» USWE RANGER 9 HYDRATION PACK
USWE (you-swee) designs and markets a broad range of hydration packs targeting motorcyclists, mountain bikers, runners, and skiers. After seeing the overly-aggressive online marketing, we decided to see what all the noise was about.
USWE features a unique, patented four-point suspension system. Instead of the usual shoulder straps and waist belt, USWE uses four straps intersecting at mid-chest level at a single buckle. USWE claims it eliminates the pack bouncing around during a rough ride, without restricting breathing.
We ordered the Ranger 9, a size and style popular with dirt bikers. It’s designed in and ships from Sweden, but is made in China. The pack is well built and employs the no nonsense, “simpler is better” design ethos Scandinavians are known for. The 3-liter water bladder has a wide opening for ice, seals well and is easy to fill. It can also be turned inside out, for easier, more thorough cleaning.
We tested the Ranger 9 model on various off-road trails on both motorcycle and bicycle. It does bounce around some, though not as much as a typical hydration pack. Despite the manufacturer’s claims, four straps wrapped snuggly around the ribcage did restrict breathing. The stretchy lower straps were noticeably constricting, regardless of how they were adjusted. What’s more, the lower strap discomfort is compounded by unlined, nonbreathable rubber that feels terrible with only a thin jersey between the straps and the skin.
To determine if the ribcage constriction was detrimental to performance, versus merely uncomfortable, we tested the USWE against a standard hydration pack during a Stairmaster session at the gym. Both packs held identical weight and were alternated eight times for comparison. Heartrate was slightly higher wearing the USWE, a small, but measurable and repeatable difference.
More expensive, much less comfortable and only slightly less bouncy than a standard hydration pack, this turned out to be a disappointment. $129.99
» Bell ProTint Face Shield
After mention in our recent survey of innovative helmet technology (MCN 4/19), we felt Bell’s Panovision ProTint Face Shield deserved its own review.
Photochromatic shields react to UV light, changing from clear to tinted as environmental light levels shift from dim to bright. They allow riders to use a single shield for trips spanning day and night, or those including both the deep shadows and brilliant sunshine.
In about 30 seconds, the ProTint changes from a clear shield, filtering 15% of visible light, to the equivalent of a “dark smoke” tinted shield, filtering 77%. The transition back to clear occurs almost as quickly.
The filter effect can settle between these extremes in intermediate light, delivering incremental shade appropriate to conditions. Additionally, there is some visual contrast enhancement as the shield darkens.
The ProTint shield also features Bell Panovision Class 1 optics, which provide startling clarity and an extra wide field of view. Bell Panovision shields, like most modern cohorts, allow quick, tool-free removal and installation, and Bell’s mechanism is particularly sturdy and easy to use.
On the downside, the ProTint does not have mounts for a Pinlock antifog insert or external tear-offs, as do some other versions of the Panovision shield. Some users may also miss the multistop ratcheting capability found on many shield interfaces. Panovision shields notch in only at fully open and fully closed, although they can be left cracked open for air circulation. Snapping the shield closed requires firmer pressure than most, but yields greater security.
Panovision fitment shields are available in a variety of other colors and configurations and are compatible with 2016 or newer Race Star Flex, Pro Star Flex (raised eye port for track use) and Star MIPS and SRT Modular helmets (lower eye port for road use).
Bell also includes the Panovision ProTint shield (part 7102608) with Star helmets carrying the “DLX” designation, starting at $499.
Bell photochromatic shields featured Transitions branding and ClickRelease fitment before 2016. The older Bell Qualifier DLX MIPS helmet was still available online for $270, and includes a ClickRelease Transitions shield (part 7102606) that also fits pre-2016 Bell Star (non-MIPS), RS-1, RS-2, Vortex and Qualifier helmets.
A photochromatic shield allows for spontaneous rides, without worrying about getting home before dark or having to pack an extra shield. Riders who prefer drop-down sun visors, or wearing sunglasses under a clear shield can save their money for something else.
We found the convenience of this purpose-built face shield worth its $150 MSRP. More so when included with an advanced Flex- or MIPS-based helmet.