The Water Bottle Manifesto

10.13.2005 | 6:04 am

A Note from Fatty: This "Best of Fatty" post, rescued from my MSN Spaces archive, was originally posted October 13, 2005.

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.

 PS: Just in case you were wondering, the Fat Cyclist water bottles are made by Specialized. They’re good. (But I still wish they came in bigger sizes)

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  1. Comment by Don ( | 04.5.2008 | 8:12 am

    HEY! Looks, so far like I’m first today!
    Anyway, I have to agree, Specialized are the way to go right now. The LBS Spin ( does up all of their bottles through specialized. Needless to say, I have a “few”. As far as cages go Im happy with the Specialized cages on the Road, and I LOVE my King Cages ( on the MTB. I use the stainless, as I am not made of money and don’t see the point of Ti.

  2. Comment by the greg | 04.5.2008 | 8:23 am

    haha. i claim these comments in the name of greg. camelback. although i got a nalgene pack for my wife. i wish they still made them.

  3. Comment by Harry | 04.5.2008 | 12:33 pm

    I second (or third) the recommendation for the Specialized bottles. I have a slew of the 24-oz bottles printed by the LBS where I use to live that I rotate through. I save the cheap giveaway bottles for my kids to use since they generally stop to drink anyway.

  4. Comment by Jenni | 04.5.2008 | 3:40 pm

    I too have a ton of water bottles. The pink Fat Cyclist ones are currently my favorite. Really. Those and my Toga ones. But the pink match my tires and tape. (:O)

  5. Comment by hydrateme | 04.6.2008 | 5:56 am

    Check out a new item called ‘AquaJoe’. It turns water into sports drink. It’s great for situations where you have access to clean water.

  6. Comment by Don ( | 04.6.2008 | 5:59 am

    In regards to the “larger Specialized bottles”. It looks like the FC bottles are 21Oz. Which reminds me I STILL need to order some. Specialized also makes a 24Oz., which is what my LBS new bottles are. Its funny, but the extra few ounces makes a difference.

  7. Comment by Don ( | 04.6.2008 | 6:00 am

    Jenni: Pink tires… rock. Bu I think a local here has you beat with mirrored/chrome tape…

  8. Comment by Al Maviva | 04.6.2008 | 6:09 am

    I go with cheapies, generally clear ones. Nothing worse than pondering whether you should vote for the group to take a mid-ride stop on a hard 80 mile near-race-pace flog, looking at bottles, assuming you’ve got at least one full one, and not realizing you’re as disappointingly empty as a presidential candidate’s campaign promises.

    The real beef I have with watter bottles is cleaning them. Two things cause problems – protein-containing drinks, and the nozzle.

    Protein drinks – I’m lookin’ at you peeps in the Cytomax/Accelerade/Perpetuum neighborhood – leave this nasty spooge that doesn’t come off with anything less than STP Engine Degreaser, a kerosene-tasting solvent that is harmful for the enviroment, and which comes with its own side effects. Accellerade is a particular offender here; I swear the penguin pen they showed on “Dirty Jobs” had a cleaner floor than my bottle after it’s had Accellerade in it.

    The little nozzles, on the other hand, are just fine for cleanliness, nothing inherently wrong with them, until you use the bottle to contain sports drink. Then thick accumulations of gunk apparently build up in it, no matter how you try to clean the nozzle and its component parts.

    You can pull the little nipple out of the nozzle, and clean the outside of the nozzle body – but you still can’t clean the housing in the bottle top, or the inside of the nipple. You can try using the dishwasher, but honestly, can something that doesn’t use steel wool or at least a green scrubby pad really get anything clean?

    The result is always the same. After a dozen uses, the nipple and cap come alive with a racially integrated world of mold – Ebony and Ivory, causing giardia in perfect harmony. Seriously, the predominant mold colors caused by Gu2O and Accellerade are black and white. It’s like Dr. King’s dream realized, in a slightly skunk flavor right there in my mouth.

    There’s really only one solution, I’ve found.

    *Never, never, never* wash your water bottles.

    That’s right. You do everything in your power to help those little mold colonies grow, and at the same time, you build up (I hope) a resistance to whatever kind of foul evil demon gut-bloat bacteria they carry. Yeah, the approach has some clearly identifiable hazards, and it carries some risks, just like the developing world’s innoculation policies (“if you don’t die from it, you’re innoculated. Congratulations!”) that I’ve modeled it on.

    But on the other side of the coin, as long as there’s no hope of actually eliminating the mold or really getting the water bottles clean, you might as well try to figure out a way to live with it. The bonus to this is if we ever make contact with a highly advanced alien race and they happen to be slime mold, you will probably be spared. Those people with bleach and Bartender’s Friend and Ajax… not so much.

    Believe me, letting it grow and learning to live with it has been a great solution to the mold problem, and it has worked fine for me.

    In my next blog comment: my trip to the dentist to get my green ad orange teeth bleached and polished. Or, “How we found a cash crop of Morel Mushrooms in Al’s Mouth.”

  9. Comment by Karl McCracken | 04.6.2008 | 6:32 am

    I love Addidas bottles, which I’ve got as freebies from races. They have screw tops, don’t add ‘interest’ to whatever flavour you’re supposed to be drinking, and more importantly have rubber valves. So you don’t knock your front teeth out when you hit a bump just as you get the bottle to your mouth. Oh, and they come in two sizes – 500 & 750ml.

  10. Comment by Michele | 04.6.2008 | 11:57 am

    I had a teammate once who loved Zefal Magnums.

  11. Comment by pantaloonfan | 04.6.2008 | 12:06 pm

    I too love the Zefal Magnums… I don’t know why NO ONE ELSE has come up with the idea of adding an extra few ounces to make them come out to an even liter.


    They are a slobbery mess sometimes, I somehow wind up having dribbles of water run down from under the cap whenever I try to take a drink. The valves themselves are actually fine, but the seemingly impregnable gasket always allows a splash of something onto me.

    On top of that, they can be a pain in the neck to unscrew, usually fine, but sometimes it takes wicked amounts of force and grunting to get them open.

    They are clear, which is very good.

    So, industry… someone else make a liter sized, clear water bottle. I will buy them, okay?

  12. Comment by Marrock | 04.6.2008 | 1:52 pm


    Accept no substitute.

  13. Comment by Mathias | 04.6.2008 | 3:29 pm

    cleaning water bottles:

    Fill it up with coca-cola and shake it up. Leave it sit for 30-60 minutes. It will kill everything leaving you to wonder what it does to your stomach.

  14. Comment by hydrateme | 04.6.2008 | 4:31 pm

    You should all try a new device called AquaJoe. It is designed as holder/dispenser of sports drink powder for athletes. Instead of taking lots of liquid which is heavy, take the powder which is light!

  15. Comment by Gadrock | 04.7.2008 | 3:11 am

    Ahh bottles a topic lose to my heart-err mouth.

    I have all Specialized bottles at the moment-which helps out immensely with the odds of finding a matching cap and bottle. However I do hate the little shelf on the neck which prevents a good cleaning. As Al so astutely noted Accelerade leaves permanent pebble/goo coating in the bottles. My only solution-I use oxyclean on all of my bottles each week, and as soon as I come back from a ride and i don’t want to get out the chemicals and the bottle brush, I fill them back up and put them in the fridge-so at least I don’t have to look at the grossness.

    Anybody use Tackx bottles-the wide body looks good for cleaning and filling-but the size worries me in regards to ejecting bottles and capacity.

  16. Comment by Paul | 04.7.2008 | 4:50 am

    Zefal Magnum for this clyde, 2 bottles = half gallon = half of what I sweat in a given ride.

    Never had a problem with the seals, although sometimes I have to take a pipe wrench to unscrew the top.

    $4.00 ea right now at

  17. Comment by randomduck | 04.7.2008 | 10:39 am

    Polar insulated bottles FTW!

    They’re a tad larger than the large Specialized bottles, keep a drink cool for a decent amount of time, fit in standard cages, have screw tops and lovely valve action.

    And some rides (e.g. the Reston Century in Virginia) give ‘em away as the event bottle.

  18. Comment by Clydesteve | 04.8.2008 | 7:44 am

    I have a black Specialized bottle that is about 27 years old, and still works.

    I love my Fatty bottles (except the small size, as Elden noted.

    My dog also loves them, but as a chew toy. I still have one she has not chewed on. I think she is in cahoots with T-6 to increase repeat business.

  19. Comment by ChicagoClyde | 04.8.2008 | 11:30 am

    I just got a couple of the new Camelbak podium water bottles. I’ve only got a few miles logged with them, but so far, I really like how they perform.

    First off, they’re big – 24oz. Love that size, even with the Specialized bottles. They’re also flexible and fit in a standard cage (unlike CB’s first set of bottles), and the plastic never takes on the flavors in the drink, or pushes the plastic taste the other way round.

    And if they prove even half as durable as my hydration pack, I won’t need to replace them for quite some time.

    I also recommend Camelbak’s “Elixir” supplement. It’s a tablet you drop into your 24oz bottle (or hydration pack), that creates a great sports drink. Light flavor, no sugars, and actual vitamins and minerals for recovery. Good Stuff.

    Bottom line, check the new CB products – I think one and all will be impressed!

  20. Comment by Adam Maas | 04.10.2008 | 9:46 am

    Gatorade bottles with the twist/drink cap are the best cheap bottles. $2 filled, good lids that both seal and allow easy drinking. Don’t taste like anything after a flush.

    Downside is they’re only good for 4-5 fills before replacement. But at the price, who cares.

  21. Comment by Harth | 04.10.2008 | 12:54 pm

    Ugh, I just broke my huge Cannondale bottle a month ago! It lasted forever and was my all-time favorite until it finally gave up the ghost by cracking in the cold. No local shops seem to carry the XL bottles, so I got some by Elite ( Nashbar that I like so far. They are a bit squishy but have very good valves. The Zefal Magnum is good sized and very sturdy but mine leaks a bit from the top. Other than that, it is a good bottle too.

  22. Comment by beth | 04.11.2008 | 7:30 am

    Being a Bicycle Rider rather than a Cyclist, I find that I have mostly gotten over the weight-weenie thing. That has made it much easier for me to use and enjoy what may well be the best water bottle out there, the Klean Kanteen ( Made of stainless steel, it’s totally washable, durable, and best of water kept in it tastes like water. Yes, it weighs more, but since I’m a Bicycle Rider instead of a Cyclist, weight is much lower on the list of priorities for me.

    Another bonus: Admit it. When a plastic bottle goes flying out of your cage on the road, you probably don’t go back for it. At 20-something bucks each, if a Klean Kanteen goes flying out of my cage I will definitely go back for it if it’s safe to do so. (And the fact that it’s heavier means it’s far less likely to bounce out in the first place.)

    There is just nothing wrong with this bottle.

  23. Pingback by Fat Cyclist » Blog Archive » Stuff That Came In the Mail: Clean Bottle | 12.2.2010 | 11:37 am

    [...] am, it turns out, the guy who wrote The Water Bottle Manifesto five years ago, back when this blog was young. And I’m the guy who — during Random [...]

  24. Comment by Emily | 03.14.2011 | 6:46 pm

    Hello! Nice blog. I’m a big fan of Klean Kanteen bottles, especially for outdoor activities. It’s great at keeping my water cool on hot days. And you can’t really beat the BPA free stainless steel either! However, if the stainless steel is too heavy for you, you could always try Camelbak products. While they are made out of plastic, they are 100% BPA free.

    Thamks for posting!


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