All triathletes have to hydrate. The question is where to carry your liquid. A whole host of solutions are available to solve quandry, from standard frame-mounted bottle cages, to aerobar-mounted systems, to more exotic solutions like the Speedfil, Neverreach, and more. One very popular method is to carry bottles behind the saddle, along with accessories like spare tires and CO2.
Many triathletes prefer their bottles behind the seat for one reason or another. And this method does have some advantages. For example, they can be easier to grab than frame-mounted bottles, without breaking the aero position. And they do provide extra spots for hydration, for athletes who demand four or five bottles on their frame, even if that many aren't strictly necessary. Moreover, some frames don't have any bottle bosses at all, forcing the athlete to mount bottles elsewhere.
On the other hand these carriers are typically heavy, clunky, and the frequent claims of their aerodynamic superiority are dubious at best. Keep in mind that a recent World champion threw down with nothing more than a bottle on the downtube, and another between his arms.
With that preface, we turn to the product at hand: the Hydrotail Blaze, by Beaker Concepts.
BC made waves in the triathlon community with the introduction of its original all-carbon Hydrotail, a svelte piece of kit that was about as focused and minimal as a behind-the-saddle carrier can be. The Blaze, which is the subject of this review, adds a huge range of adjustability and options, while trying to stay close to that sense of minimalism and elegance. This bells-and-whistles carrier can accommodate one, two, or three cages, two CO2 cartridges, and has two points of articulation that allow for a very wide range of positions for the carrier.
The two adjustment points work something like an adjustable stem: they rotate freely, and then lock down with a 4mm socket bolt. Not much tension is required to secure them, so don't go nuts with the wrench. Because the arm and the cage carriers can rotate independently, you can pick a huge number of positions for the cages. Positions ranging from upright-behind-the-saddle to angled-horizontally-below-the-saddle are possible, and vice versa, and everything in between. If that sounds confusing, just look at the gallery below for some examples.
Of course, this level of adjustment comes at the cost of weight, flex, and aesthetics. But BC has done an admirable job of minimizing these drawbacks, for the most part. Because the whole thing is made of ABS plastic, other than the bolts, the unit is still relatively light. The greatest problem we see here is flex. The Blaze has a lot of pieces, and as a result, they flex a bit. This probably won't be a problem as long as you have some sturdy, launch-resistant cages to go with it. We've had great success in the past with Arundel cages, or really anything that has that nice lip at the top that clicks into the bottle's neck. Update: Beaker Concepts says the flex is actually a good thing, in that it helps absorb some of the road vibrations that would normally cause a bottle to eject, thereby making it a MORE secure system, rather than less secure.
Our only other concern with the unit relates to how it attaches to the saddle rails. Most saddle-mounted carriers use metal hardware at the rails, providing a solid, inflexible mount. The Blaze uses plastic here, and it isn't as sturdy. We noticed ours deformed even under relatively low torque. Beaker Concepts says this is normal, and that the 100 or so test units in the field are all holding strong at this point. The choice to use plastic helped, they said, maximize compatibility with different saddles, which don't conform to any standard width or angle at the back of the rails (only the clamping portion of the rails is standard).
The Bottom Line
With a retail of $80, the unit is in line with the cost of other units, perhaps on the upper-end of the spectrum, given that it's ABS rather than carbon. For just $20 more, Beaker Concepts offers the lighter, svelter Hydrotail, but that unit has zero adjustability, and only carries two bottles. The Blaze seems like a great option for first-time users of behind-the-seat hydration, who might not know exactly where they want their bottles, or how many they want to carry. It's certainly a respectable offering from Beaker Concepts.