Get off my back, DUDE!

Posted: October 1, 2008 in Current opinions, Gaming
Tags: ,


After being too ill to cycle for a over a year, I sometimes peruse my Raceface hydropack that lurks in the kitchen. I first bought a hydropack around ten years ago – it’s a backpack that contains a plastic bladder (usually around 1.5-2 litres) to fill with water or energy drink, a tube goes over your shoulder and you suck on it to have a drink. There’s also space in the pack for a few spares, pump, inner tubes etc – I guess you get the message that it isn’t an especially glamorous piece of equipment. In fact, I used to get some very strange looks. SCARY!

However, around five years ago some “extreme” mountain bike riders were photographed wearing hydropacks whilst performing outrageous tricks – road gaps, cliff drops, 360s and even fully inverted – upside down and fully hydrated. WOW!

To begin with I thought there to be some humourous fad, but no. These were freeriders (previously, “freerider” was cycle company Cannondales’s copyrighted term for non-race or downhill mountain biking) who, the story goes, ride on 45lb bikes pulling mad tricks but covering enough of Canada to require tools and water. Now the UK cycle industry are playing it is that, if you’re on a normal UK trail rider you need an expensive overbuilt bike with 6 inches of suspension travel – plus a hydropack – presumably for bandages and morphine. MENTAL!

Even more bizarre, though, is the appearance of backpacks is new quad bike videogame Pure. They may have lost the plastic tubes, but I recognise ‘em – hydropacks worn whilst the riders race and perform fantastical freeride manoeuvres – a utilitarian device rendered free of any practical use! Now we’re just literally twiddling our thumbs – controlling a virtual hydropack. AWESOME!

I blame Red Bull for making the link between drab items and adrenaline fueled excitement – their marketing has implied for years that opening a can of pop may make you an F1 pilot or aeroplane racer. But I remember long before Red Bull there were Pepsi Max adverts making the link between extreme sports and soft drinks. Now even PCs are also often described as “extreme” – another thumb twiddler. Along with shitty brick-slow 4x4s. And every other crappy TV programme that inserts the word into the title to luridly suggest voyeuristic danger – all from the safety of one’s own armchair. CRAZY!

The word “extreme” and most of the surrounding vocabulary were wrought into marketing buzzwords around the turn of the century, and you can blame the same kind of marketing people who re-invented the hydropack. Or maybe it was Bill and Ted. But I’d rather imagine it was an elite squad of London-based media chicks, replete with 3 litre hydropacks containing enough vodka and Red Bull to talk shite for weeks. LET’S ROCK N’ ROLL


Links has thousands of genuinely awesome freeride shots – with and without hydropacks

Camelback are the originators of the hydropack

Before the drugs kicked in, this post was going to be about Pure, a quad bike game – see developers Black Rock Studios

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