Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
You might recall that back a couple of Tech Talks, we reviewed a biodegradable bicycle bottle from Elite. It being one of the first pollution-fighting bidons we’d seen, we awarded it our highest rating of 5 stars. The review is here if you missed it: Elite Jet Water Bottle and Vico Carbon Cage Review.
After the rave appeared, a roadie going by “energizer” left what I thought was an interesting comment. Actually, I’ve been thinking about it off and on since she or he weighed in. So, this week, I’m going to reply to the comment with some feedback. And, if you have ideas for “energizer,” please share them with a comment and hopefully we’ll all learn something.
Reacting to our Review, “Energizer” said
“First thing this roadie noticed when looking at the picture … oh crud, another water bottle that you really don’t want to take out in the rain. No protective dome over the nozzle. Do you really like drinking from a bottle nozzle that’s been sprayed with crud from the road? Pity, the old Nalgene “ATB” bottle with the domed cap that got cheapened by its manufacturer some years ago making the hinges on the dome too fragile. Hardly any stores I know carry it anymore because users found out it didn’t last.”
That Nalgene Bottle
I remember the Nalgene ATB bottle with the domed, hinged protective cap that “energizer” misses. I’m pretty sure I reviewed it when it came out because I recall thinking it was an ingenious idea for keeping mud off the nozzle and out of your mouth when you’re mountain biking.
Actually, a big part of the reason the Camelbak backpack hydration system became almost mandatory for mountain biking was because its nozzle/mouthpiece was much easier to keep clean. It could just be me, but I think of that capped Nalgene bottle and the Camelbak systems as off-road products, where dirt and mud can be constant companions.
Do Roadies Need Nozzle Protection?
When I think of road riding both my own and historically, bottles haven’t changed much. As far as I know most haven’t had caps over the nozzles for maybe about 40 years. There’s four likely reasons for that that come to my mind:
- Pavement isn’t as dirty as trails.
- When you’re road riding and speeds are relatively fast, it’s hard enough to remove the bottle, open the nozzle, drink and replace the bottle without losing control and/or crashing. Adding a cap you have to deal with makes it even harder.
- When you need a drink, you might really need it, so quick and easy access can be essential. This is especially true for racing.
- As long as it’s working correctly, when a nozzle is closed the bottle is sealed. So any crud landing on the nozzle should not be able to make its way inside the bottle.
What I Do
My technique for when I’m riding anytime or anywhere the bottle might have gotten dirty, is to open the nozzle and then point it down and give the bottle a squeeze to blast out some water.
I hope that the blast clears the nozzle so that I’m drinking only liquid. And, if it’s dirty I just don’t make contact with the nozzle. I squirt the water into my mouth.
Bottles Have Some Protection Already
What’s more, while they don’t provide the protection a nozzle cap would, the frame tubes on road bikes shelter the bottle to some extent. Here’s a photo I took to try to simulate what happens when water on a rainy day is thrown up at a down-tube mounted bottle from the front wheel.
I think you can see that the frame blocks a lot of the spray, splitting it and keeping it away from the nozzle, which is small and centered on the bottle. It also blocks water falling from above. The frame can’t completely keep the bottle clean, but I think it protects it pretty well. And, if you’re riding a bicycle equipped with fenders, the bottle is even safer.
Surprise! Old Bottles DID Have Caps!
Just as I was about to wrap this up, I remembered that I have a circa 1969 French bottle on my René Herse. I thought it had a simple open/close tip that you pull and push with your hand or mouth. But, I was wrong. You can see in the photo it has a cap that presses onto the nozzle.
As soon as I saw it, I remembered the other bottles that we all used in the 70’s and early 80’s, like Mariplasts, from Italy, I believe. Those had the same basic design as my old French bottle with a little cap that covers and seals the nozzle from contamination.
Now I’m wondering why we went away from this design? I realize it’s easier to open and close modern nozzles and most won’t leak even when left open (the old ones could). But, still, it does seem that “energizer” has a valid point.
How About You?
Even having seen the cap on my old TA bottle, overall, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you mostly ride the road, you probably don’t need caps over your bottle nozzles. But, I’m interested in what others think.
Do you use a backpack hydration system because you’re worried about bottles getting contaminated? Do you cover your bottle nozzles to keep them clean? How? Do you have another technique for clearing and cleaning your nozzle before drinking on rainy, dirty rides? Please let me, “energizer,” and all of the roadies reading this know by leaving a comment. Thank you!
Ride total: 9,639
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim’s full bio.