Monday, July 11, 2011


So I feel the need to explain how bottles should work. 

We aren't Pros.  We wish we were, but nobody is handing us bottles from a team car, so the small euro-style bottles aren't very useful, because you're going to run out of water.  The added weight of the slightly larger bottle is inconsequential.

There are 3 types of acceptable bottles:
The gold standard:
These are cheap, easy to find, have a wide opening at the top, and are completely interchangeable as far as the tops go.  They're the most popular bottles in the (american) bike racing scene for a reason.

Also acceptable are the Camelbak bottles:

 These are almost as good as the standard bottles, except that the nozzle is harder to clean, harder to operate, and it leaks.  It also seems to have a lower flow rate than the standard bottles.  These are also more expensive, which is a problem I'll discuss below.

My favorite bottle lately is the Specialized Purist:
 The nozzle is removeable and easier to clean, but the best part of these is that they're designed to not absorb flavors, odors, or mold.  They stay clean longer than any others.  The only downside is that they cost $10 each.  That isn't a lot of money in a world where a good wheelset can cost over $2k, but let me explain why this doesn't work.

When you go to a bike race that's longer than, say, 50 miles, you need to get more water during the race.  This is done in a feed zone (hey I should do a post on feed zone etiquette).  Anyway, when you get to a feed zone, you chuck your bottles, and pick up a full one from a generous volunteer, a teammate who has already dropped out, your wife, or your mom.  The thing is, you get whatever bottle you get, and you don't get your old one back at the end of the day.

At the end of the race, often you can sort through a big bin of used bottles and take a few home with you.  The honor policy here is that you don't take more than you threw away, but it stops there.  There is absolutely no guarantee that you get your own bottle back.  That means when I'm picking through the bin, I'm going to find the nicest/cleanest bottle I can, and be on my way.

If you want to buy the super cool $10 purist bottles, good for you.  But if you take them to a bike race and chuck them at a feed zone, chances are slim that you'll ever see them again.

Buying water bottles is like buying into communism.   You aren't buying a specific bottle as much as you're buying admission into the bottle system.  The best thing to do in this case is buy the cheapest bottles that will get the job done, and those are the gold standard.

A few other notes:
Clear is the only acceptable color.  Clear blue, clear grey, or clear whatever are also fine.  An opaque bottle makes it impossible to tell how much is left in it, and makes it really hard to see mold growing on the inside.  You should be washing your bottles with a brush after every use, but lapses happen, and should you leave an inch of perpetuem in the bottom of a bottle for a week, mold is going to be there when you get back.  You're going to want to see it so that you can scrub it out.

Small bottles are acceptable for short races and recovery drinks.  They aren't very useful in a road race if it's going to last longer than an hour or so.

I think that's it for now.  Please, keep buying those Purist bottles and discarding them at feed zones.  Just don't ask for yours back if you see me with it at the next race.

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