Bivo One water bottle review: better flow by focusing on air

by James Huang

photo by James Huang


Upstart bottle company Bivo is understandably proud of the fact that the engineer who helped design its new One stainless steel bicycle water bottle used to work at NASA, but as one of my social media followers so astutely pointed out, it may have more in common with a toddler’s sippy cup than a moon mission — and in this case, I mean that in a very good way.

A bottle with a mission

Bivo’s aspirations are certainly pretty ambitious. The stainless steel body construction is intended to be more sustainable long-term (and delivers better-tasting water) than the semi-disposable water bottles that currently dominate the landscape, it can be recycled when it’s eventually dead for whatever reason, it’s claimed to use “69% less plastic” than conventional squeezable plastic bicycle water bottles (duh), and the company professes the use of “factories and vendors we trust and that care for their employees” while also using its carbon credits to provide more energy-efficient stoves in India. 

But as far as bicycle water bottles go, Bivo’s goal was to simply make one that just plain sucks less — or, as the case may be, sucks more, although that should be taken in the literal sense, not the figurative one.

A bottle that really does work better

While there are metal bicycle water bottles that can be squeezed like a conventional plastic one (such as the Keego titanium-lined vessels that CyclingTips associate editor Abby Mickey prefers), the Bivo One’s stainless steel body is about as stout as you’d expect. In other words, you can squeeze as hard as you want, but if you’ve got the upper body strength typical of most cyclists, all you’re apt to do is strain your forearms. Instead, all you have to do with the Bivo is tilt it.

If you were to do that with a conventional water bottle, you’d get little more than a frustrating trickle. But with the Bivo, what you get is a legitimate torrent — and here’s where the sippy cup reference comes in.

Plastic water bottles invariably result in some chemical aftertastes in water after a while (and although Specialized’s Purist silica coating helps a ton in that regard, it isn’t permanent). But with Bivo’s stainless steel body, your water tastes like water, just as it should.

Conventional water bottles work the way they do because you’re changing the volume of the container; as you squeeze it, water is forcibly ejected. However, at the end of that squeeze, and when the walls of the bottle spring back to their original shape (and volume), air has to be sucked in to replace the liquid that was there before. As such, while you might have been able to get a refreshing flood of fluid initially, you have to wait a moment before you can repeat the cycle. I’m sure there’s a technical term for this phenomenon, but I don’t know what it is (and if you do, please feel free to educate the rest of us in the comment section below).

Instead, Bivo capitalizes on that air-fluid exchange by using a large-diameter main nozzle along with a secondary port, situated just off to the side, that’s attached to a similarly large-diameter straw that extends all the way to the bottom of the bottle. As a result, air is pulled back into the bottle through that secondary port just as quickly as it pours out of the main one, and since the exchange doesn’t rely on you squeezing on the thing, the impressively smooth and generous flow continues unimpeded until the thing is empty.

The thick stainless steel body can’t be squeezed, so Bivo has designed a neat gravity-fed system with an impressively high flow rate. As water pours out of the nozzle, air enters back into the bottle through the straw.

So why is that a big deal, you might ask? 

Well, here’s the thing: Bivo says that the One will empty its contents faster than a conventional water bottle, and as it turns out, my testing shows the claim actually holds true. While I technically was able to drain a current-model Specialized water bottle just as quickly as a Bivo, I also had to squeeze it harder and faster than I’d prefer to do while riding, whereas all I had to do with the Bivo was hold it upside down.

On the bike, what I’ve found (surprisingly, I might add) is that I just end up drinking more with the Bivo than I used to. What’s that worth? Beats me, but conventional wisdom suggests it’s a good thing.

This one-way valve allows air to travel into the bottle to replace the lost volume of water as it exits, while the straw keeps water from leaking out through the valve. It’s a neat system that works remarkably well.

Just as you’d expect, there’s also no aftertaste whatsoever with the Bivo. While I personally often find myself preferring drink mixes on rides — partially for the salt content, but also because I find it more pleasant on the palette — water held in the Bivo still tastes like water even on warmer days, just like it should. That water will get warm, by the way (or cold, as the case may be). Although the Bivo is stainless steel, it uses a single-wall construction and isn’t insulated in any way.

As a nice bonus, the Bivo’s clever design doesn’t result in more places for mold to hide, either. While the whole thing might sound more complicated on paper, it’s anything but in reality. There’s only one additional piece as compared to a standard bottle, and both the main nozzle and the internal straw are easily removed by hand for washing. Speaking of which, Bivo recommends hand-washing with warm water and soap, but I haven’t noticed any ill effects from machine washing over the past couple of months.

While the system sounds complicated, the important bits are easy to remove for thorough washing.

Unlike a variety of other non-typical bike water bottles, the Bivo fits well in every cage I tried, too, and as promised, it doesn’t rattle while riding, either (even on rougher ground, at least provided the cage is pretty good).

A bottle with some downsides

High flow rate and eco-conscious build aside, the Bivo One is hardly without a handful of quirks.

For one, that stainless steel construction may be far longer-lasting than plastic bottles, but the same can’t necessarily be said for the soft-touch silicone rubber coating. It’s far tougher than you might expect (really), but it’s nevertheless still prone to wear over time, especially if you prefer metal bottle cages or regularly ride in the wet or off-tarmac. As such, I recommend plastic or composite cages with a more cylindrical design, and if you’re OK with a less colorful look, Bivo has also just released a raw finish that has no coating whatsoever.

Bivo actually delayed the launch of its bottles because the company wasn’t happy with the durability of the silicone rubber coating. This version may be better, but it’s still not exactly bulletproof. These two spots go clean through to the stainless steel body, and showed up after a single gravel ride in a King titanium cage.

Ditching the coating would make for a more slippery hold, however, which brings up another pitfall of the Bivo One’s metal construction. The walls are thicker and stouter than you might anticipate, but you still don’t want to drop the thing. Scratches on conventional plastic bottles aren’t a big deal, but gnarly dents and scratches on something like the Bivo would be a lot more obvious visually.

There are some smaller issues, too.

That large-diameter nozzle might allow for fantastic water flow, but its cup-like shape also isn’t exactly ideal for use in dirty environments since it’s so exposed. Weight weenies will certainly want to steer clear. Although the Bivo One’s 651 mL (22 oz) measured capacity is actually a little more generous than the 621 mL (21 oz) labeling, it’s still quite hefty at 163 grams, as compared to 80 grams for a conventional small plastic bottle.

Options are pretty limited, too. I’d like to see some additional color choices, or at least a larger size. Bivo does suggest that an insulated version is in the works, though.

The nozzle shape is unfortunately prone to collecting dirt and debris.

Last — but not least — if, like me, you’re annoyed at how most bike bottles don’t let you get to all of the water without unscrewing the top, your hopes will be once again dashed here as the Bivo’s cap design leaves 27 mL (nearly a full ounce) sloshing around inside.

Playing the long game

Assuming you can live with the caveats I’ve already mentioned, the biggest hurdle for the Bivo One is more likely its hefty cost. At US$39 for the coated version, or US$29 for the raw stainless finish, it’s roughly three to four times the price of a standard plastic bottle, and even substantially more expensive than most name-brand stainless outdoor bottles. If you’re the type of rider that prefers to have a cupboard full of water bottles on hand if only for variety, then the Bivo obviously isn’t for you. And unfortunately, Bivo is currently only making these bottles easy to purchase for American consumers. International distribution is a work in progress, but people can buy online and pay heaps in shipping in the meantime.

So no, it’s not exactly a home run. But if you prefer a more minimal approach (or just hate plasticky-tasting water), then the Bivo has a lot going for it. 

www.drinkbivo.com

Photo gallery

Editors Picks