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Sorry: the image is too large and not quite what I have in mind but serves to illustrate the point. This is a much more accurate depiction but is a short video on 9gag.

So. Recently I attended a cross-country endurance race. And saw a guy with that. It looked incredibly convenient to have such HUGE pockets on the front of the chest. Why is the pouch on the lower back a standard and this is unheard of?

enter image description here

Motivation: sunglasses, food, mobile phone are some of the items that require constant retrieval and putting back.

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    It’s going to dangle down unless you strap it really tight. It’s going to twist when you look over your shoulder. Just try riding with a jacket with breast pocket and put something heavy into the pocket. Side pockets work slightly better but are still suboptimal.
    – Michael
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 9:34
  • I wonder if Aero comes into it too? Depends what speeds these riders move at.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 19:33
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    I think the fact that you've seen a rider wearing one and don't see them for sale in bike shops is a good indication that it works for that guy, but most people would find it miserable. You, however, are more than welcome to take the idea and test it. If if works for you, then by all means, use a harness like this! Don't let "conventional wisdom" stop you from experimenting. At least, not on something reasonably harmless like this.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Jul 6, 2022 at 11:23
  • @FreeMan great point - these things are common and cheap on aliexpress. A few bucks for a test could be ideal.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jul 6, 2022 at 19:11
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    @FreeMan - I wonder if there is an answer in there. People are often accused of being Sheep, Cycling is the new Golf and the latest fashion all that - if its not purchased from a dedicated cycle shop at inflated prices, the rider won't 'fit in' and be a part of the cool crowd. Maybe one reason no one uses them is about form, not function - as simple as they are not fashionable.
    – mattnz
    Commented Jul 9, 2022 at 3:50

9 Answers 9

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Whilst I think this could work for some riders, there are several reasons I can think of where it would not be ideal.

For XC racers they often have a saddle to bar drop similar to a road race bike - this would mean a high chance of thighs hitting the harness at the top of the pedal stroke.

For technical riding it is common to have weight right back over the rear tyre (hence the reason for dropper posts). The harness would have a high chance of interfering with the saddle and causing problems. I once got my camelback chest strap hooked under the nose of the saddle (before dropper posts were a thing) - it was not a fun experience!

Finally, weight distribution. I believe that weight placed here will place more strain on the lower back when in a riding position.

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  • I was about to comment "well, just strap it higher" until I read the line about the chest strap. Thank You for the excellent input!
    – Vorac
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 9:33
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Another downside is that the contents of those pockets will end up digging in rather uncomfortably.

I've ridden with a belt bag worn at the front because my jersey pockets were stuffed (I tend to wear road jerseys even on the MTB) and that was bad enough though less tall than these pouches.

Even the hip belt on my shopping backpack proves restrictive if done up tight enough not to be floppy (usually on a hybrid).

Some higher pouches might be OK, perhaps on the shoulder straps of a backpack. But they wouldn't hold very much usefully.

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Constriction of the chest will limit the oxygen intake producing fatigue earlier, limiting performance.

I've been suffering from limited breathing capacity lately due to injury, and its amazing how quick I get tired and how fast an effort runs out of Oomph. Seems that "normal" riding is okay, but working hard pushes the limits and more oxygen helps.

If there's a compression of the torso, the lungs have to work harder to inflate or could be limited in their maximum expansion.

You could test this by putting a belt around your chest and tightening it some, then go for a ride.

A trouser belt or elastic waistband is lower than the lungs so wouldn't have the same impact.

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    This would be especially constrictive when bent over the bars as opposed to the upright position shown in the photo.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Jul 6, 2022 at 11:21
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If you are frequently, let alone constantly, accessing your cell phone, food and sunglasses, then you aren't racing. Sports drink frequent, food occasional for events over 3 hours, and sunglasses maybe twice in the course of an event. In a race you don't need keys or widgets, loose change, ipods, bike locks, or much of anything else, and certainly not in immediate reach.

The military harness adds weight, limits motion, rubs/chafes, adds wind drag, reduces cooling, and is another expense for money that could go to other stuff. Note the picture has it over the top of a flak vest, military gear has very targeted design that does not often match civilian activities and they value durability over placing higher in a race.

If you aren't actually racing then access to any items can be much more leisurely and there are many more comfortable options.

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In my case, the items I can think off would be my garage key, my wallet if I need to show some ID at checkpoint, my mobile phone to talk, navigate and take pictures around, maybe some candy for uphill. It is beneficial to access such things without dismounting or even on the move. Some very light strap with few pockets for these items may be an idea, have never seen such a thing on the market. The harness as pictured looks like strong overkill, it is too low, and it would be too hot to wear in summer.

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    Road cyclists have had jersey pockets since the beginning for this exact purpose.
    – ojs
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 11:56
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    The T-shirts I use now when hot almost never have any pockets.
    – nightrider
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 16:03
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    Jerseys are sold at shops. Go and get get one.
    – ojs
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 18:20
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Personally, I find it uncomfortable to have too much thing tied to my chest, I'm way more used to wearing a backpack.

I have had success attaching pockets to the backpack straps for various purposes, including small camera cases, cell phone cases normally designed to clip or loop through regular pant belt and various repurposed carrying pouches.

One thing to consider is that having these items in front hamper evaporation of sweat somewhat, and I guess a whole harness would mean chest sweat will not evaporate much. Again, I used to that for the back, but not the chest.

Following that line, I think that all the other "every ride carry" items like tools, water, patch kit, etc. do grant the use of a backpack/hydration pack, so, anything else just goes to an spare pocket.

I have rarely needed more than two quick retrieve items, and jersey pockets and short pockets have complemented perfectly, depending on the type of ride.

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I'd think the obvious answer is that when riding a bike, you're usually bent over at the waist, so having anything hanging off the front of your torso is going to be uncomfortable. Placing it on the back keeps it out of the way. These front-mounted harnesses would be fine while walking or running, because you don't bend your whole body forward at the waist while on foot. I suppose you could get that military harness and wear it backwards, but then it's hard to reach the pockets behind your back, which sort of defeats the purpose.

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The added value of such a harness seems very limited to me, compared to other alternatives such as jersey pockets, lateral pockets of a backpack or a hip bag (especially if it has belt pockets), or bags mounted on the bike (top tube, handlebar,...),... The drawbacks have already been discussed, so I won't repeat them.

First, to access an item when riding (considering it's a reasonable thing to do when mountain biking), you probably need to train to do it, so that the gesture becomes automatic. But if you need to train, why not train for another location, that doesn't come with the drawbacks of such a harness? (The only reason to not train I would see is for people with military experience that have had an extensive experience with them).

Also, I would think that the need of quick access to some items might be because the problem is not framed properly. A comment on the items you mention:

  • sunglasses: if you need to change them often, the first question is probably to check whether you have taken the right ones. The only kind I see that needs to be changed frequently are the simple "dimming ones", but if you have polarized or photochromatic ones, it's likely that they can stay on your nose for much longer periods, hence removing the need of having to remove or put them quickly.
  • phone: that's the tricky one, as phones now can also act as camera and navigation devices. If it's for navigation, you are much better off having them on the handlebar on a appropriate support than in a pocket. And as camera, it can be in an accessible pocket that is located elsewhere. But to take a picture, I'll anyway stop, because taking a picture while riding is dangerous — for me and the phone (especially mountain biking). If you use your phone for navigation and pictures, then I would think that a support such as Quadlock (or equivalent), that allows a quick removal of the phone, is a much better alternative.
  • food: as discussed, there are other placements that can be as convenient, without the drawbacks of such an harness.
  • (wallet/keys: much better to have them safely stored in the bag than with quick access, with the risk of loosing them)
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    Photochromics aren't really worth it if you're in and out of woods - they don't react anything like fast enough. I just pull my sunglasses down my nose a bit and look over the top, for a short stretch of deep shade. And stuff does get ejected from jersey pockets on impacts (don't crash, but if you do, don't lose your valuables)
    – Chris H
    Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 15:55
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Because physics. You want the lowest centre of gravity possible for stability, enabling higher speed and greater control. So you want the weight as low down in the frame as possible.

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    But compared to a hydration backpack, these might well lower the centre of gravity, unless you're sitting very upright
    – Chris H
    Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 15:53

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