By Dan McGehee
SipStream isn’t marketed only for time trialists and triathletes. The company, Rider Sports Innovations, has designed this drinking system to fit just about any bike and offer advantages for various types of riding — from commuting to randonneuring to racing.
Rider Sports plays up the fact that because SipStream is hands-free — the drinking tube is held by an arm at your preferred angle — it is a safer way to take sips. And because it’s easier than reaching for a bottle, you’ll drink more and ride better with adequate hydration.
I love riding long-distance time trials so I’m always interested in ways to improve aerodynamics. That’s why I was attracted to the SipStream and why this review is written from an aero perspective.
If a need for speed is not your main priority, consider the additional benefit of not needing to take a hand off the bar to drink. This is also an advantage of Camelbak-style hydration systems, but SipStream puts the system’s weight on the bike rather than your back.
The SipStream was quite easy to install with the exception of the lower bolt in the bottle cage compartment. It requires lots of little turns with the short end of an allen key. I recommend using the shortest bolt possible to reduce the number of turns. (I thought of drilling a hole through the bottle cage in line with the bolt to make access easier, but I didn’t want to potentially compromise the cage.)
Total setup time took an hour, mostly because I was playing around with different ways to route the tubing. You could certainly mount it in 15 minutes following the basic and colorful instruction manual.
The clamp of the extension arm assembly would not close around my Ritchey Comp stem using the supplied bolt. I could have used a zip tie but decided instead to put the clamp around the spacers below the stem on the steerer tube, as shown in this photo. This position also kept the arm from obscuring my power meter.
Bottle and Cage
The system comes with two 750-mlbottles, which can be quickly and easily changed on the fly — if you have a way to carry the second bottle. My Cervelo P3 has only one bottle cage mount, so I installed a second cage behind the saddle. The instruction manual shows the SipStream on a Cervelo P1, and it is obvious that the size of the system on the down tube prohibits having a bottle cage on the seat tube. I found the same limitation when I put the SipStream cage on my Somec road bike.
I also found SipStream’s bottle to be too small. Given that a major advantage of the system is maintaining an aerodynamic position, the company should consider a much larger bottle, perhaps as large as 1,200 ml so it doesn’t need to be changed out as frequently. Different size bottles could be offered (e.g., 750, 950, 1,200 ml) to give the rider a choice that caters to the length of the ride or event.
When using a frame-mounted water bottle for a long-distance race, I typically use ultra-oversized bottles (Maxi Cincio or Zefal Magnum, shown here) that hold 925 ml to decrease the number of times I need to stop for a refill. Conveniently, these bottle sizes fit nicely into the SipStream cage when I do rides without the system. However, standard-size and typical over-size water bottles do not fit well.
Although the SipStream bottle is mounted with the hose connection at the bottom so fluid is fed by gravity, my system didn’t leak even when exchanging bottles. Well, actually the first sample did drip because of a faulty connection, but the company promptly provided a replacement part that solved the problem.
Without a doubt, the rider’s body position plays a much bigger role in aerodynamics than the size or shape of the water bottle. But in terms of the ???coolness” factor, it would go a long way for us aero-geeks to have the bottle/cage be more aerodynamic.
The drinking tube (portion facing rider) has minimal flexibility. Once you find the sweet spot for the extension arm’s position, it can be tightened to stay put. Or it can be folded down out of the way when not in use, although it might still interfere when lowering the head in an aero tuck. It would seem that the system could be every bit as effective without the extension arm, instead using a semi-rigid sheath on the tubing.
There is a fair amount of exposed tubing. That’s not a problem In temperate weather conditions. I used the SipStream for about 60 hours of winter rides in the Arizona desert. When it got hot, so did my drink — quickly. When it got real cold, as it did on one occasion, ice developed in the tubing (using water) and I had to wait for the sun to rise before I could drink through it. A flexible sheath for the tubing could be used to provide insulation as well as adjustability.
The bite valve has a comfortable design that allows adequate flow. It takes a bit of suction to draw the fluid through the tubing, unlike with a more passive back-mounted hydration system. This wasn’t an issue until the latter part of long rides when I just wanted to get off the bike and the extra work of sucking on a straw was not appealing.
The SipStream hydration system is simple to install and easy to clean. It fits virtually any bike and allows for customizing during setup. The payoff is hands-free drinking for any rider seeking convenience, safety or better aerodynamics. Replacing an empty bottle with a full one is so easy it can be done while riding. With improvements in bottle/cage shape and capacity, it could be an even better system for those of us obsessed with riding faster.
Dan McGehee is a long-distance road racer and time trialist who lives in Mesa, Arizona.