The draw: An aero twist on a downtube bottle
The VR mounts just like a regular bottle cage to either the seat tube or downtube with included extra-long bottle cage bolts, and stays securely in place and rattle-free even on bumpy roads. It’s easy to fill from a sink, but is not the best choice for on-the-fly refilling due to the tiny bite valve opening (picture refilling your Camelbak via the end of a hose). The VR really shines for sprint- or Olympic-distance racing, when 20 ounces of fluid is enough to get you through the bike and you want to enhance your bike’s aero profile by filling in some of the gaps in the front triangle where the wind loves to hide and slow you down. The VR spout stays splash-free out on the road and the “bottle” is easy to grab for a quick sip from the bite valve before replacing it smoothly and securely in its mounting bracket.
*Best in Class*
The draw: Splash-free convenience on long hauls
Lighter and sleeker than its big brother (the $110 FC35), the FC25 may be a better choice for triathletes who are less confident and stable in the aerobars thanks to its lower weight and slimmer profile when battling side winds. Options abound when it comes to personalizing set-up; stick your straw fore or aft and left or right of the main reservoir. The whole system operates simply, with intuitive ergonomics that allow you to quickly drink, eat or refill fluids on the fly, and the no-splash port works flawlessly. The forward computer mount location is ideal for clear viewing, especially with the straw tucked away on the side and out of your line of vision.
The draw: Fast and easy refills
Speedfil lives up to its name with this unique BTA hydration system. The Aero Bundle starts with the Z4+ cage, which mounts easily to most bars using cable ties, and can sit in either the forward or reverse position depending on your preferred straw and Garmin-compatible computer mount locations. The second part of the “bundle,” the A2, threads atop the provided 21-ounce, BPA-free bottle, and features a refill port that achieves both rapid refills and a splash-free ride thanks to a clever yet simple sliding door. Bonus points for including a second drink tube and for an insulated sleeve that helps keep fluids relatively cool under the hot sun.
The draw: Super versatile computer mount
XLAB makes several leaps forward from last year’s “Best in Class” winner, the Torpedo Kompact. The Versa 500 is easy to set up and mounts to the bars with a confidence-inspiring click. XLAB offers two different reservoir lids—one is permeable and ideal for on-course refills, while the other prioritizes a 100 percent splash-free ride with a solid door closure. The unique “dolphin tail” design cleverly tucks away the straw to the side of your dominant hand. What separates the Versa 500 from similar products is the telescoping computer mount, which accommodates Garmin bike computers and watches, as well as non-Garmin head units. It features near-infinite adjustability for dialing in your favorite location, height and tilt angle, whether you are in the garage or out on the open road and need a quick adjustment for dealing with sun glare.
The draw: Elegant minimalism
Sometimes less can be more. That’s certainly the case with the Vuka Alumina BTA (between the arms), as Zipp tapped its top designers and engineers in order to meet the challenge put out by longtime sponsored pro, Jordan Rapp, who requested a lightweight, elegant and practical solution for accommodating a bottle and computer mount in the cockpit area. The result is a super high-quality product made of durable, attractive aluminum with precise mounting hardware that integrates with your aerobars as if your bike manufacturer had designed it to be there all along. Bolt on your favorite bottle cage, then flip the cobra-like Garmin-compatible perch fore or aft of the bottle, based on your preferred line of sight, and off you go!
– Fueling systems reviews by Scott Fliegelman