If I were a bike bottle manufacturer with an innovative new product, and I were looking for some cheap bike-related publicity, you know what I would do? I would check out FatCyclist.com.
And then I would immediately cross it off my list of blogs to send a bottle to.
Why? Because, it turns out, I’m a little bit cranky about bottles. A little bit skeptical. A little bit jaded.
I 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 Reviewer’s brief, glorious existence — wrote a kinda scathing review of the Gel-Bot bottle (which I stand behind, thanks).
So, if you knew all those things and you were the inventor of the Clean Bottle — a bike bottle with a screw-bottom as well as top — would you send me a bottle?
‘Cuz I wouldn’t.
But the folks at Clean Bottle — foolishly, perhaps — sent me one anyway. And so I’m going to write about it. Whether they want me to or not.
Why would you have a bottle with a screw-bottom, as well as a screw-top? Well, for one simple reason: to make it easier to clean.
If you can unscrew the bottom of the bottle, both the bottom of the bottle and the body of the bottle near the bottom should be easier to clean.
Dry Facts About the Clean Bottle
Before I get into my subjective thoughts about this bottle, let’s go through a few things that aren’t subjective:
- How much it holds: 22oz. The bottle is the same height as 24oz bottles, but holds a smidgen less, probably because of its unique bottom. I love that I just got to use “unique bottom” in a sentence, by the way.
- BPA-free: Yes. Which is good, I think.
- Cost: $9.95 direct from the maker, but if you buy 3, you get a fourth free. If you spend at least $45, you get free shipping.
- No threading compatability: None of the tops from any of your other bottles will work with this bottle. For what it’s worth, none of the tops of any of your bottles (including the top from the Clean Bottle) will work with the bottom of this bottle, either. Which means you cannot have a two-headed bottle. Which means you cannot make a bottle built for two. Alas.
- Dishwasher safe: Yep. ‘Cuz If it weren’t, it would have to be renamed the “Extraordinarily Inconvenient to Clean Bottle.” (Once I get into the subjective part of this review, I’ll have more to say on this, by the way.)
- Number of times the Clean Bottle “Bottle Boy” was shown on-camera in the 2010 TdF: 4,328. And referred to by Phil Liggett each and every time. I’m pretty sure Phil and Clean Bottle are BFF.
Things I Like About the Clean Bottle
The Clean Bottle website claims they went through “54 prototypes, 2 patent applications and 3 years” to develop the bottle. That’s a lot of development and research for a bottle.
And there are a lot of things to like about it.
First of all, the bottle fits snugly in every bottle cage I tested it in, both road and mountain. You shouldn’t run into “ejected bottle syndrome” too often.
Next, the valve works well. Which is to say, water comes through it easily, and it doesn’t dribble (although I’ve haven’t had the bottle long enough to tell whether a dribble will develop). It’s easy to pull open with your teeth, and pop back closed in whichever way you choose (personally, I like to close the valve by ramming it against my forehead).
The plastic body is a good thickness; it’s easy enough to squeeze that you can get plenty of drink in a single tug, but not so flimsy that you wind up squeezing out half your drink as you try to pull the bottle out of the cage.
And finally, there’s some nice attention to detail. Check out the photo below (click here for a larger version):
You can see that both the top (on the left) and the bottom (on the right) caps have a gasket, making it so that the bottle screws on very securely, and no fluid leaks out either end.
Now I’m Going to Stop Being Nice
With all those (nice) things said, I have no use for this bottle. First of all, I think it’s got an irony problem. Which is to say, I think this bottle is going to be a lot harder to keep clean than any other bottle.
Take a look at the screw-on bottle top and bottom in the photo above. Now imagine it’s really dirty, thanks to your negligence (shame on you). You think that gap between the inner ring and outer ring in both the top and bottom cap is going to be easy to clean out? (Answer: no).
How about the crud and mold that have made their home under the gasket? (Answer: no)
How about, finally, the very fact that you have double the number of hard parts of the bottle to clean?
You see, that’s the heart of the matter. Honestly, it’s very easy to clean all the way to the bottom of a normal bottle. You just throw it in the dishwasher and let it run. But if you forget the bottle and it gets gross, it’s not the bottle body that becomes problematic, it’s the bottle cap. All the gunk that collects in the cracks and crevices.
And since this bottle has more cracks and crevices (and a gasket) per cap than most bottles, and then has twice as many caps as regular bottles, this bottle may in fact be the second most-difficult bottle to keep clean, ever.
And I have to ask: if you have gross bottle bottoms, do you also have gross drinking glass bottoms? Because cleaning the bottom of a drinking glass requires pretty much the same effort and tools as cleaning the bottom of a water bottle.
My second grievance with the Clean Bottle is the same problem I have with socks: when you lose a part of the set, the whole thing becomes useless.
Well, actually, that’s not so much of a problem with socks if you’re willing to wear mismatched socks. Which I am. In fact, the likelihood of me wearing matched socks is exactly the same of me pulling two matching socks at random out of a drawer.
By making the parts of its bottle fully exclusive (the body doesn’t work with any other caps, the caps don’t work with any other bodies), Clean Bottle is expecting you to keep all three parts of your special bottle together.
And if you lose any of the three parts, the whole thing is useless. Sure, the Clean Bottle website says if you lose a part it’ll “get your Clean Bottle working again” (I don’t know if that’s for free or fee), but I know myself well enough to know that I’m more likely to just chuck the whole thing.
So my second problem with this bottle: more parts to assemble and lose = greater likelihood I’ll lose something, and a lower likelihood I’ll spend the time necessary to collect and assemble the parts.
Clean Bottle seems to be well-made and works well as a bottle. But by introducing more parts and adding complexity to those parts, Clean Bottle may actually compound the problem it was designed to solve.
Plus, I’m still a little miffed about not being able to put a drinking cap at each end of the bottle.