Bags, Bottles and Cages: How to Carry Water and Fuel While Cycle Touring

I don’t know what it is, but I have this weird attraction to water bottles. There’s always at least a few floating around the house, and now that we needed touring/camping ones, a whole new world of bottles had opened up!

If you read the blog on our bikes, you’d have noticed that multiple bottle cages mounts were a pre-requisite on our frames. We’ve read about the necessity to carry large volumes on water on trips, especially across the ‘Stans, China and the Outback, so the need for adequate vessels was paramount. We’re talking life and death here folks – literally!

Understanding how much you need is the first step. I heard somewhere that crossing parts of the Outback in Australia you’ll need to carry 30L of water per person (!) – I doubt we’ll be hunting down that cycle route in any hurry, but it does make you think about the importance of carrying enough water. We thought, that in a worst case scenario, 12 litres between us should be sufficient for the harshest, hottest, driest days we’ll encounter. I bloody hope so, as that’s all we’re taking!

Second step is how to carry it. Three bottle mounts on each bike (less one for an extra gas/fuel bottle), and 2 water bags. The bags are pretty easy to choose. The options that we found best were from Ortlieb and MSR. The Ortlieb ones are simple, and most likely built of the same quality that their panniers are so famous for. MSR does two types; the Dromlite, which is very similar to the Ortlieb, and the Dromedary. The Dromedary is made from tougher, more robust materials. Although heavier, it comes with some very useful straps that can be used to secure the bags in a multitude of ways on the bike. Neither the Ortlieb nor Dromlite versions have this. ‘Nuff said.

Ortlieb and the Dromlite just didn’t seem to cut it. The black Dromedary bags from MSR fit the bill.

The only issue with the Dromedary bags, from what I’ve read, is that the 3-in-1 cap is prone to snapping. An easy fix is replacing the stock caps with Nalgene ones which are the same size (I’ll be taking an original to see how it fairs, but always good to have a backup).

On to the bikes, and the bottles. Standard bottle holders fit bottles of around 70mm diameter. The majority of bottles this size hold between 500 and 700ml. Elite does a great model, called the Syssa, that holds 750ml, is aluminum, and has a dust cap. Alessia’s bike, being a woman’s model, has limited space between the top tube and down tube, so this bottle works a treat – anything larger and it wouldn’t fit.

The Elite Syssa – a solid, alloy bottle but with limited capacity.

But we needed to carry more. At least 2 liters on our bikes. Not only did we bigger bottles, but we needed bigger bottle cages too. BBB, the brand that I’m currently questioning produces the Fueltank XL. A sturdy alloy bad boy that’s capable of carrying bottles with a diameter of 90mm (think Nalgene, 2L PET, Kleen Canteens, etc.). Maybe I don’t give BBB enough credit! There aren’t many other options out there that I could find. Topeak does something called the Modula, but the reviews weren’t that great and it’s prone to breaking. (One other option that popped up in forums and blogs was the Bike Buddy – click here for more info).

The BBB Fueltank XL even has a handy clip to secure the neck of longer bottles.

Now, the one issue that I’ve found with the BBB Fueltank XL is that the mount holes are in very restricting places. When they arrived, I started installing them on the bike and found that the two internal cage mount holes on the frame were too close to the bottom bracket to allow both to have the Fuel Tanks fitted. The increased size of the bottles would not allow it. Bugger.

A moment of head-scratching, then the purchase of Elite VIP clips which let me position bottle cages wherever I pleased. These are strange little bits of kit – a little over-engineered perhaps, and possibly prone to failure due to their plastic construction. But they fixed the problem. However, I didn’t want to cycle across the world with gear that I had doubts on.

Welcome the Shimano BA01 Battery Adapter (AKA bottle-mount-hole-moving plate).

I can’t remember where I read about it, or who to give credit to for this hack, but it’s a ripper and solved the issue with style. Nice, neat, and clean, it attached to the current holes and moves them 50mm in the desired direction. The perfect amount for Fueltank XL’s.

Although it has a thin neck, the clip on the Fueltank XL works but doesn’t sit perfectly. Not for the anal-retentive.

Cages on. Now for the bottles. I don’t want to bore you with my obsession, but I will tell you about what we settled on. Quechua (Decathlon) has a 1.5L classic alloy bottle – at a penny under £7 it seemed great. This would be the first backup. Something that we could fill on hot days when we were unsure if water was more than 20kms down the road. 

Next up was the go-to bottle on the road. The one that we’ll be picking up numerous times every day of every month. I’ve decided on Kleen Kanteen 1182ml with a sport cap and added extra dust cap (What’s with all the ‘dust-cap’ talk you ask? Well, I’ve heard there are some pretty grimy roads in the world, and team that with a multitude of waterborne diseases, I think I’ll keep giving my drinking spout a little protection). It’s rock-solid, tried-and-tested, and a veteran in the water bottle game.

Of course, you could, and I’ve heard it’s a very popular option and the best way to go according to some, use a 1.5/2L PET bottle, rinsed out with a Powerade cap on it. It will carry your water, they are dead cheap and easy to replace around the world. Who knows, maybe we will have resorted to these before we get to Australia. With my obsession, I doubt it.

Happy Rolling!


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