There are lots of "spendy" products out there for triathletes who have money burning a hole in their pockets and/or who may lack the time to shop around. There are $300 sunglasses that are indistinguishable from still high-end $60 models. Bike helmets that cost ten times more than an "ordinary" helmet with the exact same certifications. An expensive carbon bike accessory that saves weight equivalent to a sip of water, and is so delicate it will easily break if you rack your bike wrong.
You will find nothing but glowing reviews for these high-priced products. Which is as it should be: If you ignore cost, nearly all of these products truly are among the best available. Unfortunately, most top reviewers are either wealthy, work for a bike shop, or are reviewing a product sample, so they tend to discount the purchase cost in their reviews.
It takes extra effort to determine that some lower-cost products give up nothing significant (perhaps a tiny bit of style or weight), yet save 50% or even 80% of the cost. A common thread in many of my posts, particularly this one, is that I consistently advocate a value-based ("frugal") approach to triathlon, including not only equipment, but also things like training costs, supplements, and race fees.
For example, the $60 TCSD annual membership fee is easily the very best value in all of triathlon. The return on investment is so stunning, so overwhelming, that all other purchases are rip-offs in comparison.
Then there are those rare, unique, specialized products for which there literally is no competition. My personal example is my TitanFlex Al-Ti bike, the only product of its kind available that permitted me to continue in triathlon despite my bad back, and what's doubly amazing is that the TitanFlex is competitively priced.
Between the stratospherically-priced luxuries, the almost-free stuff, and the one-of-a-kind items, is a sea of products that offer varying levels of value compared to their competitors. Some of these products battle it out on the national stage, using marketing money to sponsor athletes and buy advertising in magazines and online. Other products eke out a meager existence with minimal marketing, selling one at a time here and there, relatively unknown and thus easily overlooked.
Among the minor players is the occasional gem of a product that deserves much wider recognition. The Oasis One-Twelve Hydration System is one such product.
Bicycle Hydration System Overview:
My involvement with "bicycle hydration systems" (a fancy name for anything on a bike that holds fluids that isn't a generic bike bottle) started when I got my Profile Design Airstryke clip-on aero bars, and saw how perfectly the Profile Design Aerodrink bottle fit between them. For most of my rides I would use it alone, without additional bike bottles.
For longer rides, many riders add bike bottles behind the seat. A large number of rear bottle mount systems exist, including the Beaker Concepts HydroTail, the Xlab Carbon Wing, and several systems by Profile Design. Rear-mounted bottles offer not only additional volume, but also provide improved aerodynamics when used instead of traditional frame-mounted water bottles. Many riders also find rear-mounted bottles are easier to access while pedaling.
After my back went out last year, I was no longer able to use a regular bike bottle: My weak back made it difficult to ride one-handed while holding a bike bottle, and also made it difficult to twist to the side to drink from one. On longer rides, I would use the time spent at stop lights to transfer water from my bike bottles to my Aerodrink bottle. This would clearly be impractical for non-stop rides and races, so I started looking into hydration systems that would allow me to drink from a tube, hands-free.
The simplest hydration system, and also the least expensive with the largest volume, is the popular hydration backpack, of which several bike-specific versions are available from a wide variety of manufacturers. While I find such systems ideal for use when riding upright, I haven't found a way to comfortably wear one while hammering in the aero position. There are front-mounted hydration packs designed for precisely this situation, but I doubt they'd be comfortable when riding upright, and they could block some ventilation on hot rides. Plus, I wouldn't want to take the time to put on a hydration pack during a triathlon transition.
Alternatives to hands-free bar-mounted and backpack hydration systems include frame-mounted and rear-mounted (behind the seat) systems which have tubing that runs from the reservoir to the bars. The best-known player in the frame-mounted hydration system market is the Inviscid Design Speedfil system. A less well-known rear-mounted system is the NeverReach Pro. The best prices I found for the smallest sizes of either system were around $100, including any required mounting kits and accessories.
While the Speedfil works great on regular "triangle" bike frames, it was not compatible with my monocoque TitanFlex. I also didn't like the idea of having to suck water up almost three feet vertically: It's like sucking on a milkshake, but getting only water for the effort.
The NeverReach has its own problems, the greatest being that it is not compatible with my ISM Adamo Road saddle. Another problem is that no local retailers carry it, so I couldn't check out the build quality. There were some unfavorable comments online concerning the mount, and I was unable to tell if it was due to the design or if the user either installed it or used it incorrectly.
The Oasis One-Twelve:
I made the rounds of my local bike shops to see if they knew of any systems I had missed. When I described my problem to Rachel at Moment Cycle Sport, she pointed to a system on a shelf behind the counter. It was the Oasis One-Twelve. And it was love at first sight.
The Oasis One-Twelve is the brain child of inventor and Ironman triathlete Dean Sprague, a prominent figure on the San Diego triathlon scene. The Oasis One-Twelve is named after the 112 mile bike leg of an Ironman triathlon.
I think it should be called the Oasis Sixty, since the system holds 60 ounces of fluid. The fluid is held in a pair of 30 ounce lightweight bike bottles that will fit in any rear-mounted bottle rack. The best part? The system costs under $40, less than half the price of any competitor's system.
The Oasis One-Twelve has a downside: It does not include the rear-mounted bottle rack, where the other systems mentioned above do include the mount. I looked at the rear-mounted racks previously mentioned, and they all cost well over $50, which would make the Oasis One-Twelve more expensive than the other systems. But once again Moment had a winning alternative: The $22 Tacx T6202 seat clamp. Combined with some spare bottle holders I had at home, it would work perfectly.
The Oasis One-Twelve system consists of the previously mentioned pair of 30 ounce water bottles, each of which has been modified with the addition of a 90 degree angled fitting at the bottom. The system also includes lots of tubing, an upper tubing stiffener, bite valve, and a generous length of Velcro strap material.
Surprising for such an inexpensive system, also included is a tubing cleaning tool. The separate Camelbak cleaning kit, for example, costs $10.
Installing the Oasis system was simplicity itself: Put the bottles in the rack, route the tubing, cut it to length, then cut the long Velcro strap to the number and lengths needed and apply. There are no screws or clips, so the system may be removed just as quickly and easily as it was installed.
I didn't cut the tubing until after I knew I had the length right: I initially installed it with the extra tubing in a loop, then took a quick (dry) test ride to ensure I could position the bite valve where I wanted it before making the final cut. If you make a mistake and cut the tubing too short, a union is included to rejoin the tubing. If you do it twice, replacement tubing is available for a small fee.
The above installation description assumes the rear rack is already in place, and is able to handle a load of 60 ounces of water. The Tacx seat clamp is made of fiber-reinforced plastic, and when mounted per the Tacx instructions it sags and bounces under the weight of the filled bottles.
The Tacx instructions have the clamp extending horizontally from the rear of the seat, placing the tall bottles far behind the seat, with them extending well above the seat, which makes getting a leg over a bit more difficult. Simply flipping the clamp over makes it extend down instead of back, which not only eliminates sag and bounce, it also places the tops of the tall bottles at a much more reasonable height.
The adjustment to the mount created some slack in the tubing, so rather than cut it again, I'm riding with a small loop. Just in case I decide to change the mount someday.
Once everything was in place, I added a tie-wrap around the neck of the bottles and through the bottle cages to ensure the bottles would not bounce out even on the roughest road, or while on my rather bouncy car rack. The installation instructions suggest using some of the provided Velcro strap for this, but the circumference of my TitanFlex frame used up too much. It would never be a problem on bikes with a conventional frame geometry.
Here's a shot of the final installation, along with the Aerodrink bottle (click on the image for more detail):
One side-effect of the installation is that I could no longer use my under-seat tool bag. Some folks are able to mount their tool bag vertically against the seatpost, but mine wouldn't fit due to the tubing from the bottles. My solution was to build a bike bottle tool box, which will be the topic of an upcoming blog post.
On my first ride with the filled system, I had trouble getting water from the bottle to my mouth. After checking that I had not pinched the tubing by making any of the Velcro straps too tight, a quick email to Dean revealed I had missed a note in the manual: The bottle cap valves need to be opened slightly to prevent a vacuum from developing. With that done, drinking from the system was effortless on subsequent rides.
The bite valve works very well. I found it has an interesting feature: Bite too hard, and you get no water. I have chewed through several Camelbak valves, and I look forward to getting longer life from the Oasis One-Twelve bite valve.
The sheath around the upper portion of the tubing is flexible enough to allow the bite valve to easily be positioned as needed, and is stiff enough to prevent the tube from whipping in the wind and hitting me in the face while in aero. I much prefer it to the plastic straw in my Aerodrink bottle, which cuts into the roof of my mouth if I hit a bump while drinking.
The Oasis One-Twelve system falls into the "Insanely Great" category of my triathlon equipment purchases. I found absolutely no design or manufacturing flaws in the system. It is made from top-quality materials, and best of all, it costs less than all other equivalent products.
If you are looking for a hydration system, be sure to check out the Oasis One-Twelve before buying anything else.