Friday, July 30, 2010

Goodhope Bags Hydration Pack Review

A couple weeks ago, I was approached by Wayfair to do a review of any product that I was interested in on their host of websites. I’ve been wanting to try out a hydration pack like a CamelBak, but I’ve been turned off by the high prices of the name brand packs. So, I decided to take this opportunity to try out a less known brand and see how the pack performed.

I ended up going with a 2-liter pack from Goodhope Bags.

I have now had the opportunity to use the Goodhope Bags hydration pack for a mountain bike ride, a run, a road bike commute, motorcycle riding and general walking. So far, I’ve been very happy with the pack.

When I first took a look at the Goodhope Bags hydration pack in person, I thought that it looked larger than I expected from the image on the website. However, comparing the pack to the CamelBaks that my friends have that also hold 2 liters of water or more, this pack is right on par in terms of size. When I actually put the pack on, it is not too large at all.

Probably the most impressive thing about this pack is the amount of cargo space that it provides without seeming bulky. There is a flat, zippered pocket on the front of the pack and another zippered compartment behind that. Then this compartment, along with some mesh, forms an expandable open topped pocket. Behind that is another, flat mesh pocket with a clip closure. Finally, there is a large, double-zippered main compartment that spans the entire length of the pack.

I cannot imagine having any trouble carrying everything I would need for a long bike ride, hike or other outdoor adventure in this pack. It will easily hold tools, food, phone, keys, sunscreen, even some compact clothing. I have been able to use the pack to successfully carry a change of clothes, shoes and tools for a bike commute to work. However, the pack would not be large enough if you needed to carry a sweater or books, too, and it is certainly not the bag for a laptop.

I have been pleasantly surprised by the comfort of the pack. It has padded shoulder straps, padding on the back and clip straps at the hips and chest. I consider these straps an absolute requirement for the comfort of carrying around a heavy pack for several hours. If I can’t distribute much of the weight onto my hips, forget it. The straps are also highly adjustable, so I’ve had no problem positioning the pack comfortably for different loads and activities.

For both mountain and road biking, walking and motorcycling, the pack has been very comfortable. I really forget that it’s there until I want to take a drink from it, at which point, I just grab the tube and put it to my mouth. If anything, the tube is a little long, but I’ve been able to just tuck it under the shoulder strap to keep it from flopping around.

For running, I found that the water in the pack sloshes back and forth with each step. Wearing the pack as close to my body as possible - without restricting breathing, of course – stopped the pack from moving around much as I ran. However, the shoulder straps did rub on my bare neck. This was not a problem on the bike and could be solved for running by wearing a sleeved shirt instead of a tank top. However, if you are sensitive to chaffing, I would probably not recommend this pack for running.

The bladder has a standard design with a large-mouthed, screw cover opening that is easy to fill with liquid and even ice, which is a plus because the water does warm up when you wear the pack in the hot sun. (I would guess that it would also freeze in cold weather conditions.) The tube is generously long and can be fed through a guide on either shoulder strap. There is a loop of Velcro on either side of the bladder compartment to hold the tube in place. The bite valve is easy to lock and unlock by pulling it out or pushing it back down on the tube. The bite valve itself was a little stiff to bite at first, but it softened up after only a couple uses and is now easy to draw water from.

The bladder does give a minor plastic-y flavor to water, but I’ve easily covered that up with a little sports drink or lemon juice. The plastic taste is so subtle that I think it will dissipate over time.

The biggest downside I see to the pack so far is the lack of hooks or clips to hold the top of the bladder in place. As it is, the bladder slides down in the compartment as it empties. This has not actually been a problem; water still flows freely out of the tube. But if it became a concern, it would be easy to use a couple of loose leaf binder rings to attach the corners of the bladder, which have holes molded right into them, to the Velcro loops in the top of the bladder compartment.

The pack looks attractive and modern. The color is not gaudy and there are no extraneous logos, tags or patterns. There is one reflective strip on the back of the pack that is about half an inch wide and six inches long. I wouldn’t stake my life on it as a safety feature (when riding in the dark, always use lights on your bike), but it does offer a little extra visibility – even in the day time.

The construction and materials of the pack look to be of decent quality and durability. Obviously after only a few uses, I cannot speak to the longevity of this pack, but I have no reason to believe that it won’t last for a long time.

I also did not test out the water resistance of the pack. It does not claim any waterproof qualities, so I would not expect more from it than a standard backpack.

Overall, I am quite impressed by this hydration pack and would definitely recommend it to others.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Late Summer/Fall 2010 Grand Rapids Events

A good friend of mine asked me to pick an event that we could train for together this fall. So in the process of looking at what running, biking, du/tri and adventure events are coming up in the Grand Rapids region, I have added a bunch of new events to my Grand Rapids Events page.

Even if you don’t live in the immediate area, check it out! Something might sound exciting! And if you know about a cool event in the area that I don’t have on the list (I know I didn’t get everything), tell me in the comments, and I’ll add it.

I’m looking forward to the first ever Grand Rapids Mud Run coming up in August and the Iceman Cometh Challenge in November. I’m already registered for those races.

But what else to do? I’m thinking about doing the Dunes Du again, because it was so much fun last year. And some friends and I are considering forming a couple 2-person teams for the Moosejaw Fall Adventure Challenge – a 4-6 hour race of canoeing, mountain biking, orienteering and trekking. I’ve never done anything like it before, but it sounds pretty awesome!

What are your late summer/fall event plans?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

CSN Stores Contest Winner

Congratulations to Melanie! She’s the winner of the gift certificate to CSN Stores!

Melanie gave me permission to share her favorite bike ride memory with all of you, which I’m pretty excited about, because it’s so cool! (Note: The story had nothing to do with Melanie winning the contest - the winner’s name was drawn out of a hat.)

Thanks to everyone who entered the contest and thanks again to CSN Stores.

Melanie’s ride in Ecuador

I have had many fun and interesting bike rides in my life so far, but by far the most memorable was in Ecuador, South America. Our group scheduled a ride with a local mountain bike excursion company located outside of Otavalo. We got outfitted with bikes, helmets and gloves as well as orange vests at the rim of the mountains surrounding Guinea Pig Lake (volcanic lake Cuicocha). We began our mostly downhill ride by making our way down the long, dusty, stony driveway which eventually fed out onto blacktop, which we eventually exited to take the dirt roads through the country.

The area is very sparsely populated here and mainly agricultural. We passed the tiny homes that are the norm for poor farming families to inhabit as well as pigs, chickens, cows and the friendly locals who never failed to either wave or offer salutations, asking where we came from and where we were going. Along the way we were privy to the beauty of the Andes: steep mountains with minimal trees, sheer, equally steep drop-offs into ravines and valleys with nothing but a tiny wire cattle fence to keep a wayward cyclist on the path. The elevation is such that it seems you are one with the clouds. The dirt and dust was fast and non-technical and I was having a blast keeping up with our guide, and he was surprised that each time he stopped for the riders to regroup I was right there with him! It made me feel good when he complimented my riding ability (which really isn’t THAT great when compared to my usual riding companions!).

Eventually we found ourselves in a small town (I forget the name!) where we took a small break from the sun and some of the riders chose to put their bikes on the following ‘sag wagon’ and call it a day. Not me, I was here to ride! On the way out of town toward the next town, we were again on blacktop. Not quality blacktop, mind you; this is, after all, a third world country! A few long exhilarating downhills through the mountains and over tiny rickety bridges added to the fun, I was loving every thrill! Unfortunately, at the next little break at the next little town, the thrill proved too much for yet a few other riders from our group and they joined the others in the Jeep. Our group was down to 3 women and the male ride guide.

Heading out of town again on relatively flat, fairly smooth blacktop, I was proud of us 3 women, showing up the boys! Sadly, after working up a long, gradual uphill, my other 2 female riding companions threw in the towel. That left me and the guide. I said, “Let’s go!” He tried to encourage me to ride in front of him and lead, but I declined, not having any good idea where we were going. We began to make our way to the outskirts of Otavalo, a fairly good-sized (and beautiful) city known for its open-air markets and craftsmen. At a 7 point intersection, he instructed me to stay close. I obeyed, not wanting to die, staying not much more than a foot off his rear wheel.

The majority of drivers in Ecuador are, well, a bit frightening. Traffic laws are either rarely enforced or very lax, and it is not uncommon for people to drive through red lights and stop signs as if they don’t exist. Sidewalks are often considered acceptable driving areas. Cars are often in poor condition with bald tires and vehicles commonly are packed full of as many passengers as possible. Yes, there are good drivers, but I witnessed more accidents and frightening incidents and dangerous situations than typically seen where I live stateside.

So there we were, practically back wheel to front wheel, navigating the close, tight, old streets of Otavalo, dodging cars, buses, pedestrians and the like. Traffic was backed up and we made it to the finishing point before our sag wagon! What an adrenaline rush, speeding down mountains, taking in the gorgeous countryside and gambling death in the streets of the city! I loved EVERY minute of it and was so proud and happy that I stuck it out to the very end.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Grand Rapids Bike Park

I finally had a chance yesterday to visit the Grand Rapids Bike Park which opened this summer. Located near Burton and Buchannan nestled between some industrial buildings, train tracks and US-131, this is truly an urban bike haven in progress.

Even though it was still a little muddy from last week’s rain, the hubby and I started by checking out the mountain bike trails. The first part of the loop is a frighteningly close course with narrow passes, tight curves and steep rises. I don’t know if it’s meant to be ridden on smaller bikes or what, but I felt too large to maneuver and basically kept one foot unclipped in case I needed to put it down.

Then, the trail opened up into three wider tracks each with a higher level of technical difficulty. There were a number of stream crossings, small logs and the edge of Plaster Creek to contend with. I even saw – and promptly avoided – a trench about two or three feet across that it looked like you’d have to jump somehow to ride across.

After getting lost on a bordering, sandy ORV track and exiting the park at the back of some business driveway, the hubby and I rode around the block and back to the park to check out the pump track.

The pump track is not finished yet, but it’s coming along. There is a series of large humps, some smaller hills and tight curves to test your bike handling skills. I didn’t make a run at it this time, because the hubby had endo-ed off his bike back in the woods, and he was sore and ready to call it a day. But I’m interested in trying the pump track another day.

Clearly the most established and well developed feature of the GR Bike Park is the BMX track. It looks really nicely done. But not being a BMX rider myself, I did not ride it this time around. Maybe next time!

So, overall I’d say that the Bike Park is still young and developing, but it is becoming a fun, challenging place for a variety of dirt and trail bike lovers to ride. It was great to see a bunch of kids from the surrounding neighborhood out getting exercise and honing their skills on the pump track. Though the park does still need some work. Check out for details on trail days and other ways that you can volunteer to make the park even better!

(I also got to try out my Goodhope Bags hydration pack for the first time.  More on that coming later!)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ready to Hydrate - Also Last Day to Enter

Reminder: Today is the last day to email me with one of your favorite cycling memories in order to enter the contest for a $30 gift certificate to CSN Stores! Enter by midnight EST to have a chance to win. See here for all of the details.

I received my Goodhope Bags hydration pack a couple days ago, and I’m itching to get out for a ride to test it out! Now if the storms would just stop…

Rain, rain go away
Come again another day!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Inspiring and Fighting Kidney Disease

Contest Reminder: Three more days to enter my contest to win a $30 gift certificate to CSN Stores.  For more information, see my post here.  The contest ends Friday!

My Mom’s Kidney Walk

As you may know, my mom, Marcy, is a kidney transplant survivor. Since her successful transplant five years ago, she has raised funds for the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan and has volunteered as a mentor for other patients who are waiting for transplants.

My mom is an inspiring person. A true survivor. She’s never just rolled over and let her health challenges keep her out of the game, and she’s continually fighting the fight for herself and the other 26 million Americans with chronic kidney disease.

Right now, my mom is raising funds to walk in her sixth National Kidney Foundation Kidney Walk in September. The Kidney Walk is an event designed to help raise awareness about kidney disease, raise funds for research and bring the community of patients, families, friends and businesses together.

Please check out her fundraising page here.

Paddling on Dialysis for Kidney Health

Another inspiring kidney disease survivor right here in Michigan is Erich Ditschman.

Erich describes himself best on his blog, Paddling On Dialysis for Kidney Health:

To celebrate my tenth year of a wonderful life on dialysis I'm getting in shape and canoeing 225 miles with the Grand River Expedition 2010. I am also raising $20,000 for the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan and inspiring dialysis patients and others living with chronic illnesses to get outdoors and live an active and fruitful life.

Erich is out on the Grand River right now (or at least he was as of his last blog post on Saturday) paddling for fun, fitness and funds to help study kidney disease and help those who suffer with it.

Adventures of a Kidney Donor also has a great post about him.

You can donate to Erich’s fundraiser through a link on his blog.

Obviously fitness and physical activity are something I’m passionate about. So it truly touches my heart to see people around me who face challenges like kidney disease determined to get out there and still be active. Help out Marcy or Erich, if you can. And let’s help eradicate kidney disease for future generations!

Monday, July 19, 2010 is born!

Contest Reminder: Check out the details here and enter by Friday, July 23, 2010 to have a chance to win a $30 gift certificate!

My little blog is growing up!  With the addition of my first sponsor (check out the link on the side bar) and a sponsored giveaway (enter the contest now - read here to find out how), I feel like a legitimate presence in the world.  Even if I'm really still a nobody fitness geek in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I feel a little bit proud. ;-)

As a result, I've gotten motivated to start making some of the upgrades that I've been pondering for a while now.

The first of those upgrades is my own domain name -!  Right now, I'm still using blogger as my blog host, but in the future, I hope to develop my own site.

So please continue to follow me and change your bookmarks to!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Dodgeball Golf

Contest reminder: If you didn’t see yesterday’s post about winning a $30 gift certificate, go check it out! Enter by Friday, July 23, 2010 to have a chance to win it.

The hubby took me on a creative date last night. He thought up an alternate version of Frisbee golf in which we took golf clubs and dodge balls to a Frisbee golf course and played golf with the big, rubber inflated dodge balls.

This was a great idea in theory, but the impact of a golf club on a dodge ball was murder on the wrists. So by the third hole, we modified the game. We tried using two tennis balls that happened to be in the trunk of my car instead of the dodge balls.

This worked great until the hubby hit one of the two tennis balls into some brush, and we lost it. That was on the fourth hole.

Modification time again. This time we decided to ditch the golf clubs altogether and return to the dodge balls. In normal Frisbee golf (or disc golf), the goal is to throw your Frisbee down the length of the hole and hit a post (or get the disc in a basket) in the smallest number of throws. So we tried kicking our dodge balls as if we were playing Frisbee golf – to see who could hit the post in the least number of kicks.

Well, this wasn’t exciting enough for the hubby, so we modified the game again. Now it was a race! We started at the same time and raced our kick balls down the hole to try to hit the post first. The loser got a 2 second head start on the next hole to equalize the competition. Head start seconds were cumulative, so you could gain or lose seconds on each hole.

This turned out to be a lot of fun and a heck of a good workout! We basically sprinted the length of 10 to 12 holes. It was like doing an intense interval workout. We probably ran a couple miles that way. And let me tell you, by the last hole, I was out of gas!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Contest - Win a $30 gift certificate

The good people at Wayfair have given me the opportunity to review an item from one of their websites. I’ve been itching to get my hands on a hydration pack for biking and hiking, but I’ve been turned off by the high price of packs like CamelBak. So, I’m excited to be doing a review of the very affordable (on sale!) Goodhope Bags 2-liter hydration pack.

And here’s the best part.

As part of the deal, I get to give away a $30 gift certificate to one of my readers that can be used for anything from dining room furniture, to fitness equipment, to cookware, to camping gear…anything on any of the 200+ Wayfair partner sites. You could even use it to buy one of the Goodhope Bags hydration packs – just like mine!

Contest Details

So here’s what you need to do to have a chance at winning the $30 gift certificate:
  1. The contest is open to readers in the US and Canada only – sorry, overseas readers!
  2. To enter, send me an email telling me about one of your favorite cycling memories. If you have a photo, send that along, too. I may share your entry on the blog.
  3. If you mention my contest on your blog or website, I’ll give you a second entry into the contest. Be sure to send me a link to your post for verification.
  4. I’ll draw a name out of a hat so the winner will be completely random.
  5. Entries will be accepted until 11:59pm EST on July 23, 2010. Once the winner is drawn, I will announce the results and will contact the winner for a valid email address to which the gift certificate can be sent.
Good luck to everyone and thank you to CSN Stores for sponsoring this giveaway!

Maintaining fitness for the fall

It’s been about a month since the Ann Arbor Tri, and I’ve had my time off. It’s time to get back into the routine of exercising – even if it’s not as intense as triathlon training. Unless I decide to do another one this summer… I am as yet undecided.

I’ve been on an every-other-day sort of schedule for the last week – completely by chance – which is fine by me. Monday, I went to the pool and swam. It all came back like I had never had a break. Last night I ran. It felt really good for the first two miles, then my hip flexor suddenly tightened up. Fortunately, it was fine after I stopped to stretch for a minute.

I’m thinking ahead to the Grand Rapids Mud Run at the end of August, the Dunes Duathlon in September, maybe the Reeds Lake Tri and then the Iceman Cometh in November. I want to maintain my fitness this summer, so I don’t have to start all over again for fun races in the fall.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mother-in-Law Crashed Last Night

My in-laws were riding their bikes to a weekly time trial last night, when my mother-in-law had a big crash. They were going down a large hill on the bike path next to the road, and she hit a lip of pavement between a side street and the path. Her back tire blew out and threw her over the bike at speed.

They sat in the emergency room for a couple hours last night before Mom got x-rays. She had pain in her neck, a possible broken collar bone and some bad road rash on her shoulder.

This morning, I’m happy to report that she did not break any bones! She’s going to hurt for a while, but it’s just going to take time to heal.

I’m so thankful that things did not turn out worse!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Yankee Springs - Long Trail

I went mountain biking with a group of friends from work today at the Yankee Springs Recreation Area.  We went there once before and did the short loop and the first half of the long loop.  This time, we wanted to try the whole long loop.

We had heard that the second half of the long loop was more challenging, and it definitely was!

Right after the turn off to the second section, I knew I was in for a bit of walking.  The trail was more technical than what I'm used to but still doable.  I walked down a few scary looking hills...and up a few steep ones.  But I don't feel bad, because the people I came with walked up a few of those hills, too, and they just got back from a mountain biking trip in Colorado!

The trail took us around a valley called the Devil's Soup Bowl, where the ground fell away on one side of the trail.  I am happy to say that I resisted temptation and did not fall into the Soup Bowl like a stale oyster cracker!

And just as I was getting tired enough that I started zoning out for short periods of time, we arrived back at the parking lot - 12 miles of mountain biking in the humid heat successfully done!  What a workout!

Having completed the challenge of Yankee Springs' mountain biking trail, it was time to celebrate our accomplishment with beer and Mexican food.  It's true that biking and beer go together so tasily well.  Yum!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Red Rock Canyon - Part 2

A couple days after our hiking trip on the Keystone Thrust trail at Red Rock Canyon, the hubby and I returned to the park with some friends that had come into town for the bachelor party that the hubby was hosting. I was super excited to have the chance to hike the Icebox Canyon trail!

This trail was much more robust than the Keystone consisting of small rocks and gravel for the first section through open desert. Not far into the hike, the trail turned into an ascending line of boulders over and through which we scrambled and climbed.

The Guys - Jair, Gary, Andy and the Hubby

It was a vigorous hike in the desert sun. But it was well worth it.

We gained elevation as the two canyon walls crept closer and closer together until finally we reached the place where they met. In the rainy season, water cascades down this canyon wall collecting in small pools and creating a stream trickling down into the valley where it’s cool and wet enough to support trees and desert brush.

Where the Two Cliffs Meet

Canyon Walls

We climbed up the waterfall to see the pool below the highest cliff. Then we explored more of the rocks and cliffs around the area.


Me and the Bachelor, Andy

Me and the Hubby in the Waterfall

The Guys on the Cliffs

On our way back down into the valley, we followed the dry stream bed into the trees. Near the bottom, we scrambled back up a ridge to rejoin the trail and finish the hike to our gloriously air conditioned car.

Lush Valley

I was in awe of the desert. It’s amazing how so much life thrives there even though a human being would not last long without plenty of food, water and shelter from the sun.

It was a great day to experience the wonder of an unfamiliar environment, to contemplate the beauty of the earth and to get a serious workout! I would love to do a longer hiking/camping trip or a weekend bike tour through the wilderness. I hope…some day!