A cold cold gravel ride a few months ago and it got my brain thinking about what I could have done different, how I could have improved things, felt better and gone longer.
Suffering is fine and we all do it in some way or another at times in our sport of cycling, but my conscious thoughts weren’t about suffering. More about intelligent ways of surviving for that little bit longer in cold temps.
This led me to thoughts of hot liquids. A hot liquid, mid way through the ride would have done a lot for spirits and increasing the core temperature. We all know that keeping your core warm is a must to keeping circulation to your hands and feet and also not turning into an ice cube when the wind blows or the rain soaks. Overall making it more enjoyable riding in cold conditions.
Hot drinks on a 32degree ride is amazing!
After mulling this overnight in my head I jumped on the computer and looked up insulated water bottles, yes sure theres a ton of them for keeping liquids cool in summer, double layer stuffed with mylar and a pseudo air gap but what about keeping liquid hot in winter?
1. Double wall!
From experience, I know the only real way to go here is a double wall with a vacuum. This pretty much means on a 4hr ride your stop in the middle will have you sipping on some nice hot cinnamon cider vs an insulated bottle which would have gotten cool or cold even at about 20 – 30mins mins.
The next trick was finding something which would fit well in a regular water bottle cage. I’m not going to swap out my King cages now am I, lets be realistic. A friend of mine had a nice hydroflask flask but it didn’t come close to fitting a waterbottle cage.
2. Must fit regular bottle cages
After some measuring and poking around I found a couple of likely candidates manufactured by those sort of coffee carrying thermos type brands. One of the critical dimensions here is diameter, as even and ever so slightly small bottle will clang around and slide out. The magic number is 2.95″ external diameter for a regular cage. I wan’t too concerned with length as I knew I would have some adapting to do, because none of those things are shaped like water bottles anyway.
3. Drink nozzle is a bonus
Then there’s a whole thing regarding how well a lid and spout pours while moving. I didn’t really get into that rabbit hole as I didn’t care that much. Its not like I’m gravel riding in winter to be competitive and have to drink while moving. Not a critical factor. Ideally it would be nice for something that is easy and has some type of nozzle. I think technology today could give you that. But I will try options.
4. Good aesthetic is a must
One critical factor was that I didn’t want it to look totally stupid, so the aesthetic mattered. It couldn’t look like I jammed some hiking mug in there and I sorta wanted it to look more appropriate and maybe match my bike a bit, if possible.
After mucking around a bit, aka a lot. Measuring things and researching a ton of products both cycling and non cycling related. I decided to buy a 24oz Vacuum Seal Contigo Autoseal, they check the boxes on features quite a lot and luckily they come in a lot of colors so I can match the purple to my hubs. 🙂 – I jest, the critical factor was Diameter for the bottle cage.
This chap was about $16, so if it didn’t quite work out, I would have another fairly inexpensive travel mug. Contigo are a well known brand in this type of flask arena so I had high confidence it could keep my liquids hot.
I recently tried to find these on amazon again, the “AutoSeal in Stainless Steel” and they are getting more rare for this particular configuration. It looks like they renamed the technology Chill 2.0 !
Something like this here on Amazon, the lid on this is slightly different as t looks like they have changed the design
- Body is perfect diameter for a bottle cage.
- Holds 24oz.
- Flask is double wall steel with vacuum.
- Autoseal, a fancy way of saying a button
that opens a hole to drink. (No need to unscrew the lid)
- Integrated spout cover, so if I’m getting dirty, which you are in winter, its a little flap that covers the drinking area. pretty good, I could do with this on my regular gravel bottles.
Sounds pretty good yeah?…wait…
So I got the flash and instructions say do not use with carbonated beverages or hot liquids because the pressure may build and spray you. eh? Do not use with hot liquids, its a thermos! I tested this out, utter nonsense. I think some idiot a must have shaken their triple macchiato with burning fudge topper and threatened to sue the company so they had too put disclaimers for liability reason. I’m not sure but mine is fine, no spraying what so ever.
The contigo flask fits well in my metal standard size King cages, the body is long but my frame is large. Ideally I think a 20 oz version of this bottle would have been perfect. The fit is quite secure even on dirt and gravel. The hot drink while riding speaks for itself and you should try it. It may sound goofy but it’s that extra level.
Overall this bottle is very stable, but I decided to modify it in order to make it a smidge better. Since there are two walls of steel you can modify it a little to your liking. I chose to make a small upper crease in the flask to act as as a notch, so it fits even more snugly into my cage at the top. It’s simple, put the flask in the cage, Mark where you need the notch, find a hard edge, like a concrete step, or granite countertop and rollin a crease.
Another thing you can do, is use electrical tape in layers to add as a bumper to fill out the cage or to stop vibrations. I haven’t needed to do this yet.
What hot drink do I use?
My favourite, Skratchlabs Hot Cider mix is great. It’s a seasonal product and designed to be taken hot but contains all the nutrients of their hydration product, so it has a bit of energy. It tastes great.
I have also carried black tea and green tea with success.
Things I wouldn’t put in there, anything with milk or a more viscose consistency. For one, i’m not sure that drinking milk while riding is actually good for you (digestive system wise) and two its really difficult to clean post ride.
Note: Clean the flask soon after your ride has ended, this will prolong the life and make sure you don’t have any funky stuff growing in the pouring mechanisms.
Here’s a great link from the folks at Training Peaks regarding hot drinks: https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/can-drinking-hot-drinks-help-you-perform-better-in-cold-weather/
So there you have it. Get a flask, give it a go and let me know how it works for you.