The Water Bottle Manifesto

10.13.2005 | 5:34 pm

I have a cupboard full of water bottles. I have a couple dozen of these bottles, easily. Most of them came as freebies from events, some of them came as promotional schwag, and I’ve even bought a few of them.

I should just throw all of them out.


Freebie Water Bottles

The problem with the freebie water bottles you get whenever you do a race — or go to a charity event or attend a store opening — is simple: they suck. But they don’t just suck in one way. They suck across a multitude of dimensions. And since I’ve got myself all worked up about this, I may as well get specific:

  • The plastic taste: Any liquid you put in one of these cheap bottles takes on the taste of low-grade PVC. You can replace that plastic taste by putting in a sports drink, after which any liquid you put in that cheap plastic bottle will take on the taste of the aforementioned sports drink. Now, I’ve owned regular plastic cups before, so I know it’s possible to make a plastic receptacle that doesn’t infuse and dominate my water with its previous content. So why don’t the bottle makers go and reverse-engineer that top-secret plastic cup formula that’s been around since WWII and apply it to their water bottles?
  • The valve: While the water bottles themselves are made by stingy industrialists who evidently have never checked to see what water tastes like once it’s been in their wares, the makers of the valves are clearly former joke shop employees. When you go to pull the valve open with your teeth so you can take a drink, one of the following is guaranteed to happen:

1.      The valve will not pull open, no matter how hard you tug.

2.      The valve will not pull open, and when you tug good and hard, the whole lid will pop off and all the water will pour onto your face and down your jersey.

3.      The valve will pull open, but when you drink, water will dribble outside the valve while you drink, making it look like you have mouth-control issues. (Please note: the fact that this is the most desirable of the three potential outcomes does not imply it is a favorable outcome.)

  • The size: Freebie water bottles are made just a little too narrow to fit snugly in a water bottle cage. If you are foolish enough to put one of these water bottles in your cage and go on a ride, it will rattle around until you huck it onto the side of the road in a fit of pique, or it falls out of the cage of its own accord (and, predictably, without you noticing, so that you only later find you have no water at all).


The Best Water Bottles Ever

Water bottles do not have to be lame. I have, at one time, owned a set of three water bottles I loved. Yes, “love” is the word I choose to show my regard for these water bottles. They were made by Cannondale, under the Coda brand. They were oversized, holding about 50% more water than most bottles, so you had to have a wide-open frame to hold them, but two of those bottles would take care of you for a good long ride. They didn’t taste like plastic. They had screw-top lids, so you didn’t get the nasty surprise of going for a drink and getting a faceful of water instead. They had good valves that were neither too tight, but somehow didn’t dribble, even after hundreds of trips through the dishwasher.

I lost one of those bottles somewhere; the other two I actually wore out. Yes, after using these bottles exclusively for about three years, the seams on the bottles tore and I had to chuck them. And meanwhile, Cannondale had stopped making these wonderful bottles, so now I use Specialized bottles, which are actually good in just about every respect — but I wish I could get my hands on oversized ones for the big rides.


A Plea to Event Promoters

In my typical fashion, I haven’t gone out researching to see if there are bottles out there that have a loyal following. If there are, I would happily buy them. And for the race/event promoters who give us both a cheap, useless t-shirt and a cheap, useless water bottle, here’s an idea. Instead of giving us two useless things, pool the money and give us a really good water bottle (I don’t need any more t-shirts this lifetime, thanks). If you do, I promise I will use it all the time, and my water bottle cage will become, in effect, a teeny little billboard for your event.

Wouldn’t that be super?


A Note About Water Bottle Cages

I have no similar grievance about water bottle cages, because I am perfectly happy with my Ciussi bottle cages. Whether road or mountain, these things are great.


Today’s weight: 160.6 lbs


PS: Congrats to MuMo, who’s been commenting on this blog pretty much daily. Her own blog — MuseMonkey – is currently featured on MSN’s "What’s Your Story." Huzzah, MuMo!


  1. Comment by Unknown | 10.13.2005 | 6:00 pm

    you are a sentimental pack rat. these bottles suck, yet you still have them. i have done enough events to never want to do another, and i have in my posession one (1) water bottle. my two coda bottles (of the type loved by the fat cyclist) disintegrated this summer after years of service. on a long ride, i pulled out the bottle, squeezed it, and it cracked down the length of the bottle. chagrined (yes, i was indeed chagrined), i pulled out the other bottle for a drink, and the same thing happened.and so it goes.i bought two new bottles from racer’s cycle service. nice but ordinary bottles. my cages must have expanded from the oversized coda bottles, cuz on my first bumpy ride up af canyon, i lost one.i think this will be kind of like my disc brakes. they always rub a little, but never enough for me to get em fixed. which means i’ll be a one water bottle guy for the rest of the season. if i look thirsty, please give me a drink.

  2. Comment by Unknown | 10.13.2005 | 6:02 pm

    Fatty,I haven’t posted a comment in a while because I was too edgy for my own good last time (a descriptor starting with "a" and ending with "e" comes to mind and it wasn’t "afterlife"). Anyway, the water bottle thing is too true. Specialized does make good bottles and I am really positive they make oversized ones as well. Keep searching. There is some profound corollary between karmic/ kismet realities and consumer goods that you are nibbling at the edge of. You will get my vote if you ever run for the office of Consumer Goods Czar.

  3. Comment by Unknown | 10.13.2005 | 6:04 pm

    What about camelbaks? Not practical for real short rides, but I usually use mine on any rides that will take over 45 min or so. Am I frowned upon by your water bottle folk? I find water bottles too awkward to mess with, so rides under 45 i usually just drink some before and drink lots after.

  4. Comment by Jeff | 10.13.2005 | 6:06 pm

    The performance 28-ouncers are made by Specialized, are cheap, and are my favorites. yes, I’ve tried several others. So there.

  5. Comment by Jim Carson | 10.13.2005 | 6:42 pm

    # 4 on my list would be <b>standardization of screw cap sizes</b>. Bottles come out of the dishwasher and need to air dry inside, so you can’t put the caps on right away lest the water turn into a creeping biomass. Caps inevitably end up in a little tupperware container where the fraternize. I hate to say this, but it’s hard to tell them apart. Worse, some sorta fit bottles they weren’t designed for. ("Sorta" defined as "dribbles in the cap gap when the bottle is squeezed to increase the flow past the dribble valve.") I purged my water bottle collection during "Bike to Work Day," when they were handing them out at each station. Somehow, I went from three to ten — maybe they’ve reproduced? The bottles aren’t ideal since it takes at least six washings to reduce the strong plastic smell to a moderate bleach smell. <i>But the caps are compatible!</i>

  6. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 10.13.2005 | 7:09 pm

    dug – i’ll cop to the packrat part, but i don’t keep the bottles because i’m sentimental, i keep them because they don’t LOOK like they ought to be thrown away, they just PERFORM like they ought to be thrown away. sounds like your coda bottles died the same way mine did — rip down the seam. shame to see ‘em go.jimserotta – man, i thought you were gone forever. glad you’re back. do you think the consumer goods czar gets lots of free stuff? phil – i like camelbaks for mountain biking, especially any ride over 2 hours. for road riding, camelbaks are uncomfortable when you’re in the drops. i own 5 different camelbaks, including two that are exactly identical — i have no idea how that happened. like dug says, i am a packrat.jeff – wow, a concrete recommendation. now you know what to get me for christmas.jim – i’ve had the same nearly-compatible screwtop lids issue. in particular, an ibis-branded water bottle with a lid that didn’t fit any other bottle, and didn’t fit its own bottle very well. that water bottle is now a pencil holder.

  7. Comment by Jodi | 10.13.2005 | 7:16 pm

    It’s really funny that your post today is well portrayed in my post today. We are SOOOOOOOOO connected!

  8. Comment by Adam | 10.13.2005 | 7:18 pm

    I like the Polar bottles — besides keeping things cold a little longer they’re fairly thick.I bought some Zefal aluminum bottles — just becomes another metal thing banging around on the bike.I fear i’d never clean the camelbacks.

  9. Comment by Unknown | 10.13.2005 | 8:15 pm

    <i>anything wrong with camelbacks</i>No. Other than It creeps me out to think about asking a riding buddy, “hey dude, can you lean over and press on my bladder? I’m wicked thirsty and it’s almost empty.”

  10. Comment by Unknown | 10.13.2005 | 8:17 pm

    Hey Fatty,Been reading your blog for months. I like your writing style. Your cast of characters are amuzing. Anyway, no source for your Cannondale Coda bottles, but Zafal makes a 32ozer that fits the bill for two of your three requirements. They still taste like plastic. Two of these babies are all I need most of the time. I’m usually doling out H20 to my soon to bonk buddies on the long rides. Anyway, hope that helps.

  11. Comment by Robert | 10.13.2005 | 8:35 pm

    Your software package is in, Fatty. Save some water bottles for me. I have only one bottle left, and it’s in bad shape.

  12. Comment by Unknown | 10.13.2005 | 8:52 pm

    Fatty–Ever tried nalgene? REI has some great ones, and they don’t taste like plastic….they are a little less cuddly than the ones that you are used to so you may not grow so attached to them. But in the end, that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

  13. Comment by Unknown | 10.13.2005 | 9:14 pm

    Hey… wash those water bottles by hand and then soak them in a 50% solution of white vinegar/water for half an hour, then air dry them. That will help the plastic taste as well as keeping them sanitary (I use the same thing for my breathing equipment). Plus, when you wash them in the dishwasher, the plastic begins to degrade (and you’re consuming some of it), and that eventually causes the cracking. When they break down, they release vinyl chloride into the water, which sounds like the cause of the "bleach" smell.Klean Kanteen has stainless water bottles. A 27 oz. bottle weighs 8 oz. all by itself, though. $13.50 or 2/$25. Here’s a URL:

  14. Comment by Unknown | 10.13.2005 | 9:24 pm

    Here’s another interesting bottle… Platypus. Cheap, light, big durability claims, claims no plastic taste, etc. down a ways (6th item, I think) and you’ll see them. And guess what… this company is in MOAB!

  15. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 10.13.2005 | 9:24 pm

    Remember, the worst quality water bottles will leave you dry and nearly kill anyone riding with you, all in one fluid (no pun intended) motion. They are a quarter inch taller but a quarter inch narrower than gods original design making it impossible for your bidon cage to keep a good grip on rough roads, thus allowing the dodgy bottle to eject itself and land right in front of the twitchiest rider on the most technical part of the descent.If the dehydration doesn’t get you, the guy who has your bidon in his front spokes just might (if he makes it out of hospital)

  16. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 10.13.2005 | 11:26 pm

    errorista – not only were our posts linked, but evidently we left similar comments to each other today. cue "twilight zone" music now.adam – i had a polar bottle once, but as i remember, the thickness of the insulation means that there’s not much room inside for liquid. plus the rigidness of the bottle means you can’t squeeze it to squirt the liquid – camelbaks get even creepier when you have to ask for a drink from someone else’s camelbak. frankly, it’s just a little too intimate for my tastes.bob – i tell you what, i’ll pay for that software by giving you lots of waterbottles.rocky – do they have nalgene bottles that work in water bottle cages? if so, i will in fact try them out. especially if you give me one for christmas.mumo – you’ve clearly mistaken me for someone who would ever handwash anything, as well as for someone who would have the foresight to do the vinegar cleansing thing. i’m not looking for a way to make do with existing products, i want a superior product. i’m familiar w/ platypus, btw – they always used to have a booth at the 24 hours of moab. good flexible camelbak bladders with no plastic taste. that link you gave me got me all excited — i thought maybe they had come up with the ultimate water bottle. turns out, though, it’s a small water bag. that won’t work in a water bottle cage, alas. congrats again on the "what’s your story" gig.big mike – at the 24 hours of moab, there are always dozens of bottles strewn around choppy technical downhills, the results of people losing bottle after bottle, lap after lap. i’ve seen people get taken out by bottles like that — seen video footage of pros doing it on purpose.

  17. Comment by Ariane | 10.14.2005 | 12:12 am

    Gah… I hate that plastic taste. I have tossed otherwise decent water bottles (and other plastic containers) directly into the recycling solely because of the plastic taste. I used to have a great purple Trek water bottle. No plastic taste, no funky problems with the valve, little bumps on it so I wouldn’t fumble and drop it into my own path… it did do the leaking thing, once in a while, but that just gave it character. Alas, I lost it somewhere on campus one day, and was heart broken. Come back little water bottle, come back to your Toad!

  18. Comment by Big Guy on a Bicycle | 10.14.2005 | 1:48 am

    The biggest problem I have with Camelbacks is that I never know just how much water is left. With water bottles I can at least ration a bit if I know I’m running low and there’s not a good refill spot for a ways.Another problem I personally have is that the straps irritate the spot on my shoulder where there’s a plate on my left clavicle, but that’s just me. Of course I’ll likely now have the problem on the other side as well.

  19. Comment by Carolynn | 10.14.2005 | 3:28 am

    Now this is really upsetting! I had thought to encourage my two grandsons in some hiking which I love. So, I have bought water bottles as gifts for them. I recognize that I don’t know much about water bottles, so I checked with my son-in-law. He didn’t give me the full scoop, just a simple answer (?for a simple mind?) and so I went to REI and thought it would be a sure bet. Then I read your blog. How discouraging. What ever should I do now?????

  20. Comment by Unknown | 10.14.2005 | 3:39 am

    mom, for hiking, nalgene bottles all the way, the kind with a strap that you can carabiner to your belt.

  21. Comment by agreenmouther | 10.14.2005 | 4:13 am

    Dug—no one wears a nalgene clipped to their pants. I mean seriously. If you’re hiking it goes on your backpack or some other carryable item. You probably attach your keys to your pants too, don’t you? On the plus side mom, nalgenes are amazing. Cycling is the only sport they don’t work for, which is why the fat cyclist is justified in having a manifesto about hydration while cycling.

  22. Comment by EricGu | 10.14.2005 | 4:38 am

    BGOABYou can easily tell how much water is left in your Camelback by giving it a squeeze while you’re riding. But they don’t really make you any points with your cycling friends. I’m somewhat Fred-ish anyway, so I don’t worry.Oh, and I do carry waterbottle(s) too, but with Accelerade instead of water.

  23. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 10.14.2005 | 5:16 am

    lofat-e – bobby julich wears a camelbak while TT’ing, which i believe gives everyone else permission to ride with a camelbak on a road bike. and really, once you hit middle age, any attempts to look cool just backfire, so you may as well be functional. that’s what i tell myself, anyway.ccm/dug/mom – i know nothing whatsoever about what works on a hike. this rant is restricted to biking, and it should be known that i always overstate everything by 40%. including the previous sentence, so you do the math.bgoab – lowfat e is correct, you can get pretty good at sensing how much you’ve got by doing a squeeze test. that said, i’ve been surprised more than once by an empty camelbak. the utter simplicity of checking your bottle by either lifting it or (if it’s clear) just looking down is hard to beat.

  24. Comment by Unknown | 10.14.2005 | 12:35 pm

    You know those bottle caps somethimes fit on the disposable bottles of water you buy at the store. Those bottles actually last longer than some of the freebies I’ve received and they have no taste to them.

  25. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 10.14.2005 | 1:52 pm

    The ideal water bottle is the Zefel Magnum. It imparts no taste to what ever the beverage; holds about a litre of liguid; used to come in a quite striking all black with blue band, then came in a transparent with a bizarro bike logo and now seems to come in a less garish transparent version. It fits nicely in any waterbottle cage, the nozzles neither drip nor leak nor yet do they stick. For expecially long rides in the heat of summer three might be necessary (make sure to freeze the third.The reason that the black and blue bottle is so desirable, although no longer available (not even in France) is that it matches the famed blue and black jersey in inverse proportions and thus allows the holder of the blue black jersey to ride in a color coordinated way. The blue black jersey, as you no doubt know, is given to the rider who, as the official Tour de France puts it can ride the furthest on a slight decline with the wind at his or her back.One last point, you may be correct about the best cake in the world, but the best dessert in the world is a ginger pear tart. Not only is it tasty but its lightness gives the consumer the impression that they are eating a "light" dessert and thus one can, if one wishes, eat half without overt evidence of over indulgence. To make this tart take one stick of butter cut it into fourths lengthwise and cut this into 1/4 or 1/8 chuncks and put in the freezer for a5 min. Put one cup of flour in a food processor, dump in the the frozen butter spin with the metal blade untill the flour covers the now smallified (to use the scientific term) butter, pour in two table spoons or so of really cold water and mix, dump out and knead quickly to make a nice little ball of dough, wrap in saran wrap and stick in the fridge. take two to four pears, depending on the size of tart/pie pan. As the dough cools peel and half the pears, remove the seeds, slice the pear halves into thin strips but make sure that you do so in a way that keeps the shape of the halves. Take one table spoon ginger marmalde and one table spoon of apricot preserve (at least more of either if that is the way you want it taste) after the peeling, halving and slicing the dough should be cold. on a floored surface roll the dough out into the right size for the tart/pie pan making sure it is thin as all get out, prick the bottom cover with tin foil and stick into a 400 degree oven for about ten mins. Remove from oven, stick the marmalde and preserve into the mico and cover the bottom of the now browned pie crust, lift the pear halves into the crust and fan them slightly four or five of the halves go round the outside and one goes into the middle, sprinkle with sugar and put some butter curls over the top stick the whole mess back into the oven, still at 400, for 40 mins or so, take out cool and eat.yours in increasing former fatness,tom

  26. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 10.14.2005 | 1:56 pm

    Your drink bottle post reminded me of a race I travelled to with a friend 4 or 5 years ago. Thought you’d appreciate the story.We were getting ready in the motel room on the morning of the race, and he says to me, "Is this normal?".He then displayed the content of his drink bottles.Mould. Actually, so much mould it had grown from one side of the bottle to the other. Picture a piece of pipe that’s been lying round the back yard for a few months & is now home to 25 spiders.I think I actually did one of those "mad scientist, this experiment just went horribly wrong" recoils. I asked if he had any other water bottles. No.And then…He went to the sink, rinsed the bottles in hot water, gave them a clean out with his used bath towel, and filled them with Gatorade.I still have the look of total disbelief on my face to this day.We both got thrashed in the race, by the way. The major difference was I didn’t spend the rest of the season breaking out in boils.

  27. Comment by Margaret | 10.14.2005 | 7:14 pm

    I just went to Colonial Williamsburg last weekend. They say Huzzah there too. Just thought I’d share my mental parallel drawing :)

  28. Comment by TIMOTHY | 10.15.2005 | 8:36 pm

    It occured to me today, thinking about water bottles, that I have the perfect century for you! Not only do they give away good water bottles (at least they did 5 years ago -the kind that have good capacity, no plastic taste, screw on lid and the softer rubber nozzle – I use mine all the time!) they serve the best food you’ll find on a century. It’ s the Gourmet Century in Solvang, CA. I never actually rode it but I ran the midway rest stop for 2 years. They have gourmet food at each rest stop and a gourmet dinner afterwards. And it goes through the Santa Inez Valley in California. It’s pricey for a century (I think it was $85 to ride it back when I was there) but you get t-shirt, GOOD water bottle, and excellent food!

  29. Comment by TIMOTHY | 10.15.2005 | 8:42 pm

    P.S. – I rode the 24 Hours of Moab twice – in ‘99 and 00′ – one of those waterbottle you saw was mine – a brand new Polar Bottle too!


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