by Marc Basiliere
August 28, 2013
Staunch defender of the mountain biker’s right to bear bottles? Us too. Here’s the story from Singletrack’s U.S. Field Agent of one brand’s quest to make sipping from the plastic nipple a more pleasurable experience.
It’s been a long road to market for Relaj bottles. When we first encountered Bruce at Interbike four years ago, we met a man dissatisfied with the status quo. In short, his teenage son’s questions about why standard bottles were so hard to drink from didn’t have any good answers beyond ‘that’s how they’ve always been.’ And that’s really not a good answer. So Bruce set out to design a bottle that didn’t require the rider to fuss with bottles or take their eyes off the road or trail while drinking. Along the line, several features were added and today we have the finalised product.
Now, not many riders still use water bottles, but for anyone who avoids hydration packs or would like to keep sticky drinks out of hard-to-wash bladders, they still have a place on dirt. What Relaj has done is designed a bottle that encourages bottle – rather than head – tipping. To that end, the long, gradual taper allows the bottle to be near-vertical without hitting the rider’s face or interfering with their view of the trail.
While it doesn’t flow quite as readily as other companies’ offerings, the LeakLock self-closing valve sits well below the flexible nozzle, effectively capturing drips and keeping the bike clean on rough trails. The hard base cap slides into bottle cages more easily than softer materials and serves as a mounting point for a re-freezable Ice Stick to help keep liquids cool. The ability to remove both top and bottom caps makes hand or dishwasher cleaning easy and the BPA-free material keeps unwanted chemicals out of riders’ drinks.
It’s not going to change the world, but Relaj’s features do play well both on the road and trail. Without insulation, the Ice Stick faces a losing battle on truly hot days but will delay the sensation of drinking bathwater. As a testament to Relaj’s vision, the shape does stay out of the line of sight while making getting those last few drops of drink easier than in standard bottles. The shape plays well with most bottle cages tried, but can rattle a bit in lightweight King or Blackburn stainless models. The $20 price is in line with other ‘technical’ bottles.
Online sales at relaj.com are currently limited to the US, but the company is working to bring up retail partners. It’s a specialist item for sure, but there’s a lot to be said for questioning the way things are- and how they might be improved. There’s even more to be said for those who bring those improvements to market.