Friday, 25 May 2012

Review - UltrAspire Belt System

I was super excited when I first heard about a relatively new company, UltrAspire, and their line of products. The idea of a company that has runners involved in the design of belts and packs for running is perfect. Early in the process of creating their products, UltrAspire shared them with their team of athletes to get feedback and to test the gear in races. The products had a presence in the community and at races before they were available to buy which only amplified my suspense.

However, like a nutrition and hydration plan during a race, there is no single solution for a belt or pack for every runner. Personal preference, how the gear fits your body and the specific goal or race that you're targeting all impact on what gear would suit a runner. Plenty of testing and trial and error is required to arrive at the best solution and this review is the result of my testing of the UltrAspire Molecular Belt System (MBS).

I love reviews with lots of photos that highlight which features work and which features don't work. I've chosen the features and photos that I'd like to see, but if you want some more information or a specific photo, let me know in the comments and I'll include it.


General overview

My components of the MBS
I have three components that I use to create two different belts: the Atom, which I always use as a belt component; the Nerve, which I use with the Atom when I need to take water with me; and the Reflex, which I use with the Atom when I don't need water, but still want to use a belt on my run.

UltrAspire Atom

UltrAspire Nerve

UltrAspire Reflex

How I use the MBS
I use the Atom with the Reflex on shorter runs when I want to carry my keys, phone or camera. I typically use this at night or in early morning runs as I like the additional safety of having the Reflex belt to show cars that I’m on the road. I wear the Reflex at the front with the Atom pocket on my back. I find wearing it like this reduces the amount of bounce in the belt when I’m running and as I don’t need instant access to the pocket it works well.

I use the Atom with the Nerve for my longer runs, mostly on the trails. I carry my camera in the Atom pocket or occasionally gels in this pocket. I also carry a sachet of powdered drink mix in the pocket on the Nerve and when needed I use the shock cord for either my arm warmers or a light jacket. I wear this the “normal” way around with the Atom at the front and Nerve on my back. I find with the added weight of the Nerve bottle at the back the belt is more balanced and there is no bouncing even with a camera or phone in the Atom pocket on my stomach.


Features I really like

The Atom Belt
This is almost perfect. The width is very good as it doesn't pull on my mid-section or stomach and creates no pressure points. The mesh is open and lets moisture through so I never feel hot with the wider belt. The pocket is a good size and fits my camera or a few gels. I appreciate how the mesh stretches and how accommodating this pocket is.

Atom belt and its excellent pocket

Velcro connection from Atom to Nerve or Reflex
I like this connection as it offers easy and fast adjustment of the belt while wearing it. I use this connection only to adjust the belt when it's on and not to take the belt on and off. The end tab section is slightly wider than the buckle on my Reflex and Nerve which makes it difficult to get through these buckles when initially setting up the belt. This is a positive feature as I feel secure that the belt will not fall off if I catch the Velcro with my arm or on an obstacle in the trail while running.

Connection from the Atom onto either Nerve or Reflex

Speed hook connection from Atom to Nerve or Reflex
I love the speed hook connection! It feels secure, strong and durable. I have no doubt that this part will not break. In my first uses I found the hook to be very tight and difficult to hook into the loops on the Nerve and Reflex. As I have used the system more it has loosened up and is much easier to use.

Shock cord on the Nerve above the bottle
This is useful as it allows me to stash my jacket or arm warmers on my belt and out of the way. It is simple, easy and fast to use. A well thought out feature. I appreciate the small pocket that you can put the buckle of the shock cord into. This keeps the belt neat and prevents any unwanted bouncing or irritating when the shock cord is not being used.

Shock cord on the Nerve to the upper left of the bottle

Gel pocket on the Nerve
The gel pocket on the underside of the Nerve provides a little extra storage. I use it to carry a sachet of powdered drink mix so I can refill my bottle with my drink choice on the go.

Underside of Nerve features a gel pocket

The Nerve bottle
I like the angled spout as it is easy to drink out of and to pull out of the belt. The finger loop is the best feature of the bottle. It makes it easy to carry multiple bottles and to pull the bottle out of packs. For such a small detail this is a tremendously rewarding feature of the bottles.

Great bottle and useful finger hook


A few small improvements

Zip pull on the Atom pocket
This bounced around and occasionally distracted me when running. It is not a big deal and the zip pull is easily tucked away, but with all the clever features on this belt this could be something to improve.

Material overlap under speed hook
Where the speed hook connects to other components there are three pieces of cloth protecting my hip from the hook. In my never-ending quest to lighten my gear I would remove some of the material here.

Bottle spout
I like the twist-to-open spout, but there was some play in the spout when someone who didn’t know how to use it pulled on it. By pushing hard on the spout it closed again and now works normally. However, it could be improved.

Twist-to-open nozzle on the bottle

I gave my feedback to UltrAspire on these areas and they're looking into them so they may be addressed in future iterations.


Final thoughts

The belt system looks new after a month of using it regularly. I am very impressed with the durability and have no problems with the zip, with the Velcro wearing out and no stretching of the shock cord or pockets which is where I would expect the first failure in a belt system.

I feel comfortable with the MBS and I will continue to train with it and use it for appropriate races. I would recommend that anyone looking for a belt system try this one and see if it is the "optimal" solution for them. For me, this is the best belt I've used and I've even given away my old belt system as I no longer want it.

You can get UltrAspire products from their website (link to products page) or direct from the distributor in Chile (contact me for details).


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6 comments:

  1. Woah UltrAspire products seems really great. (it's looks like they are concerned about runners needs) Just one question. Where I can find them in Chile??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Max

      The products are great! I also have a Revolution which I testing at the moment and so far I really like it. This would have been my pack for the Ruta del Condor on the weekend.

      In Chile, you can find the products at:

      http://www.pro-runners.com/
      Sport Village in Mall Sport

      Or you can contact SZ Limitada, the distributor of UltrAspire in Chile. I'll send you their contact details directly.

      Daniel

      Delete
  2. Dan,

    The belt looks good, but what about the amphipod belt you have used before? is it not able to carry enough liquid?

    B

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Brian

      I liked the Amphipod belt and especially appreciated the ability to mix and match components and create belts with different capacities. It is a good product and I still use the bottles and occasionally the belt when I want a smaller system.

      I have been trying other belts to see if I could find something better and I think for me a large capacity bottle makes a big difference. It's faster and easier to fill up. Often powder drink mixes come in portions that are for 500ml of liquid so having a bottle of that size is easier to make a new drink mix on the go.

      I also find the Amphipod belt a little stiffer and harder than the UltrAspire one. This is not a problem or deal breaker, but the UltrAspire belt is more comfortable which is important on longer runs.

      Overall I think the UltrAspire belt is a more elegant and better thought out product that better meets my current needs.

      Daniel

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  3. Hi Daniel,

    It seems that bouncing & loosening is the big downfall of hydration belts, especially when running trails. The pack bounces, which loosens the belt. You end up adjusting the belt constantly, or making it really tight, which is uncomfortable. How does the MBS perform in this regard?

    Dave

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Dave

      I agree with you about the bouncing and loosening of belts and struggling to find the right adjustment for comfort. I think that this belt addresses those problems well (the best out of any belt I've used), although it did take me some time to dial in the fit. With regard to your points:

      (1) this belt does not loosen at all while running. The connection points are a fixed speedhook which cannot be adjusted or moved and a velcro connection which allows for adjustment, but once adjusted does not loosen. The key here appears to be that there are no buckles that slip and let the belt loosen.

      (2) I find that belts always require adjusting when running due to the load changing throughout my runs. As I mentioned in (1), this belt does not slip so you don't need to adjust for that, however, any adjustments that are required are very easy to perform. The velcro connection allows for fast and easy adjustment without looking and is easy to use with gloves or wet hands. This has worked well for me.

      (3) With a full bottle I've found that my belts do need to be a little tight to prevent bouncing. This belt is no exception. However, with the Atom belt I've found that it is quite comfortable even when tight as the belt is much wider than a lot of other belts and there is no buckle on my stomach.

      This belt addresses the issue of loosening and does a good job at staying comfortable even when tight.

      I hope that helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.

      Daniel

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