Monday 24 October 2011

‘not for girls’ the deuter race x air 14l pack

Wow I’m such a slacker! I’ve had this bag for ages now and am only just getting round to writing the review. Slap my wrists Webtogs!

Anyway, what do we have this time? Basically having run out of things I really wanted to try out camping/walking/climbing wise, my mind was instinctively drawn to kit that could be used for my other main outdoor hobby (no, not aerobatics) – mountain biking.

The Deuter Race X Air is a lovely looking piece of kit – a very simple, 14l hydration system compatible rucksack, designed primarily with cyclists in mind. Idea for longer days out on the mountain bike where you want to carry a waterproof and some sandwiches in addition to all the regular kit you carry on a short trail centre blast. In fact Deuter say this:

The Deuter Race X Air 14 L Backpack is a compact and sleek bike pack for fast and light tours.

The proven Aircomfort-System with mesh shoulder keeps your back cooler and drier.


  • Front pocket with stowaway helmet holder
  • Interior valuables pocket
  • 3M reflector and attachment loop for the optional Safety Blink
  • Hydration system compatible
  • Mesh pockets
  • Weight 940 g
  • Capacity 14 L
  • Dimensions (H x W X D) 47 x 22 x 15 cm”

Deuter Race X Air 14 L Backpack

Looks nice no? I was really pleased with this pack when I first received it, although a couple of things niggled right from the off – firstly, it’s not actually that light despite being marketed as a ‘fast and light’ style bag. Over 900g for a 14l sack isn’t what I’d consider all that lightweight really, especially when you open the bag up to find that it has nothing in the way of organisational pockets or the like, despite its weight. Now, I also do like my biking packs to have stash holes for things like pumps and multi-tools, so I wasn’t overly pleased to find this minimalist open void that just swallows everything you throw at it – however I was impressed at just how large this thing does seem to be inside and how much kit I managed to fill it with – it’s certainly big enough for a summer day-ride, although you might want something bigger in winter if you’re carrying insulation layers and the like.

Secondly, despite often being marketed as a hydration pack, this bag does not come with a hydro pouch. This wasn’t a big problem for me as I already have several, but if you’re looking for a full hydration pack system bear in mind this one doesn’t come supplied with a pouch. (I tested both a 2l Source roll-top pouch in this and a Nalgene 2l screw-cap pouch, both of which fitted fine – I also don’t see that there would be any issue using a larger 3l pouch if you wanted to).

Thirdly, it seemed to ride up my back somewhat when I rode with it – walking or even running with it were mostly ok, with the large gap in the vented back system meaning this was the only bag I’d ever used that hadn’t made my back sweat. Sadly none of the niceness of having a sweat free back actually matters when you find yourself hurtling downhill and unable to move your head back properly to see because your bag has ridden up and the stiff back system is now digging into the back of your neck…

It was after that little ‘incident’ that I swapped bags with my riding partner Matt and swore (quite profusely) that I never wanted to see the Deuter again. A shame really, but for me a biking pack that interferes with your head movement is an absolute no no. Don’t necessarily let this put you off though – please read on.

Matt (aka @carriedcarpet for all you Twitter types), being a different shape to me (I am an ‘average’ slim woman, he is a slightly taller, trim but athletic male) seemed to have none of the back issues I did, and hence the next glowing part of the review is from him:

“Not for Girls.

Some people spend their weekends with their girlfriends or their wives, visiting national trust properties, cafes and random events or beer festivals. I spend my weekends with Ingrid, a feisty German girl who is super quick, but also rather unforgiving. Ingrid is my cross country hardtail and before you all feel sorry for me I have to say that I see myself as one of the lucky ones, my bike doesn’t bestow me with in laws and though she throws me off at the slightest sign of cockiness, lack of commitment or skill, she rewards my passion and effort with the pure thrill of speed . The sheer concentration of a long technical downhill gives an almost meditative effect, removing the strain and tension of a hard week at work (that is, when I don’t fall off her in which case I often end up face down in a stream...)

So to the matter at hand, Laurens Deuter Race X Air running and biking pack. I usually use another brand of biking/hydration pack (think humps and deserts) so I was keen to do a swap on a ride around the black run at Llandegla Forest (which it should also be noted is the home of one of the best bacon sandwiches in Wales.) From the off the mesh back system fitted well - this isn’t a new thing and has been around for at least ten years, however Deuter have made something lightweight [ed. – see my earlier comments about weight] which also seems to fit my rather scrawny/athletic physique really well. As a bike pack it’s fairly minimal, with external mesh side pockets for jelly babies (or if you’re posh energy gel), a zipped front pocket and an internal divider in the main compartment to separate out your hydration pouch from the rest of your stuff. If bells and whistles are what you are after this probably isn’t the pack for you, however to my mind less is definitely more, and what this pack does is provide something simple but in a really well tailored and designed package. I took the pack running round the Ironbridge Gorge and this seemed to be where the pack really came into its own - the back system was really secure, even with 5kg of weight in it, none of the normal annoying bouncing up and down and the waist belt didn’t cause my top to ride up, luckily preventing too many tourists on Ironbridge being shocked by my bare mid riff. Some people baulk at the idea of a built in rain cover, thinking it’s best to keep essentials in dry bags, but for this type of bag it is a great feature. Having still not quite got used to people trying to run me over when running at night, pulling out the hi-vis raincover means I have an extra chance of survival when out in the dark. The other bonus is that on the rare occasions I bike to work I can transform my muddy pack into something a bit more smart and socially acceptable.

My only real niggles with the pack was that there weren’t enough clips to stop spare straps flapping around, something common to most packs and easily sorted with some elastic or duct tape. I also had a bit of a hang up about the mesh shoulder straps, they worked brilliantly and were really comfortable, but somehow they made me think about tights. However Ingrid didn’t share my hang ups, she really liked the bag and I wouldn’t dare argue with her!”


Matt and Ingrid pack testing at Llandegla, after my tantrum


So there we have it – two rather different opinions on the same pack. I didn’t find it fitted me terribly well, which wasn’t a problem whilst walking (my first excursion out with it had been a day’s bog slog in the Berwyns and I found no fault with it whatsoever, in fact I rather enjoyed using this pack as a walking day bag – however my primary use for it was meant to be as a mountain biking pack and for this it simply didn’t suit me). Matt found the bag actually fitted him really well and enjoys using it for biking, running and walking on regular occasions.


The link bit:

Thursday 20 October 2011


Every so often in life, you come across something or someone who changes everything. Sometimes it’s just a simple thought process or a question that inspires you or plants a seed. Sometimes it’s an act or an experience that immerses you so completely that you know in an instant that the course of your life has been irreversibly altered.

I love life. I love living, I love feeling. Simple things like sitting down and enjoying a meal with a friend – simple pleasures and moments savouring tastes, smells and company. Talking, laughing, joking, sharing opinions and ideas. These simple moments are sometimes all we need to grow, to start to realise that aspects of our lives work while others need to be worked on.

Very rarely some people find focus in a singular activity. I suspect many people may never experience the pleasure of this kind of clarity in focus. I must be lucky – I know what I want, I know who I am and who I want to be.

Finding ways to make things happen may be hard and sometimes I sit here and worry. I find myself seriously wondering if I’m making a big mistake in trying – is it all pointless? Am I wasting my time? Can I do this? Can I make this happen? Do I have the fight in me? Do I have the focus and the ability?

None of these doubts actually matter – I know what I want and what needs to be done, I can see the barriers and the obstacles and deep down I know I’m capable of entering the fight. Whether I will win is never going to be certain, but isn’t life all about the journey rather than the outcome?

I’ve spent much of my life feeling like an underachiever, when the reality is I have been achieving things many people consider to be amazing. I guess I’m growing mentally, I can now meet people, make friends, talk and realise that even though they may not really know me, they believe in me. Suddenly I’m finding that I actually believe in myself too.

Sometimes it takes big things to make us realise the small ones, and sometimes it’s the small things that have the biggest effect.


To all of those people in my life who have ever believed in me, said a nice word, done a nice thing or simply wished me well – thank you. You are all catalysts.

Monday 10 October 2011


Up there we had been dodging rainbows, skimming and skipping over the clouds. I giggled as I realised I didn’t know how to do what was being asked of me, but there was no frustration, no embarrassment, just pure exhilaration. I felt like a small child who’d been handed a gift – grinning with sheer, unbridled joy as I ripped open the wrapping paper.

Playing with the clouds, chasing railway lines through my up-turned canopy. I must be the luckiest person in the world to be able to see and feel life this way.

Sunday 2 October 2011


For those of you that don’t know, I’ve been doing very little in the way of exercise just lately, due to the fact that my ankle injury has led to a recurrence of an old chronic knee injury. I’ve been desperately trying to rest it all to allow time to re-hab and heal, but for an active person like me, this has been agony, which is why, today I risked it and went over to Machynlleth with Matt and our mountain bikes.

I’m not going to say too much, nor am I going to post up any nice pictures (I did take the camera with the intention of getting a couple of snaps, but somehow the urge to keep riding and riding just meant I never stopped long enough to take any). Basically, getting out on the bike was the tonic I’ve been sorely craving. My injuries held up fine, my fitness levels were no-where near as bad as I’d feared they would be (they were bad, just not as bad as I’d resigned myself to!), and the trail was one of the best man-made trails I think I’ve ever ridden.

My short conclusion is, to anyone riding mountain bikes in Wales, who hasn’t yet ridden the Cli-MachX trail just outside Corris, near Machynlleth – get over there. It is awesome, especially the black graded final descent (apparently the longest in Wales). Go go go!