Tuesday, August 28, 2012

480 Speedpack review

Bento Boxes... 

...Long have they been an eyesore to me. Nightmares of ugly boxes filled with Ham sandwiches, Sushi, GU and whatever else a triathlete can shove into one have, crushing the sleek look (and aerodynamics) of an otherwise beautiful bike haunted me for seemingly my entire triathlon career. I just couldn't take it... I hated them.

No Thanks

Let me re-emphasize that. HATED. That "D" is past tense. And so the plot thickens.

便當 - that is, Convenient

After my trip to A2 (Wind Tunnel) I came away with a more slippery position, and yet, a new problem. My standby hydration setup (A Torpedo Mount) would not work with  my new "Mantis" position. This meant I needed to return to a behind the saddle (Chris Lieto's style) Solution. Easy enough. However, this in itself caused an inadvertent crisis. I had nowhere to put my flat kit. In a sprint, even an Olympic, I am willing to go without a flat kit, but in a 70.3 or up, well... I want to at least be able to limp back to transition and not wait on SAG. So, it was back to the drawing board.

Special #1 please, Hold the Squid

I admit, I went with the Speedpack out of moderate desperation at a lack of solutions. After a Quick E-mail to kind of feel out which pack would be right for my Planet X, I ordered away. When I first opened the box it arrived in I admit I was immediately impressed.  The guys at DSW certainly put some thought into the Speedpack. The inner "liner" is meant to give a bit of stability to the bag, as well as to keep it's shape. Ahh, the shape, another thing for me to praise. When "Fit" correctly, the 480 takes on a strangely eerie shape... that of the top tube of Suplicy Quantum, a bike you may not have ever heard of, but that was, for a time, supposedly the fastest bike frame in production. (Circa when the P4 was new)  What the Suplicy accomplished with design (in essence, giving a traditional stem a trailing edge) I feel confident almost any "traditional" tri bike can accomplish with a mild amount of tinkering/trimming of the Speedpack. Anyways, back to the point. After a fair amount of my own testing (Rolldown tests, which, while not foolproof like the wind tunnel, nor even as good as the Chung Method, are a good quick, real world way to test things) I can say that there was no aero penalty for running the 480. Cervelo's independent testing would have you think that it's possible there is even an advantage, and I admit it seems like it's certainly a possibility.

As far as storage space goes, I was able to fit a "chuck it" C02 inflator head, 2 C02 cartridges, a backup GU packet, a tire lever, a spare tube and a pack of patches easily (a slim multitool would also probably fit) in the 480 without compromising the structure of it. You *could* remove the inner liner to squeeze just a little more room out of it, but I (nor DSW) wouldn't recommend it... the sturdy shape is one of it's selling points.  Sadly to the Tubular guys, A spare tubie will not fit (even without the liner I don't think it would make it) although if you were willing to roll the dice on something like Pit-Stop/Stans/whatever you would be able to do that. Updated - I spoke with Greg at DSW, and he has good news for the Tubular lovers out there. A tubular WILL fit, it just has to be the right one. The Tufo Elite Jet 120 will fit in all their packs when folded correctly... and while I wouldn't suggest the 120 for your regular race tire, it is certainly a robust, fast backup tire! I believe Thomas Gerlach (who just finished 3rd at IMLOU - congrats!) carries this as his backup tubular.

Now that is a small tubular!

I would also like to mention that there is probably going to be some necessary modification to the 480 to get it "just right" on your bike. Nothing complex, just some trimming here and there (although I had to remove the top strap completely because of my very low stem)  as always when it comes to cutting things, measure twice, cut once, and always cut less instead of more if in doubt. 

Lastly, the practical side. At $34.80, the 480 carries a "luxury" sticker in the land of Bento Boxes. That's not to say it's overpriced, almost none of the other boxes offer the well thought out shape (or the hard inner liner) and certainly very few others (if any?) are made right here in the USA by an active group in the online triathlon community. I see the DSW guys posting on ST and BT regularly, so you know they are interested in making a good product for their target audience.
I admit, I included this picture only because of how awesome it is.

I'm a picky guy when it comes to what I run on my bike, it has to look good and perform extremely well to make the cut in my book. The 480 Speedpack makes the grade, and I'll be running it from now on in all my races. (regardless of distance) That's the highest praise I can give, and so I will.

-Christopher Morelock

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