EVO

Burning Question: How Much Do Water Bottles Influence Frame Design?

“Can you fit a water bottle in that frame?” is one of the most frequently asked questions I overhear at trailheads and see in the comments sections of Pinkbike articles when the plastic vessel is absent on a bike. “Should a standard water bottle fit?” might be the more appropriate question manufacturers and consumers alike should be asking. Sure, hydration is essential, but longer rides require you to carry a pack or resort to overstuffed chamois pockets regardless of the frame storage. Henry Quinney asked the Pinkbike audience their take on the importance of water bottle capacity and its influence on purchasing a bike back in January of this year.

Think back to Yeti’s SB66, a proven EWS race winner and popular long travel enduro bike, which only had mounting bolts under the downtube, and compare that to their SB150. Yeti specifically built the bike around its ability to carry a bottle inside the front triangle and then configured their Switch Infinity suspension design. To squeeze everything in there, the bottle runs tight to the shock and downtube took two drastic bends to get around the dilemma.

So, why not just lay out your suspension first, sculpt the tube shapes, and form your own water bottle? How vital is it to have a standard water bottle that costs five dollars when the entire bike can cost upwards of five figures? Why is a bottle with a flip-top cap under the downtube unacceptable? Are mountain bikers’ priorities straight or are we too concerned about appearance? Is a cheap, standard size water bottle housed inside the front triangle more important than the correct pivot placement?

We reached out to a few brands to see how they approach designing a frame with storage in mind and what kind of constraints they prioritize.


Chris Cocalis – President/CEO of Pivot Cycles

How much do water bottles actually influence frame design?

Massively! It is definitely a top priority.

Could you speak to why or why not your brand has made this such a priority?

Although hip bags and hydration packs are still important for longer rides, the customer preference has definitely shifted from carrying things on their body to carrying as much as possible on the bike. For customers, being able to carry a water bottle has moved from not so important to near the top of their list.

If your brand has made it a priority, at what lengths did you have to go to in order to work around the packaging constraints, ie: changing geometry like standover height, downtube angles or tube shaping, and possibly kinematics?

It was a key driver in changing our designs completely from having shocks located under the top tube to a vertical shock design. Of course there were other factors involved as to how and why we could improve our overall design with this change. However, the combination of water bottle, increased tool storage placement and stand-over were leading factors.

It is something that we will continue to focus on. We want to try and find even better solutions and/or more capacity in the future.

The previous generation Firebird had water bottle storage underneath the downtube, but the 2022 Firebird has been reconfigured to follow the suspension layout of Pivot’s shorter travel bikes.

Have you ever thought of creating your own proprietary water bottle, like YT has done in the past? Why is there such resistance to this if the frame could be built with less complication?

Absolutely! Although water bottles have typically been thought of as a universal size and a somewhat disposable item, I do think that the possibility exists to do something unique that better takes into account modern mountain bikes chassis dimensions and constraints while offering good capacity and ease of use.

Frame storage, either internal or external, is a hot selling feature right now. Do you see this as a necessity, like water bottle storage?

It’s not quite the same necessity as water bottle storage, but a really nice thing to have. With internal frame storage, there’s really a decision to be made between the balance of the frame’s structural integrity and weight. From Pivot’s side, we always want to optimize the frame structure, plus we want to have great tool accessibility and ease of use. If you need a tool, having it on the bike is great but if you have to take time to get it out and unwrap everything to get at it and/or assemble the tool then it really loses that efficiency. That’s why we have the Pivot dock tool system. We have different options that work with mounts on the frame which allows us to develop different tools and different external storage options that are quiet, secure and really easy to use.

If so, how much time do engineers and product managers put into building this and what are the major limitations?

Just like water bottle access, it’s an important part of the design process to fit everything on the frame, account for future tool options and to make sure the rider has everything they typically carry for on-trail repairs and adjustments. If you can only get 90% of it onto the bike and wind up having to still carry a few things, it kind of defeats the purpose. Major limitations are always space and clearance issues with other parts. This is always worse on the smallest frames so we optimize for those first.


Ken Perras – Product Line Manager at Rocky Mountain Bicycles

How much do water bottles actually influence frame design?

It holds a high degree of importance for all relevant platforms where the intended use cases defined during the product definition stage include the need for hydration.

Could you speak to why or why not your brand has made this such a priority?

We need to hydrate while we ride and wearing a hydration backpack isn’t always the best way to achieve this.

If your brand has made it a priority, at what lengths did you have to go to in order to work around the packaging constraints, ie: changing geometry like standover height, downtube angles or tube shaping, and possibly kinematics?

Water bottle placement doesn’t affect geometry as good geometry ranks higher than the ability to carry a bottle. Good kinematics also rank higher, as well as industrial design. Comparatively, the ability to carry a water bottle inside the frame tubes ranks lower, but the ranking score is still high. It’s important to recognize that it is better, in a commercial sense (driven by consumer choice) to create a well balanced design that satisfies all criteria rather than create a design that compromises too much on some criteria in favour of others. A good example of this would be the 2018-2021 Element, where industrial design was visibly compromised in order to satisfy the 2 bottle criteria. Fast forward to today, with more time, we were able to achieve a more polished version with the 2022 version. While including bottles on frames requires a detailed look, we include this spec from the onset, so the work to make it happen is reduced.

Have you ever thought of creating your own proprietary water bottle, like YT has done in the past? Why is there such resistance to this if the frame could be built with less complication?

We have thought about it in the past. However, as our designs evolve we’ve learned to work with the current, most popular, bottle sizes. We prioritize having consumer friendly designs which means that we constantly seek to reduce proprietary components used on or with our bikes.

Frame storage, either internal or external, is a hot selling feature right now. Do you see this as a necessity, like water bottle storage?

A necessity, no. On-frame storage solutions are at a good place right now with the ability to carry ride essentials such as a spare tube, tool, puncture repair kit, and water. Having in-tube storage has some benefits such as the ability to carry your items in a sheltered space, and possibly increasing your carrying capacity, but it comes at a cost and weight penalty. This is not for everyone. Additionally, it should be noted that there are quite a few brands jumping onboard with in-tube storage solutions but we feel that they are hastily executed and not necessarily as useful as they can be, so the addition of one would be a net negative in this scenario.

One thing that external storage doesn’t work for is storing larger, irregular shaped items such as a jacket or spare gloves. These need to be kept clean and dry, so they need to be put in a frame bag, which most high performance MTBs won’t be able to accommodate, or inside the frame. This is where a well executed design will pay dividends for this common cycling scenario.

Finally kudos to Specialized for driving this innovation.


Julien Boulais – Brand and Product Marketing Director at Devinci Cycles

How much do water bottles actually influence frame design?

They are a deliverable of the project like many other criteria, such as tire clearance, chainring clearance, desired travel, etc. It is something that will influence the shock positioning and other key considerations in design just as much as any other criteria.

Could you speak to why or why not your brand has made this such a priority?

Drinking water is pretty high on the list of priority to stay alive, or simply to perform well while doing physical activity. Most people will see the majority of their rides fit within the ‘’one bottle of water’’ range and therefore it is a practical solution to pack less on the rider.

If your brand has made it a priority, at what lengths did you have to go to in order to work around the packaging constraints, ie: changing geometry like standover height, downtube angles or tube shaping, and possibly kinematics?

We would not prioritize water bottle fit vs function of the suspension system or the geometry, but so far we have always been able to get all the suspension characteristics and the geo we are looking for while still fitting the water bottle. Our Split Pivot suspension platform allows for that without unnecessary complications.

Have you ever thought of creating your own proprietary water bottle, like YT has done in the past? Why is there such resistance to this if the frame could be built with less complication?

We never saw the need because we have always been able to achieve what we were looking for while still fitting regular sized bottles, especially with side load bottle cage. It would not bring added benefit to our platform. Also, we think proprietary bottles are a good idea in theory but not practical in real life situations. For example, everyone already has a lot of regular sized bottles, they are cheap and you can get them anywhere. If you forget yours it’s easy to source another one. Let’s save our ‘’proprietary’’ items for more useful topics. I think the bike industry has enough proprietary standards as it is.

Frame storage, either internal or external, is a hot selling feature right now. Do you see this as a necessity, like water bottle storage?

Definitely an interesting solution. Same logic of removing some of these items from the rider. Making sure you don’t forget them because they are always on the bike.

If so, how much time do engineers and product managers put into building this and what are the major limitations?

This one definitely requires more time than the water bottle fit. The biggest limitation would be navigating other brand’s patents to bring the best solution.


Steve Saletnik – Trail and Gravity Product Manager at Specialized Bicycles

How much do water bottles actually influence frame design?

Water bottles are just one part of the balancing act when designing a bike. It’s not “free” to get a bottle inside the front triangle on a full suspension bike but our team views it as a necessity so it does influence our packaging and layout.

Could you speak to why or why not your brand has made this such a priority?

We like to talk to riders about what they value and having a full size bottle (or two, depending on the chassis) inside the front triangle is something riders almost universally agree on as a priority. There are not many scenarios like this in the mountain bike world. We can’t recall seeing any Pinkbike comments hating on water bottles on bikes, so this is an easy call for our team to make.

If your brand has made it a priority, at what lengths did you have to go to in order to work around the packaging constraints, ie: changing geometry like standover height, downtube angles or tube shaping, and possibly kinematics?

Ride quality is our top priority so we start with our desired kinematic hardpoints and then our engineers and designers work together to Tetris in the rest from there. Every frame layout and size is different and how the priorities stack up from there changes by the project. Things can get pretty heated debating the best way to do it but it’s all driven by trying to achieve the perfect blend for the riders.

Have you ever thought of creating your own proprietary water bottle, like YT has done in the past? Why is there such resistance to this if the frame could be built with less complication?

Our side loading water bottle cage really helps in this scenario. It is very secure, provides easy access with both right and left hand options depending on rider preference, and allows for use of a standard size water bottle. The side loading feature makes working around the packaging constraints a bit easier, and not having to look for a specific bottle to go with your bike is convenient. Plus our SBC water bottles are pretty nice! If you are dying to have a proprietary water bottle we developed a bonus soft flask that fits in inside the SWAT storage area in the carbon Stupjumper EVO frame, allowing for another 22 ounces worth of water carrying capability in your frame.

Frame storage, either internal or external, is a hot selling feature right now. Do you see this as a necessity, like water bottle storage?

This depends on the specific bike and rider experience we are designing around and the goals of the bike. We produced our first chassis with SWAT frame storage on the carbon Stumpjumper back in 2016, and have been refining it ever since on our carbon trail bikes. The new Stumpjumper EVO alloy models are our first foray into SWAT storage in an aluminum frame. Safe to say we see the value in SWAT storage and will continue to develop it in our bikes where riders are asking for it. It is really nice to ride without a pack and still have all the snacks.

If so, how much time do engineers and product managers put into building this and what are the major limitations?

The team here puts a great deal of effort into engineering and developing our SWAT systems. Again, we put ride quality first so getting the frame stiffness dialed in and keeping the frame light and strong are important and not a simple task when opening a big hole in the downtube. We’ve also tailored our solutions specifically to the frame material to make them as efficient as possible- what works on a carbon bike could plug and play into an alloy bike, but there would be too many compromises (like weight) to be acceptable. Making the system as user friendly as possible is also something we are very sensitive too, so an ample sized opening that allows for getting cargo in and out easily, and an intuitive interface that is robust for the frame and the door. Cable management in the downtube also becomes more important so storage space can be optimized and things like painting have to be addressed as there are more intricate masking operations needed. There are a lot of competing interests here that require attention on the design, engineering and testing fronts but the end results are worth it.


Rob Sherratt – Global Marketing Manager at Nukeproof

How much do water bottles actually influence frame design?

The humble water bottle… in recent years they have become a “must have” on all frames. You only need to look 5-8 years ago and riders were evolving to all carry bum bags/ hydration packs. Maybe with the development of enduro racing that has given trail riders a “look” of what they want / need. As racers have shed packs and looked for other solutions, it’s been a good design evolution to develop “on bike storage”. Hydration is obviously a key element, so there has been the return to a water bottle being an essential. Therefore, our frames have had to evolve. For the latest generation frames, packaging around a “readily available” bottle was an essential part of the design brief. Ideally a 750ml bottle was preferred, but in some cases, like the Megawatt, we reduced that to a 550ml and designed a special mount to best use the space. In an extreme case of the Giga, the downtube features a concave recess which was designed into the mold. When paired with our side loading cage allows riders to fit a 750ml bottle in all frame sizes (Small-XXL). As a side loading cage was essential, we even include this cage as standard. I suppose it’s only similar to cars/vans having evolved to include cup holders as an essential item.

Could you speak to why or why not your brand has made this such a priority?

Consumer feedback has been key. We listened to and read about what our customers were asking for. We spent years reading “it’s not got a bottle holder” on the V3 Megas so something had to give (there is actually a thread on 3D printed mounts for the older Mega, which is actually a pretty cool read). As said before, it was also the evolution of our athletes’ demands and our own riding too. We all wanted to ride with a more minimalist approach. Looking back to the 2017 EWS season, Sam was riding with a pack all the time at the EWS. Move forwards to 2018 where he had stash-style bib shorts and frame straps – he’d stash two 750ml flexi-flasks in his bibs. Then a frame strap for spares and a OneUp tool – that was 90% of what he needed in general. He even packed his peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in his bibs too. Move forwards to the V4 and he can move some of the weight onto the frame for his stash bibs and use these for essentials. What the pros wear gives the look of what our riders aspire to (or it does for me anyway).

If your brand has made it a priority, at what lengths did you have to go to in order to work around the packaging constraints, ie: changing geometry like standover height, downtube angles or tube shaping, and possibly kinematics?

Bike performance is never going to be compromised for packaging a bottle. The performance of our bikes in terms of kinematics and geometry is always key, but by using clever packaging we’ve still retained low stand over heights and not affected performance. This could be done for the V4 Mega, Giga and Reactor as we were designing from scratch in recent years. This is why we never changed the 2016-20 Mega to fit a bottle inside the frame (although you could fit it under the downtube – so we made sure we sourced the bottle with caps over the nozzle).

If not, is this something you will focus on in the future?

It’s in every design brief we do from the start now.

Have you ever thought of creating your own proprietary water bottle, like YT has done in the past? Why is there such resistance to this if the frame could be built with less complication?

We have, we looked at it, but the cost of the molds are expensive just for a shot of water. We chose not to compromise and design it into our next generation from the outset and stick with using flex-flasks/ bib shorts or a cap on your water bottle.

Frame storage, either internal or external, is a hot selling feature right now. Do you see this as a necessity, like water bottle storage?

You can’t deny that on bike storage is helpful, be it all-in-one-tools, OneUp components or in frame storage. For us we’re looking at options to meet the demands of our riders. Again, it will come down to performance and where you are adding weight into the frame also versus convenience and what that frame is designed to be used for.

If so, how much time do engineers and product managers put into building this and what are the major limitations?

As a small company, in the past we’ve probably had resource limitations in terms of manpower. We have a super talented team and whilst we are still “small” compared to many brands we compete against; all our growth recently has been in expanding our R&D team and capabilities. Our focus is always going to be in the ultimate performance of our products, we’re a brand built on going racing. However, this extra talent is giving us more and more time to look at some details and luxuries for riders. It’s all part of the maturing and developing of the bike industry and changing customers we sell to.


Ryan Thornberry – Product Manager at Yeti Cycles

How much do water bottles actually influence frame design?

Internally mounted water bottles play more of a role in frame design then one would think. We are always fighting for every millimeter of clearance in our frame design and trying to fit a water bottle in a front triangle is no easy task. We want to keep our stand over low which pushes the top tube down, we want to leave plenty of clearance for the front tire at full compression which pushes the down tube up, steeper seat tube angles push everything forward and horizontally mounted shocks make it even harder to fit a bottle in such a contested space. Now think about those constraints and how they change as your frame size gets smaller. Achieving all of our desired design goals and achieving optimized kinematics is no easy task.

Could you speak to why or why not your brand has made this such a priority?

It’s no secret that Yeti was slow to move our water bottle mounts to the inside of the frame, we just didn’t want to sacrifice any of our kinematics to accommodate a bottle. We knew having a bottle on the bottom of the down tube wasn’t the best place to have something that was eventually going into your mouth, but that’s why there’s hydration packs right? We knew we had to find a solution to get a bottle off the bottom of the down tube and through many iterations we were able to achieve our kinematic goals and fit a bottle inside the frame. If we had to make a compromise to our kinematics I honestly don’t know if we would have moved the bottle and made those compromises.

If your brand has made it a priority, at what lengths did you have to go to in order to work around the packaging constraints, ie: changing geometry like standover height, downtube angles or tube shaping, and possibly kinematics?

It definitely took some work and all of the factors I mentioned above had to be considered but in the end we were able to move some of the frames’ geometry and hard points around to accommodate a bottle in the frame without sacrificing any of our kinematics. Switch Infinity allows us to move our hard points in various positions and achieve the same kinematics with different layouts. The tricky part is finding those combinations among all the possible combinations. Geometry wise we were able to incorporate a shock extender and move our downtube forward a little near the BB to help increase clearance and keep the other dimensions in a good spot.

Have you ever thought of creating your own proprietary water bottle, like YT has done in the past? Why is there such resistance to this if the frame could be built with less complication?

We definitely could make a custom bottle to fit some or our unique design needs but having a solution that works with the many bottle options that our customers currently own would be a better solution. Yeti recently partnered with Polar Bottle to co-develop a 15oz bottle that could work on the smaller size frames where traditional sized bottles just can’t fit.

Frame storage, either internal or external, is a hot selling feature right now. Do you see this as a necessity, like water bottle storage?

Frame storage is a really nice feature on a frame. I don’t think it is a necessity with some of the current storage options available but that doesn’t mean it isn’t desirable.


Ask and you shall receive. The Capra can now accommodate a 650ml water bottle thanks to a single-sided front triangle brace.

Frank Dörr – Product Development Manager YT Industries

How much do water bottles actually influence frame design?

The water bottle doesn’t necessarily affect the design or shape. Frame and bike performance are paramount. However, it is an additional part that has to be considered as it occupies space within the front triangle as well as the shock. When it comes to E-bikes, adding a motor and a battery to the bike makes things more difficult. Additionally, our well-known V4L kinematics and how it is mounted to the downtube requires great engineering skills, experience, and attention to detail when deciding where to put the bottle cage and if there is enough clearance for all frame sizes.

Could you speak to why or why not your brand has made this such a priority?

Keeping pace with the latest trends, listening to customer feedback, and deciding what makes sense to us is an ongoing process. Things have changed in the gravity segment since enduro riding has developed. Racing started to become more professional and popular since its inception in 2013 and had a big impact on frame features. In the beginning, even the pros wore backpacks. Meanwhile, it is state of the art to put everything onto or into the frame and away from your body. This enables you to ride more actively and move better. I mean look at the Pinkbike poll and compare 2016 vs 2021 – a massive difference in opinion. After the Izzo and Jeffsy were introduced with water bottle options it was a must to feature a bottle on the next Capra too. The new generation of the Capra is a more balanced bike than its predecessors, which were very much focused on the shred/gravity aspect of enduro riding. The new balanced approach increased the use case for water bottle integration and required us to develop the new one-sided wing design that still delivers the same added stiffness and strength we like our Capra frame to have.

If your brand has made it a priority, at what lengths did you have to go to in order to work around the packaging constraints, ie: changing geometry like standover height, downtube angles or tube shaping, and possibly kinematics?

We have always been able to realize the kinematics and geometry we aimed for and the performance of the bike is at the forefront of development. We don’t sacrifice performance to fit a bottle. What can be affected is the shape of the frame, to create a fully integrated feature. This is the case for the current Jeffsy for example, where the downtube is designed in a way that allows for a fully integrated bottle mount.

You have created proprietary water bottles for some YT models. Why is there such resistance to this if the frame could be built with less complication?

Thanks for mentioning us as an example! As mentioned: performance first! This is why we opted to design specific bottles that have enough capacity to be worthwhile and fit within the frame rather than design the frame so it would fit every bottle. The Decoy features a YT-specific water bottle and cage, the Jeffsy MK2 and Capra MK3 feature a YT-specific base plate from Fidlock and a YT-specific water bottle too. However, we are aware that not everyone wants to fit such a bottle and possibly already has a collection of water bottles at home. Therefore, it is still possible to fit most regular side-entry cages and certain bottle sizes on both the Jeffsy and Capra.

Frame storage, either internal or external, is a hot selling feature right now. Do you see this as a necessity, like water bottle storage?

Finding ways to add utility features to the bike that are helpful to riders makes sense. We are always looking for opportunities that are beneficial to the rider as long as they do not harm the performance or look of the bike. We do already feature specific rivets on the bottom of the top tube on the Izzo and Capra to mount on-bike storage. Specific frame storage would be sweet if it’s well done.

If so, how much time do engineers and product managers put into building this and what are the major limitations?

If you want to do it right, you have to invest many resources. Even if it looks simple, it doesn’t mean it’s quickly done. Every project starts with a specification sheet in which features are prioritized according to the area of usage/application. If there is a high priority for a utility feature, we invest capacities accordingly to make it happen. The development of neat, rider-friendly features is gaining more and more attention at YT.


Chris Porter – Director at Mojo Rising

How much do water bottles actually influence frame design?

For most brands it influences design way too much! Bicycle packaging is tight enough trying to squeeze in a century old gear change system around a multi linkage suspension system and a nice fat off-road tyre. I honestly don’t understand why the water bottle question is such an issue? There is no room for ‘old fashioned’ water bottles on triathlon bikes either. But the bikes get designed to be efficient and aerodynamic and the water bottles are then designed to fit the bikes in lots of different locations. The bike is not designed to fit a 750cc round water bottle… It’s the same in other parts of the MTB too… The front wheel to fork mounting system (the axle) is designed around punctures and packing the bike in a car or on a rack. Literally designed to be quick and easy to remove to fix punctures and pack bikes rather than as a stiff, secure performance steering component!!

Could you speak to why or why not your brand has made this such a priority?

Our priority when designing the G1 was to make a bicycle with better suspension performance and longevity. We designed the bike to use longer dropper posts and we designed the head tubes around the capability to use taller and longer travel 29er forks… This inevitably squeezes the triangle towards the head tube so that on the smaller sizes there is no room for a water bottle in front of where we put the suspension system. Bicycle have had front ‘triangles’ for well over a hundred years so why don’t bicycle bottle manufacturers make bottles that fit this shape? We make bicycles, other people make the water bottles, we don’t want to let them dictate the suspension design!
The other water bottle design necessity is holes in the tubes, drill a hole in a tube and that becomes the weak point. Why do that un-necessarily?

If your brand has made it a priority, at what lengths did you have to go to in order to work around the packaging constraints, ie: changing geometry like standover height, downtube angles or tube shaping, and possibly kinematics?

Yes, some people design their suspension system to allow for multiple water bottles. Sweet… Kinematics, geometry, strength, longevity and performance taking a back seat to the need to put in a shit, 50 cent, plastic water bottle…

If not, is this something you will focus on in the future?

No…

Have you ever thought of creating your own proprietary water bottle, like YT has done in the past? Why is there such resistance to this if the frame could be built with less complication?

We don’t have the funds of a company like YT so we would expect the water bottle manufacturers to make bottles to fit bicycle shaped holes!

Frame storage, either internal or external, is a hot selling feature right now. Do you see this as a necessity, like water bottle storage?

Maybe, if you are hiding a motor on your team enduro bikes! Why on earth would you design the MTB frame around a dubious ‘benefit’ of being able to carry a sandwich and keep the same sillhouette? Is it really a buying decision? Does anyone really say “I’d love to buy this 165mm travel enduro bike with the shock and fork I really want and the drivetrain spec I need and the wheels that I want in the size and geometry that I want and in a fetching shade that really brings out the best in my skin tone… BUT! The other one with a different fork and shock, cheaper drivetrain, hooky geometry and crappy graphics actually has a sandwich box neatly integrated into the downtube! I’d better buy that one!” Externally, use a reusable zip tie or nylon strap, no need to re-design the frame!

If so, how much time do engineers and product managers put into building this and what are the major limitations?

Engineers and product managers spend far too much time on little things that look different from brand to brand because most of the bikes are made in the same factories! The Unique Selling Points are all the wrong things… Certainly the USPs are easier to understand if viewed through a marketing lens rather than an engineering lens…


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