It might not be the most obvious upgrade you can make, but the best water bottles for cycling will help you perform at your peak and get the most out of your rides.
Staying hydrated is so important that it actually goes beyond just performance and bleeds into general safety. When you start to dehydrate you risk serious health complications, and even just a little dehydration will affect cognition – that’s your ability to focus on the task at hand and make snap decisions when faced with obstacles and road hazards. You’ve got to stay hydrated to stay safe, and with that in mind the humble water bottle, or bidon, takes on a new importance.
Even beyond performance and safety, the water bottles you carry on your bike can be a statement. They can either blend in or stand out as part of the overall look of the bike and reflect your personal style. You might prefer a tech-driven no-nonsense kind of look, or you might go all out in matching your bottle with your bike, your socks and your helmet.
Whatever you think is important, the best cycling water bottle is one of those things you shouldn’t have to think about all the time. Find the one that works for your performance needs and sense of style, then concentrate on other things while riding.
To help with the process we’ve put together a list of what we think are the best water bottles for cycling on the market right now. Keep reading for the list or jump to the bottom to see how to choose the best water bottles for cycling.
The best water bottles for cycling
Most of the time when your local shop has a bottle it’s a Specialized Purist bottle. They are everywhere and people rarely think much about them, but they are actually marvels of technology.
The inside of the bottle has an ultra thin silica coating that keeps anything from sticking. That means no mould, no bacteria, and no leftover sports drink. All it takes is a bit of soap and water to get everything clean.
It also keeps the plastic taste away from your water. Paired with the purist bottle you can choose a Fixie top that has a valve but isn’t lockable, a MoFlo cap for higher flow, or the Watergate cap which has the one-way valve but is lockable for travel.
Sometimes simple is best. The trick of the Camelbak bottles is that they have a valve that opens against the pressure of a gentle squeeze. You don’t have to open it or close it, or really think about it other than to get the hydration you need.
If you are travelling and want to make sure it won’t leak from a bit of pressure, there’s a lock you can use as well, and when you need to clean it, the whole thing disassembles without much trouble.
It’s also a nice feature to have a variety of colour options available to match the rest of your kit.
You can get seriously ill riding through farm roads in the wet and mud, then drinking whatever your tyres fling at your bottles. Even if you find yourself in less extreme weather, each time you take a drink might mean a mouthful of dust as the water gets flowing.
If you like the idea of the Camelbak valve but would rather keep dust, dirt, and any other muck out of your water, then the Camelbak Podium Dirt adds a cover to it.
There are fewer colours available and only the smaller size, so if you like one of the standard Podium bottles you could also add the cover with a separate purchase.
Whether you’re riding all day or are out for a few hours in the sweltering heat, sometimes two water bottles is never going to be enough, but not all bikes offer the option of a third bottle cage.
In those situations, the Fix It Sticks Back Bottle offers a simple option: just slip an extra bottle or two into your jersey pockets.
The downside is that even once you’ve used up your water you still have a bottle to carry, but there’s no simpler way to carry extra water when you need it.
If you look at the larger market for insulated drink holders it’s common to find vacuum-sealed options that hold temperature all day long. When it comes to cycling-specific bottles, however, there’s almost nothing like it.
Elite has an option though, with the Deboyo Race. The promise is that it will hold your drinks at the temperature you want them for as long as 24 hours.
In order to make sure you can get the liquid out, there is a high flow cap in use. If you’d rather sip your drink, you’ll also get a second cap that screws on and off for quick access depending on your preference.
The Fabric Cageless Bottle is probably the most unique option in this list, because it’s a whole system rather than just another bottle. It’s both the bottle and the mounting system rolled into one, and there’s nothing more minimal out there.
It also happens to be exceptionally lightweight. Instead of mounting a cage to your bike, you attach two small studs. The bottle has a pair of recesses moulded into the side, and you slide the bottle up and off to get it free. Remove the bottle and the mounting virtually disappears.
Portland is one of the most bike-focused American cities. It’s not at the top of the list for cycling in the US but it does mix that bike-friendly nature with a particular type of outdoor-focused lifestyle. The mix is unique and Portland Design Works celebrates it with a design meant to pay homage to its hometown, otherwise known as the Rose City.
Even if you aren’t trying to make a statement about the city of Portland, the design calls to reference the “softer side of cycling.” In fact, it’s a Specialized Purist bottle with the MoFlo cap and a design that will stand out.
How to choose the best water bottles for cycling
What makes a good cycling bottle?
Everyone will have differing needs and priorities, but as a general rule if you want to choose one of the best water bottles for cycling, opt for something that carries a decent amount of water, that’s BPA-free and doesn’t leak.
No one likes a plastic aftertaste, so that’s another consideration to make; some bottles come with an internal lining that prevents it, while another option is to choose a stainless steel bottle instead.
There are lots of insulated bottles on offer, which are designed to keep your water colder for longer. Consider how long you’re likely to be out riding, and whether it’s worth investing a little more for one of these.
It’s good to find a bottle that’s easy to drink from while on the go, however not everyone drinks while they ride, with some people preferring to stop and sip. Depending on your personal preference, choose a bottle that will suit your needs and match your style.
What size bottle do you need?
It all depends on the ride and the weather. If it’s a long ride and a hot day even two of the biggest bottles you can find won’t be enough. On the other hand, there are actually reasons not to always carry every last bit of water you can.
It might sound silly to consider weight when it comes to water but it really does add up. Lots of gravel bikes have the ability to carry three water bottles. If you were to use three 26oz/750ml bottles in each of the available cages, that’s around 2.2kg grams (~4.8lbs) of weight. If you need it that’s well worth the weight penalty, but it’s significant if you’re riding at a place where a top up is easily found.
There’s also the fact that if you’re riding in super hot temperatures all day without insulated bottles, your water will become increasingly warm over the course of your ride. If you don’t want to buy multiple insulated bottles, your best option is to carry fewer and top them up more often.
There’s also frame size to consider. Most road bikes have plenty of space in the main triangle for water bottles, but not always. As the frame gets smaller, or if you add a frame bag, you might actually run into issues trying to fit the biggest bottles. Varying cages will work a little differently too, so check out our list of the best bottle cages if you are having trouble and consider how tall the bottle you are thinking about is.
What it comes down to is that there’s no right answer all the time. For short rides, a single bottle will likely see you through. As you stretch out the time, or when things heat up, you will want to go as big as makes sense while also trying not to go way over.
Are insulated cycling bottles worth it?
Most people don’t want to spend a fortune on water bottles, so it’s understandable to question those that make great claims and demand a slightly higher price. However, when it comes to insulated cycling water bottles, we’d say it’s definitely worth it.
Insulated water bottles contain an internal lining that helps to keep your water at the same temperature for longer. There’s nothing worse than taking a mouthful of warm water when you’re craving something cold and refreshing, and that’s what insulated bottles are designed to prevent from happening.
However, they can be overkill if you’re just going on a short ride on a comfortably temperate day. When deciding whether or not they’re worth it, think about how long you tend to ride for, and whether your local climate is likely to badly affect the temperature of your water.
How often do you need to replace your bottle?
There’s no hard and fast rule to this one. Plastic water bottles will last forever in practical terms. There’s also not much available in terms of sustainably-sourced water bottles. It’s a piece of plastic that can’t always go through the recycling system, so there are many good reasons to keep using them as long as possible.
The challenge is that over time water bottles become difficult to use. The outsides get scratched and it starts to be harder and harder to get them out of the cages. They also start to look worn and can be hard to clean after a while. These are all reasons to replace them often.
Looking at both sides, there’s no right answer. Replace them as infrequently as possible, but do it when you need to. If you are careful about cleaning them, they will last longer. It’s also helpful to clean the inside of your bottle cages from time to time as a way to extend the life of your bottles. If you want something that lasts even longer, consider a metal bottle instead of plastic.
How do you clean your water bottle?
The last thing you want is to be drinking mould and old remnants from past rides.
The first thing to keep track of is what your particular bottle can tolerate. A dishwasher can be an excellent way to get a bottle clean, but the high heat could also destroy it if it’s made of plastic. Some bottles are dishwasher safe and some are not, so make sure you check to see what yours can handle. Along the same lines, some bottles can handle a good scrubbing, while others only need a rinse.
If you want to be safe, stick to gentle cleaning only. Dish soap and warm water is enough to kill germs and it’s far more important to get the pieces exposed to the soap and water than it is to aggressively scrub. Even if all you do at the end of a ride is take your bottles apart and thoroughly rinse them, you’ll have gone a long way to keeping them clean and safe.
Sticking with the gentle cleaning suggestion, the other important thing you can do is make sure your bottles dry thoroughly. Never leave your bottles sitting in your bottle cages after storing your bike. That’s a surefire way to get mould. Instead, open up your bottles, give them a rinse with soap and water then let them sit with the tops removed. The exposure to air and a thorough drying will do a lot to make sure your bottles are clean and fresh the next time you grab them.