When we tested Profile Design’s Aero HC, we wrote that they had “created a refillable BTA system that solves many of the problems of previous systems, and most importantly, never leaked once throughout our testing.” However, because they chose to put both the straw and computer at the rear, it didn’t necessarily work for all riders from a fit standpoint. Fortunately for us, it seems as though the Profile Design engineers are regular AeroGeeks readers since their newest BTA product takes all of those points into account. Meet the FC Hydration System – a system that applied previous lessons learned to create a very distinct product.
The FC Hydration System
The FC Hydration system centers on the bottle, which is available in 25oz (FC25) and 35oz (FC35) sizes, as well as both white and black. The bottle features two straw locations and a refillable drinking port.
The straw locations are mounted both fore and aft of the refill port and include a screw-on cover for the unused location. The cover also doubles as a straw clip, which can be mounted to the right or left of the bottle. One item that’s missing, however, is a bite valve. For those used to riding with one, this is definitely going to be missed. Fortunately they are easy to add on your own.
The refill port is new for the FC and is designed to be both the easiest port that Profile Design has ever created, while also being splash-free. At first glance, it may remind you of the refill ports you’d find on the older Aerodrink models. But don’t let its looks fool you. This is a much more advanced design. The port is comprised of three pieces – two half-moon gaskets that have two layers of rubber to keep liquids in, as well as a plastic restraining lid that holds the gaskets in place. When combined, the gasket allows you to push bottles in while keeping liquid from splashing out.
Beyond the bottle, the FC Hydration system is comprised of three additional pieces – the computer mount, rear storage, and the aero bracket. The computer mount wraps around the front of the bottle and clips in along the bottle’s base. The mount for the computer was designed to be wide enough for a Garmin mount and is based on Profile Design’s universal computer mount design, which consists of a simple cylinder where computer mounts can be easily rubber-banded. The mount on the FC is actually 2mm larger than the standard mount.
The rear storage is made up of a small basket that snugs up tightly against the rear of the bottle and, like the computer mount, clips onto the base. The basket is open but features cutouts to allow a rubber band to be threaded above it for holding gels or other nutrition inside. We were typically fit about two or three gels inside.
Finally, the entire system mates to your aero bars via a standard Aerodrink bracket. For those unfamiliar, the Aerodrink bracket is an adjustable bracket that fits over your aerobars. The bracket uses “wings” that can move up and down vertically to fit bars of different widths. It even features extenders if you need to accommodate even wider widths. The wings attach to your bars using Velcro, and another Velcro strap keeps the bottle tightly in place. An unfortunate downside of the bracket is that it does not work with a standard two-screw cage setup, so bikes with integrated bars and BTA locations (such as our Trek Speed Concept will not work with the mount).
We received an FC25 system in black and found it to weigh in (empty) at 348g. The FC25 (with the 25oz) bottle retails for $99.99. For those looking for more, the FC35 (35oz bottle) retails for $109.99. You can also buy the bottles separately (which includes the straw clip), for $49.99 and $59.99. The accessory kit (computer mount and basket) will set you back $74.99.
When we first saw the new bottle at Interbike, we have to admit we were a bit taken back. It could be best described as ungainly or portly – certainly not flattering comments in any way. But once we got our test bottle in house, we started to see the true beauty of this bottle. The computer was mounted in the correct location – up front. The refill port was both simple to use and elegant in its design, and we appreciated the fact that they had even considered non-liquid nutrition in its design.
Once we got it on our bike we were really amazed at how our arms perfectly wrapped around the bottle. When in the aero position, the only piece the wind could clearly “see” was the computer sticking out up top (more on that a little later). Our arms hid everything else. Mike did most of the test riding with the FC and found this to be one of the most comfortable bottles to ride with. He really appreciated how his arms and the bottle appeared to make almost a singular surface.
We encountered almost no splash back from the bottle during our test rides. We even went so far as to purposely fill the bottle leaving just enough space inside to allow liquid to slosh around, and then gave it a few solid shakes – still nothing. Thanks to the double gasket design, you do have to push the bottle very far in there to make sure it gets through. Also, because we were testing the black bottle, we had no visible point of reference during refills. So we did have one instance of overflowing. Since most standard bottles are 20oz, and the bottle holds 25oz, you shouldn’t encounter overflows all that often.
As always, the Aerodrink bracket does a good job of holding the bottle in place. We found that the wings can have a tendency to move a smidge, which can sometimes leave the bottle just a bit canted. So if this was our primary bottle, we would also throw a zip tie around each wing for a touch more stability.
All that being said, we did encounter a few negatives. First, the computer feels and looks like an afterthought. The shape of the bottle was created with aerodynamics in mind, so the computer on top looks as though it could provide a negative impact. Unfortunately Profile Design did not have aero data available to share with us for us so we could see the actual impact. As we mentioned earlier, when you wrap your arms around the bottle, the computer still ends up peaking over the top. We would love to see a company design a bottle that provides a space for a computer (at least up to a Garmin 510s size).
Second, while the rear storage easily fits a few gels, they tend to bounce around quite a bit. Because the rubber bands only cover a small percentage of the top of the basket, there is still plenty of space for a gel to sneak by – something we definitely saw happen. Even when we jammed a few more gels inside, you still ran into an issue when you got down to your last few remaining gels. As a work around, we started putting a small amount of bubble wrap inside to fill up the extra space. This solution worked well and still allowed us to get gels out easily. For Profile Design’s next iteration, we would love to see a more effective containment solution.
Finally, cleaning this bottle is no easy feat. You have to remove it from the Aerodrink bracket, remove the computer mount, remove the rear storage, detach the gasket cover, and then finally remove the gaskets. And even then the bottle has so many curves that we didn’t even bother with the dishwasher, we went straight to hand washing. Being that we are slight germaphobes here and thoroughly wash our bottles after every ride, this did become a slight hassle.
Profile Design set out to better the Aero HC with the FC system, and we believe they did. By changing to a front-facing computer mount and designing a completely new refill port, they have created a brand new product that checks all the boxes we look for in a BTA system. The addition of multiple straw locations and additional nutrition storage is just icing on the cake. Yes, there are a few negatives. But in our opinions, none are serious enough to warrant any sort of serious disclaimer. Take extra time to arrange your gels, and when you finish your rides, it’ll take an extra minute or two to clean up. In fact, we would go so far as to say this is without a doubt the best hydration product that Profile Design has put on the market, and one of a handful we would consider riding on a regular basis – and that probably says it all.