TEST ZONE: The Big Bottle Battle!

It's the most overlooked piece of performance equipment, the water bottle. Yet, a rubbish one can ruin your ride.

By Jon Minster |

The humble cycling water bottle – or bidon, in French – is one of the most underrated gear items. 

It’s something you probably don’t think too much about; if you’re like most cyclists, you grab whatever’s lying in the Tupperware drawer the night before your ride – probably a bottle you got for free in a race goodie bag, once upon a time, the lid slightly warped from the dishwasher and the once-clear plastic gone milky. 

It’s fine, you say. It does the job. 

But what if it could be better? Once you’ve experienced a really good bidon – one that delivers water straight into your mouth, without spilling or dripping; one that sits snugly in your bottle cage, and doesn’t leak – you’ll throw that old goodie-bag bottle straight into the recycling. 

We randomly chose five bottles off the shelf, and put them through their paces to see which works best. 

READ MORE How To Clean Your Waterbottle Properly

What makes a good bottle?

Squeezability / This highly unscientific metric is probably the most important thing when it comes to a cycling bottle. You want to be able to give it a good squeeze and shoot a decent stream of water into your mouth. This must happen quickly and efficiently. The bottle mustn’t be so rigid that it’s hard to squeeze; equally, it mustn’t be so soft that it compromises durability.

Lid / A lid can make or break a bottle – literally. We’ve lost count of the number of bottles we’ve had to throw away over the years because of a broken lid. Sadly, most lids are terrible. They’re made from cheap plastic, and the nozzle is poorly designed and prone to failure. Our advice: go for the bottle with the best lid, even if it costs more. Your bottle will last longer, and you’ll enjoy using it more. 

Cage fit / A standard cycling bottle is 73mm in diameter and 127mm tall, or has an indentation at that height for the tab on the cage to engage. A standard cage is designed to fit a standard bottle; but just as all bottles are slightly different, so are all cages. The best bottle is the one that’s slightly oversized, which means it fits snugly into your cage and doesn’t bounce around and risk falling out.


The Contenders

1 Pas Normal Studios / 650ml / R250 / orphanstreetclothingshop.com

Squeezability: ★★★★★

Quality: ★★★★★

Value: ★★

This is the most expensive bottle on test. Which is fitting, since Pas Normal makes some of the most expensive cycling kit around.

But even though it’s branded ‘Pas Normal’, the bottle is actually made by Dutch company Tacx, which supplies many pro teams with their bidons. The plastic is thick and strong, but the bottle still has the perfect amount of squeeze, releasing 75ml in a single hit – the most of all the bottles on test. 

That aside, it’s the lid that makes this bottle worth the money. Also made from durable plastic, it has a one-way valve and a screw top to open or close the flow. This is great, for two reasons: you can leave it open on a ride and not have to worry about pulling out a nozzle with your teeth; and you can lock it when the bottle’s off the bike, to make sure nothing leaks out.

2 Titan Racing Flow 800 / 800ml / R45 / titanracingbikes.com 

Squeezability: ★★★

Quality: ★★★

Value: ★★★★★

Carrying a generous 800ml, this is the biggest bottle on test (along with the Syncros), and it’s also the cheapest, costing a mere R45. The bottom part feels great – the plastic is soft, thick and grippy in your hand. It fitted snugly into all the cages we tested, and the red colour means business.

Unfortunately, the lid is made from harder, more brittle plastic that’s more likely to crack or perish. The nozzle is decent, though. Although it’s the standard-issue nozzle that you pull out with your teeth, it’s bigger than usual, and the rubber is soft. When the nozzle is pushed down properly, the bottle doesn’t leak. Great value. 

3 Syncros Bottle Corporate G4 / 800ml / R90 / scott-sports.com

Squeezability: ★★★★

Quality: ★★

Value: ★★★★

Bottle Corporate! Now there’s a name for a <itals>bidon… Despite the plastic feeling the hardest and cheapest of all the bottles, the Syncros performed well on the squeeze test and was very easy to drink from. Its lid is similar to the Titan Racing lid, with a big rubber nozzle; but it feels a bit more durable.

The best thing about this bottle is its classy design. The smoky colour and subtle pattern will look good on any bike, and the generous size means you’ll only have to carry one of them on most rides. It fitted all our cages snugly – not as snugly as the PowerBar, Titan and Pas Normal, but snugly enough not to fall out. 

4 PowerBar / 500ml / R90 / powerbarsa.co.za

Squeezability: ★★★

Quality: ★★★

Value: ★★

A small bottle can be useful. Many dual-suspension mountain bikes can only fit a small bottle inside the frame (or the second cage can only fit a small bottle), and sometimes you only need 500ml if you’re doing an easier ride, or if you’re riding in winter and not sweating as much. 

This one looks good if you don’t mind the branding, and it did well in the squeeze test, coming in tied second with the Syncros. The lid lets it down, however. The nozzle is small and hard to grip with your teeth, and it feels cheaper and less durable than the rest of the bottle.

5 CamelBak Podium / 620ml / R165 / capecycles.co.za

Squeezability: ★★★ 

Quality: ★★★★★

Value: ★★★★

This bottle has the most complex lid of all the bottles on test. Like the Pas Normal, it has a one-way squeeze valve, and the flow can be locked. It can also be fully dismantled for cleaning – something you can’t do with any of the other lids. 

Despite the fancy lid, however, it performed worst in the squeeze test, yielding only 50ml in a single squirt. It’s also the narrowest of all the bottles, and felt loose in some of the cages we tested it in. 

But it’s built to last, and it looks good, which are two important considerations when you’re shopping for a bottle. 



To see how much water could be squirted out in a single hit, we took each bottle, turned it upside down and gave it a good squeeze into a measuring jug. The more water released, the better the bottle’s ‘Squeezability’ rating. We also rode with each bottle, to test how they performed in the real world.

This test appeared in the May/June issue of Bicycling South Africa.


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