XLAB Hydration Review – First Take

Last Thursday was a big day in the AG mail-room; our XLAB shipment came in and mysteriously appeared on our bikes with seemingly no intervening time. In total, we received two Torpedo (one aluminum, one carbon fibre) mounts, an Aero TT bottle and cage, a pair of Aero Cage Optimizers and Aqua-Shot bottles. And after an eternity of waiting for the weekend, we finally got the chance to put XLAB’s best and brightest through the paces.

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As usual, these are just our initial impressions and our long-term reviews will come at a later date once we’ve put it all through the wringer a few times.

XLAB Torpedo System

The Torpedo system is one of the most basic takes on the BTA setup around — no fancy straws, no refill ports; just a base (either aluminum or carbon fibre) for mounting a cage and the cage itself. The mount is attached to the extensions via Velcro and the cage mount uses standard mounting screws. Simple. Effective.

A small note about BTA setups: they reward aggressive hand positions and narrow extension setups. The smaller the gaps between your forearms and the bottle, the more invisible to the wind you make the bottle. Essentially, the less the wind “sees” as a distinct element, the less drag. To that end, while our normal setups do include straws to keep us in the aero position while drinking, we were surprised at how simple it was to stay in the tuck while taking the bottle out of the Torpedo and drink from it. To really take advantage of the Torpedo, this is a skill that is important to both practice and master, but don’t worry, we had it down within the first few miles. This may not be a setup for someone who is just starting to ride in their TT position, but it is easy to see why so many pros use this style of front mounted hydration: It just works.

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Aqua-shot Bottle

The Aqua-shot bottle is a standard (non-insulated) bottle with an easy-to-use top. The top is a pressure-actuated valve for squeezing, not sucking and self-seals as soon as you’re done. There are markings to help you drink 4oz at a time, but we couldn’t seem to find a hand position that let you both squeeze and see the demarcations clearly and you end up drinking like you would normally.

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Aero Cage Optimizer

The Aero Cage Optimizer is the biggest little item we’ve seen in a while. We had seen this listed on the XLAB’s website before, and were curious, but not necessarily interested. One ride later and we can’t say enough about how much we like this concept. All too often we encounter frame mount locations that are completely unusable to us, but with its’ 45mm of movement, the cage optimizer gives us a fighting chance at getting those bottle bosses back. At 30g, it isn’t exactly light, and if mounted at an interesting angle, it could be a minor tug in the drag direction, but if XLAB figures out a way to do this out of carbon fiber, we’re prepared to forgive even these minor gripes.

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Aero TT Cage and Bottle

Of all the equipment we received, we were most excited about this one. The three of us have eyed this bottle as a solution to carrying that little bit of extra liquid without interfering with the aerodynamics of the bike for a while, now, and we finally get the chance to test it. Unfortunately, when Mike mounted this to his CD0.1, he used the Cage Optimizer to place the bottle as low in the frame as possible in order to best fill the lower triangle of the frame… and during the test ride we discovered that he’d mounted the bottle so low that it was completely out of reach when riding. Oops; talk about a great example of making a bike so aerodynamic that it’s unusable. Since then, we have readjusted the bottle and are looking forward to actually getting some good use out of it on our next outing.

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Simple Concepts – Amazing Engineering

XLAB, throughout their product line, have brilliantly executed simple concepts that all riders can take advantage of. Torpedo mounts, for example, are attached to the bike via Velcro; which is neither new nor revolutionary.  XLAB’s solution, and their flash of brilliance, was to add a strip of silicon to the back of the Velcro, so that the mount doesn’t slip around on the extensions. The Aero Optimizer solves the problem of our cages not quite being where we want them. The grip surface on the Aero TT Botttle – all of these things are just that extra step further from XLAB that takes the bar and raises it.

Stay tuned to our Facebook and Twitter accounts for more mid review updates as we continue to put all of these products through their paces.