Profile Design is making some pretty rad products right now. We recently reviewed their excellent Aeria aerobar, which I think is their best bar to date. Now they're getting into the BTA space with a really cool product that is humbly called the HC Bottle. The HC stands for "Horizontal Cage." After years of bucking the BTA trend, Profile Design has seen the light. With the HC bottle, they've clearly embraced the notion that consumers want these types of products, and they're satisfying that demand with a really smart offering that is going to wow a lot of people.
The HC Bottle is a product very much like another great BTA product, the Speedfil A2. The concept behind both products is simple; each one looks and acts like a standard bottle, and fits into a standard bottle cage mounted horizontally between your aerobars. They have a straw for easy access to your liquids, and refill ports for on-the-fly refills. The genius of these products isn't just that they take advantage of a BTA bottle's superior aerodynamics, but also that they allow you to swap them out for standard bottles if that better suits your needs for a particular ride. Personally, I love these things. They're easy to set up, easy to use, and with a straw constantly in your face, you're constantly reminded to stay hydrated. The strictest of aero readers will point out that a straw in the air is costing some speed versus leaving a standard bottle in that cage, and pulling it out when you need to drink. But many riders (myself included) are more than willing to make that sacrifice for the convenience of the leaving the bottle in its cage and just drinking from the straw.
Aero straw mast, aero refill cap, this thing is well-thought-out.
Okay, so that's the basic concept. But what makes the HC Bottle special, and what are the differences between it and its primary competitor, the Speedfil A2? The short answer is that the HC Bottle is a bit sleeker and less bulky than the Speedfil, but that's not to say it's uniformly better - it's a different animal all together. Let's flesh that concept out a bit.
The advantages of the HC Bottle are easy to see. It looks like a bullet! The sleek, minimal shape takes up a lot less space than the Speedfil A2. It gets out of your way, which is nice (when I reviewed the Speedfil, my biggest complaint was the bulky refill port). Everything on the bottle has an aero shape, including the refill port, the bottle's forward-facing lid, and even the straw mast. It's really easy to use, the refill port does a good job of being splashproof, and really the product works exactly as you'd expect. There's a nice little rectangular recess in the bottom of the bottle that corresponds to a rectangular aluminum piece that Profile Design includes with the bottle, which threads through your bottle cage bolts. This is difficult to describe, but the gallery pictures will make it obvious. The aluminum piece acts a rotation lock, keeping your HC Bottle pointed up at all times. Brilliant!
On the other hand, there are a couple things you get with the Speedfil A2 that you can't replicate with the HC Bottle. For one, the Speedfil is reversible; it can be set up to point forwards or backwards, depending on what works better with your setup. Its straw is flexible and foldable. That means you can minimize the straw's aero penalty by leaving it by your arms most of the time, just flipping it up briefly to take a drink. The HC Bottle can't do this. But then again, it doesn't necessarily need to. The HC bottle is designed to work really well when facing forward, and the aero straw mast is Profile Design's effort to minimize the aero penalty of the straw. Finally, the HC Bottle won't work with every cage on the market. Because the straw and fill mechanism both sit on the bottle half of things (instead of the topper), you have to use a cage that isn't closed all the way around the cylinder. For example, a Specialized Rib Cage wouldn't quite work. Profile Design includes a plastic cage with the HC Bottle that works perfectly. But if you want to go for a bling bling carbon cage, make sure you get one with a similar shape to the stock bottle.
The last little difference is that because the Speedfil A2 is actually just a bottle topper, you can change its capacity by swapping out different sized bottles. But for me, that's not really an issue because the HC Bottle holds a nice big 24 oz. I don't really need more than that, but extra-thirsty riders may prefer the Speedfil A2 for that reason.
The one thing I really do miss on this bottle is a bite valve. Speedfil includes one with their bottles, and they serve two purposes. First is that they help prevent splashes from the straw itself, and second is that they make it easier to drink by keeping the liquid right at your lips, so you never have to suck air. The HC bottle doesn't include a bite valve, but it isn't hard to find one aftermarket. Camelbak and other hydro pack makers sell them as separate parts, and it's relatively easy to fit one to the HC Bottle's straw. I plan to do exactly that with mine.
I love the HC Bottle. It's a refined, elegant BTA hydration solution that checks all the right boxes. It holds just the right amount of liquid, and the sleek, low-profile shape keeps your aerobars relatively uncluttered.
Any drawbacks I've mentioned are relatively minor, and aren't enough to keep me from using this bottle full time. My one real gripe is the lack of a bite valve, which is relatively easy to add on with an aftermarket part. Overall, this is an excellent product from Profile Design, and I'm really glad to see them making products in this category.