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How do you drink while riding? What would you tell a new rider who is having difficulty getting a drink without stopping or slowing a lot?

Assume the bike has bottle cages in the usual places, and we're not talking about hydration bladder backpacks.

Question is purely about getting liquid into the mouth, not what should be in the bottle.

Inspired by this comment https://imgur.com/gallery/o95PAOs/comment/1167254453

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    "we're not talking about hydration bladder backpacks" why? I've lost a couple of bottles and switched to a backpack and now happy with it – k102 Nov 10 '17 at 7:55
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    @k102 cos there's no real crossover in technique. That would be a separate question. I was also avoiding the common brand name for them. – Criggie Nov 10 '17 at 8:11
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    I had trouble with my current bike, since the bottle bosses on the inside of the downtube were too low, being positioned to allow a mega-bottle. I used a bit of aluminum bar to make an extender of sorts and raise the (standard) bottle several inches, making it much easier to access. – Daniel R Hicks Nov 10 '17 at 13:12
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    Like this? – David Richerby Nov 10 '17 at 15:11
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    I have a trainer at home and I practiced drinking while pedaling. It's not perfect because the trainer helps a lot with balance, but at least it trained up locating the bottle and cage without looking. Then I practiced just pulling out the bottle and putting it back on a flat stretch of paved surface that didn't get a lot of traffic. Basically, practice, just like any skill. Same with gel nutrition packs. – Todd Wilcox Nov 10 '17 at 17:34
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I find that using my primary hand (my writing hand) is better than the other one.

Keep eyes on the road, you should not have to look to find your bottle.

I use my teeth to open the sippy valve, breathe in and then take a small drink and hold it for a sec before swallowing.

Sometimes I hold the bottle over the bars for 5-10 seconds to let the first mouthful have an effect, and then take a second drink.

When done I use my chest or my index finger to close the valve, and then put the bottle back in an empty cage (yes once I tried to push a bottle in where the other already was)

You should be able to put the bottle down into the cage without looking, although sometimes I take a quick glance if it doesn't go straight in.


Drinking on a climb is okay as long as its not too steep. Straight and consistent is best.

If you're riding in a group, don't drink on the front cos you'll slow down and that will cause the whole bunch to loose momentum. Wait till you rotate off the front before drinking. Right at the back is ideal.

Never drink on a downhill or anywhere the road surface is a bit sketchy. With a bottle in hand your control is lower, and gravel or sudden potholes need a lot of attention.


Improve by practising - same as most things in cycling. Quiet ride make sure there are no cars around and nothing coming up that may be an obstacle, and have a sip. Don't guzzle water, it will be bad for your guts and there's a chance of some going down into the lungs by mistake, inducing a cough.

I find that I often phlegm-up within 5 minutes of a big drink, so drink less but more often.

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    For what it's worth, both bottles that I have (completely different designs) are OK to be left with the valve open unless they're completely full. It's easier to just leave it open. – David Richerby Nov 10 '17 at 12:25
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    i use one with a squeeze valve, takes out the pulling it with your teeth step, just pull the bottle out, aim at your face and squeeze lol, then put it back, i think the biggest part is practice and muscle memory. Once you do it a couple time it almost becomes second nature. Timing is also important. – Nate W Nov 10 '17 at 21:00
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    @DavidRicherby good thought - I've never had to buy proper bottles, just use the freebie ones from various events. – Criggie Nov 10 '17 at 22:57
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    Another answer also mentions this, but I would definitely recommend learning to drink with your rear-brake hand, so that your other hand is still capable of using the front brake. – Sparhawk Nov 11 '17 at 4:13
  • @Criggie The free bottles...my wife and I must have 60 (or more) of them in the basement - and that is after donating dozens to friends and family. – Penguino Nov 12 '17 at 22:23
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  1. Remove bottle from bottle cage and keep riding using the hand not holding the bottle
  2. Pull up the cap with teeth
  3. Squeeze bottle in the mouth (if soft bottle) or suck liquid in (if hard bottle)
  4. Swallow and repeat if necessary
  5. Push back bottle cap with mouth/teeth
  6. Place bottle back in bottle cage

Any problem with the above sequence is either due to:

  • lack of skills with riding one hand ==> practice it more
  • lack of breath during mouth filling/swallowing ==> take shorter shots, delay drink
  • lack of skills with handling bottle (take, open, close, place back) ==> practice it more
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    Some bottles may be hard to open with the teeth. I prefer to open those with thumb and index while they're still in the cage. I also don't close the valve once that the bottle is no longer completely full and there's no more risk of spillage. – Carel Nov 10 '17 at 11:42
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    You forgot the final step: Drop the bottle as you're slipping it back into the cage. – Daniel R Hicks Nov 10 '17 at 13:09
  • @DanielRHicks Maybe you should rewrite it in RAIL. Heh. – can-ned_food Nov 11 '17 at 0:04
  • Practice is the word. Leaning against a fence/lamp-post/sign-post with both feet clipped in, taking the bottle out and putting it back without having to look down. Repeat until it works smoothly enough. – Carel Nov 11 '17 at 13:01
  • And an intermediate step: wipe cap/nipple on jersey before taking a drink, if you are riding in dairy cow country. – Penguino Nov 12 '17 at 22:25
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I switched to CamelBak's podium bottle, which has a lock and a self-sealing "Jet Valve" that only has water come out if you squeeze really hard. This has made the whole process easier (and better for your teeth)! Also, if you keep one hand on a handlebar, and use your sense of touch with the other hand, you never have to take your eyes off the road! My process is similar:

  1. Unlock the water bottle before you start your ride
  2. Use one hand to feel for the bottle and remove the bottle from the cage
  3. Place bottle end into your mouth, squeeze the bottle, and the water comes out!
  4. Feel for the cage with the bottom of the bottle and place back into the cage
  • +1 The other advantage with this kind of bidon is that you can invert it without it spilling, so you can grab it from the cage with the index-finger side of your hand pointing to the ground. – Sparhawk Nov 11 '17 at 4:12
  • On both bidons of that make that I own, I've noticed that they are very likely to spill liquid around the top. You need to screws the tops on very tightly to make them spill-proof. – Carel Nov 11 '17 at 18:06
  • I used to really like this bottle, but there are two problems: (1) It's very hard to clean; if you use anything but water, the valve design can grow mold pretty easily. (2) It's noisy -- makes a high pitched whine when not in use for a while. (3) As Carel points out, they can be somewhat annoying to use. My current favorite bottle is a Specialized Purist bottle with the Fixy cap. Seems to work well enough. I suspect if you want the locking cap (I don't really care), the WaterGate cap is probably pretty good. – Batman Nov 12 '17 at 15:19
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I originally used to prefer to drink with my right (primary) hand but now prefer to use the left, with the right controlling steering and covering the brake (the front brake on my case as I'm in the UK.

Because I only drink water while actually riding, I always drink from the bottle in the downtube cage. This is always a squeezy bottle. This is much exist to get out than any other cage I've got. I swap bottles or decant from a hard bottle when I'm stopped anyway, so that this is always the case.

A smooth flat road with good visibility is the best spot for a drink; the slightest of downhills works well too (less than 1%, so just sitting up straight stops you from accelerating). Easiest is freewheeling while getting the bottle in and out, so get a reasonable speed up before taking out the bottle,and put on a few pedal stripes before putting it away. Glance down at the cage to get your bearings only at a sensible time. This can be less distracting than fumbling to put a bottle away by feel, but it really does have to be a glance.

A few mouthfuls at a time is a good guide for me, and a drink before eating something, then another after is essential. Also a drink after a gel

  • I also find that I drink much more with bottles than with a Camelback. Recently on long rides (150km+) I've taken to drinking something sweet whenever I'm stopped and get the chance, but still run on water in my bottles. – Chris H Nov 10 '17 at 8:54
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    Consciously choosing the rear-brake hand makes a lot of sense - I'll have to try that. – Criggie Nov 10 '17 at 10:37
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    Another advantage I have is big enough hands that I can get a decent grip on the bars with a bottle in my hand, if something unexpected comes up – Chris H Nov 10 '17 at 11:12
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Also have your water bottle positioned tilted up to the side of your face. So you're sipping from the side of your mouth. You won't have to bend your head back as far, as apposed to sipping from the front.

Chris Froome gave me the idea when I watched the Tour de France

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    Also, it means you can see where you're going! – David Richerby Nov 12 '17 at 13:13
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Adding to others answers

If you are working and breathing hard, swallowing a mouthful of liquid without choking can be a challenge. Take small mouthfuls to avoid choking. If you do get more liquid in your mouth than you can cope with, tip your head forward so the liquid runs to the front of your mouth, you will then be able to swallow it in parts.

Also, if something unexpected happens and you need both hands on the bars or brakes quickly, just drop or toss the bottle (but be careful of you are riding in a group, obviously).

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Start with practising the act itself on a stationary bike and get used to the position of the bottle without having to look for it. Then move on to a moving bike and repeat the action, take care to not have people around you while you work on your stability. Eventually you'll be able to drink while cycling without thinking about the act itself.

I find it easier to drink from the side rather than straight to the front. This makes it easier to keep you eyes on the road.

You should have smaller sips more often than large gulps more seldom. This makes it easier to drink while breathing heavily and maintain oxygen intake.

You could mount the bike on a roller to practise before going out on the road.

  • Probably most people start drinking on the bike long before using rollers, but the rest is good advice. (There's a good chance that anybody who goes on leisure rides longer than half an hour is already drinking while riding, but only people who are actually training for something will have rollers.) – David Richerby Nov 15 '17 at 11:21
  • Yes, certainly, but perhaps there's a friend you could borrow rollers from. Or you go to a gym with stationary bikes. Anyway it was mostly a side comment. – Kristian Kalvå Nov 15 '17 at 13:34

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