well. I had pretty bad hand/wrist pain and I had to get used to the non-comfort saddle. My first few rides were not pleasant.

Ergon grips helped a bit with the hand/wrist pain. Spending time on the bike helped with the saddle. But it still wasn't pleasant. I talked to Jim at the shop, he watched me ride around and ordered a different stem. I kept riding and dealing with the pain but I could tell I could ride farther/better with the correct fit.

And the stem came in yesterday. Dropped the bike off at Jim's on lunch and picked it up after work. I met up with another Club Mud member after that and took the bike out for a test ride.

And wow! What a difference. Moving my position about an inch and a half back & up totally changed the ride. I was able to pedal pretty much the whole time, I had better control, and I felt great. I even explored the intermediate trails which I hadn't hit yet.

I had so much fun riding it felt like 1990 again. At least until after the ride, then it felt like 2009. The joys of getting old.

So there you go. My plan to get less huge has a jumpstart. I can focus on riding my bike rather than enduring it. I'm craving, literally craving, getting out tomorrow morning and riding the trails before work.

And I'm loving my d440. Any hint of buyer's remorse is gone. The thoughts of "maybe I'm just too big for this" are gone. I know I can ride again! Now it's just a matter of which parts will succumb to my clydeness!

So thanks Jim, great eye for picking out the right piece of equipment to dial in the bike. It just might be the best $30 I've spent in a looong time.

Plan to be less huge

The last time I was really actively mt. biking bar ends were on everybody's bike, toe straps were okay, and we threw anodized crap on our bikes. I still have my bike from back then complete with bar ends, two straps and a purple anodized bottle cage. That bottle cage was necessary. Or maybe it was because I was single, didn't have kids, and didn't have anything better to blow $15 on.

I was a clydesdale back then but I was an up to date one. I rode nearly every day and even did some racing. Now I never won, and I DNF'd a couple, but I got the point where I finished and didn't come in last. I considered it a successful racing career. Really the races were just a great place to meet other mt. bikers and discuss important topics like what our favorite beers and gear were.

Fast forward almost 20 years and somewhere down the line I put on too much weight, got married, traveled extensively for work, moved to Florida, and had three kids. Biking faded out of the picture. I did manage to pick up other expensive hobbies though. Kayaking, fly fishing, astronomy, and online video games are the current main culprits.

In the mix of all of those hobbies I still wandered out to the garage and hung out with my mt. bikes. Sometimes I even took them for a spin when I wanted a reminder of the type of shape I used to be in. At some point I also bought a fitness/city/comfort bike - a Gary Fisher Capitola. I flirted with getting back into biking many times.

And then a couple of months ago something snapped. Fortunately not literally. I had been looking into 29ers and the single speed movement. The thought of it appealed to me. The reality was a single speed was a bit out of my physical reach. But a 1x8 seemed like it would work for me.

So I dusted off the capitola and got my butt on my neighborhood streets to prove to myself I could keep interest in riding for more than a week. A couple of weeks later I bought a Redline d440. And a couple of weeks later here I am.

My rides are still short - 20 - 30 minutes. I'm working on making more time for them. But I'm increasing the distance and average speed for each of those rides. And I'm back on the trails. South Florida has some good volunteer efforts that are supported by the county parks. I have one of these parks 10 - 15 minutes from my house. I, for one, appreciate this and I'm getting out there and using those trails.

Right now I'm still on the green trails working on building endurance. I hate to say beginner trail. I do remember how to ride although I am rusty. Now I just need to get my body up to speed with my memories. So I'll call them the green trails.

Here's my plan for weekday riding:

Wake up and get ready
Drive to park to arrive at opening (8 am)
Ride for 1/2 an hour
Drive to work to arrive around 9 am
Shower in the gym at work
Be in office and working right after that

Today was my first day of trying this out. Well yesterday was my first day really putting it into play but it was a neighborhood street ride on the comfort bike. Didn't have access to the gym at work yet.

So there it is. My plan to get less huge. There is plenty of room to develop and refine. But right now goal number one is to get things moving.

I'll still be a clydeosaur though. Maybe one day I'll try that suspension stuff everybody's talking about.