Hydration is going through something of a transformation in triathlon right now. From integrated designs such as the SHIV Tri, to aerodynamically optimized rear carriers and front bottles alike, the progress in accessible, aerodynamic hydration setups is a huge win for every triathlete. The current generation of Between-The-Arms bottles is pretty good, managing to integrate nutrition and computer mounts in addition to performing their essential function of being things you drink from. However, we can’t help but notice that they still feel a little “pieced together.” Although that’s not too surprising considering they’re being asked to do all of these jobs at once. The best of them execute their primary function well, and integrate where it makes sense (the Speedfil A2 with a Z4 cage comes immediately to mind), leaving the things they cannot do as well to the more specialized products that do. Taking this one step further, perhaps the way to do this right is to take just one idea and execute it really, really well. Enter the Torhans AeroZ.
Simple Ideas, Executed
Torhans set out to create the fastest BTA bottle possible; drawing from the lessons learned from the Aero20 and 30. The fill door seals against a rubber splash guard, and the anti-splashback system extends nearly the entire depth of the bottle. The AeroZ maintains the Torhans Aero Mount, which means it can be swapped out for an Aero20 or Aero30 at will. This way, a triathlete can tailor their bottle to the race without having to play around with their cockpit setups – just drop the AeroZ into your existing front end and go.
The straw is fed from an angled well along the underside of the mount, ensuring that every ounce of liquid you put into the AeroZ is accessible. The straw also features a newly-designed bite valve, which has a bulb-shape to hold some liquid and cut down on sucking in air when you go to drink. You’ll find a magnetic attachment system to the rear of the bottle itself, which holds the straw up and in place—similar to something like the magnet retainer you’d find with Specialized Fuelselage. This system works reasonably well, though it does away with the airfoil mast present on the prior Torhans aero bottles. The straw attaches to either the rear of the bottle or to an extension magnet (included) with a solid click. Once you attach it to either point, the straw isn’t going anywhere until you intentionally move it.
When speaking with Torhans about the “fastest BTA bottle out there” claim, they took it and the competition to ERO and put their money where their mouth was. Torhans took the AeroZ to the velodrome to test and came away with some interesting results. This was a one-rider test, and is not a full sweep, but is more in line with the Aerocamp style of testing that’s become popular in the last year or so, and as such we can only make limited deductions from it. The first is that, on a Speed Concept, the AeroZ can be configured with the mono extensions, which is excellent news to those who rack a Trek in transition. The second is that the AeroZ appears to be faster than not having a bottle there at all, and decidedly faster than the BTA system they used as a baseline, at least for the rider Torhans used to test their new BTA system with. Unfortunately, with BTA solutions even testing in a tunnel will be highly dependent upon the rider’s hand position and forearm size (in this case, a female rider was the tester), and we can really only say that it appears that the AeroZ is starting out in an excellent place on the drag chart with this result, besting both the competition available and the bare extensions, and hope that more people will test it at Aerocamp events to give a larger sample size and bear out what we’re seeing here today.
On The Road
Dropping the AeroZ onto our test bike was easy. We already had a Torhans Aero Mount installed and a K-Edge TT Computer Mount between the extensions, so we didn’t have to move anything in order to accommodate it. The bottle sat easily between our arms, resting the tail between our arm pads and placing the straw within easy-drinking reach when riding the extensions. Moving the straw proved to be no big deal, either; grab the straw at any point along it, pull it back until it frees itself from the magnetic clutches of the rear cutout, then tuck it to the side and feel it attach to the magnet on your extension. Total elapsed time, perhaps two seconds. We aren’t necessarily sold on there being a huge aerodynamic benefit to doing so, but if you get distracted by a straw waving about, or every second truly counts in your quest for podium, then this will be a feature you’ll love.
Filling Torhans’ latest is arguably the easiest of the systems out there, which is great news, considering that the new fill system is coming to the Aero20 and 30 in 2015, as well. Open the fill door with a thumb and it stays open until you latch it again with a solid engagement. The new anti-splashback system, incorporating both rubber teeth and a guard that descends well into the unit does its job phenomenally—we couldn’t find a leak throughout our entire ride. The other virtue of having a deep anti-splashback system is that it “grabs” bottle nipples you drop in for filling, holding a bottle securely in place for quite a while if you need it to. Refueling in less than ideal conditions just got a lot safer with the AeroZ, and that’s a win for everyone.
The gravity feed system for the straw also works as advertised. We tried it on the trainer, drinking until the unit seemed dry and then opening it up to look at what was left. We’re pretty sure we couldn’t have filled more than a thimble or two with the remaining liquid.
Overall, we’d call it on par with our other Torhans bottles, which puts it well in front of a number of BTA solutions on the market today. The bite valve isn’t necessarily the best solution we’ve ever seen, though. Yes, it’s easy enough to drink from, but the bulb-style just leaves something to be desired in aerodynamics. It also doesn’t have any mechanical on-off system, which can dribble a bit after taking a drink. It’s also prone to small leaks if the bite valve is below the water line in the AeroZ itself, such as tucking it along the extensions when not in use.
The State of BTA Bottles
In 2013, we saw the BTA bottles from XLab and Profile Design, and each tackled the problem of accessible hydration in different ways. In 2015, Torhans’ answer will be on store shelves. The big question we keep coming back to is, “Is this better than the others?” For right now, our answer is simple: the AeroZ isn’t better or worse, it’s different. Preliminary aero testing shows that it easily accomplishes the stated goal of being the fastest BTA solution Torhans could produce. And in triathlon, speed is king. The AeroZ appears to buy you almost two minutes over an Ironman distance, and is easy to drink from and fill. Although it lacks the computer mount or gel pocket that other manufacturers have been adding to their solutions. So if your setup requires the BTA to pull double- or triple-duty, this may not be the bottle for you. If, however, you just want raw speed…
That, we think, is how many will be making the decision to switch over to the AeroZ (or not) – if your cockpit can accommodate a single-purpose bottle. In our time with Torhans’ latest, we have come to quite like it, despite the issues with the bite valve. As we spend more time with it over the coming weeks, we will see if this holds true for us. Given the options available, will we gravitate toward the simplicity of the AeroZ’s execution, or will we prefer our BTA perform a wider range of functions? For the moment, the AeroZ is staying on the test bike, and we have found it to be a BTA system, distilled down to the essence of what we look for in hydration. Less, sometimes, is more. And the AeroZ excels at doing a few things very, very well.
[All images are of a pre-production unit]