Product review from Sarah Hill – Professional Mountain Biker and proud USWE brand ambassador
This past weekend raced the Tanwka Trek Stage race in the UCI Elite Women's Field.
At first, I saw how many people were racing with the USWE packs. Mainly the casual riders who are loving the experience of the race. I then took a look at the Elite Mens' field, and I saw 3 (I think). It;s not often you see elite's wearing the action packs. We saw Avincini at Epic, but other than that it seemed unheard of to me. The problem is that it covered all the sponsors names and my sponsor gave me the cold shoulder when he saw me in it training at Clarens. I was super nervous to wear it, even though it made sense. I could only fit 1 waterbottle on the bike!!
I found a way to have a small waterbottle at the back, but of course, the terrain being Tankwa Style.... The bottle fell out within the first 20km. Even though it was strapped to the bike etc etc. I found it hard to maneuver the bike with the rear bottle, and my weight distribution was just not right. The bike lacked explosiveness because of the weight hanging all on the rear.
After struggling for 3 days and being severely dehydrated after the Merino stage, I decided that I had nothing to lose. So i took the rear bottle cage off and went into Stage #4 with the USWE pack on my back.
We were getting fed at Waterpoint 2, which was 56km in. I decided to fill the USWE pack up to 1.5L and had no watterbottles on my bike.
Being the only Elite Female racer with a pack on made me super self-conscious. I was scared I looked like a fun rider or someone who didn't take this seriously. But I decided to do it anyway because..what's the worst that could happen? As a female we have to overcome what others think of us at one point or the other. So this was my time to try.
We started the race, and Theresa and I felt good. Our legs were there! We were strong up the climbs and seemed to handle the fatigue in our legs much better than our competitors at the time. I couldn't believe how little I noticed the pack on my back. It sits high so only my traps were stiff by the end of the ride which is was nicer than my entire back. I could sip on my juice whenever I wanted... through single track, climbs, fast sections. I never had to plan when to drink which was awesome. For the first time I could drink when I was thirsty. In turn, my hydration stayed up and so did my energy levels. With less weight on the bike, I found it much easier to accelerate, and my handling skills were great since there wasn't any lag coming from the rear!
For me, this was a big realization of my potential. I can actually go harder and not be afraid of running out of water/drink mix. On top of that my bike rode better, I could accelerate faster as it felt more nimble. Then lastly, and the most important for me, was the fact that I was breaking the stereotype for Elite Female MTBers. We could still be competitive while wearing a USWE Pack. It doesn't make you slower, and so what if it makes me look like a fun rider. It won't be so fun when you see me skipping a waterpoint because I am correctly fueled! haha!
We are excited to go into the ABSA Cape Epic making use of these packs. To be one of the few elite women using them will definitely make a statement.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to be an ambassador. At first I was so nervous, but I came around quickly!! No turning back now!