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Zac Speed Sprint R-3 Reviews

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  • Retail Price ~$249.95 Shop Now
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Intro

The Zac Speed Exotec line-up combines two common riding items; the chest protector and hydration pack, into one, convenient unit. Zac Speed offers three different backpack models; the Sprint R-3, Recon S-3, and Dakar, which all directly connect to their Exotec chest protector platform. I recently had the opportunity to give each one a try, so I will be writing about all three. This review will cover the general features found across the product line, as well as a pack specific review in the last section below. I am a low B class hare scramble rider with the majority of my riding done on trails, but also MX and occasional week-long trail/adventure rides. I tip the scales at 170lbs, 6’ in height and have the medium/large sized Zac Speed.

The Common Alternatives

For the past couple of years, I have been using a CamelBak-style hydration pack with a separate chest protector. And honestly, I don’t have many gripes about this set-up. But the pessimist would point out the following:

· The lower strap tends to go under the chest protector and pull it up.

· I can’t always get a drink due to a hose kink or frozen water (annoying during races).

· It’s an additional item to remember to bring.

· There is limited storage (but I realize that I could buy a larger pack).

All-in-all, this set-up is not too shabby for a product that isn’t aimed specifically at riders. It’s much better than wearing a chest protector with a school/laptop backpack or drawstring bag.

Features

What’s Hot:

· LOAD DISTRIBUTING STRAPS – These really help the whole set-up conform to your body and drop the perceived pack weight much better than other set-ups that I have tried. Everything moves with your body, especially with quick side-to-side twists and up and down hits. The design of these straps keep the front chest plate from riding up to your neck.

· MATERIALS – The packs are built with tough zippers and tough water resistant fabric. I wasn’t scared to try to zip shut an overloaded pocket. Honestly, this is some of the best quality that I have seen in riding gear.

· HYDRATION BLADDER – This thing may be the best part. It has a quick disconnect between the hose and bladder so you don’t have to re-route the hose in order to fill or clean the bladder. It has a wide fill port that looks odd at first, but makes it a breeze to fill, clean, dry and it stays sealed. It also has an insulated hose that indirectly eliminates kinks and a bi-directional 90° bite valve. They also included a bite valve cover for those muddy rides.

· EXOTEC CHEST PROTECTOR – It has comfortable shoulder cups and a hard, but somewhat flexible plastic shell that molds to your belly and sides. It is comfortable for a chest protector and it doesn’t limit your movement as much as some others that I have used.

· CONVERTIBLE – Shoulder straps are included to switch to a backpack easily and tool-free.

· SPINE PLATE – This really stiffens up the pack and between it and the pack padding, it feels really safe, if you should ever land on your back.

What’s Not:

· EXCESS LOWER STRAP – The packs are all a single size, so I have the lower straps pulled about 2” from full tight and have over a foot of loose strap flapping in the breeze. Zac Speed used slidelock buckles or Velcro loops on other straps to hold the excess, but skipped this strap. While riding, the straps stay snug and don’t loosen throughout the ride.

· NO BUNGEE CORDS – For a pack that is aiming to be top-of-line, I would really like to see some sort of bungee cord system on the outside of the pack. I find them handy to throw any kind of round container in whether it’s extra water, Gatorade, canned food, or a fuel bottle.

Sizing and Comfort

Zac Speed provides a nice sizing chart based on height and chest size (as opposed to height and weight) and seems to be fairly accurate. For the chest plate, there are only two sizes (Med/Lrg or XL/XXL) and the packs are one size fits all. They also send extra rivets and aluminum binding post hardware. There is plenty of adjustment in the shoulder pads and side straps and it’s easy to adjust if you have to throw on more clothing for part of the day.

All the packs have sections of foam that cradle each side of your back. They provide a nice, soft feel regardless of how heavily the pack is loaded. The same goes for the suspension fabric on the shoulder pads. One thing that I hate about some chest protectors is how some can restrict your range of motion. This is one of the better ones. I can reach my arms straight up freely and turn my head fully side-to-side (with helmet on and clear the shoulders). It does restrict how closely you can bring your arms together in front of you, but this isn’t noticeable when riding.

Safety

Overall, this gives similar coverage and protection as other hard shell chest protectors on the market. There are a few products on the market that are offering a CE rating approval (either EN 1621-1 or EN 14021), but this protector doesn’t have either. Zac Speed claims it is neck brace compatible, although I wasn't able to try. I would like to see more coverage around the collar bone and upper sternum, but this area is probably left open for neck brace clearance.

Overall, I feel the coverage is adequate, and here’s my summary:

· Ribs – Full coverage

· Gut – Appropriate

· Shoulders – Appropriate

· Collar Bone – Slightly lacking in middle

· Spine – Full coverage – Removable spine guard

· Shoulder Blades – Appropriate

· Arm Guards – None

· Sternum – Slightly lacking

Price and Conclusion

The MSRP of the Sprint R-3, Recon S-3, and Dakar are $250, $275, and $325 respectively. While it is possible to buy just the front chest plate for $125, it requires one of the adjoining packs since they don’t make a non-backpack back plate. So, are they worth the money? This is where I’m on the fence. The Dakar isn't large enough to fit all of my gear for an 8+ hour ride, but that is probably a good thing. It fits as much as it should comfortably. Any additional items really should be stored in other storage like fender packs or racks. The Sprint and Recon models may look similar to many CamelBak style packs at first glance, just at a premium. But, that premium is for the build quality. I would be willing to bet you can get at least double the life out of one of these packs as a comparable non-dirt bike related pack, but there is a weight consequence for the quality.

It really comes down to what you need out of your pack. If you only use a pack solely for hydration and no storage, or rarely use a pack, you may be better off with a cheaper alternative since their chest protector is good, but nothing to write home about. However, if you are rough on backpacks or use them nearly every ride, give one of the Zac Speed units a try. You will be glad you did as this is the consumer it was designed for. Your hardest decision will be determining the correct size pack for your riding style.

Sprint R-3

The Sprint is the smallest of the three models and aimed at the rider that wants a hydration pack with room for a few small items. It has one main pocket for the hydration pack, another pocket on the flap, and two smaller pockets on each side of the pack. Zac Speed claims 8.4L of capacity, but I have a hard time believing that all of that space is useful. I would plan on fitting 3L of water, goggles, gloves, keys, wallet, phone, and maybe a couple granola bars at maximum. I attached a picture that shows the typical items that would fill this pack in addition to the full 3L hydration bladder. If your rides are always close to your vehicle and fairly short (<2 hours), this pack would work well for you.

Recon S-3

The Recon comes with a few more features and additional storage than the smaller Sprint model. This model also comes with a handy tool roll that serves its purpose. It’s stout and large enough to do its job, but not excessively large. On the pack, I would like to see the zippers for the two main pockets go further down the sides which would make it easier to fully open the pack. The Recon is also the most difficult pack to change to the shoulder strap set-up due to tightly stitched fabric in that area. It’s the intermediate size of the three models and is aimed at the rider that spends most of their time on short (<2 hour) rides near vehicles. It could also work for the occasional half day ride if you don’t need to pack for any unexpected problems (tire repair, extra clothing, tow straps, full meal, etc.). I attached a picture that shows the typical items that would fill this pack in addition to a full 3L hydration bladder. It splits the bill between the Sprint and Dakar, but is much closer in size to the smaller model than the latter. If you try to use it for day long rides, you will likely need additional storage elsewhere on the bike. If you mainly ride hare scrambles and enduros, this pack would probably be the right size for you.

Dakar

The Dakar is the largest of the three models and is aimed at the rider that is typically taking 4+ hour rides away from any vehicles. It’s simply too large if you spend the majority of your time doing shorter rides. This pack holds significantly more than the Recon model and is similar in size to a 13”-15” laptop backpack. I attached a picture of the typical riding items that would fill this pack in addition to the full 3L hydration bladder. That extra storage coupled with quality material translates into some weight, hence why I don’t recommend this if you primarily ride short rides. It’s also worth mentioning if you are looking for a pack to carry all your items on long 8+ hour rides away from humanity, you may need additional storage mounted elsewhere on your bike.

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SilentAssassin II

  

I have the exotec rp3 which is the older version of the sprint r3, looks very very similar.

Love the pack, its always secure and you don't know it's there. After about 70 hours though the bite valve leaks badly, and one shoulder strap is breaking (the inner fabric portion not the cup).

I'm planning on fixing the fabric shoulder strap and replacing the bite valve.

There are not many products out like this, it fills a niche and is good quality good storage, good water insulation.

Leatt now makes a 4.5 hydra but I read the bladder is incredibly cheap, bummer.

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