June 11, 2012

Review: Speedfil Hydration System

Fueling and hydration are sort of the unofficial fourth sport of triathlon, and for long course, can be especially tricky. Just as the bike legs is disproportionately longer than the swim or the run, it also requires the majority of calories. Figuring out not only what to eat and drink, but also how to do so has been an ongoing challenge, but I think I've finally found a great system that works for me.

A big part of figuring this whole thing out was simply how to just carry enough. I've been a notorious under-fueler in the past, and so it was imperative to carry enough fluids and calories to get me through a long ride or race. A big part of this was my discovery of Gu Roctance, which allows me to get a big percentage of my calories (and also electrolytes) through fluids. It's much easier for me to drink such a high amount of calories rather than try to consume them through solid food, which would also require carrying a lot more stuff!

And so I started training with Roctance, supplementing with Honey Stinger waffles, and that seemed to be doing the trick for me. However, I needed a better way to carry my fluids, and also a way to carry more as my training rides got longer and longer. When I bought my bike, my frame could only fit one bottle cage, so I had a two-bottle wing system installed on the back of my seat post. This allowed me to ride with approximately 60 oz of fluids at a time. Not bad, but there was a problem: I was not comfortable grabbing the bottles on the back. In fact, to this day, I never have while riding, only when stopped. This clearly created a problem, as I would need those fluids during my rides (and my races) and I couldn't stop every time I needed more to drink. I also found that I didn't drink as frequently from the bottle on my frame because I hated having to come out of aero and slow down to do so.

Enter, the Speedfil Hydration System. I'd heard of hydration systems that were hands-free, making them ideal for triathletes, but I had yet to do any research. I first spotted one on my coach's bike, and it happened to be the Speedfil Standard system. It looked like a giant bottle mounted to the frame with a straw that came up through the handlebars. She had great things to say about it, so when I got home later I looked it up and read a bunch of reviews. Most were quite positive, but there were a few recurring complaints that I read, although all were fairly minor. With Wildflower coming up I decided to go for it and drove out to Davis to pick one up.

It definitely is not a cheap product - nearly $100 for the system - but in hindsight I think it's well worth it. A little overview of what the system entails:
  • a 40 oz frame-mountable bottle w/ an aerodynamic design (aka it's narrow)
  • a plastic tube that serves as a straw w/ bite valve + a wired sleeve to allow for bending)
  • an opening on the top to allow for on-the-go refilling

Installation ended up being a tad tricky. It didn't come with the clearest instructions, nor with pictures or diagrams, but a quick Google search turned up a video that was fairly helpful (although with no verbal instructions, it still left me a tad confused). I managed to figure it out, however, and gave myself a little pat on the back : ) Tip: When installing the straw, get on your bike and play around with the positioning before you cut the tubing! You want it to reach the bottom of the bottle, but also need to figure out what the best height is between your handlebars for you to reach.
successfully installed!
 the full set-up

The first time I used it was actually at Wildflower...and fortunately, it worked great! I filled the bottle with 2 servings of Gu Roctane (so 480 calories) and then carried water in the bottles on the back. The straw was fairly easy to get to in aero, and I ended up hydrating and fueling much better with such easy access. Tip: When filling, mix your drink in a regular water bottle, then pour into the Speedfil bottle through the refill opening.
not my bike, but shows another angle
 you just squeeze more fluids through this opening to refill

Since then, I've used it numerous times on rides up to 5.5 hours and I'm still loving it. On the longer rides I've also been carrying water and another serving of Roctane in the back bottles, and refill my Speedfil bottle at stops. I have yet to do so while riding (mainly because I still don't feel comfortable reaching back), but I have no problem stopping for a minute to refill. I've also found that the complaints I read about in the reviews haven't really been an issue for me. For instance many complained that it's a pain in the ass to get the bottle in/out of the cage, and while it is a little trickier than a regular bottle cage, it's not that difficult. Cleaning has also been a breeze, although I do make sure I take it out and rinse it the same day I use it so it doesn't get sticky and gross. Tip: When cleaning, use hot water and suck it up the straw then blow it out to rinse it out.

  • can carry a lot of fluids (40 oz)
  • makes for easy hands-free hydration
  • easy on-the-go refilling
  • bite valve holds fluids at the ready (aka no sucking air)
  • expensive
  • can be tricky to install
Overall, I think this is a great system. I know a lot of others use bottles mounted to the aero bars, but I really like keeping that area less cluttered. Plus, you can carry so much more fluid with this system. This would probably be overkill for shorter races, but for long course training and racing it's a great system. Easy to use, great design, and well made. So far, I love it : )

What kind of hydration or fueling system do you use?

1 comment:

  1. Just picked up one second-hand. Haven't used it on a long ride yet, but should test it out tomorrow. Getting ready for a Iron Distance tri here in Taiwan in October.