Monday, May 10, 2010

Shower Poufs and water bottles

The other day a friend asked me about something on my bike. I do not run some super exotic tricked out triathlon bike – not by the standards of those who upgrade every year. I do have a triathlon bike that is a couple of years old and it does have an aero frame and an aero seat post and all of that stuff. But in the transition area it barely gets noticed. So when someone says “Hey James what is that on your bike?” I take notice. The next question was “Is that a shower pouf?”

You see, although it is definitely old technology, I still ride with a first generation profile design front mounted aero bottle (I’m going to refer to this as simply the bottle from now on). These things have gotten more bad reviews than I can count. Everyone hates these bottles. They hate the mounting mechanism (rubber bands), they hate the yellow spongy thingy, they hate the lack of a lid and they even hate the non-aero straw. But you still see hundreds of the dang things at every race (as evidenced by all of the yellow spongy thingies at the first big bump).

Profile Design Aero AWater Bottle

I don’t have any of these issues. It should not be this way but I have adapted to the bottle – it has not adapted to me. First, the yellow spongy thing does not go in as a vertical cylinder. Some people roll them into a donut shape and others wedge them into the bottle horizontally. Both of these methods work well. If you do stick the yellow spongy thingy in the bottle opening vertically it WILL bounce out when you hit any rough pavement. You have seen the yellow sponge graveyards at almost every race – unless of course you were leading. I doubt Andy Potts or Macca have witnesses this but I have seen it. I bet there were 300 of these in the rough pavement of 70.3 New Orleans this year (rough pavement plus starting in the second to the last wave).

I must admit that the large rubber bands are not the best solution to mounting the bottle. The bottle will fit in between most aero bars so the rubber bands are only used to keep the bottle from jostling. However, these rubber bands become brittle after a few months. After a race last year I went to pick up my bike and the rubber bands had split. The bottle hit the ground. Not the best solution. Profile design sells a bracket that is mounted to your aero bars. This bracket is used if your aero bars are too wide to hold the bottle. The bracket is supplied with a thin piece of hook and loop fastener that should hold the bottle in place. However, threading this hook and loop fastener into the bracket is very cumbersome.

So although my aero bars are definitely narrow enough I use the bracket. This raises the bottle up a little bit higher. Instead of the hook and loop fastener I use a piece of nylon strapping with a snap closure like you would find on a luggage strap. I just had one lying around but a shoe string or any other type of cord would work. Now that I think about it a piece of elastic from a set of Yankz! Would work great (I know you can buy shock cord by the foot from places like REI). I also put a couple of pieces of electrical tape around the bottle where it slides into the bracket. There are no squeaks from the bottle.

Mounting bracket with strap

Next is the splash guard. This is where the shower pouf comes into play. These are perfect replacements for the yellow spongy thingy. They actually do a much better job. The plastic mesh of the pouf is of a finer weave and really traps the liquids so that they do not splash. The shower poufs only cost about a dollar and you can get them in any color that you would like – I have a red one that coordinates with my bike! I get very little splash with my shower pouf in place.

I dispose of these at the end of every season. You see, I used to do the aquarium thing a few years ago. And one of the old techs back then was to use materials that had a huge surface area to ‘grow’ bacteria. This bacterium is used to process waste materials in the aquarium.

Red color matched shower pouf

Why am I telling you this? Well, these shower poufs are perfect if you want to culture large amounts of bacteria. And there is probably no better place than a warm sugary environment – like in the bottle mounted to the front of your bike. Yeah, if you do not clean this bottle and shower pouf after every couple of ride then you will start to see cultures. Yuck!

Now, I am lucky in that I do not drink sugary drinks when I ride. I prefer to get my calories from gels. And if I do carry sugary water while on the bike I will stick it on the down tube water bottle.

Now onto the non-aero straw. You see, there have been wind tunnel tests that show that a cylinder is one of the most non-aero shapes. On message boards, it is discussed at length on how non-aero the straw is. It is said that the straw acts like a flat piece steel the size of a piece of typing paper turned against the wind. This information can from DC Rainmaker’s blog – which by the way, I am a HUGE fan of this blog! This is based on the assumption that the straw is 12 inches long and a third of an inch wide. With my bracket and such I have cut my straw down to less than 5 inches (don’t judge me).

5 inch straw

Now this aerodynamic information came out of a wind tunnel and I am in no means implying that I am an aerodynamics genius, but I would think the non-aero straw is the least of my worries. If I can find a straw shaped like an airfoil I will try it out.

So, why have I made all of these adaptations to use this bottle? It certainly does seem like many trials and tribulations to just use a water bottle. Well, the simple fact is with the water bottle up front I tend to drink twice as much. Really! I have looked at my water consumption on my road bike (no water bottle up front) and I drink a 20 ounce bottle in 20 miles. With my triathlon bike I tend to over hydrate. It is not uncommon for me to look down and all of my water is gone in a little over an hour (the aero bottle and the down tube mounted bottle). I try not to over hydrate but I would much rather have the water in me then left on my bike when I exit transition.


KC (my 140 point 6 mile journey) said...

I just bought the "classic" model and have only used it once. Mine did come with a top though and with the little yellow poufy thing but still, water splashes and it doesn't take much of a bump. i still need to play around with the straw position b/c i felt like i was having to look down and adjust my head to much to get to the straw, thus taking my eyes off the road for a few seconds. Still debating weather to use it at the tri i'm doing this weekend or just go with one bottle on the bike. So many decisions.

Mel-2nd Chances said...

Timely post! My bf was going to buy me something for my bike, either an aero bottle like this, or the 'behind the seat ones' for Mother's Day and wasn't sure what I'd prefer, so now I'll be the one to pick :) Thanks!

bryan said...

Good post! I have found that these are more useful in the Profile aero bottle than in the shower!

Jon said...

I tried that bottle my first season, I didn't like the weight of the liquid and something being on the front bars so I went with another recommendation, The Speefil. Its mounted on the downtube and has a long straw that comes up to the cockpit. Holds 40 ozs. Works for me!

Glad that this works for you! I'll let those who use this method know about the shower pouf instead of the sponge.

Keith said...

Not judging. But seriously - the aero properties of the frigging STRAW??!! To my way of thinking the least aero part of the whole bike is the human on it. By far. Has anyone ever done actual real wind tunnel tests to compare an aero vs non-aero straw with a human on the bike?

Mike Russell said...

You have to try Infinit man. I know you don't like sugary drinks and all, but you can adapt it to meet your needs. Email me your address and I will send you a small packet of the stuff to try.

TRI-james said...

Keith - I agree. My large form behind the straw seems so much more important. But like I said, I am not an aerodynamics genius ...

By the way, I only cut the straw down to size for comfort and safety (like not wanting to be jabbed me in the eye when hitting a bump).

Possible aerodynamics were an after thought.

lindsay said...

very interesting! i'm sure this was helpful to some tri-ers/cyclists out there. if i used one of these i would definitely have cultures growing... i am lazy at getting around to things like that! lol.

wojtek said...

Looks like Flexr bottles fix this problem