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Best cycling water bottles: buyer's guide

Joseph Delves
8 Aug 2021

The cycling water bottle, as known as the bidon. More than a vessel, it’s a crucial and storied bit of cycling kit

It's one of the most essential of human needs: water. Taking a drink along with you on a ride is a prerequisite on anything but the shortest of spins. However, like all things in cycling, there are right and wrong ways to go about it. And many rules, both unwritten and codified, govern the use of water bottles.

For instance, by informal common consent, the ideal size is between 500 and 600ml. Only triathletes (or more recently sensible cyclists not wanting to stop unnecessarily) think it’s acceptable to carry around outsized 750ml tippy cups.

The default location for a bottle is also on the down tube and not the seat tube, so fill this spot first before adding a second.

If you’re a pro, a bottle handed out of a team car can sometimes be ‘sticky’. This sticky bottle might allow you to gain a quick tow up the road, as long as the TV cameras or race jury aren't within sight.

However, sticky or otherwise, if you find yourself racing, you’ll need to take your bottles before the 20km to go marker, after which riders aren’t allowed to receive either drinks or food.

After the race, unused bottles usually get handed out to fans, meaning lurking in the pits can be a good place to score some new ones.

Assuming there’s no race scheduled near your house in the next few weeks, however, here are our five favourite cycling water bottles that you can buy now...

The best cycling water bottles

1. Elite Fly cycling water bottle – 550ml

Buy now from Freewheel for £5.99

In terms of providing refreshment to riders during WorldTour races, Elite and Tacx have the entire peloton sewn up. Among the riders getting their juice handed to them in an Italian-designed Elite Fly bottle are the riders of the Ineos Grenadiers, Bahrain McLaren, Team Sunweb and Movistar.

Claiming to be the world’s lightest at 56 grams for a race-approved 550ml size, the Elite Fly bottle is superbly squishy, something achieved through their variable thickness.

'Thicker on the base and thinner on the central body, this doesn't just make it possible to use less plastic material, it also ensures a tight grip and an easy-to-squeeze ergonomic structure so liquid flow is abundant with the lightest pressure,' is how Elite evocatively describes them.

Buy now from Freewheel for £5.99

2. Zefal Sense Pro cycling water bottle – 650ml

Buy now from Tredz for £7.99

While other bottles can be somewhat prone to squirting water all over you, the updated Zefal Sense Pro bottle solves this malady via its valve system.

Slightly less squeezable than some, you pop the soft slurpy bit out in order to take a drink, then push it back down to seal. Easily achievable using just your gob, the soft silicone valve is also pleasingly comfy. 

BPA-free and made in France, the Sense Pro also scores extra for sneaking in a slightly outsized 650ml serving. With an over-moulded cap it’s nice-looking, and thanks to a large neck you can also shove it full of ice cubes if the weather gets really warm.

It’s also not too expensive, being at £7.99 about the maximum most people want to pay for something they’ll invariably let go mouldy long before it’d otherwise wear out.

Buy now from Tredz for £7.99

3. Rapha Bidon 

Buy now from Rapha for £12

If you’re going to match your water bottle to anything, it might as well be to your bib shorts. Rapha’s bottles are made of neutral-tasting BPA-free plastic that’s squeezable and can be chucked in the dishwasher safely. Available in typically tasteful colour combinations, each also comes with a little slogan or motto to reinforce how refined and knowledgeable about cycling its owner is. Available in two sizes, 625ml and 750ml, if you want to really prove you know what you’re doing on a bike, you’ll make the correct decision and pick the smaller of the two. 

Buy now from Rapha for £12

4. Fidlock Twist Bottle 

Buy now from Leisurelakes for £39.99

A bit of a curveball, this bottle and mount system does away with a cage in favour of a magnetic fixing. Attaching to the frame, the matching part on the base of the bottle snatches the two together if you hover one above the other. Easily secure enough for off-road riding, you simply twist the bottle sideways to release it. Leaving your bike looking pleasingly uncluttered, they’ll also be of interest to riders with petite bikes or who use a frame bag, as it’s possible to get the bottle into place without the normal amount of room required. Coming with a 590ml bottle with a protective cap, these can later be replaced without scrapping either part of the attachment system. 

Buy now from Leisurelakes for £39.99

5. Nukeproof Water Bottle

Buy now from Wiggle for £6

Just as your bike gets splattered by anything thrown up by the road, so your bottle often ends up coated in stuff you don’t really want going in your mouth. Primarily a problem if you ride through areas of farmland, the solution is a bottle like this. With a flip-off cap covering the valve, this model from Nukeprooor is only marginally more faff to drink from and prevents the possibility of an upset tummy. Light and squeezable, this 550ml bottle is still plenty easy enough to uncap and drink from using a single hand. 

Buy now from Wiggle for £6

6. Camelbak Podium cycling water bottle – 620ml

Buy now from Tredz for £9.99

This 620ml bottle features a double locking mechanism to make sure its contents end up in your mouth, not leaked all over your kit. The first of these systems is the self-sealing Jet Valve that you bite to get at your drink. Cleverly, this quickly closes up after to prevent waste and spillage.

Secondly, the positive lockout system totally cuts off the flow of liquid. Great for travelling or use off the bike, it won't leak if thrown in a bag. The bottle is made from BPA-free, Polypropylene material that doesn’t taste plasticky.

It's quite expensive, though it's possible to get replacement caps and valves. These can also be disassembled for thorough cleaning. This means it's also one of the few bottles available with a lifetime guarantee.

If you live in an area where farm muck tends to make it onto the roads or actively seek out muddy places to ride, it’s also worth checking out the brand’s ‘Dirt’ range, which feature flip caps to prevent anything nasty getting onto the bit of the bottle you stick in your mouth.

Buy now from Tredz for £9.99

7. Specialized Purist cycling water bottle – 760ml

Buy now from Specialized for £13

Water bottles are water bottles. And yet, lurking within the fabric of this Supercaz-branded but Specialized-manufactured bottle is a silicone dioxide coating that prevents that plasticky taste from creeping into your drink, even when the sun’s doing its best to boil your bottle and its contents.

It also means that the bottle walls will remain free of discolouration as long as the integrity of that coating isn’t compromised.

The cap is a pull-up/push down affair with a one-way valve, meaning it won’t leak should you choose not to close it while you ride.

We found it quite a tight fit in a standard bottle cage, requiring a wee bit of effort to ram it in or yank it out. No more than a three-out-of-10 on the annoy-ometer, though, and certainly easy enough to drink from, with its squeezy sides and sturdy valve delivering a generous slurp every time.

Coming in at around 100g for a larger-than-average 760ml capacity, it maintains the taste of your drink impeccably, while its one-way valve is also a handy feature.

Buy now from Specialized for £13

8. San Pellegrino cycling water bottle – 550ml

Buy now from Prendas for £6.99

As anyone who’s asked for tap water in a restaurant in Italy will know, this is a request likely to be met with bafflement at best. In fact, the only other place I’ve witnessed so negative a reaction to so seemingly innocuous an appeal was the Palm Tree in Mile End, but that’s a story for another time.

Anyway, from 1956 to 1963 mineral water company San Pellegrino sponsored an Italian professional cycling team which included both Enzo and Aldo Moser and was managed by the legendary Gino Bartali.

These dudes never looked anything other than 100% on-point and were unlikely to have ever made even the slightest faux pas when pulling into a trattoria for mid-ride refreshment.

Learn from their example and ensure even the water in your bidons remains branded with these retro bottles celebrating the S.Pellegrino team.

Buy now from Prendas for £6.99

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