Friday, November 30, 2012

Tested: Dark Speed Works' Speedpack 480 bento box

This week's review: the Speedpack 480 bento box from Dark Speed Works.

Yes, I need to cut the steerer. Just get over it.

What it is: A top tube-mounted storage accessory designed for aerodynamics.

Why you want one: To limit the drag of your rolling buffet (or flat kit, if you're so inclined).

View from above, with the pack empty and zipped.
The front hook & loop straps are helping clean up my front end's wind profile.

Open zipper showing the internal plastic frame.

Duration used: 1.5 years (purchased May 2011)

Price paid/purchased from: $31.05USD (with Slowtwitch early adopter discount) + shipping direct from Dark Speed Works.

Accommodates 6 Hammer gel packs easily - could likely fit a 7th in a pinch.

Yes, all of these fit in there, despite being some of the largest packaging on the market.

What rawks: The Speedpack is simple to use, sturdily built and appeals to the aero weenie in all of us. I can't qualify any of their aerodynamic claims, but the pack does tuck in nicely behind the steerer and looks fairly slippery. The two front straps are narrower than many other bento boxes, making it easier to attach the pack with the obligatory slammed stem. The three bottom straps are easily cut to length to avoid rubbing your knees, and keep the pack in place better than others that I've used that would tilt from side to side and rub on my knees. The front can be left open to somewhat envelop the steerer (as in my installation), with the foremost hook and loop straps used to secure extra brake & shift cabling for a more aerodynamic cockpit. The internal plastic frame helps the pack keep its shape when empty, which is something sorely lacking from most of its competition. The carrying capacity is excellent while zipped, and I've left a standard gel flask in the pack while unzipped without it bouncing out. The zipper closure will not abrade athletic apparel like the velcro flap closure on any competitors (I constantly had issues with my gloves catching on the velcro of my old bento box during training rides). For those who have a non-standard stem or a superbike with top tube bosses, there are models available to fit your bike. The appearance is nicely understated - no huge logos on it, just a tasteful branding. 

700c x 18-23mm butyl tube, Genuine Innovations Microflate Nano head, 16g CO2 cartridge and 2 Lezyne Matrix tire levers.

Tight fit, but it will close.
What sucks: If you put a standard 5oz gel flask in the pack, that's pretty much it for storage - you can fit a few tiny items (salt tabs or electrolyte fizzies, car key or emergency cash) in the rear pointy bit, but nothing else. Most smartphones will not fit in the pack and still allow it to zip, and the pack is not waterproof. Some people have been driven batty by the zipper key jingling around, as it is not a locking type (this hasn't been an issue for me). It's also a bit on the pricey side - at $35, it will set you back about twice as much as a lot of the competition.

A standard gel flask fills the available space almost completely.

Zipped with gel flask inside - very tidy and slippery looking.

What I'd like to see: A version with a locking zipper would be great, but frankly the non-locking has been just fine and I can't see an upgrade being worth it for me. No real suggestions to make here!

What I'm saying: I've been pleased with the function and durability of my Speedpack, and it looks pretty pro on the bike. It holds everything I need it to while discouraging me from trying to pack too much along, 

Whole bike with Speedpack installed.

In action at the Welland Triathlon in June 2012.

For further edification: The Triathlete's Wit and Fun Between Legs have reviews posted, plus there's the  testimonial page at Dark Speed Works' website.

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