The VelEau, gone cyclocross. ©Cyclocross Magazine

The VelEau, gone cyclocross. ©Cyclocross Magazine

by Josh Liberles

Take velo, add eau (French for water) and you end up with VelEau, a French-sounding, but American-made, on-the-bike hydration system. Rather than wearing a bladder on your back, the VelEau puts a hard-shell reservoir into a saddle bag and snakes a hydration hose along the bike’s top tube.

Drink and release: Pulleys and magnets snap the hose back into place. ©Cyclocross Magazine

Two cyclists with engineering backgrounds, Frank Bretl and Mark Proia, came up with the concept, and they teamed up with Showers Pass to bring it to market. The idea was to remove water carrying duties and heat build-up from a rider’s back during endurance mountain bike events, where dual suspension bikes often mean that water bottles are mounted beneath the down tube. But there’s an applicability to cyclocrossers too.

While in-race hydration is a rarity in ’cross, and the VelEau definitely isn’t well suited to barriers and run-ups, it has potential on training rides. The reservoir carries 42 ounces, and a compartment underneath provides ample storage on par with a typical saddle bag. Two reels quickly Velcro-mount to the bike frame – one at the seat tube/top tube juncture, and another at the head tube. Pull the bite valve up and take a drink, then release and the reels retract and magnets mounted on the hose bring it back to its starting place and prevent it from slapping around on bumpy rides. An additional magnet sits midway down the hose and mates to a magnet on your top tube. However, between interference with my top-routed cables and knocking off the elastic that holds the top tube magnet in place several times, I decided to remove the mount and it worked just fine. And if you have a steel frame like I do, the magnet on the hose will still stick – but the hose is relatively stable even without this attachment point.

The VelEau also offers storage space comparable to a typical saddle bag. ©Cyclocross Magazine

Once you’ve fitted the system to your bike and cut the hose to the appropriate length, subsequent mounting and removal of the VelEau is quick and easy – about on par with screwing on a couple of water bottle cages. And for a bike lacking cage mounts, it’s a good solution.

Similar to a hydration pack, I found that the easy access to fluids the VelEau provides encouraged me to drink more during a ride, especially while tackling more technical, mountain-bikey terrain on my ’cross bike. Let’s face it, there’s a Fred factor going on here, and we cyclists tend to be a pretty vain lot (and those of us sans bottle cage mounts may lead that charge) – but if your thirst outweighs your narcissism, or you want to supplement your bottles with added carrying capacity for long rides without loading up your back, check out the VelEau.

MSRP: $80, made in China.
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