4-liter volume hydration pack aimed at the Enduro market
Two years after its rebranding, Enduro riding still holds the crown of the trendiest style in mountain biking. It appears as if most of the efforts manufacturers put into R&D is aimed towards Enduro, both in terms of new bike designs fit for the field rigorous demands, and in introducing new gear and accessories that suit its riders’ specialized needs.
Shimano is one of the manufacturers that take Enduro seriously. The Japanese giant continues spurting out designated systems, clothing and footwear. Its latest addition is an Enduro-oriented hydration pack suited for its riders. Shimano’s new and revolutionary Unzen, which introduced a new approach to hydration packs, was unveiled a year and a half ago. Now, as part of its evolution, we got to test the new Unzen Endurance – a solid platform for strong, fast, and very up-to-date competitive riders.
The rule of thumb for Enduro gear is providing maximum efficiency in the smallest, lightest package possible. True to this creed, the Unzen Endurance is very small and compact with only 4 liters of storage volume, and can hold a reservoir of no more than 2 liters (apparently adhering to the Enduro rule, “don’t drink and ride”). However, one does not come included.
Shimano’s signature “Rider Fit Cross Harness” secures the packs to the rider via the broad shoulder straps, which meet at the chest in an X-shaped cross and eliminate the need for chest and waist straps. The Endurance also has additional Velcro buckles for the straps, which allow the rider to quickly tighten them and secure the pack before entering rough terrain, or loosen them during long climbs which demand more oxygen and expand the chest. The back system, labeled Accu-3D, uses a stable back panel made of flexible polymer, lined with a breathable net fabric which adjusts to the rider’s back. The pack itself is made of lightweight, flexible nylon fabric, and composes of two main compartments which are internally sub-divided.
The Endurance also includes numerous features for the die-hard Enduro riders, such as a flexible slot for a bottle of isotonic fluids, external straps for protective gear, a helmet harness, and buckles for securing goggles when they are not in use. The pack also includes a set of cords for reducing the pack’s volume by squeezing the reservoir. The shoulder straps hold a small pocket for gels, and a buckle for securing sunglasses when switching to goggles. Indeed, Japanese ergonomics at their finest.
On the bike:
Due to the nonconventional strap design, before taking it out for the first time, the rider must fit the Endurance precisely to his or her body contours. Shimano offers a handy interface for setting the shoulder strap height by using Velcro and recommended positioning in the reservoir compartment. Based on our previous experience with the larger Unzen, it took us no more than a minute to find an optimal fit.
The Unzen Endurance is very slim and does not allow any extra baggage; a full reservoir, a small pump, a spare inner tube, a multi-tool and a snack –you’ll have to leave the rest for your non-Enduro pack. Access to the main compartment is done via two large zippers on both sides of the pack. Due to the purpose-aimed use of the Endurance, you have to be neat, selective, and highly organized – this pack will not tolerate just carelessly throwing everything inside.
The Endurance sits well on the rider’s back even with a full reservoir (a mere 2 liters, mind you). It doesn’t get distorted, and the back panel isolates the contents from the backside well. The unique strap system optimally distributes the weight over the back, and the pack continues to hug your body with no extra movement through all but the most extreme Enduro trails.
While testing the Endurance’s bigger bother, the Unzen, during highly demanding sections we suffered from lack of oxygen due to the pressure the straps applied to the chest. However, the Endurance solves this problem via the Velcro buckle system – a quick, on-the-fly adjustment, without even removing it, “calibrates” the pack to the trail’s demands (tight on descents, loose on climbs). The genre-specific features, such as goggle and helmet harnesses, are nice touches, but come in handy only during actual Enduro racing, and less on our regular Enduro rides. That said, the bottle slot and additional straps and cords are always a welcome addition.
The Unzen’s Enduro-oriented version is engineered to the specific demands of Enduro racing. As such, it is extremely comfortable, lightweight and focused. However, for everyday non-competitive Enduro riding, which may include longer rides, the pack may prove too small. It is better suited for short, technical rides of up to three hours, or longer rides with pit-stops on the way.
For better: Weight distribution, comfort, weight, fantastic ergonomics.
For worse: No reservoir included, very small dimensions.This article was originaly published on magazine