Water bottles

This is again a subject where I regularly wonder whether most of the designers actually use the stuff that they produce...

From left to right: Zefal Magnum, Tacx (no idea which type/name, is several years old), Adidas, Tacx Shiva, Elite Scalatore, Elite Hygene.

From left to right: Tacx Shiva, Zefal Magnum, Specialized Purist Hydroflo, Camelback podium chill.

Not yet pictured: Zefal z2o.

Perhaps to come: Specialized Purist Mo'flo, Specialized Big mouth.

In the past and present

Long ago my first bike with derailleur came equipped with black 'Cobra' water bottles. These were OK but I preferred something that shows how much there's still in the bottle. The opening of such bottles was also fairly small, it was hard to put in ice cubes and cleaning it wasn't easy either. There wasn't much choice in waterbottles in the mid 1990s, but I think it was in the late 1990s that I bought a specialized water bottle, the "Racer's edge", see picture (first appeared in a Specialized catalogue of 1993). This was my favourite up to recently: easy to gulp down a lot of water quickly, large mouth, good valve with rubber cover with cross through which the water flows, similar to the Camelback Podium chill and Specialized Purist Hydroflo, rubber-like grip-ring in the middle of the bottle. It was hard to find in NL, only bike shops that sold Specialized bikes had them, and I never got round to going back to a big city with a Specialized dealer. Then it seems they were no longer available. The rubber parts of my Specialized bottle began to disintegrate after many years of use, so what to do? After that I tried a Zefal Magnum which is OK but its size gives problems, and recently I decided to get serious about water bottles and do a review on a bunch of them. I tried lots of water bottles but I liked almost none of them. Then I saw a store not far from me which changed one of the brands of bikes they sold to Specialized and so I could have a look and get my hands on some Specialized bottles again. The old bottle looks like the recent Specialized Big mouth, but the old bottle had a rubber seal at the top which looks more like the Purist Hydroflo, and the old bottle had a grip ring. I have a Hyfdroflo which I will test along with a Camelback Podium chill and will compare with the Adidas which is my favourite of the bottles I had already tested (which is inferior to the old "Racer's edge"...).

Some bottles on my test bike: Zefal Magnum which doesn't fit below the down tube, Camelbak Podium chill, Adidas:

The order in the table is based on the date that I bought these bottles:

By the way: how much water stays in the bottle was measured by repeatedly squeezing it, upside down. In actual use more remains behind in the bottle when you think "almost nothing is coming out any more, I quit". With the Specialized Hydroflo for example that is ca. 30 gram. I will add this better practial test for all bottles I still have.

Update 2015-7-8: The Camelbak bottle leaks when keeping it in upside down or horizontal position. Also, I've been using the Specialized Purist insulated for a while. Works well, doesn't leak (at the moment at least), thermal properties to be compared with the Camelbak bottle.

Update 2016-2-5: I bought the Elite's Deboyo stainless steel thermos bottle for on the bike and any other use. Looks nice except for the Cola ads, but I couldn't find a neutral version. Has a stainless steel top or a bicycle top. With stainless top it's about 290 g, with bike top about 300g. Review soon.

Name Contents (litre) when filled to the brim Inner diameter of the mouth (mm) Mass (g) How much stays in the bottle (1. squeezing until nothing comes out/ 2. trying to drink even tiny drips that come out until you are fed up :) ) (g) Experiences
Specialized Racer's edge ca. 0.7 l ? ? ? / ? g Introduced in 1993 (it's listed in the catalogue of 1993). This was until recently the best water bottle that I had ever used. It has a nozzle that doesn't just let water out even in the position 'open' and a grip ring of a rubber like material just below where the bottle gets narrower to fit into bottle cages (which were originally for 0.5l bottles). The new Purist Hydroflo is probably slightly better, and the Podium chill possibly too, but the difference is small. No longer made!
Zefal Magnum 0.953 65 109 10 / ? g Big and you can drink quickly from it. Too wide at the top (82 mm ∅ whereas other bottles have a diameter of ca. 73 mm), this gives a problem on the seatpost tube, my calves hit it... Too long (26.3 cm, bottles of 0.7 to 0.8 l are ca. 23 to 25 cm long and have a smaller diameter of the top) for on the bottom of the downtube, then it hits the fenders of the front wheel. In that position it might not even stay properly in the bottle cage when it's full due to the weight... Good when taking the price into account, but the size gives problems, it cannot be used in all positions on a bike. This is also an issue in frame sizes M or smaller, you may need a side loading cage. Further you can't just place a bottle from one cage and swap it with a bottle in another cage when one of them is empty. All in all I don't see this bottle as being very useful.
Tacx, I estimate from 2008 or earlier 0.799 48 95 10 / ? g Works well, press-on top, easy to clean. No longer made...
Adidas 0.798 52 99 11 / ? g Works well. It would be better if the screw-top had some ribs for grip. With a length of 24.5 cm and rounded top it just fits in the bottom bottle cage on my test bike without touching the fenders. The bottle is easy to clean. Good when taking the price into account, it is however far inferior to the best 2 bottles by Specialized and Camelbak.
Tacx Shiva 0.846 45 (rather small) 94 8 / ? g The screw top doesn't have much grip with those slanted edges which give little grip. This whole 'design' with sharp edges even in the body of the bottle is stupid. It makes it very hard to clean, esp. just below the screw top. The mouth is rather small, too small for my dish brush. Not recommended.
Elite Scalatore 0.751 44 (rather small) 100 (without dirt cap) 9 / ?g Too stiff, fairly sharp ribs on the screw top. What is the point of that? Fairly hard to compress to squeeze out drink. Drinking from it thus goes too slowly for me. Comes with a dirt cap. Such things are quite useful, especially for a bottle mounted below the down tube, but it has too sharp edges and is generally a nuisance, it's in the way when you want to drink. The mouth is rather small, too small for my dish brush. Not recommended.
Elite Hygene 0.771 44 (rather small) 112 8 / ?g Far too stiff, fairly sharp ribs on the screw top. What is the point of that? Quite hard to compress to squeeze out drink. Drinking from it thus goes too slowly for me. Discolourizes easily as you can see. The mouth is rather small, too small for my dish brush. Not recommended.
Zefal z2o 0.720 ? 79 - / 16 g Doesn't let out drink by pressing the bottle, which could be useful to transport drink in a bag and be sure it won't leak. You can only get out water by sucking. (N.B. this appears to contradict what I've read about this bottle on the net, but with my sample no matter how hard I pressed it, no water came out unless I sucked on the valve...) For on a a bike this is too hard, takes too long to get a large amount of water. I like to gulp, not sip, so this bottle is not for me... It has a dirt cap which is a good idea in general (especially for use on the bottom of the downtube (3rd bottle on a travel bike)), but this cap gets off of the bottle far too easily. I'm sure this will get lost quickly. For use on a bicycle I don't recommend this bottle. Doesn't seem to be made any more, hmm...
Specialized Hydroflo (size 23) 0.685 54 102 13 / 30 g. Works quite well. Doesn't let out water if you turn it upside down with the valve in the position "open". The bottle is very soft so easy to compress and then you can have a big gulp of water. The bottle is not quite round and has 3 small bulges which gives the bottle a good grip though that's not needed due to the soft plastic. Cleaning should according to one source, only be done with some soap and shaking, no brush as that would remove the inner layer (although the instructions for mine, nor Specialized's website mention this layer, so perhaps this was an earlier version?).
Addition 2023-4-13: Already not long after first using it I found that the bottle sits quite loose into some bottle cages as the diamater is less than 74mm for the lower half of the bottle and because it's not quite round it means it can sag to the left or right. I don't particularly like this and though I have several I ended up using almost exclusively the Purist insulated which doesn't have this issue...
Good, but pricey (ca. €12)
Camelbak Podium chill (size 21) 0.638 51 102 15 / ? g I'm not convinced by the rotating valve lock. To open it you turn it counter clockwise which will unscrew the cap if it's not screwed on tightly. You can have a large gulp of water with this bottle, partly because it's easy to compress, good! Keeping cool drink cool on a hot day works, but not a lot better than a regular water bottle, they both let the water get warm fairly quickly if it's really hot (tested using cool water from the refrigerator). Update 2015-7-8: The Camelbak bottle slowly leaks when keeping it in upside down or horizontal position. I found this out when taking it with me in a backpack...
Conclusion: For on the bike the leaking is no problem, but I like it a bit less than before as I want a bottle to not leak so I can use it also for in a backpack, even in the outside bottle compartment of a backpack then if you lay your backpack on the ground the bottle will leak which is undesireable... The thermal properties are reasonable but don't expect too much of that. And it is pricey (ca. €17).
My interest in thermo bottles for cool drinks was not great, and has decreased. I am more inclined to use a real thermo bottle, especially if it fits in a bottle cage... Those are heavier, but have much better thermal properties.
Camelbak dop
Specialized Purist insulated (size 23) 0.630 l 54 mm 154 g (heavy!) ?? / 28 g. Works quite well. Doesn't let out water if you turn it upside down with the valve in the position "closed". The bottle is soft, easy to compress and then you can have a big gulp of water. Thermal insulation experienced on hot days (30+ °C) which works but I don't think it's that important. Warm drinks work well too as I described below. Good, but quite pricey (ca. €20)
Elite Deboyo 500 ml vacuum bottle 0.500 l 60 mm ca. 290 g ?? / ?? g. Ca. EUR 25 (in 2019). The big opening means it is easy to clean. It keeps heat (or cold) quite well, at least far better than thermo bicycle bottles (no vacuum) but there are better bottles regarding the insulation. I would recommend instead the Active flask (or a similar bottle by '720 degree'), see my travel pages for a review of thermos bottles. It does fit better into most bottle cages than the other thermos bottles I review there, but still it doesn't easily go into a standard aluminium bottle cage as shown in the pictures pn this page, due to the too sharp edge at the end, instead of tapering a bit to a smaller diameter so it would glide more easily into the cage. It works fine with the Point retro cage, but then so do Thermos King and Active flask, so the Deboyo has little advantage for cycling even though it is specifically meant for cycling... Then after unscreweing the cap that was at one point hard to unscrew (from low pressure created by a cold drink poured into it), a while later the cap's stainless top got loose and had a tear in the steel... I fixed it more or less but I'm not impressed... See for more on my travel pages.
Elite Ice fly 650 ml 0.650 l 54 mm 140 g 8 / 8 g. Ca. EUR 12 (in 2023). It is fairly light, soft, a bit slippery compared to other bottles. Height 27.2 cm (The Specialized purist insulated is 25.4 cm high). Will I drop it inadverently while riding? The fairly big opening and that it has no narrower section on the inside (it's just straight) where the bottle is slightly narrower so as to properly fit into cages which are normally designed for 500ml bottles, means it is easy to clean, better than the Specialized bottles. It has no sharp edges except the edge of the plastic ring that holds the cap onto the bottle. Right, that's no problem, I can sand that edge. In all it looks far better than the older Elite bottles which I all hated (and never used again). To do: Measure the thermal coefficent as I did with the Purist insulated on my travel pages.
Fully filled with water (to the rim) I get to 790g, so the bottle has a maximal capacity of 0.650 litre, as per specifications.
How much stays in the bottle: It weighs about 148 g when almost nothing comes out drinking yoghurt drink (same with water), another 5 g comes out when taking the cap off, the rest (3g) is sticking to the walls (same with water). This is the best bottle so far in how little remains in the bottle while drinking from the cap. Thermal test: 51 C water poured into the Elite Ice fly 650 and the Specialized Purist insulated with a room temperature of 14.4 C, gave at the start a temperature of 49.8 C water in both bottles, and after 2 hours 5 minutes: Ice fly 32.1 C , Purist insulated 30.2 C [ In the video I measured again a minute or so later, so it was slightly lower at 31.9 C / 30.0 C for these bottles ]. The Elite fly wins in most all aspects... Thermal coefficient: k= -ln( (T2-Tair)/(T0-Tair) ) / t, with t the time in hours, this means k= 0.333. The coefficient of the Purist insulated in my 2023 measurment is 0.387 wheras a few years ago I calculated 0.350 from the measurements then. In any case both are worse than the Ice fly, so I'm going to recommend the Elite Ice fly.
Note: There are alternatives which are proper vacuum bottles that fit into standard bottle cages such as the Thermos King 0.47 l, the Active flask (or a similar bottle by '720 degree'), Elite Deboyo, and the Stanley Classic trigger action travel mug 0.47 l, see my travel pages for a review of thermos bottles. [ review of the Stanley Classic trigger action travel mug 0.47 l with thermal measurements to come. ]


Of the tested bottles there are only 2 3 (1 more with the Ice fly) that are at least as good as the Specialized 1990s bottle "Racer's edge", namely the Specialized Hydroflo, the Camelbak Podium chill (non-thermo bottles by Camelbak are an option too, but hardly cheaper, and slightly more expensive than the Hydroflo), and the Elite Ice fly (the same will be true for the non thermo Elite Fly bottles).

For water bottles on bicycles I think the practical limit is about 0.7 to 0.8 l. The size is then such that you won't hit it with your calves or that it's too long or too heavy for the cage on the bottom of the downtube. Do you really need a 1 litre bottle? If you want more you could always add a double bottle cage behind the saddle...

On my 2 touring bikes the length of the thermal bottles is an issue for the seat tube: I can't fit the Ice fly 650 nor the Specialized Purist insulated (and probably also the Camelback podium chill, which I gave to a relative) on both of them (medium frames, which I chose as I want a short top tube for fast touring, otherwise I ride a large (58-60 cm)), well, except if I use a side loading cage such as the Elite Moreo, then on my vanicholas Pioneer I can fit the Specialized Purist insulated and even just fit the Elite Ice fly. If you ride a large frame then these bottles will likely fit on the seat tube with any type of bottle cage.

Is cool or even cold drink important for your performance?

I was curious, so I did some calculations:

Cool drink is therefore mainly of use to feel refreshed, it barely helps you to cool down when doing heavy work.

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