On-Bike Hydration

I’m contemplating a lot of options for on-bike hydration for the upcoming Almanzo and Gravel Metric.  In both instances, I need to be able to survive about a metric’s worth of gravel without any outside support.

Last year, I ran 4 bottles on the Vaya.  With my 55cm frame, the third bottle cage is basically useless–the bottle hits the front tire–so I ran a tri-racer holder on my seatpost.

I wasn’t thrilled with that setup, and am branching out to other options.  (Bottle access wasn’t great, and the bottles were nailed with every scrap of dust that came off my rear tires).

For Blue Mound, I rode with a hydration bladder…a 3 liter (100 ounce) bladder, to be precise.  In 53 miles, drinking heavily, I just barely went through the full bladder (leaving 2 full bottles on the bike).  Essentially, that was nearly 7 pounds of water, plus the hydration pack, on my back.  On long climbs, the hydration pack felt as though a midget was hanging on my shoulders, squeezing gently.  I wasn’t thrilled.  The other problem is that it negates use of jersey pockets for food and such.

I’ve considered the old ‘bottles in jersey pockets’ routine, but that isn’t much of an improvement over a hydration bladder…it just means less weight.  Another option I’m contemplating is just putting less water in the bladder (maybe 1.5 liters?)  50 ounces of water plus 2 20 ounce bottles on the bike = 90 ounces.  That should easily suffice for ~60 miles.

The other option I’m pondering is the “hydration bladder in the top tube bag” option, which I tried on Sunday.  Again, I was sporting 100 ounces of water.

There, I’m sporting a Relevate tangle bag, and a Porcelain Rocket top bag (gas tank?)

The hose was routed out of the side of the Relevate, and I would just wrap it around the bars and stash it in the top bag when not in use.  That kept it clean and easy to access.

The top bag is definitely a win.  Easy access to food is great. The bladder-in-relevate setup is a bit more questionable.  Particularly early in the ride, 100 ounces of water swaying around led to some uncomfortable bike movement on loose gravel.  Nothing like sloshing water to challenge your confidence.

Also, with the water that low, it takes a surprising amount of suction to pull the water up to your mouth.  Hose access wasn’t an issue (as I had feared it might be), but getting a draw of water took some concentration.  Another drawback is that using the Relevate renders the front bottle cage difficult to use, and the rear bottle cage unserviceable unless you’re stopped.  It was an interesting experiment.

I’m thinking the perfect setup may be 2 bottles on the bike, 50-60 ounces in the hydration pack on my back, and food in the top-tube bag.  That may be gravel cycling nirvana.  We’ll see.

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9 thoughts on “On-Bike Hydration

  1. I hate weight on my back for a long ride. I used a Revelate Tangle and a 100oz. bladder on Dirty Kanza last year, and it was awesome. The trick to the water flow issue is getting the right bladder – most of them connect the hose on the side. But the cheapest Platypus, the Hoser, has the spout in the correct position-on one of the corners. I put the Hoser in the Tangle with the spout facing down and back, ran the hose back along the inside of the Tangle and then out the zipper to drape the handlebars. A LapelEau from Showers Pass controlled the hose so it wasn’t bouncing around. I didn’t notice much if any swaying, but you could also try it with the 70oz Hoser to see if that’s any better.

  2. If you go to a 1 litre bladder in the tangle bag and go with a 18 oz set of three bottles it will all fit. That would give you 87 ounces of liquid. Just short of 1 ounce/ mile. Also during a 100 mile ecursion you’re bound to stop once or twice. At one of those stops you can pour the water from the bladder into one of the empty bottles. Even when the bottle is crusty with gravel dust I prefer it over the sucking it through the bite valve. Because of the placement of the third bottle cage some planning and rotating is needed. The shorter bottle will allow access even with the tangle bag installed including the rear cage. I agree with Noahdeuce that the Platypus series of bladders are solid choices. Good luck with your choice. Thanks for the blog!

    • The third bottle won’t fit on my Vaya, because of the placement of the third bottle bosses on the frame–the bottle hits the front tire, even with a short bottle.

      I’m thinking a combination of bottles and bladder is what I’ll go with–and the question is whether that should be a bladder in the tangle, or on my back. I’m going to keep experimenting.

  3. While I have a Camelback (Mule),I only use it for packing stuff,the bladder was removed a couple years ago (right after buying the thing)…on long rides,in addition to the pair of bottles in the normal frame location,I add a Profile Designs Aqua under-the-seat 2 bottle holder to double my H20. Works for me.

    The DC

  4. I tried the bladder (Camel Back) in my Revelate tangle bag. If I place the top of the bladder closest to the head tube the bladder tube isn’t long enough. Ok, turn it around. Nope, I have a 6° sloping top tube, just enough that NO amount off suction gets the water up. Ideas? ‘Cuz I’d really like to get that water off my back!

    • I put mine in the bag with the hose end of the bladder closes to the seatpost, and then used the double zipper to have the hose exit the tangle at that point as well (at the rear, by the seatpost). Doing that, I had no problems with hose length.

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