Koala Bottle System & GelBot
- Price: Koala: $29.99 GelBot $13.99
- Reviewed by: Cid Cardoso Jr.
- Reviewed on: May 3, 2013
- Category: Accessories
Our experiences and opinions after testing the newest triathlon products out there.
I’m not picky when it comes to water bottles, give me a 24 oz wide mouth bottle and I’m happy. All that I ask is that I can easily squeeze liquid out without the top popping off and dousing me in Gatorade and that I can clean it in the dishwasher without it melting. That is not to say bottle technology has not come a long way, as we now take for granted rubber mouth pieces that are easier on the lips and wide mouths that make a bottle much easier to clean or fill with ice and powder. It also doesn’t mean that further improvements aren’t on the horizon. Two products that take bottles to the next level are the KoalaBottle and the GelBot.
One area where there have been a lot of innovations is on the bottle/cage interaction. The latest one is the KoalaBottle (apparently also known as the Magnetic Bottle ™). The bottle includes a “magnetic” ring around its neck which attaches to two rounded magnetic plugs embedded into the unique cage. Note that the magnets are actually the pieces in the cage. The ring itself is not a magnet, but a ferrous metal that the magnets are attracted to. The fact that this ring provides 360 degree of contact makes it easy to “drop” the bottle in its place within the plastic cage. The magnets on the cage “click” as they come in contact with the ring, making a distinct noise that signifies that the bottle is firmly attached.
My first thought when I saw the KoalaBottle was to try it on my aerobar mount. I’ve been ejecting bottles as I go over rail road tracks or bumps for the last few months to dismay of my riding partners so I’ve been on the look-out for a new option. In addition, I’ve broken several cages due to the vibrations and weight of a water bottle full of liquid. The KoalaBottle proved to be a good solution but for a different reason. The way the bottle fits in the cage along with the magnetic securing system does in fact keep the bottle in place under bumpy scenarios; however, it is not ejection-proof. Rail road tracks will still launch the KoalaBottle. In road bumps though, the KoalaBottle seems to work a little better. I noticed that a couple of times when the bottle came loose, the magnet “caught” the bottle back and brought it to its nesting place.
To my surprise, the greatest advantage of the KoalaBottle is probably the ease in which I can remove the bottle while on the aerobars. Initially getting the bottle out of the cage did require some getting used to, the magnetic attraction is so strong that it requires a good deal of force to break the bottle apart from the cage if pulling from the top. In fact, I could lift the entire bike by pulling on the bottle. However, when the bottle is pulled from the bottom, away from the cage, the angle kind of disengages the magnets, releasing the bottle completely. That was counter intuitive to me, as I was used to pulling the bottle from the top, out and through from the standard cages. Still after a couple of rides, it was clear that this is a much easier process that requires less movement and strain. Using it on the conventional down tubes and seat tubes were just as easy and even quicker to get used to: pulling the bottle away from the frame “releasing” the magnetic hold certainly seems more natural to me. I would not recommend mounting it on a behind-the-saddle carrier. Not only it would take some time to get used to the backwards pulling motion but the bottles will likely be ejected constantly due to the position and vibration. I can’t vouch yet for the durability of the cage since I’ve only used it for a couple of weeks but they describe the material as “highly durable plastic manufactured in the US”.
The KoalaBottle is supposed to be dishwasher safe (on the top shelf) although they recommend hand washing. Mine will go on the dishwasher so we’ll see how long it lasts! The “magnetic” ring is removable and is sold separately for $8. It can be installed in other bottles as long as the mouth can crumple slightly to slide through the ring and will then fit neatly around the neck’s diameter. Specialized water bottles will work well according to the manufacturer. A 24 oz KoalaBottle with the ring already installed and without the cage is sold for $10.
The other interesting bottle that has come to my attention these past months has been the GelBot bottle. Apparently this has been around for some time but the design has been refined for 2013. This 24 oz bottle includes a 3.5 oz gel container inside, attached to the bottle’s lid. This is basically a gel flask inside a conventionally shaped water bottle. It fits on all standard cages and for the most part behaves like all normal bottles when squirting liquid. When the cap is closed (pressed down), no liquid comes out. When the cap is pulled up and opened, liquid is allowed to come out. The gel though, will come out with the cap pressed down (in the liquid closed position). So in other words, the “gel cap” stays in the open position when the gel is to be released. The consistency of gel along with a clever mouth piece prevents the gel from free flowing out of the bottle unexpected. And finally, the different components can easily be taken apart for thorough cleaning.
I immediately liked the convenience of carrying both liquid and gel in one container. For my long rides, I’ve always carried 2 gel flasks attached to the top tube and 3-4 water bottles in various cages. Now I can carry two GelBots and get rid of those extra gel flasks and mounts. Using the GelBot was easy enough although I had to squeeze the bottle a little harder and tilt it a little more to get all the liquid out, since the plastic material is a little thicker than other bottles. When it came to getting the gel out, I first made the mistake to tilt the bottle completely as I squeezed it. This caused the liquid to leak out onto my neck and chest. I then realized that simply sucking and pressing the bottle in a somewhat upright position will do the trick. An internal bottom cap in the gel flask pushes the gel up as it’s released, making it easier to completely drain it. Note that the amount carried is a little less than most 6 oz gel flasks, and it only offered enough room for 2.5 Gu packets. Conceptually though, this flask gets the thumbs up from me.
It remains to be seen if I will replace all my Specialized bottles with GelBots and KoalaBottles. It may be one of those things that now that I’ve tried them, I’ll never go back. They are not essential pieces of equipment (like aerobars or tri shorts for triathletes) or items that will offer measurable speed gain (like aero helmets and aero wheels). However, they are high on the convenience factor and not too bad on the wallet.