Updated: Sep 8, 2018
Cyclists new to bikepacking will soon come to realize that after packing your bike with frame, handlebar and saddle bags there is no more space for your water bottles.
Immediately your mind starts lining up possible solutions. Here is a list of things you can consider when faced with this challenge of where to keep water on your future bikepacking adventures:
Water carried on the body, similar to a backpack that contains water.
Bikepacking specific bike:
Bikes designed for bikepacking. These bikes normally have additional water bottle cage mounts under the bottom tube near the BB and on the normally rigid forks.
DIY water bottle cages:
Using a wire water bottle cage, rubber cut outs to protect the shocks and brackets that you can buy at any hardware store. This is a popular low cost solution to store water on a MTB fork.
Handlebar bottle holders:
Usually a water bottle holder made from tough fabric that ties to the handlebars. Sometimes bikepackers also store small items and food in these holders.
The purpose of this post is to share my experience with you on the SKS BOTTLE CAGE ADAPTER that I've been testing for the last year as a workable solution to carry water on bikepacking trips.
In the box is the SKS Adaptor
First let me explain why I chose this "on the bike" option rather than an "on the body" hydration backpack. My shoulders tend to tense up and turn into a painful mess when I carry a backpack over longer distances.
The bottle cage adaptor is well made as you can expect from something made in Germany. The operation is simple with a push button to adjust the angle of the water bottle. Add a bottle cage and you are ready to go.
I used the Specialized Zee bottle cage that has never dropped a bottle even through rough single tracks. I suggest you acquire something with similar design.
Compared to more traditional DIY mounts shown below using wire cages that tend to lose bottles over rough terrain the SKS cage adaptor has to date never left me looking for my water bottle somewhere down a dirt road.
I experienced this first hand while riding with a fellow bikepacker when we crossed a river. The bridge was broken concrete and as we picked up speed on a downhill section approaching the broken bridge my companion lost all his water bottles.
We stopped and watched as one bottle drifted down river.
Traditional DIY wired Bottle cage mount.
Things to know:
The standard SKS cage adaptor will only fit to rigid forks as the straps are too short to fit today's shock diameter. Our solution is to replace them with longer straps for our customers with suspension up front.
Securing the adaptor to your forks/shocks will take some adjusting of the straps until they are very tight and securely fitted to the fork/shock. The way I do it is by adjusting the strap until I can barely close the clamp that secures the adaptor to the fork/shock.
It is very important to strap the clamp with some insolation tape to prevent it from opening over rough terrain. If you skip this step you will lose the adaptor with your water bottle along the way. I good way to double check is to lift the front wheel off the ground and to drop the bike. If the cage comes undone, repeat your adjustments until all is good.
A drawback of fork/shock mounted water bottles are that you will have to stop and take a drink as it is quite the reach and something better left alone while moving. Not really a problem as with bikepacking speed and arriving first is not the goal, so stopping for a drink is a matter of pulling a brake lever and enjoying the view.
TIP: When buying bottle cages for the SKS BOTTLE CAGE ADAPTER be sure to get two of the same, either two left or right.
How much is enough?:
Two large water bottles will last me 100 km before I have to refill. Traveling long distances without water stops will require additional water storage options. Handlebar water bottle holders, hydration packs are options to consider. You might also want to consider a water purification filter as a backup to when you run out of water.
The best solution is good planning, know your route, where and how often you can stop and refill your water supply. Be aware of water availability in the area you are planning to visit especially in remote areas. Ask yourself, are natural water sources such as dams and rivers present on route?
In some situations it might be wise to change your route to coinside with the availability of water.
You're the Manager:
Most cyclists are familiar with their water intake requirements. If not you can get started with how much to drink here.
Most of us drink less than required. The general tip is to take more than you think you need and as much as you can safely carry on your bike. Manage your intake and refill when you have the opportunity to do so.
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