Review: Cycling Hydration and Bivo Water Bottles

What’s the least exciting thing in all of bicycling to discuss? Next, to say gloves or socks, it has to be what we use to hydrate during a ride. No, I’m not talking about the fluid we drink while on a ride (although I could spend some time talking about that), but the actual containers we use to carry our water and/ or sports drink. And that usually means we use plastic water bottles.

A big change in the water bottle industry occurred, however, when it was discovered they contain BPAs, a byproduct of polycarbonate resin, which is the essential chemical element used to make plastic bottles. In a 2008 study, these BPAs were shown to affect the brain, behavior, and the prostate gland in children. When these bottles were heated, these chemicals would be released into the liquid held in the bottles.

Abbreviated History of BPAs

BPA is short for bisphenol A, an industrial chemical used to make plastics. It’s considered one of those “forever chemicals” we are hearing more and more about in the media. But here’s a shocking fact, BPAs have been around for a long time.

When I say BPAs have existed for a long time, I mean the 19th century. They were first “synthesized” in experiments by a Russian chemist in 1891, then in 1930, a British chemist found BPAs to be an artificial estrogen.

By 1953, two chemists discovered, quite by accident, polycarbonate resin. When this was mixed with BPA, it produced a hard plastic that, once molded, wouldn’t crack or break. But before it was used in bottles, polycarbonate resin was used in the following “electrical and electronic applications.”

  • Distributors and fuse boxes
  • Displays and plug connections
  • Glazing for greenhouses and public buildings
  • Linings for metal-based food and beverage cans

However, polycarbonate resin was highly used in plastic bottles of all kinds. By 1960, this chemical compound was approved for usage in food containers by the FDA. Thirty years later in the 1990s, a Stanford professor discovered that material in plastic bottles would release yeast and estrogen byproducts, which were labeled as BPAs that could adversely affect a person’s health.

International Response to BPAs

As time progressed, studies about BPAs occurred and bans on polycarbonate resins were put in place in many European countries and Canada (see timeline). The United States and the FDA, however, never banned BPAs because the proof of “leeching” and its effects on consumers was considered inconclusive.

Instead of a ban, it was recommended that bottle manufacturers use different materials for making plastic bottles, some of which were not recyclable or safe to reuse. This weak solution gave the unfortunate rise to single-use plastics.

A numbering system was also created to designate what materials in plastic bottles were safe to use on a scale from 1 to 7. See the graph below from

A rotating triangle with a number in the center only caused confusion. People thought this symbol meant the product was recyclable, which isn’t always true. And while there are seven designations, seven is the most dangerous one because it contains polycarbonate resin.

Water Bottles in 2022

As in all sports, but especially in the sport of bicycling, hydration is essential. As a bicyclist, unless you plan to stop somewhere for water or buy a sports drink, chances are you carry your drinks with you in a container. For bicyclists, that container is usually a plastic water bottle or a hydration pack worn on one’s back with a long tube extending out of it for drinking.

The response from the water bottle and cycling industry was a call for bottles to be made of a safer material. That meant from the 1990s onward, bottles were made with a mixture of plastic byproducts, mostly with a focus on organics.

Today, in 2022, water bottles are made by all the big names in sports hydration: Camelbak, Elite, Specialized, etc. These manufacturers focus on the use of non-BPA materials and bottles that are biodegradable. However, bottles are still made of plastic, although over the years, they are now being made with better materials.

Insulated or Thermos Style Water Bottles

My current cycling water bottles were old, stained, and dirty looking. It was past time to change them. However, I didn’t want to spend time researching water bottles or simply go to a bike shop or somewhere like REI and get two new bottles. Then I learned about the company Bivo.

Bivo makes stainless steel bottles that mimic the water bottles typically used by cyclists. There are three parts to the bottles: the bottle itself, the lid with an easily opened or closed valve for drinking, and a straw that siphons the water, sports drink, etc. right to the drinker. The whole thing can be disassembled and cleaned after usage either by hand or by placing all parts in the dishwasher.

With this bottle, you eliminate the chance of ingesting BPAs and the use of plastic altogether, except for the lid and drink valve and straw. And unlike with a typical water bottle where you have to squeeze it, using a Bivo bottle is more like drinking from a glass.

The only downside is these bottles are quite expensive. For a 21-ounce bottle, the price is $39.00. The company also offers a 25-ounce bottle. And as I was assembling this article, I learned that Bivo now makes an insulated bottle in both the 21-ounce and 25-ounce sizes. These bottles are $49.00.

So, that is a high price point for water bottles, but the reward is knowing you are drinking water from a safe source. The bottles are also sized appropriately to fit in water bottle cages without getting stuck. I must admit I love them and don’t regret my purchase. After use, cleanup is minimal and involves just rinsing out the remaining sports drink or dumping the remaining water.

Last Thoughts

Like many things in cycling (and as far as cycling equipment and accessories), water bottles are a personal preference. Plastic water bottles are being made with better materials now, but eventually, over time, the bottles will have to be replaced. That means more plastic in landfills.

Armed with that knowledge, why not choose a bottle that won’t impact your health and the environment’s health? While the initial cost may seem exorbitant, stainless steel bottles will more than pay for themselves over a summer of use.

Author: Doug McNamee

Freelance Content Writer, Travel Writer, Editor, and poet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: