If you hang out around cycling events enough you are going to end up getting a few free water bottles. Vendors hand them out like candy on Halloween. And why not, inserting them in your bottle cage is like turning your bike into a roving billboard for the company that gives it to you.
But, sometimes you get what you pay for.
The freebies can be hard to open or have brittle mouth pieces that break off after a little use. Sometimes the cheaper plastics have an off-putting taste or texture that just isn’t quite right.
Proper hydration is such an important part of cycling that for me it’s worth a few extra bucks to buy a water bottle I like. I’ve found that having an insulated bottle is great for the hot summer months. I like to fill my bottle with a mixture of water and ice and use it to cool myself down when the temperature skyrockets into the 90s and beyond. The insulation does a great job of making the ice last a lot longer. That being said, it is not enough to keep your drink cool all day, just a couple hours at most.
I have three insulated cycling water bottles that I rotate through regularly. In general, I like all of them, but if you are thinking about purchasing a water bottle there are a few things to keep in mind with them – including a few downsides.
The three bottles I have are:
- Camelbak Podium Big Chill 25 oz, 119 g
- Polar Bottle Insulated 24 oz, 140 g
- Polar Bottle Insulated 20 oz, 122 g
Camelbak Podium Big Chill
The Camelbak Podium Big Chill sticks out amongst most water bottles on the market because of its self-sealing Jet Valve mouthpiece. It has a lock-out option that prevents accidental spilling. You just lift the bottle to your mouth, squeeze and the liquid comes out. When you stop squeezing the hole seals automatically. This prevents you from having to open and close the mouthpiece every time you have to drink.
This works great during road rides where the ride is smoother, but I’ve found that for mountain biking on a bumpy trail the Jet Valve is not enough of a barrier to prevent the bottle from leaking and that it has to be locked out. Trying to unlock the bottle while riding singletrack is not impossible, but it is a two-handed affair and definitely slows you down (it can also be done a little awkwardly with your mouth, but that is not what it is designed for).
The 25 oz capacity of Camelbak’s Big Chill makes it one of the largest cycling bottles on the market. This is great on hot days when getting extra hydration is important. The downside is that the height of the bottle makes it too tall to fit into some bike frames. On my mountain bike the Big Chill will fit into the bottle cage on the down tube, but not the cage on the seat tube. It might be worth measuring how much clearance you have on your bike before making a purchase.
Camelbak also makes a slightly smaller version – the 21 oz Podium Chill. This might be a good option for those that like the Jet Valve, but are worried about the 25 oz version being too big.
Insolated Polar Bottles
The Insulated Polar Bottles are nice too. I haven’t noticed a big difference in which brand will keep your drink cold longer, so I think focusing on the other factors is more important when deciding which way to go.
The Polar Bottles have a more traditional mouthpiece than the Camelbak, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good. The mouthpiece opens and closes with ease and snaps firmly into place. The advantage of the Polar is that I can easily open the bottle using my teeth and close it securely after I’m done drinking. Once closed it does not leak, even on gnarly singletrack.
I have both the 20 oz and 24 oz size for the Polar. I had originally purchased the 24 oz bottle because I was hoping I could squeeze it into the cage on my seat tube. Alas, it was too tall. It will fit in the cage on the down tube though. The 24 oz bottle also fits in every cage on my road bike just fine, so this won’t be an issue for every bike.
I settled on the 20 oz bottle because it was a little shorter. Losing the extra 4 oz of liquid doesn’t really affect me for the length of rides I usually do. If I need more water then that I just wear a hydration pack (which will be another article in the future so make sure you subscribe!) The 20 oz Polar Bottle has become my official bottle for racing and worked well for me all season.
Give me some feedback in the comment section. What do you look for in a good water bottle? Do you have a personal favorite that you would recommend to other cyclist? Is there anything about these bottles that I didn’t cover in the article? Please subscribe to Quickdirt to be notified of future articles. There is a subscribe box in the right sidebar.
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