Arriving in time for a summer full of shredding under the hot hot sun, Shimano have two new hydration bags with a suite of unique features to secure them snugly on your back.We’ve been testing the Unzen 2 for $109 and its bigger brother, the Unzen 4 Enduro for $129.
Both bags use Shimano’s new Rider Fit X-Harness where the shoulder straps join together with a clip above your sternum, creating a cross harness on your chest. Shimano say the design gives you more freedom of movement, and takes pressure of your (massive) pecs, so you can breathe more easily and feel less restricted. The two straps are held together with robust harness hook, rather than a clip. There’s still a waist strap too, for extra stabilisation and security.
[divider]Features up the wahzoo[/divider]
While the harness system is the most obvious point of difference, in Shimano fashion, the both bags are so feature packed you need a Powerpoint presentation to take it all in.
Complete with a top quality two-litre Hydrapak bladder for $109, this is a seriously good bag for the bucks!
The first thing that struck us with this bag is the slim shape and very low weight (350g-ish). It sits close and low on your back and doesn’t occupy much space keeping a slim profile, we quickly forgot it was there. When we all spend so much time, effort and cash on making our bikes as light as possible, we often overlook the opportunity to save grams in what we carry on our bodies. We’ve been enjoying having such a light bag for quick local rides.
There’s not a lot of internal storage with this one – there’s the large main compartment which houses the bladder and has just enough space for a pump and tube, then there’s a smaller pocket out front for your multitool, keys and tooth brush. It’s best suited to shorter rides or racing where you’re aiming to keep the weight down. That said, you can still secure a jacket using the elasticised loops on the outside of the bag, and there are other neat storage inclusions like a fleece-lined pocket for your phone or glasses.
Unzen 4 Enduro
With more space for gear and water, Shimano’s Enduro Racepack is the go for all-day rides. It doesn’t come with a bladder, but the $129 pricepoint is fair and you can pick a three-litre bladder of your choosing. Weight-wise, it’s around 600g excluding a bladder.
The main compartment is accessible from both sides, there’s a huge external flap/pouch that’ll take a jacket, a spare bottle, your full-face helmet, or a large bunch of bananas. We’ve found it suitably roomy even when loaded it up with a full bladder, spares, tools, food, first aid and a wet weather jacket.
Like the smaller bag, you’ve got a fleece-lined pocket, glasses hanging loop and a billion other little storage solutions. The most handy is the small elasticised pocket on the chest harness, it’s the perfect size and location for a gel or two to dig you out of a hole.
[divider]About that harness[/divider]
Setting up the Rider Fit X-Harness is certainly a little more involved than with your standard bag, and we found it took some fiddling and trial and error to set it up correctly. You can’t just throw it on, pull on the straps to tighten and go – we needed to take it on and off a few times until it was just right.
Because the length of the harness system is adjusted internally (like you’d find on a bigger hiking pack), you need to unpack the bag to make big adjustments to the fit too, which is time consuming because when the bag is full of stuff it fits differently to when it’s empty. You can then make smaller adjustments to the tightness of the fit on the fly with the big Velcro tabs. Shimano have good instructions on their site here to help get it all fitted correctly. If you don’t get the fit right, the harness will restrict your expanding chest as you breathe heavily during a climb or hard effort. We found this more noticeable with the Unzen 4 Enduro than with the smaller Unzen 2.
On the positive side, you do feel very unencumbered around your arms. The bags are both super stable too, though we’re not sure whether this is because of the harness system along or because they’re both low-profile and keep all the mass close to your body.
Great value, well-constructed and a little bit different from everyone else’s bags. Don’t be put off if the fit isn’t perfect in the shop, because getting the adjustment just right takes a bit more persistence than usual. the Unzen packs are good option for both short and long days in the saddle.