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How To Carry More Water On A Bike

Best hydration pack for road cycling

If you hunt about on the interwebs you’ll discover that we should all be drinking a lot of water every single day. But how can you carry extra drinks on your bicycle?

Quick Answer: Seat downtube cage and larger bottle


What to drink while cycling?

As a rule of thumb, you should be aiming for up to two liters or half a gallon per day. That’s a fair amount of liquid to drink. But, if you’re doing exercise, then you need to drink much more: think 500mL or one 16-ounce bottle per hour in cooler conditions, and up to as much as 2L or four of those bottles in very hot weather (assuming you’re a 70 KG / 150 lb rider).

So, why is it that important to keep properly topped up?


Cycling dehydration

Research has proved that a surprisingly small amount of liquid lost will have a big impact on your performance on the bike. Only a 2% drop in body weight due to perspiration (that’s 3 lb / 1.4 kg if you’re 150 lb / 70 kg rider) can noticeably impair your riding, at 4% the capacity of your muscles to work is reduced and, at 5%, heat exhaustion can happen and your capacity to work will drop by up to a massive 30%. You may start to have hallucinations by the time you hit 7%. And at 10%, you might experience circulatory collapse, heat stroke or even death.

So, keep hydrated, okay? This isn’t just about having a bit of a dry mouth.

On a long bike ride this can become a real issue, as often bikes only have one place to store water. That’s a bottle cage fixed on to the downtube – the tube that goes from the handlebars down to the pedals.

If there’s no option to top up your water en route, what do you do?

Well, don’t worry, I’ve got a number of options for you depending on your style of bike and what suits you best. Go with one or more of those depending on what you need and the circumstances of your journey.


Top tip: how to install water bottle cage on bike without holes

No fixing holes on your bike frame to attach a water bottle cage?

No worries! Try using one of these instead.

The quick-release strap fixes securely onto any of the tubes on your bike frame or handlebars, and then you can slot in a standard water bottle.


Bikepacking water storage

We’re going to have a look at these options with the help of a friend of mine called Mary. If you’re a long-time reader of Bicycle Volt, then you may remember Mary. She’s friendly and helpful and is going to demonstrate each of the options available.

If you’re ready, then we’ll take a look.

Short on time? Here are my top recommended methods of carrying more water on a bike:

Downtube

Backpack

Waist pack

Handlebars teamed with one of these and one of these

Seatpost

Seat downtube


My Top Recommended Methods of Carrying More Water On A Bike

Okay, let’s welcome Mary. Together we’ll have a look at each of these options in more detail.

With Mary’s modeling assistance I’ve pulled together this handy infographic:

This shows the main places where you can carry water whilst on your bike, and we’ll go through each of these now.


Option 1 = Downtube

What You Need To Know

The classic place to store your bottle of water on the bike. If there isn’t already a bottle cage fitted, you’ll often find that will be two screws attached to the downtube. These are the fixing points for a cage and can easily be unscrewed to fit the bottle holder.

This is a great position as the weight stays nice and low on the bike, so it’s good for your balance. It can take a bit of practicing to take the bottle out whilst pedaling and pop it back in again. However, you can always pull over and stop for a drink until you’ve got this cracked.

Because it’s such a popular method of carrying water there are lots of great options to choose from and at fantastic prices too.


Option 2 = Backpack

What You Need To Know

Okay, I have to say that this is possibly my least favorite place to carry water when I’m on the bike. That being said, there are a couple of major benefits to it, and that’s why I’ve included it here.

With a pack or rucksack on your back you can do a couple of things:

– You can put a normal water bottle in your standard backpack
– Or you can get a specialist backpack that has a type of soft water pouch known as a ‘bladder’ and comes with a hose attachment that you drink the water through

We’ll start with the downside to this. The main issue is that water is very heavy and if you have lots of weight high up (versus being down low on the bike) it can negatively affect your balance and can make you wobbly. Also, on hot days, I find that having a backpack on will make my back sweaty, and this can make the issue worse. By trying to stay hydrated I make myself even more thirsty!

It has a couple of advantages though. First up, you can carry much more water in a backpack than you probably can anywhere else on your bike – the only limit is the size of your pack and the strength of your back. Second, if you have the drinking hose positioned just near your mouth it can act as a useful reminder and encourage you to drink more liquid. If you make it easy, then you’ll do it more.


Option 3 = Waist pack

What You Need To Know

Do you want a bit of a giggle? For my readers in the US, I’ll let you into a little secret. I know you call these items ‘Fanny packs’. British people find this very funny, because in the UK, ‘fanny’ is a slang term for, um you know, a woman’s, um, rude bits. If you visit the UK (and I hope you do, there’s some great cycling here), just call them ‘Bum bags’.

Anyway, whatever you want to call them, they can be a very useful way to carry water when you’re cycling.

They were originally used by long-distance runners for carrying food and water, and bikers have now adopted them. They’re quite cost-effective, and you can easily fit one or a couple of bottles in them, plus snacks and an inner tube or two.

They’re easy to reach into whilst you’re pedaling, and you don’t get a sweaty back like you do with a rucksack. Also, they keep the weight lower so no danger of being wobbly.


Option 4 = Water bottle holder for bike handlebars

What You Need To Know

One of the handiest places to keep water on a bike. Always on view, so it’s a good reminder to keep topped up with fluids. Plus, it’s easy to reach – especially versus the traditional downtube option.

Maybe you’re looking for a different drink than water now and again? Well, you could always stash a takeaway mocha chocca latte with cinnamon dusting directly on your handlebars! Although bear in mind that caffeine has a diuretic effect, so actually makes you thirstier (apologies for being all ‘Nanny State’ and ruining the fun…)

Handlebar mounts like this are very flexible and can often be positioned either right or left of the handlebars (depending on which hand you prefer to pick up the bottle with). Team them up with a bottle cage like this and a water bottle like this.

These mounts can also go on the upright part of the handlebar stem. So potentially you could fit 3 individual bottles on your handlebars alone.


Option 5 = Behind the seat water bottle cage

What You Need To Know

If you have good clearance between your saddle and the top of the seat post tube, you may also find that the handlebar mounts can be positioned here as well. This would tuck the bottle underneath and behind the saddle. Team it up with one of these water bottles.

It’s a useful position as the bottle is tucked out of the way, and so won’t affect the aerodynamics.

Do bear in mind though, that if it’s tucked out of the way, then it will be ‘out of sight, out of mind’. You’ll need to make a conscious effort to drink more water as you ride.


Option 6 = Seat downtube

What You Need To Know

This position is often used if the front downtube is already being used to carry a water bottle, and you need a backup. Unfortunately, it’s not terribly easy to lift out and drink from whilst cycling – it’s a long way down and quite far back to reach. So, I’d suggest that if you’re using this position then drink the downtube bottle first, stop for a breather, swap the bottles over and carry on cycling. That way you’re always drinking from the bottle on the downtube (and you get a quick rest!) Team it up with this water bottle.

This position uses the same cage and fixings as the downtube, so they’re a very inexpensive way of doubling the amount of water you carry with you. They also keep the weight low to help your balance.


Final word on methods of carrying a water bottle while biking

You need to carry plenty of water on bike rides – whatever the weather – in order to keep yourself healthy and hydrated.

Use one or more of these methods of carrying liquids next time you’re out for a cycle and you’ll stop yourself from getting thirsty.

Have fun and stay hydrated.