When you are on the bike leg of a triathlon, the last thing you want to have to worry about is your nutrition or hydration. While the swimming leg does not allow for replenishing lost resources and the running leg is as easy as grabbing an offered bottle, the biking leg presents unique problems.
To help you figure out how to best tackle this tricky situation we have a list of the 12 best triathlon hydration systems. Since there are numerous arrangements, we really cannot recommend a single product, so keep reading to figure out which will work best for you.
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1. Profile Design Aeria Hydration System
Profile Designs is one of the top two brands of triathlon hydration systems on the market today, and they more than prove their worth with the Aeria Hydration model. It should be made clear up front that not only is this the most expensive triathlon hydration system on this list, but it is also incomplete. This is because the Aeria is also intended to be used with Profile Design’s Ultimate Stem which is actually more expensive than the rest of the hydration system.
Top of the Line
Of course, if you are planning on competing in a triathlon with the intentions of winning, it helps to have the best tools at your disposal. First, this is a contained type of system that mounts on the front in a torpedo position allowing it to be aerodynamic and able to fit in between most aero bike handlebars. It is also easy to refill and comes with a bite valve to help prevent any contents from dripping or spilling onto the handlebars.
2. Profile Design FC System
Profile Designs makes another appearance on our list, but this time it is for those racers who need more hydration than most. With the overwhelming number of triathlon hydration systems designed to provide around 20 to 24 oz, the fact that the FC System offers a 35 oz model is a significant upgrade. This is also another self-contained hydration system that is mounted on the front in a torpedo position. While not the flagship model, the FC System offers more than enough value, though it is a bit more expensive than most.
One of the more frustrating qualities of a front mounted torpedo position hydration system is that the feeder tube never wants to stay put. On top of that, you generally have to figure out how you want the feeder tube oriented before you purchase your hydration system. Thankfully, the FC System is one of the few torpedo hydration systems that features a feeder tube able to be positioned in multiple arrangements to suit your preference.
3. XLAB Torpedo Versa 200
XLAB is the other company primarily known for manufacturing hydration systems which can be found in numerous Winner’s Circles from a wide variety of different triathlons. With such a sterling record backed up by trophies, it might seem a bit odd that XLAB is not higher up on our list, but this is not their flagship model. Still, the Torpedo Versa 200 makes room in an already crowded market by providing pretty much everything that the Torpedo Versa 500 does at a lower cost.
Give and Take
The way that XLABs is able to keep a near clone of their flagship hydration system at such a low price is by using a nylon cage. This does mean that any spills may result in a broken cage, but the mounting bracket is made of aluminum alloy. This is another front mounted hydration system that uses the torpedo position to provide an aerodynamic design. The Torpedo Versa 200 also features the 500’s Dolphin Breather valve which allows you to keep the feeder tube in your mouth without worrying about inflating the bottle or the tube spilling its contents.
4. Speedfil A2 Aero Bottle Hydration System
Make no mistake, Speedfil is definitely not on par with some of the more prestigious brands on our list, but it does have the advantage of a significantly lower price than the other front mounted hydration systems too. Because of this, we recommend that you use the Speedfil as a practice hydration system rather than for competition. However, you will want to make sure that you have the appropriate type of bottle or else you are liable to lose it if you hit rough terrain.
The Speedfil might be a more budget-friendly option, but it still provides most of the features that you expect from a front mounted torpedo position hydration system. For one, it has an aerodynamic design that reduces drag, though it is not quite as effective as XLABs or Profile Designs in this way. Still, the Speedfil A2 does allow for Garmin integration which definitely puts it in the “serious contender” market. It can also be mounted in a variety of arrangements, though this hydration does not come with a cage.
Rear Hydration Systems
1. XLAB Super Wing
When it comes to rear mounted hydration systems, XLAB is pretty much the undisputed king with a wide variety of different models and arrangements to suit different riders’ needs. This is never more apparent than with the Super Wing which features 3 separate mounting positions and 4 different bottle mounting positions. The main downside is that not only is this rear mount more expensive than most but it also does not come with a cage to hold your bottle, increasing the total hydration system’s cost further.
Considering the Super Wing does not actually come with a cage, you might be wondering why we rated it our best rear mount. Well, if you spring for the cost and get a cage, you can arrange it pretty much however you want for what feels the most natural and comfortable for you. This is because the XLAB Super Wing is a modular system that can be added onto or subtracted from as your needs change. Even better, this is actually one of the lighter mounts that we saw, even though it is made of aluminum alloy rather than carbon fiber.
2. Profile Design RML
Profile Designs seems far more interested in front mounting hydration systems and merely pay lip-service to the rear mounted market. We say this because the RML makes the two biggest missteps for rear mounted hydration systems. First, the RML is not that secure and is liable to send your bottles flying when you ride over rough terrain. The other issue is that this is a fairly heavy rear mount which will inherently increase your racing time. However, this is still the best budget rear mount that we saw with plenty of options.
However You Want
What the RML lacks in security it more than makes up for with customization options in both the mounting and the overall arrangement. For one, this hydration system can support up to 2 bottles but is just as effective and aerodynamic when supporting only one. On top of that, this rear mount can be mounted in a couple different ways, depending on whether you prefer aerodynamics or ease of reach. Finally, the aluminum alloy mounts are incredibly easy to install.
3. XLAB Mini Wing 105
One of the biggest selling points of many rear mounted hydration systems is their ability to accommodate multiple bottles. This is great in case you want to keep your hydration and your nutrition separate, or if you prefer to have a bottle for cooling off mid-race. With the Mini Wing 105, this design combined with its other features makes this the best dual rear mount we came across, though it does come with some caveats not often seen with XLAB hydration systems.
Up and Down
The biggest difference between the Mini Wing 105 and most of XLAB’s other rear mounted hydration systems comes down to materials. Rather than using aluminum alloy or carbon fiber like normal, XLAB opts for a Xenon nylon cage that is incredibly lightweight but also less durable. This hydration system also features a low profile which makes it more aerodynamic, but it also leaves it less secure when riding over rough terrain. Still, this is a less expensive rear mounting option that is also fairly easy to install.
4. XLab Delta Wing 400
Of the rear mounted hydration systems we saw, the Delta Wing 400 is unquestionably the best, though that makes sense considering this is the XLAB flagship product for a rear mounted hydration system. Of course, you get what you pay for, and the Delta Wing 400 is by far the most expensive rear mounted system that we saw and it is also one of the heaviest too. That being the case, this is still the best performing rear mount system we found.
XLAB outdid themselves when making the Delta Wing 400 which provides the strength and security of their Delta mounts with the performance of their Gorilla XT cages. In fact, this is not only the best performing rear mount we saw, but it is also one of the few complete rear mounted systems on our list too. With a cage made of carbon fiber and a mounting bracket made of aluminum alloy, the Delta Wing 400 might be a bit heavier but it is also incredibly strong for the weight.
5. XLAB Gorilla XT
While XLABs produces some of the best rear mounted hydration systems we saw, many of their systems are actually made of different components which can be purchased separately if you so desire. Considering that their products are top-notch no matter what decision you make, it should only make sense that we include one such component that is featured on one of their larger systems. The Gorilla XT is the primary cage that the overwhelming majority of XLAB rear mounted hydration systems use.
Light and Strong
Arguably the best quality of the Gorilla XT is the fact that it is made of carbon fiber, though this comes with some caveats too. Carbon fiber is great for hydration cages because not only is it incredibly lightweight, but it is also incredibly strong for its weight. However, carbon fiber does suffer from brittleness in extremely cold weather, and the Gorilla XT has been known to crack under such conditions. But if you keep it in reasonable temperatures, this is an incredibly secure cage that can fit more sizes of the bottle than most.
Frame Hydration Systems
1. XLAB Aero TT
When it comes to frame mounted hydration systems, XLAB once again takes our top spot, though the competition is a bit more fierce. What ultimately seals the victory is the fact that this hydration system is about 50% lighter than the Profile Designs option. On top of that, the Aero TT is also a complete system that comes with both the cage and the mounting bracket. Still, the Aero TT is not for everyone, especially since the included bottle is not easy to squeeze, but it makes up for it with design and materials.
The Aero TT impresses us most with the inclusion of a carbon fiber cage that is less likely to deal with some of the durability issues other carbon fiber cages demonstrate because of its frame mounted position. This hydration system also features an aerodynamic profile with a slip-free design so you do not have to worry about slowing down. This is also one of the larger frame mounted systems with a capacity of 24 oz and a bottle made of BPA-free plastic.
2. Profile Design RZ2
Profile Design might not take the top spot for a frame mounted hydration system, but it is definitely not lacking either. In fact, were it not for the fact that it does not come with a cage or mount and is heavier than the competing XLAB model, this would be the best performing frame mounted hydration system. As it stands, we feel that it is the best all-around value, assuming you already have a cage and mount. The RZ2 is also a bit more convenient than some of the other frame mounted hydration systems we saw too.
Since the RZ2 has to compete with the XLAB, it might seem like it falls a bit short, but this is still an incredibly capable hydration system. For those of you who do not want to have to squeeze extra hard while riding, the RZ2 comes with a bottle that is much easier to squeeze than some. The bottle is made of BPA-free plastic and is much easier to clean than some of the other frame mounted systems we saw. Finally, this hydration system maximizes its design with an aerodynamic profile as well as a non-slip grip.
3. Wiel Carbon Cage
Wiel is likely a company not too many triathlon racers are familiar with in part because it is a fairly new company and also because they specialize in mountain biking products. Thankfully, the difference between mounting this product on an aero triathlon bike and the Wiel mountain bike frame it was made for are negligible. This allows you to get a great price on a carbon fiber cage mounted to the frame, though it is not especially secure or durable.
So long as you do not crash or have to ride over rougher terrain, the Wiel should work out wonderfully. That said, we actually think this is a better practice bike frame mount rather than a competition-worthy option. Still, this is one of the lightest hydration systems that we saw regardless of the mounting position. This is likely in part due to the fact that, aside from being made of carbon fiber, the mounting hardware is extremely light as well. Moreover, this frame mounted hydration system is also easy to install.
Triathlon Hydration Systems — Buyer’s Guide
The type of a triathlon hydration system is more a matter of personal preference than it is a do or die situation. Because of how long a triathlon takes to run, it is unlikely that the small amounts of time and energy used on one type or the minor annoyances of another type will cost you the race. Instead, and due to the endurance nature of a triathlon race, it is far more important that the bike fueling system feel as comfortable and natural as possible, even if that means taking a bit more time than you otherwise might.
Contained – This type of hydration system is definitely quicker and easier than the other type, but it also presents some different issues as well. The contained type will almost always be a front mounted hydration system, though there are a couple contained models that snake the feeder tube along the frame of the bike from either the rear or frame mounted position. The biggest issue with a contained system is that it takes longer to refill, and the feeder tube can be distracting when you are not using it.
Cage – This is a far simpler form of bike hydration system though it will inherently require more effort on your end to use. Basically, the cage type of triathlon fueling systems merely hold whatever receptacle in place but do not aid or assist the transfer of water in any way. This means that cage systems do not have a feeder tube or any other automatic method of distribution. However, this also means that the cage type of hydration systems are much easier to refill as you can just grab another bottle. One issue is that cage systems do not always hold the bottle securely and can allow it to topple out of the cage if you ride over rougher terrain.
While the type of a triathlon fueling system might impact how you use the product, the mount will generally determine which type it is in the first place as well as how easy and convenient it is for you to use. Much like with the hydration system type, the mount is as much about personal preference as it is about getting any kind of leg up on the competition. Remember, they will likely be using a fueling system as well, so it is more important that your hydration system feel as comfortable and natural as possible. While technically there are three primary mounts, the front mount actually has two different sub-mounts.
Front – This is quickly becoming one of the most popular mounts for a hydration system because it keeps everything directly in front of the race and within easy reach. Generally, a basic front mount hydration system will be a cage type of system mounted at the front of the bike. This is extremely convenient as it allows the rider to quickly grab the bottle, take a drink, and put the bottle back without ever having to take their eyes off of the road. However, as a cage type of hydration system, this means that rough terrain can cause the bottle to slip free of its restraints. Thankfully, this mount has the least amount of vibration when compared to the other mounts.
Torpedo – The torpedo mount is actually just a modified front mounted hydration system and are always a contained system. In fact, the torpedo mount is how the first contained fueling systems were made with contained frame mounted hydration systems coming a bit later. The primary benefit of a torpedo mounted hydration system is that you literally do not need to do anything to use it except put the extended feeder tube in your mouth. The issue with this mount is that you will need to take more time to refill it, and the feeder tube can either distract you or even leak its contents as your race.
Frame – The frame is one of the few mounts to use both the cage and the contained types of hydration systems. Most of the frame mounted hydration systems are the cage type, but there are a few contained types to go along with them too. The frame has some distinct advantages over the other types with the main one being that it is far less likely to be damaged during a crash or fall than the other types. On top of that, a frame mounted hydration system is within easy reach for a cage type and is easier to refill for the contained type of hydration system. This type also suffers less destabilization than a rear mounted hydration system but more vibration that a front mounted hydration system.
Rear – This is the original mounting position for bike fueling systems and is almost always a cage type of hydration system. This is mostly due to the fact that snaking a feeder tube along the entire length of the bike is not an efficient design. The primary benefits of a rear mounted hydration system include the familiarity, since most people have ridden a bike with a rear cage, even if it is for casual riding, and aerodynamics, though that one is still being debated. The biggest disadvantages of a rear mounted system is that it takes more time to use, generally requiring you to take at least a handoff of your handlebars, and it deals with the most vibration which is especially difficult for a cage type.
As with all products used for a triathlon, the weight of the hydration system may be just as important as all of the other qualities combined, if not more so. This does not mean that there is one “right” answer, but it does mean that you need to have an acute understanding of your body’s needs ahead of time. You do not want to choose a bike fueling system that is inadequate just to shave a few ounces off of your weight. On the other hand, you also do not want to add any unnecessary weight to sap even more of your energy during this endurance race. In this instance, it is more important that you identify how much, what type, and which mounting option your hydration system will use than its total weight.
The best triathlon hydration system will depend heavily on how you want your system to be mounted. Profile Designs has the front mounted systems locked up with their impressive, if expensive, Aeria or FC systems. If you prefer to keep your liquids in the back, XLABs takes our top spot with their flagship Delta Wing 400. Finally, the frame mounted category is topped with another XLAB as the Aero TT is both lightweight, larger, and a complete kit.