By Dominic LazzarettoB.T.com Gear Reviewer
IntroductionPodiumQuest is a brand new company with some brand new ideas. Founded by Susan Robinson, a veteran triathlete, the company strives to make innovative products that are designed exclusively for triathletes. The company’s first two offerings are an aerodynamic hydration system and a saddle bag repair kit. While there are plenty of competitors on the market in each of these areas, PodiumQuest sets itself apart by paying attention to the little things.
PodiumQuest Drink System
The PodiumQuest Drink System is basically a plastic water bottle that sits between your aero bars (if you don’t have aero bars, this product is not for you, sorry). The key difference between the PQ system and everyone else’s is that the PQ Drink System holds two separate liquids. It offers around 50 ounces of total capacity using two compartments and two straws (one compartment holds about 23oz while the other holds about 27oz). This makes it possible to refuel and rehydrate while remaining in the aero position. Every other bottle on the market only has a single reservoir and I haven’t come across one that holds more than 32 ounces.
The aerodynamically-shaped bottle looks like Magnus Samuelsson squeezed it really hard in the middle, creating two bulges—one that goes over the bars and one that goes under. This means that the system must slide onto the bars from the front of the bike and cannot be dropped between the bars like the usual aero bottle. Sliding the bottle onto the bars was not a problem, even with a severe bend in the bars. However, because you have to slide the bottle onto the bars, the PQ Drink System will not work with closed ended aero bars.
The PQ Drink System is held onto the bike via four Velcro strips. The strips are held onto the bottle by four Velcro tabs and a Velcro strap. When you first look at it, you’re going to think it’s a lot of Velcro and it won’t work. You should then tell yourself that you don’t know what you’re talking about, because the system works beautifully. I mean, it’s good enough for NASA, right? The four Velcro strips go around the aero bars to hold the system firmly in place. Only once in my testing did it move at all and that was because I’d put the straps on wrong (it had held in place for nearly an hour on only two straps). Getting the bottle on and off the bike takes only a few seconds. While your wrists/forearms do sit on the Velcro strips, it’s the soft side of the Velcro, so you don’t notice it.I thought that I had my aero bars set pretty far apart compared to the average triathlete, but I didn’t need to use the foam sleeves that came with the system. For those with a wide aero bar setup, the sleeves are a simple, lightweight way to ensure that the bottle remains where you want it. The sleeves go around the aero bars and then the Velcro straps go around the sleeves to keep everything securely fastened to the bike. For the smallest of you out there, you have to have your bars at least 2¼” apart for the system to fit.The Drink System includes fast fill caps, which make it possible to fill the reservoirs on the go. The fast fill caps are a combination of rubber and neoprene that are cut radially (like the pieces of a pie). All you have to do is push a traditional water bottle into the center of the neoprene and squeeze. The neoprene pie pieces sit tightly together and splashing was not a problem, even while traveling over rough road surfaces.
Each straw uses two different materials: a firm plastic for shoving into the bottle and a soft plastic for a better mouth feel. Included with the two straws is a plastic retention device that slides up and down to either keep the straws close together or let them move apart. This allows you to put the straws exactly where you want them. At the base of one of the straw holes is a black ring to help you remember which straw goes to which reservoir. On shorter rides, I only filled one reservoir and only used one straw, which soothed my inner weight weenie a bit.In my research (and on this site), I’ve read countless references to aero bottles rattling, splashing and generally making lots of noise. The PQ Drink System solves these issues. Ride after ride, the liquid in the reservoirs was quiet and the bottle made no noise, even when mostly empty. I’d like to say that it was because I have such a silky smooth riding style, but it probably has more to do with the design of the bottle. My only recommendation would be to keep the bottle an inch or so from your cycle computer and/or your stem to avoid vibration.I used this system in a race that had dozens of hard corners and I didn’t experience any freaky wobbling. I took it on several long climbs without a noticeable time penalty from the added weight on the front of the bike. However, the PQ Drink System is not really meant for a day of grueling climbs on extremely technical courses – or as the company puts it, “going over the Alps.” When fully loaded, the weight of the unit (about 3.5 lbs) can affect bike handling, especially for smaller riders. The ideal use is on fast time trial courses where you’ll be in the aero position most of the time. In other words, most triathlons.The overall system works exactly as it was designed to. Sipping from the straws is easy, filling is easy, setup is easy, and the bottle stays quiet and out of your way. The only problems I ran into were in areas outside of the intended use. For instance, I use the inside of my SUV as a transition area for training. I throw the bike into the car and head out on the run. With normal water bottles, you don’t have to worry about spillage when doing this. However, if you tip the bike over when the PQ system is filled, liquid comes rushing out of the straws and dripping out of the fast fill caps. As a result, I had to take the bottle off the bike as part of my transition. At a race, this wasn’t an issue (obviously), but having an end cap or a plug for the straws might be nice for use before/after a ride. Also, if you’re not planning to use the fast fill feature, having a solid cap alternative may be nice to further discourage spilling.Finally, cleanup is a bit trickier than on other bottles. I didn’t want to put it in the dishwasher (neoprene, Velcro glue, and rubber all could fail under intense heat) and there is no easy way to get something inside the lower compartment to scrub it out. A Camelback cleaner – or even a long pipe cleaner – might work, but I found that swirling some really hot soapy water in there right after a ride and letting it dry completely was enough. Germaphobes may have a problem with this, but I didn’t. [Note to germaphobes: try throwing in a teaspoon of bleach with the wash water to kill all unwanted critters. But you knew that already, didn’t you? Crazy germaphobes.]
PodiumQuest Flat SystemThe PQ Flat System is a seat bag with one very important twist: it has a drawer that keeps everything in its proper place. This not only prevents rattling, but – because the drawer slides completely out – it makes tire changes quicker and more organized.On first blush, $44.00 is a lot for a tool bag, but it includes a CO2 pump with two cartridges, two tire patches, a spare inner tube (with a long enough valve for deep dish rim), and three tire levers. When put together into one well designed package, this price is pretty reasonable. It’s basically a complete repair kit. All that’s missing is your favorite multi-tool.The Flat System is constructed of heavy gauge Cordura nylon and includes a large reflective strip to help you be seen at night – not that any of us have removed the government-mandated reflectors from our bikes or anything. There are two compartments: a large zippered opening for keys, tools, and spare parts (like a second tube) and a plastic drawer held in by two large Velcro tabs. The plastic drawer is the key to the Flat System. Within the drawer is a bed of foam with cutouts for all the included parts. Each part sits snugly in the foam so that it doesn’t move around while riding. By keeping the tools organized, they can be easily used when a quick tire change is necessary. Also, because the drawer slides completely out, it can be placed on the ground for easy access to the parts you need. Anyone who’s used a normal saddle bag knows how easily parts roll around and get misplaced when put in the dirt on the side of the road.
Twenty minutes of your employer’s time ago, I mentioned that PodiumQuest had a keen attention to detail. Take this for example: there are cutouts in the plastic frame for the drawer. Sure, this may help in weight reduction, but it also prevents air from building up behind the drawer while sliding it in and out. This makes the drawer slide like it’s on wheels. Without the holes, a vacuum could be created that would make removing the drawer a big pain. The holes are also set so that you can push the repair parts out of the foam from below.The PQ Flat System installs easily on any bike, including ones with aero seat tubes. There are two Velcro straps that go around the rails of the seat and another that goes around the seat tube.The saddle bag, with all included components, weighs 419 grams (Google says that’s 14.78 ounces). It is water resistant and measures 5 3/4"x 3 1/2" x 2 3/4", not including the room for expansion in the zipper pocket area. The weight is reasonable given the included components and the size is one you’d appreciate on very long rides far from civilization. However, I tend to prefer a more minimalist seat bag. PodiumQuest has stated that they will be coming out with a smaller version of this bag in the near future, which I eagerly await.The included Microflate CO2 pump is made by Innovations, the industry leader in CO2 pumps. I’ve used this pump for a little over a year and it works well. Simply screw the cartridge on the pump head and then screw the pump head on the tire valve. In seconds, you’ve got a fully inflated tire without any effort. The included 12g cartridges will fill a 700c tire to approximately 90psi, which will get you home in a jam. You can purchase larger 16g cartridges at any decent bike shop, which will get the pressure up to around 130psi, which is probably closer to the pressure recommended by your road tire manufacturer. If you’re on a mountain bike, the 12g cartridges will inflate your tires to 30psi, whereas the 16g cartridges will get you to 40psi. I carry the 16g cartridges and they fit within the drawer of the Flat System without any modification to the foam cutout (albeit a very tight fit). The three tire levers are well constructed and did not break under heavy loads. I’ve never had a tire lever that didn’t eventually break and I don’t expect these to be any different, but they’ll certainly work well for plenty of tire changes. When the time comes for new tire levers, the cutouts will fit most any standard levers.I have to admit that I didn’t use the patch kit. I haven’t had a torn tube in years (he said, foolishly tempting the Fates) and I didn’t want to sacrifice a perfectly good one just to test this standard item. It is a typical one-inch rubber patch with a peel and stick side. This kind of patch has worked well for me in the past – if only to get me home – and it is far less messy than the ones that require a small tube of glue and an applicator. If you feel strongly about me testing the patch, email me and I’ll do it for you. I care about giving my three readers what they want.The PQ Flat System is generally attractive for a seat bag. It’s big, so you notice it. The large reflective strip, while safe, is a bit much, but not wholly ugly. The overall look doesn’t scream “racer” but it doesn’t quite say “soccer mom” either. Finally, as Henry Ford supposedly once said, you can buy it in any color you want, as long as it’s black. While black certainly does go with everything and it hides road grime nicely, it might be nice to have some color options in the future.Final ThoughtsWith the introduction of these two products, I’ve become an instant fan of PodiumQuest. In both instances, they’ve taken fairly ubiquitous cycling items and tweaked them with some clever ingenuity. The beauty is that the innovations significantly enhance the usefulness of the product and are not simply gimmicks to attract the buyer.The Flat System would be perfect for the beginner triathlete looking for a first repair kit while the Drink System is excellent for anyone looking for high volume and great performance from an aero bottle (as long as they have open ends on their aero bars).
PodiumQuest Flat System
*based on the fashion magazine, not the sitcom character
Random Thoughts That May Only Interest Me
Remember that when releasing CO2, metal cartridges tend to get VERY cold. If you don’t wear gloves while riding, expect some discomfort in your fingertips while using the pump.
If you’ve never used a CO2 pump before, buy some extra cartridges and test it at home. The last thing you need is to try to learn how to do it on the side of the road with no spare cartridge for backup.
When using the PQ Drink System, I’d recommend keeping the water line an inch or so below the very top to ensure that dripping doesn’t happen when you lean into a corner or go over a really harsh bump. That reduces the overall capacity to around 46 ounces, but it’ll keep your handlebars from getting all sticky.
If you have shifters at the end of your aero bars, you’ll want to have your gears set parallel to the end of the bars for the Drink System to slide on easily.
If you don’t have room on your aero bars to keep the Drink System away from the stem and/or cycle computer, tape a piece of foam or the soft side of some Velcro in between there. That should dampen any vibrations.
In this article, I used the terms “Velcro” and “Cordura” pretty freely. I have no idea if these items use DuPont Cordura or Velcro brand hook and loop fasteners. I simply used the terms as descriptors, so you can get the Copyright police off my back now.
A Note on the Author: Dominic Lazzaretto has completed five triathlons (kind of near the front of the age-grouper pack) and has competed in dozens of road running races, mountain bike races, and road cycling events. He is one of the official gear reviewers for Beginnertriathlete.com