It might sound like a particularly doughy statement to make, but being able to drink water while you’re riding is kind of important. Whether you drink isotonic sports drink, flavoured energy drinks or just plain old water, staying hydrated is a really simple way of ensuring your body is properly fuelled. Of course you gotta eat too, and smashing back energy gels, muesli bars and pork pies will provide you with carbohydrates, but when it comes to proper muscle function, staying hydrated is key.
Dehydration is a killer when it comes to mountain biking. Studies have shown that losing just 2% of your bodyweight in fluids can cause serious dehydration, and that leads to a loss in muscle function, concentration, and those awkward grab-the-back-of-your-hammy cramps that make you dance all over the place. And nobody wants to do that dance.
Although this isn’t an article about sports nutrition, needless to say it’s damn important that you make sure you’ve got access to fluids both before and during a ride. So to help highlight some of the more convenient ways to access those fluids, while you’re on the bike, we’ve come up with 13 different ways to do it.
1. Bottle Cage
The good old bottle cage (or ‘bidon cage’ if you like to sound fancy) is about as simple as it gets for carrying water on a bike. It’s a lightweight and simple solution, and it puts the bottle within easy reach while riding. Thankfully the two-bolt bottle cage standard hasn’t changed (yet…), and pretty much every hardtail and some full suspension bikes come ready to fit a cage and bottle inside the mainframe. Because of some full suspension designs, not all frames will take a bottle and cage inside the mainframe however, so it isn’t always an option for every rider.
2. Fabric Cageless Bottle
Using the same two-bolt mounting standard as a regular bottle cage, the Fabric Cageless Bottle essentially achieves the same goal of putting a 600ml or 750ml bottle within arms length. However, it does it all without a cage. Instead of a standard cage, the Fabric Cageless Bottle features two grooves moulded into the shape of the bottle, and these grooves line up with two little stubs that bolt onto the frame where a cage would normally go. The bottle then slides down and ‘clips’ into place onto the mounting stubs. The difference between this and a regular cage? It just looks a little neater, and it’s got ‘Fabric’ written on it. Sweet.
3. Fidlock Bottle Twist
A newcomer to the bottle market, the Fidlock ‘Bottle Twist’ kind of approaches the mounting system like Fabric’s Cageless Bottle, but adds magnets in for extra sweetness. Using the regular two-bolt mounting standard, a linear rail bolts onto the frame, with two magnetic stubs sitting at either end of the rail. On the 600ml bottle, a corresponding bracket with two magnetic pockets is designed to line up with the rail on the frame. Hold the bottle inline and above the rail, and the bottle magically attaches to the frame. To remove, you just twist the bottle to the side and it unlocks. It’s clever, neat and it works really well – plus it’s got magnets!
4. Hip Flask
When we said ‘fluids’, we didn’t only mean water. After all, if you’re out in the mountains and miles from the nearest pub, how are you going to enjoy a mid-ride aperitif? To do such a thing, you’d need a specific flask cage for your bike, and Origin8 make such a device. Ideal for stowing a lovely drop of single malt, or perhaps you’d prefer to put isotonic sports drink in there and provide the illusion to your riding buddies?
If your bike doesn’t have any mounting bolts for bottle cages, then it leaves you with little opportunity to do anything but carry a pack of some description. Packs from the likes of Source, Deuter, Camelbak, Dakine and EVOC allow you to not only carry your gear with you on your next all-day mission, they also typically come with a bladder inside that means you can access water through a drinking tube, while you’re riding. Most of these bladders will go up to 3litres in volume, making a hydration backpack the ticket for the kind of long distance rides that have you packing two sandwiches and a spare derailleur hanger. If you want to check out some of the options currently available, then have a gander at all of our hydration pack reviews here.
6. Bum Bags
A newer option in the world of mountain biking packs is the bum bag (or ‘fanny pack’ if you will). Drawing on the 1980s for inspiration, the humble bum bag has been reimagined for mountain bikers with the addition of a smaller bladder and drink tube that allows you to port water like you would with a backpack, but in a tidier waist-mounted pack that doesn’t cover your back and shoulders with straps and such. One of the earlier options on the market was the Camelbak Palos, which we reviewed just recently. Ideal for rides under 2 hours, and for those who don’t have the ability to fit a water bottle to their frame.
7. Hip Packs
As more riders look towards minimalist pack style, more and more waist-mounted pack options are becoming available, such as this Bontrager Rapid Pack. It’s like a paired down version of a bum bag, and doesn’t have a bladder. Instead, it has a nice stretchy pocket that’ll fit a regular water bottle, and a few other pockets to store a multi-tool and your smartphone. You wouldn’t head out for an all-day epic with just one of these, but for chasing the sunset on an after-work ride, it’s ideal.
8. Soft Bottles
Yes, this is a thing! Admittedly a thing that’s existed in the running world for a while, but a new thing to mountain bikers. Despite it looking like an alien’s lung, the soft bottle is actually a great option for riding, and particularly those who want to carry a bottle in their jersey pocket but can’t fit a regular bottle. This one from Camelbak is called the Quick Stow, and it’s available in regular and insulated versions with a 500ml capacity. It’s squishy and flexible, so it tucks neatly into a jersey pocket or a stealth baselayer/bib pocket, though it’s also a great way of carrying a bit of extra water in your backpack if you think you’ll need it.
9. Stealth Base Layer Pockets
Be it for vanity or practical reasons, there’s been a recent movement towards carrying one’s gear in ‘stealth’ mode while riding. Maybe your frame doesn’t have a water bottle cage, or maybe you just don’t want to clutter the look with a daggy plastic bottle? Whatever the reason, brands such as Troy Lee Designs are offering clothing items such as base layers with stretchy back pockets that are ideal for stowing your essentials, including a bottle ‘o water. It basically works like the roadie-style lycra jerseys, but it tucks your possessions in closer onto your body, with the ability to wear a looser casual style jersey over the top. Stealthy.
10. Stealth Bib Short Pockets
Also on the stealth tip is the latest crop of stealth bibshorts. Just like regular bibshorts, these feature additional sewn-in mesh pockets that again allow you to keep things like your keys, mobile phone and water bottle within handy reach, and all without having to add bags or stuff to your bike. Like the TLD Baselayer above, stealth-style bibshorts are ideal for riders who normally wear looser-fitting jerseys that don’t necessarily come with their own pockets.
11. Alpinestars Paragon Vest
This is a slightly more specific way of carrying water while you’re riding, and it’s definitely more of a niche market, but a good one at that. Italian protective wear brand Alpinestars has produced a stretchy mesh-based vest that features a flexible spine protector tucked inside. For riders who value such protection, or for those who are tackling an enduro race that requires the use of back protection, a protective vest like this is an ideal option. Where the Paragon vest differs from other spine protectors is in its ability to tuck a hydration bladder into a secondary sleeve behind the back protector plate. It’s a BYO bladder affair, so it’s a matter of pulling a 2-3litre bladder out of your backpack, and tucking it into the vest. Neat, low profile, and without need to wear a full backpack just to carry water with you on a ride.
12. Wearable Hydration
Speaking of wearable hydration, we’ve got one more for you. Recently launched on Kickstarter, this contraption is aptly titled the ‘Wet Sleeve’. It’s kind of like a hydration bladder, but instead of having it inside a backpack or inside a bum bag, it fits inside a stretchy sleeve that straps around your forearm. A little drink valve pokes out of the sleeve, and you quench your thirsty-thirst by sucking away at your arm. It’s kinda weird, and we’re not sure how it’d go having an extra half a kilo hanging off your arm while mountain biking (or maybe wear two and get BUFF??) but at the same time it could actually be a really easy way of keeping fluids at the ready. Definitely needs to be made in an enduro-blue version first though.
13. Water Balls
Oh yes, now we’re in the future! Born from a London-based crew called Skipping Rocks Lab, this water ball uses a squishy membrane made from seaweed. That means it’s edible – so you just plonk it in your gob, chow down on the ball, and you’ve got your water – how cool is that! The company behind the Ooho water balls created the product as a waste-free alternative to plastic water bottles, which have a huge environmental impact. Most mountain bikers do tend to use the same water bottle and simply refill it when necessary, somewhat limiting our environmental impact, but maybe you could just stuff your backpack full of Ooho water balls instead?
Alright, so that’s our list of ways to carry water while riding. But what have we missed? What tricks have you got for stowing water on your bike and your body? Make sure you let us know by popping your submission into the comments section below!