Whether you’re an elite racer or an urban commuter, if you ride a bike it’s important to stay hydrated. Believe it or not, your choice of water bottle can have a significant impact on your ride too, meaning the difference between sad and warm water when the sun is beating down on you, water that tastes like plastic, and a cool and refreshing swig that revives you.
The decision doesn’t need to be difficult, but it is worth considering a few things before you choose which water bottle will get you through your thirsty work on the bike. So here’s our guide to choosing the right water bottle for your needs, followed by our list of recommendations.
The capacity you choose depends on what’s more important to you: saving weight and space on your frame, or having enough water for an all-day ride. Generally cycling water bottles come with a capacity between 17.5 and 25.5oz, and a standard sizing that works with most popular bottle cages. Larger capacity bottles will be longer, and therefore will require more space on your frame. If you ride an extra small bike, you may be limited to smaller capacity bottles.
However if you’re able to, choose the capacity based on your drinking habits and how often you take a sip. It’s recommended to drink around a liter of water per hour of cycling, so the size of your bottle should reflect that.
Lid and nozzle design
It goes without saying that the lid of a cycling water bottle should not leak, so opt for something secure and well-made. Nozzle designs will potentially influence how quickly the water flows from your bottle, so this is something to consider too. Also, consider a nozzle that locks, to prevent leaking.
Drinking little and often will be largely unaffected by nozzle design, but if you need to gulp occasionally, you’ll want a larger nozzle design, like the one found on Camelbak’s bottles.
Whether you choose a push-pull or a squeeze nozzle design, comes down to your personal preference. Both options offer leak proof hydration.
The design isn’t just about how the bottle looks, but also how comfortable it is to use. It needs to fit securely in your hand as well as the bottle cage, not rattle while you ride, and not drip water everywhere.
Some bottles will have a fluted neck which allows you to grip it with a finger, while others will have collars or indents to help it stay in place when secured in the bottle cage.
Of course, a wider neck is better as it allows more space for adding energy powders, as well as making it easier to negotiate taps and fountains when you’re refilling mid-ride. It also means cleaning will be much easier as well.
While most water bottles tend to be made of plastic, some are made from aluminum or stainless steel. If you’re buying a plastic water bottle, it’ll most likely be made from either high-density polyethylene (HDPE) low-density polyethylene (LDPE), copolyester or polypropylene. These all have their own characteristics, for example LDPE bottles tend to be more flexible than HDPE ones which feel more rigid. LDPE bottles have more squeezability, delivering a thirst-quenching gulp when you need it most.
Just be sure to choose a bottle that is made from a BPA-free or FDA-certified material, which is perfectly safe to use.
Ease of Cleaning
You need to clean your water bottle after every use to prevent bacteria build-up, which not only can make you ill, but also contributes to the nasty tastes and smells that can come from your bottle. This is particularly the case with plastic bottles, since they’re porous on the inside, so strong flavours can permeate the plastic.
Insulation comes with an added cost but it’s a great extra if you’re out riding all day in the heat, because it will keep your water colder for longer. There’s nothing worse than finishing a brutal climb in suffocating heat, only to gulp down some warm water afterwards.
Insulated water bottles are usually double-walled with an insulating layer in the middle. Not only does this help water stay cool in the heat, it can also prevent it from becoming too cold when the weather turns icy cold.
It’s definitely worth the investment if you ride year-round in all weathers.
A rugged and durable bottle that will stand the test of time
This 24oz bottle is large enough to meet the needs of most cyclists. It’s made from robust material, with a strong lid and secure nozzle, delivering the kind of quality you’d expect from a brand like Camelbak. With its excellent construction quality offering respectable longevity, and flexible skin that makes it very comfortable to hold, this is a great option if you need a water bottle that’s durable.
The nozzle design is very generous, offering a decent amount of water per gulp, which makes it a great option if you ride a lot in the heat, or tend to forget to drink until you’re suddenly incredibly thirsty.
This basic bundle is perfect for beginners who just want to ride
If you’re starting completely from scratch, why not get everything done in one go, with this two-in-one bundle from Schwinn: a water bottle and cage for an unbeatable price. The bottle is made from BPA-free plastic, while the bottle cage is metal for durability and security.
It’s quite a basic pair of accessories but it’s a bundle that’s perfect for beginners who just want to attach a water bottle to their bike and hit the road.
A featherlight bottle that weighs less than 2lbs
If you’re looking for something that won’t add too much weight to your ride, the Elite Fly is an excellent option. At 1.9lbs, it won't weigh down your frame any more than necessary. Its rugged BPA-free construction, along with the secure nozzle, flexible plastic casing and durability make it an excellent choice if keeping the pounds off is a priority for you.
With a 550ml capacity (or 19.4oz), it should last a while on the road. It also comes with a range of colors to choose from as well, so it’s easy to coordinate it with your frame color or your favourite cycling kit.
If "steel is real", this bottle is for you
In complete opposition to the weight weenie, if you’re more of a heritage-oriented cyclist with a love of all things steel and titanium, then you might just fall in love with this incredibly stylish stainless steel bottle from Triple Tree. It looks and feels amazing, and while it functions as a water bottle it is also a work of art in its own right.
The bottle is constructed from BPA-free and food-grade stainless steel, and is vacuum insulated so it will keep your cold water cold, and your hot drinks hot, for up to 24 hours.
Keep your water at the perfect temperature, all the time
Insulation can make all the difference on a particularly hot or cold ride, and this Polar insulated bottle is ideal if you live somewhere with extreme climate changes. It keeps your drink at a reasonable temperature throughout your ride, so it stays cool on hot days and doesn’t freeze on very cold days.
It’s constructed from a double-wall with an insulating layer in the middle, which does make it heavier than standard water bottles, but it’s not a huge amount and unless you’re a real weight weenie, the benefits should outweigh the additional pounds. It’s also dishwasher safe, which is a bonus.
For a simple and minimal look
If you prefer a more sleek and minimal look for your bike, you might opt for Fabric’s cageless bottle and forego the bottle holder altogether. The cageless design consists of two studs that bolt onto your bottle cage mounts, and the accompanying bottle has two divots in its side which you use to slot it into place. This way you have the same experience as you would with the cage, except without the additional clutter on your frame.
In terms of materials and quality, the Fabric cageless water bottle is strong enough to stay in place on even the roughest roads, though we’d advise against using it on gravel or mountain bike trails.
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Mildred is a Reviews Writer for Cyclingnews who loves all forms of cycling from long-distance audax to daily errand-running by bike. She does almost everything on two wheels, including moving house, and started out her cycling career working in a bike shop. For the past five years she's volunteered at The Bristol Bike Project as a mechanic and session coordinator, and now sits on its board of directors. Since then she's gone on to write for a multitude of cycling publications, including Bikeradar, Cycling Plus, Singletrack, Red Bull, Cycling UK and Total Women's Cycling. She's dedicated to providing more coverage of women's specific cycling tech, elevating under-represented voices in the sport, and making cycling more accessible overall.
Height: 156cm (5'2")
Rides: Liv Devote, Genesis Equilibrium Disc 20, Triban RC520 Women's Disc, Genesis Flyer, Whyte Victoria, Cotic BFe 26, Clandestine custom bike
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