There is a fundamental difference between endorsing something and actually putting your name on a product. Yes, you may be willing to say that you like the product or that you actually use it. But when you put your name on it, there is a whole new level of expectations. Thus when Nathan Sports announced their upcoming hydration product was not only built with specific recommendations from Andy Potts, but in fact would be named after him (Andy Potts = AP), it got our minds racing. If Andy was this big a believer, what did Nathan Sports have in store for us?
The AP Pro Cage
The answer is a horizontal BTA bottle build from the lessons of those that came before it. The AP Pro ($74.95) comes with a proprietary bottle and cage. The cage uses 4 articulating arms that can fit nearly any aerobar setup. The bars can be fully extended to handle a width up to 130mm and compressed down to 83mm. The arm ends can pivot over 180° of horizontal motion and spin 360° around the end. Have a set of S-Bend or wrist relief extensions that refuse to work with any sort of horizontal solution – these articulating arms may be your answer.
At the end of the bars are the aero bar clips. The clips allow you to simply “snap” the cage onto your bars instead of needing to use either zip ties or Velcro. We have already swapped the cage between three separate bikes and can say this is the fastest bottle installation we have found yet.
The cage itself is custom made for the AP Pro bottle. Therefore no other bottles are going to work with the AP Pro. So if you lose the bottle or the cage gets damaged, you are going to need to buy a replacement. The bottle fits into the cage via cage arms on either side. The cage arms themselves run nearly half the length of the bottle and provide an extremely snug and secure fit. In fact the fit is so tight that many of the first adopters attempted to rip the bottle straight out of the cage and succeeded in damaging either the articulating arms or the cage itself. To that end, Nathan Sports has produced the video below detailing how to insert and remove the bottle from the cage.
(Normally we would laugh at the need for this video, but considering that the last thing you want is for the bottle to eject, having to know how to safely remove a bottle is at worst a minor annoyance.)
The bottle holds 24oz (710 mL) and is made of BPA-free plastic. Empty, the whole AP Pro (bottle and cage) weigh in at 274g. The bottle itself is comprised of three parts – the front, which contains the refill port, a plastic deck ring, and the rear which has the straw. The refill port uses two sets of silicon flaps covered by a plastic cover. For any race distance where you are going to need to refill, you are most likely going to race without the plastic cover, while leaving the cover on for shorter races.
The plastic deck ring is one of the most interesting aspects of the AP Pro. The deck ring is meant to have you place an inspirational message, photo or ride details on top of the AP Pro. While we appreciate the thought, what we really think is that the deck is a fantastic spot for a computer. There is more than enough room to mount something as large as a Garmin 510. Our fingers are crossed that in the future we will see additional deck rings built to accommodate different computers.
The rear half of the bottle holds the straw mount. The straw is located at the back of the bottle, which in many ways creates a position similar to the Profile Design Aero HC. Nathan Sports has adopted the mast design that is starting to show up throughout the industry. The straw itself is flexible and comes with an included bite valve. The bite valve looks a bit portly at first, but has been working well on the few rides we have had with it.
The AP Pro works extremely well. It is incredibly simple to install (easy to swap between bikes) and easy to drink from. Need to move the bottle forward a bit while out for your ride? It takes just 2 minutes to pull over and make the adjustments. With its rear mounted straw, the AP Pro does force you to mount the bottle more forward than some of the other offerings available. However, because there is no computer mount fore or aft, the overall length of the AP Pro is shorter than most others on the market, so you have a bit more room to play with.
But that lack of computer is so far our one major issue with the AP Pro. We have become too accustomed to having our computer integrated in some way with our BTA setup. The solution is there for Nathan Sports to take advantage of with its deck ring. But we also have a few ideas of our own. Stay tuned for our Final Look to see how we succeeded, and as always be sure to add any questions in the comments below that you’d like answered.