Blog Archives

MTB Tip of the Week – Episode 6: Ditch Your Camelbak

This is Episode 6 in an ongoing series of videos we will be posting regularly to share our mountain biking tips and tricks with our subscribers.

Prior Episodes:

Episode 5: GPS for Mountain Biking

Episode 4: Maps for Mountain Biking

Episode 3: The LBS

Episode 2: 1X Drivetrain Bail Out

Episode 1: Cold Fingers Remedy


EPISODE 6: Ditch Your Camelbak

Back in the early 2000’s, I purchased an aluminum-framed mountain bike with front suspension. With the mountain bike, I was offered 10% off any additional accessories at the time of purchase. After picking out a helmet, pump, patches, spare tube, tire levers, and multitool, I looked over the bike wondering what else I was missing.  I saw water bottle mounts and instantly headed toward the water bottle cages. After picking up two, I began looking over the water bottles. The salesman came back to me and said he would throw in a couple water bottles for free if I was okay with them having the shop logo and contact info on them. I said of course, but then I was surprised as he led me toward some small backpacks that he began telling me about. He had started using these packs to carry all the water he needed for his ride, as well as all his trail-side repair  tools and supplies. It had a hose and a bite valve that were up by your chest where they were less likely to get covered in dirt and more likely to keep you well hydrated without the fear of losing your bottle while riding. I loved the concept and was sold. I used a Camelbak for a decade straight without even thinking about going back to waterbottles ever again. In fact, with each new mountain bike I purchased, I scoffed at the water bottle mounts on the frame as I thought they were archaic and antiquated since the invention of the Camelbak. I was a huge fan.

Then I started seeing how far I could go in a single ride and entered endurance XC races. I quickly realized that having water mounted to my bike felt much better than on my back for any rides over 20 miles or a couple hours. I started using water bottle cages and water bottles again while using a small seat bag to carry my other items that had previously went into the Camelbak. I mounted up to 5 water bottles on my bike at a time to allow me to go into areas without opportunities to refill, all while keeping my back free from the weight that would be too great of a burden to bear over the extended hours of longer rides.

Then bikepacking bags entered my world. Sure, water bottle cages with a small seat bag are what I often choose to use for smaller, local loop rides, but more often these days, I find myself leaving my frame bag on the bike. Why?

Here are 5 quick reasons as shown in the MTB Tip of the Week video below:

  1. Get as much weight as low as possible.  Putting the heavier items that need to be carried (such as a multitool, spare tube, and water in a hydration bladder) as low as possible on the bike, close to the bottom bracket, gets the center of gravity lower. This in turn enables easier maneuvering of the bicycle when moving the bike side to side than it would if the weight was carried higher up. Think of your bike like a lever. It is moved left to right and right to left as you lean and turn it, the tires, where they contact the ground are the pivot points. Getting the weight as close to the ground enables easier side to side transfer into turns.
  2. Comfort. If you have had a heavy backpack on for any length of time, you have realized how fatigued you can get in a very short amount of time. Keeping the weight of your water and other items off your back allows you to stay comfortable for a much longer period of time.
  3. Agility. I already wrote about the ability to keep the weight low on the bike, which helps to maneuver the bike, but it also allows your body to become more agile. Bending and balancing over top of the bike is much, much easier when you don’t have extra weight on your torso. Those of us who have lost weight have undoubtedly experienced this when we pleasantly found it easier to stay on that technical, narrow trail after losing 5 or 10 pounds.
  4. Accessibility.  It is much easier to get into a frame bag to access small, frequently used items while riding than it is in a backpack style bag. the openings are right there beneath and in front of you.
  5. Ventilation. While this one may not be realized as frequently in the winter as in summer, it is huge, especially where I live in San Diego. Allowing your back to breathe through your jersey by not having any pack against it will dramatically aid cooling and keep you feeling fresh longer than you would if you were trapping sweat between you and your Camelbak.


I hope you find this MTB Tip of the Week useful. Many frame bags available these days have a hydration port that facilitates the passing of a hydration bladder hose through the frame bag and up to your handlebar cockpit area. You may need a hose extension kit, but most likely your LBS will have this available for you to purchase. Many of the frame bag builders are located in the USA and will custom make a bag for your individual bike. There are many all over North America, and there may be a frame bag builder very near to you. You don’t need to have a hardtail to enjoy the benefits of a framebag either. Many designs for full suspension frames are already in existence.

Take a look at what Bikepackers Magazine has put together for the list of framebag manufacturers:


Leave a comment below or send me an email at .

Thanks for your support! Now get outside and find some trails to ride!

– Nick


MTB Tip of the Week – Episode 3: The LBS

This is Episode 3 in an ongoing series known as the MTB Tip of the Week.

Prior Episodes:

Episode 2: 1X Drivetrain Bail Out

Episode 1: Cold Fingers Remedy




The humble LBS.

Its also known as the Local Bike Shop.

Yes, my tip of the week is to visit your LBS. You may be asking, “Why is this a tip of the week?”.

Well, let me explain by first putting forth a few scenarios that I have witnessed, regarding riders and their LBS.

You may already visit your LBS weekly.

You may visit a variety of Local Bike Shops in your area and “not play favorites”.

You may be like many riders I know and shop wherever you get the best deal (including shipping of course) on the item you are looking for at the moment.

You may have a LBS that has great service, but only stock products that are not at all what you use. So you only visit when you need help getting it back into optimal riding condition.

You may have a LBS that has great inventory of products at great prices, but you would never let them touch your bike because of the horror stories you have heard of about their service department. So you only visit when you have a part that you want to replace or upgrade.

You may never visit the LBS in your area because shopping online is so convenient and you watch videos on how to fix your bike when you need service.

If you haven’t been to your area’s LBS, you are totally missing out.

Here is a quick minute and a half video of the LBS in my area of San Diego:

The humble LBS is a beacon in the fog of local retail shops for those of us who ride the local trails. They provide the products and services that only riders like us are interested in. Many shops have put in serious time, investment, and analysis of what products and setups work best and are most highly desired for the local trails, paths, roads, and climate in your area.
The owners, managers, and employees are well aware of the online shopping alternatives we all have access to and are usually willing to cut you a deal, price match, or do whatever it takes to ensure that you feel like you get a better deal from them. Just ask.
The LBS has riders that work there and know the local places to ride better than many. These employees are often the riders that you have said hello to on the trail. Have them put on a helmet if you have a hard time recognizing them. 🙂 Also, asking what bike they ride makes the connection between who they are and where you might have seen them on the trail. Strike up a conversation with any of them about any cycling discussion to find out what they are about. You will often find another rider that you may end up riding with every week for years. I can tell you from personal experience that I wish I would have talked to shop employees much sooner in my life.
If your area’s LBS doesn’t carry the products you want or need, let them know what those products are. They often will offer to special order them for you (a good majority of the products in a bicycle shop are ordered through the same distributors that all the other shops have access to). They will sell them to you at normal MSRP because they will not normally be aware of what other shops are selling those products for or they are not placing a large quantity order of that item. Have a genuine, honest, and open conversation with them about your wants and needs. They will probably work with you or even suggest another vendor that has those items.
There are many shops that have decided to focus primarily on a particular niche in one area or another within the bicycling world. For instance, there are shops in San Diego that focus primarily on triathlon cycling gear. This should not deter you from entering into the type of conversation I mentioned above about your cycling wants and needs, even if you are strictly a downhill racer. Chances are that they would love to know what other cyclists in the area are into or if they are potentially missing a part of the market that needs a good LBS that caters to their side of the sport. They very well may direct you to another shop, even one that you potentially didn’t know about.
Though you may be finding killer closeout deals online for some piece of gear that you could really use, seeing the items in person, especially those that need to fit well, is invaluable. Trust me. Anyone who has ordered shoes online, only to find that they didn’t fit right can attest to this. Its not only the fit however. By seeing, touching, and experiencing, in person, those items you will potentially buy, is more valuable than you may initially think. Sometimes you have to try the item out on the trail to find out however, which is why we try to provide our honest, and straightforward reviews here at Ride Alongside. There are some items that just plain fail, or need to be refined further, or are spectacular. Not only is it good to vote with your dollar as a consumer of those goods, but it is important to provide feedback to a Local Bike Shop to enable them to do so on a larger, wholesale bulk buy. This has a lot more power than you may realize. Sure, online reviews are good to some extent, but when you have a relationship with the manager at your LBS and they hear how great or awful a new product is that they are deciding to stock, they listen. It really can make the cycling industry better as a whole when you have a great relationship with your Local Bike Shop.
Those are the reasons why this is the Tip of the Week.
Thanks for reading all the way through this article, I really do appreciate it and could literally go on for quite a while longer about the value I have seen so far by developing a relationship with my LBS, but I will be learning more as time goes on and those relationships deepen, so a reminder and follow up article may be in our future, stay tuned.


MTB Tip of the Week – Episode 2: 1x Drivetrain Bail Out

Prior Episode

Episode 1: Cold Fingers Remedy


EPISODE 2: 1X Drivetrain Bail Outimage

Last year I decided to go back to a 1x drivetrain system. I have been known to really enjoy singlespeeding and had tried 1×9 drivetain setups in the past, liking both very much because they forced me to get stronger while torqued up climbs. I had recently been running a 3 chainring setup on my crankset for the previous year for a variety of reasons.  Some of those were:
1. Recovery from a knee injury; I needed to feel like I could quickly bail out of the middle chainring into the granny to ease the torque off my knee.
2. The trails closest to my house have a long canyon with long flat sections of trail. I tend to rub out of gears if I don’t have a big ring.
3. Long climbs, especially at the end of a long day or long ride would require me to walk them or stop to rest if I didn’t have a granny gear.
4. I felt the weight was worth the versatility.

When I went back to the 1x drivetrain system, I decided to leave my 22T granny gear on my crankset.
I had removed a decent amount of weight from my bike:
443 g total removed
While I had added back a bit for the new narrow wide chainring and singlespeed bolts:
53 g total added
The total weight loss for my 1×10 was 390g however. That was significant.

I decided that leaving the granny gear on the crankset wouldn’t have removed too much more weight and I was happy with the weight loss already.

Having removed the front derailleur,  I want sure how often I would use the 22T granny gear that remained on my crankset. I figured that it would be easy enough to change which chainring the chain would be on by hand if I really needed that granny gear, for a long hill for instance. I imagined that, for maybe 90% of my riding,  I would pretty much forget that it was even there. I was right. After a year, even on long climbs I still sometimes forget it is there until I am almost cresting the climb. It has been a life saver on about a half dozen accounts however. Many days where continuing to push up climbs in the 32T chainring is just too much, the 22T has been a great way to continue on and adapt the gewring for the lack of training my body had seen in that season on the bike.
Here is a quick video showing how I change which chainring the chain is on by hand.

%d bloggers like this: