How to carry your drinks on your bike is a popular debate no matter if you are a pro or if, like me, you measure success by whether you finished your iron distance race before your kids’ bedtime.If one perfect product existed that was aerodynamic, inexpensive, easy to refill and didn’t slop sticky sports drink all over your Garmin, most of us would simply purchase that. But it has never been that easy.Triathlon cycling: one water bottle does not fit allFor one thing, not all bikes are built to handle the same bottle setup. When I had an old clunker of a road bike with clip-on aerobars, life was pretty simple. I could carry two bottles on the frame and one in the aerobars. Since the bike was heavy and old and not aerodynamic, it didn’t matter much to me that my bottles were also not aero, and that three full bottles amounts to a lot of weight.Years later when I purchased my Felt B2, I realized that not only was it impossible to mount a bottle to the skinny aero down tube (the one that runs at an angle from the handlebars to the pedals), I also couldn’t fit most of the taller bottles on the frame at all.
f I cram a regular bottle into the bottle cage on my seat tube, the top of the bottle often smacks into the top tube. This is because I am short and ride a 48 cm frame. There just isn’t enough space in there for a tall bottle, including the disposable ones race volunteers hand up to me on long-course races.
Yet another problem is the way we set up our drinks on our bike in a race is almost never the way we set up drinks on our bike to train. Why? Shouldn’t we train how we race?
Yes indeed, but the last time I rode 50 miles out into the country, there was no aid station at the turnaround.
So then the decision becomes, which is worse? Wearing a hydration backpack for 100 miles, or stopping for five minutes to buy water and sports drink at a gas station? Or, in my case, stopping under a tree and pretending to look at my map until a nice Amish man came outside and offered me some delicious well water.
Best hydration setup for triathlons
Of BeginnerTriathlete.com members who participated in our poll, none of the 11 variations of bottles, containers and backpacks were favored by even half of the respondents. The plurality was a 36 percent voting block who put bottles in cages on their bike frames. The next highest vote-getter was the aerobottle mounted in the aerobars with a straw. (The cheapest and therefore most popular among beginners is the Profile Design aero bottle, pictured.) Although members were permitted to vote for more than one option, there was not much consensus.
One expert in the field, TriSports University editor Tom Demerly, says most pros have settled on a high quality bottle in the aerobars with a straw and another bottle somewhere on the frame. These they refill at aid stations with water and sports drink. But even for pros, real life considerations such as whether the bottle can be refilled quickly without knocking it out of position prevail.
“If it came down to ‘what is the best,’ that’s easy,” says Demerly. “Put an aerodynamic system on the cockpit served by a rigid straw with an aero fairing on it and use a conformal bottle on the frame to enhance frame aerodynamics and expand capacity.”
“Use aid stations to replenish both during the event. Practice using this system extensively in training to do it quickly and dependably.”
What is a conformal bottle on the frame?