Touring tip #4: Star water carriers

Not long ago, someone discovered that cycling water bottles (or bidons) contained a toxic chemical called BPA that was potentially seriously harmful to human health. Some, though not all, bidons are BPA-free, but even if they are, it doesn’t stop them making your drink taste all nasty and plasticky nor providing an excellent long term breeding ground for all manner of unpalatable, and possibly unhealthful, fungi and bacteria. This latter problem is particularly bad if you fill a bidon with anything other than water, particularly sugary drinks. I don’t expect milk is much good either.

Cyclists who return home after a ride can wash out, or even boil their bidons to keep them tasting fresh. For touring cyclists this is more difficult. And that’s one of the reasons I really like the Topeak Modula XL water bottle cage. It is designed not for cycling bidons but for your standard-issue mineral water bottle. This is the kind that doesn’t taste of plastic and that can be easily recycled & inexpensively replaced if it starts to get a bit whiffy.

More than that, mineral water bottles are bigger than normal cycling bidons, which makes them ideal when you’re wild camping as it’s always nice to have a plentiful supply of water for cooking, making tea, brushing your teeth and all that kind of thing.

The bottle cage is vertically adjustable so it will take a variety of different types of water bottle. I’d recommend using sparking water bottles as they tend to be more durable than most still water bottles which are a bit flimsy.I’ve used one for years, though there are reports of the cages breaking when ridden over rough ground. Being aluminium, they’re lightweight but difficult to repair. Maybe someone will come out with a steel version.

Another approach is only to use bottles up to a litre in capacity, so as to reduce the strain on the cage, or not to put more than a litre of water into the bottle unless you absolutely need it. For cycle tourists heading to really dry, rough or remote places, it’s worth considering taking a water bag to supplement a frame-mounted  bottle for drinking while riding.

I really like stainless steel waterbottles. They’re super durable and don’t have any nasty plastic coatings. They’re easier to find than ever, and cheaper too. But I’ve never found a way of keeping a metal water bottle securely fastened in a frame-mounted bottle cage. Maybe a leather or neoprene wrapper would help. Any suggestions?

  • http://twitter.com/Philip_Lowden Philip Lowden

    A really nice series of touring tip blog posts, thanks.
    We’ve been using stainless steel vacuum bottles for a couple of years now, great for hot weather if you pack them full of ice, but as you point out they don’t fit in normal bottle cages. We found that a thick climbing sock, pulled over and then folded back to double the thickness, provides enough of a shim to get the bottle to fit snugly in a standard cage.

  • Lisa

    Like Philip, I too am finding these little touring tips a nice read.
    To hold my steel bottles in place – and my flask too (for those very early starts when I want a coffee in the middle of nowhere) – I cut the top part off an old, somewhat fusty, very probably BAP-riddled water bottle, and now use it as a holder in the bottle cage. Works very well for me (and I ride on a lot of bumpy roads!).

  • Lisa

    Here’s what I mean – my little thermal cup from an early morning coffee dash – not terribly in keeping with Bike Show sartorial elegance I know, but it does work … no rattling!

  • http://twitter.com/Philip_Lowden Philip Lowden

    Nice idea Lisa, I’ll give that a try. The socks wear out after a while.

  • Lisa

    Glad you like it! I did try socks myself (modelled on the little ‘sock’ idea some manufacturers have come up with for keeping your mobile phone in) – but I found it just didn’t work for me. The sock ended up getting filthy and wet – which was a faff to clean up. An old-bottle-massacre seems to be a more durable solution!

    • http://twitter.com/thebikeshow Jack Thurston

      A good idea. I was thinking about wrapping an old inner tube around a stainless steel bottle, that might give it the extra grip to stay in the bottle cage.

      • Lisa

        That sounds like a good idea – a great way to re-use old inner tubes. I’ve a heap of them lying around – can’t bear to send them to landfill!

  • PJ McNally

    This is my simple solution –

    just as to carry a plastic bottle, you use a metal mottle cage,
    then to carry metal bottles on the bike – you need a plastic bottle cage.

  • http://twitter.com/steinsky Joe Dunckley

    “someone discovered that cycling water bottles (or bidons) contained a toxic chemical called BPA”

    I don’t think anybody needed to “discover” it. If I recall correctly, BPA is deliberately added to the plastic to make it less hard and brittle, more squeezy. What was discovered is that BPA can be an estrogen mimic. A long time ago I did a “Bad Science”-style post on whether that really matters. There are several serious environmental and public health scandals out there. It’s not clear that this is one of them.

  • Jon Doyle

    I use a King Cage Iris bottle cage to hold my steel bottles (Klean Kanteens). They don’t rattle and I’ve yet to eject a bottle, even on VERY rough surfaces.

  • Old Pedaller

    Worth noting that the mineral water bottles are not meant for reuse as the squeezing action releases carcinogens eventually.