Superior to a typical cycling water bottle in a few specific use cases, including racing cyclocross without a bottle cage.
Die-hard cyclocross racers might scoff at bottle cages on a race rig, and chances are, some of the higher-end models they use have only one set of bottle cage bolts, if any. In theory, a 60-minute race in Namur in December won’t call for plentiful hydration, however in training, or during pre-ride, trainer sessions or cool downs, having a hydration on hand is helpful if not essential. Even offseason and September races call for some to use water bottles during the race.
While we typically reach for a standard cycling water bottle (Specialized’s Purist and CamelBak’s insulated Podium bottles are two of our favorites), we’ve long been fans of a collapsible Platypus bottle (in our Gift Guide and reviewed in our first year in print) because when you finish your drink, you won’t notice it rolled up in your jersey pocket. But neither the bladder nor water bottle is an easy item to slide into your jersey pocket, especially as your buddy launches an attack over the bumps.
James Wener has struggled sliding his bottle into his jersey pocket more than most… or at least was more frustrated by the inconvenient exercise of getting a big round cylinder into a flat, stretchy lycra pocket. So he invented the Back Bottle.
We’ve received a test bottle, and are happy to say that Werner certainly has made the experience of inserting a water bottle in your jersey pocket a bit easier and safer. There’s simply less fumbling around, and it slides into place with far less guesswork, or taking both hands off the bars.
It also smartly has a bit of a lip on the side facing away from your back, and that lip should catch on your jersey pocket to stay in place over bumpy terrain. After a few rides, we still haven’t launched one yet.
Is it the perfect product? No. The top’s diameter is smaller than leading water bottles, a small inconvenience when pouring drink mix or inserting ice cubes. The material also feels a bit flimsy, and there’s no soft rubber bite valves as you see on the Purist or Podium bottles.
The flat-ish side that faces your back has two raised contoured areas, which actually shields your spine from a block of ice, should you freeze your bottle. You don’t really feel them much, but things don’t always stay perfectly centered in jerseys, and we think a smooth, slightly concave shape might be more ergonomic regardless of the position, and possibly safer for your spine should you land on your back.
The pointy edge on the bottle’s bottom has a point to its design, and that’s to find the opening to your jersey pocket. It does that perfectly. But once the bottle is in your pocket, the point angles away from your back, which essentially wants to pull your jersey further away from your back. For aerodynamics, comfort, vanity and perhaps safety (more surface area against your back=less pressure on any area on impact), the longer edge might be better if it rested against your back.
Of course, with such an angled bottom of the bottle, don’t expect to use it in a bottle cage, or even store upright in your cabinet.
For comfort while in your jersey pocket (and especially after it’s empty), we’d still prefer a collapsible Platypus bottle, but after using the Back Bottle, there’s no other bottle we’d reach for when it comes to racing with bottle, when every second counts. It’s also the perfect bottle for a session on the rollers, if you don’t quite have the roller skills of this guy.
It’s also the ideal hand-up bottle, if you plan to keep it after a sip instead of throwing it back (and have a good-sized pocket on your skinsuit or jersey).
Note: If you do plan to get one handed to you in a race, you just might have to practice your bottle hand-ups with your support crew, as you’ll probably need to make sure the round edge is angled towards you just right for the grab.
Back Bottle Specs:
Capacity: 18 ounces
Weight: Three ounces
Measurements: 8.5 inches long by 3 inches wide with a 53mm diameter mouth
Material: Squeezable LDPE plastic, BPA free (read more about BPA free here)
Country of Origin: USA
More info: backbottle.com