The Big Gulp
Thirty Four Fluid Ounces. That is the capacity of this hereTrek Voda 34 water bottle. As you can see, it is huge. Big enough that a 60 pound kelpie can hide behind it. Big enough that it can quench a gigantic, 'Murican size thirst. Big enough that it's a coin toss whether or not it'll fit on your modern mountain bike. This, naturally, begs a question: Why does this bottle exist?
Jump in the wayback machine with me (again), kids! Grandpa's all hydrated up and has that faraway storytelling gleam in his eye!
Okay, once upon a time, hydration bladders and mountain biking backpacks didn't exist. Camelbaks were things that soldiers wore when doing soldiery things out in dusty places, and water bottle mounts were brazed into two, maybe three places on yer garden variety, double-diamond "ATB" frames. The seat tube, the downtube, and maybe, if you were superlucky and expedition minded, in that shitcatchiest of all places, the underside of the downtube. Water bottles themselves were generally about the same size, and held between 20 and 22oz of life saving dihydrogen monoxide. Believe it or not, there was a time before Specialized began producing water bottles.
So, at some point (and I am gonna nominate Specialized here, because for a long while there they were pretty much THE water bottle pimp for almost the entire industry) someone figured out that water bottles could be made a bit bigger by adding some extra capacity to the top of the thing, and the now absolutely ubiquitous 24 or so ounce bottle was born. Bear in mind that this was still pre-Camelbak-explosion, when everyone carried their water on their bikes, and magazines like Mountain Bike Action would crucify any test bike that came with fewer than two bottle mounts. As such, the extra capacity water bottle was kind of a big thing for people who rode more than a couple hours at a time.
Water bottle cages, however, were generally flimsy and not that great at hanging onto even the small bottles, so the 24 ounce bottle was a potential liability in really chundery going, prone to being inadvertently jettisoned from said flimsy retainers unless you ponied up and bought yourself some King Cages.
Then the Camelbak bomb went off, and full suspension came along, and everyone pretty much gave up on bike-mounted water bottles for a while. Or at least that's how it seemed.
Time does funny things to us, though. Just as everyone got pretty sick of losing their bottles on rough descents, or having to wipe cowshit off their bottles before drinking, or gulping down bathtub warm Endurox R4 tasting slightly of plastic, people also eventually got sick of wearing backpacks. Especially when those backpacks often consisted of 100 ounces of water squished into a hastily designed bag that defied all reasonable expectations regarding stabilization and comfort. And sure enough, water bottles snuck back into the room...
Things have changed. Bikepacking and Gravelleuring are here, people are ditching backpacks for fanny packs and then ditching fanny packs for frame storage and SWAT pockets, bikes are either completely festooned with places to mount bottles or totally devoid of braze-ons altogether. When it comes to how you get your hydrating done, it is the wild west out there, all over again.
And lo, striding between the tumbleweeds and the dust devils, comes this tall stranger. The Trek Voda 34.
How's that for an incredibly long and tangential preamble to a review of a $15 piece of plastic?
Really, there isn't a whole lot to say about water bottles. This one is made from BPA- and phthalate-free plastic, as are hopefully any other plastic bottles you are considering. It has one of those rubbery pop tops like most of them. It isn't insulated (not knocking insulated bottles here, but generally you're gonna lose about 6 ounces of capacity in a futile attempt to keep your water cold). And sure as Sunday, it will challenge a good many water bottle mount locations. There's a small part of me that wonders if this is a sneaky ploy by Trek to de-legitimize the water bottle mount placement of other brands; "Pfffft, look, you can't even fit a water bottle in one of their frames! See?"
All kidding aside, this is a potentially awesome bottle. No, it won't fit on every mount on every frame. Yes, it is more prone to flexing out of its cage on bumpy ground, even if running King Cages. No, it still doesn't hold as much water as even a moderately-sized hydration bladder. Hopefully none of you need any of this pointed out. It's kind of obvious.
For me, this is just what I've been looking for, without realizing I was looking for it. Once upon a time, a handful of people I rode with had a rough rule of thumb for ride distances: One bottle rides were short rips under an hour. Two bottle rides would get us across the Golden Gate Bridge for a lap of the headlands. Three bottlers and up were warnings that one better have one's shit together because we might be out all day. A 34oz bottle is a total game changer when it comes to this math.
For those of us who have followed the arc from small bottle to big bottle to backpack to fanny pack to frame storage, there is a place where the Voda 34 makes sense. I was bike touring with some Portugese guys in Portugal once upon a time ("really, Mike? Portugese guys in Portugal? Do you think that was a coincidence?"). Whenever we would pull into a village, we'd stop and buy sandwiches and bottles of water. The Portugese guys were fit and swarthy and did not seem at all impacted by the blazing Alentejo heat, and would delicately sip from these tiny 8 or so ounce single serve bottles. I would buy a couple 1.5 liter bottles, chug one, then strap the other into my Blackburn Bomber cage. The locals would chuckle at the profusely sweating, beet red American slugging back gallons of water and downing tiny sandwiches by the fistful. So it goes. Not all of us are wired for heat. These bottles speak to me.
Yeah but... all the caveats: You'll need good cages. You may also want a strap or two, just in case. You'll look like the weirdest hunchback in the world trying to stuff one of these into a SWAT pocket on the back of your bibs. Instead of getting a couple of these bottles, you could invest in a King Manythings cage or two and then run just about any size, shape or capacity of bottle you want (which would also free you from the material tyranny of plastic, should you feel so inclined).
Heat wave ready, adult sized sippy cups. What's not to like?