The Relaj shape bottle came about when Bruce Bernstein's teenage son quizzed him as to why standard bottles were so awkward to drink from, or need tipping to the point they obscure views of conditions ahead. Bruce embraced this challenge, designing one from scratch that was easy to grasp and required minimal head tilting. To my mind, though, the valve needs further development.
The Relaj borrows from old school trade bidons, hydration packs and baby bottle teats. Everything dismantles to individual component parts and can be bunged in the dishwasher. That said, the blue lock valve is easily lost, so it's best washed in the sink or steriliser.
This little chap is basically a stop cock that spells an end to leakage, sticky jersey pockets, luggage and that revolting layer of road grime peppered with dung and similar unmentionables. It's a doddle to open/close while riding along – even hurtling along 1-in-7s at 35mph.
The shapely contoured body is made from UV stable, BPA-free food grade plastics, so after the precautionary first time rinse, it won't taint your favourite tipple or leach nasty chemicals.
Being stronger than the bog standard BPA type means the walls can be thinner, thus easier to grip and squeeze. Ours had fluoro green graphics but smoke or clear versions are also available in red – if this is important to you.
The neck resembles that of a 500ml soft drinks bottle, so get into the habit of locking the valve, unscrewing its base and filling from the bottom. This makes adding ice that little bit easier – assuming you didn't fancy re-freezable 'ice-sticks' to keep fluids refreshing on hot days.
Things have remained surprisingly hygienic on bikes without mudguards, aided by the bottle's comparatively long and slender profile, although the old freezer bag and rubber band trick was essential off road.
The elongated spout is quite narrow, which enables easier drinking from unusual angles – you can pop it in the side of your mouth, thus maintaining a clear view of conditions (and bar-mounted tech) without excessive tilt.
However, the flow rate errs on the pedestrian. On our first few outings, I felt like one of those tiny lambs desperately nudging their feeding bottle for more, and even with practice, I couldn't achieve a truly seamless/consistent flow. Frustrating on training runs but potentially ruinous in competitive contexts.
Despite its slightly unconventional profile, the bottle seems an excellent companion with most carbon/composite cages. Titanium and T6 aluminium alloy versions proved more of a lottery; in some cases it was absolutely fine, others a sloppy fit resulted in annoying chatter and even ejection when hurtling along lumpy lanes.
Ultimately, I loved the concept and materials, and pricing is pretty much in line with other technical models. The flow rate needs improving before I'd part with my cash, though.
Brilliant concept but valve needs further refinement
Make and model: Relaj Shape bottle
Size tested: 650ml, Smoke Bottle Neon Green Trim
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
From the Relaj website: "The new Relaj water bottle is Shaped for Safety, actually making hydrating a safer, more enjoyable experience. Unique shape flows water easily – without obstructing views – and is easier to hold, control, and squeeze. Discover the performance and comfort of Relaj today."
"The wheels of Relaj began turning in 2007 when Alex, son of principal owners, Bruce and Becky, got his first road bike. Over time, his passion for cycling grew, as did his time in the saddle and need for hydration. One day, while watching the 2008 Tour de France, Alex noticed a racer fumble for a moment while drinking from his bottle, and commented, 'Why doesn't someone invent a bottle that's easier to drink from?' He further explained, 'When I drink, I have to tip my head back, and then I can't see the road.'
"The safety implications of his comments were clear, as were the performance issues: water bottles could be distracting, especially in the tight quarters of a peloton or a small group ride. While riders need to hydrate regularly to perform, cycling water bottles were creating safety issues; slowing riders down; and were tough to clean.
"So, they created Relaj and set out to design a new water bottle for cycling. After more than 3 years of testing and redesigns, the Relaj bottle was born."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
BPA FREE, Odorless & Tasteless, High Quality Materials - 22oz/650ml - 100% Dishwasher Safe (All racks). Fits Bike Cages, Water Bottle Holders and Standard Cup Holders in Cars and More
Generally well made, using high quality materials.
In many respects a definite improvement on the traditional bottle. However, despite revisions, the flow rates provided by our samples were slightly pedestrian compared with similarly sophisticated designs.
Relatively expensive compared with the bargain bin staples, but very much in keeping with other advanced designs.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, this is a really clever and well conceived take on the humble bottle – convenient to handle. However, the valve still needs some tweaking before I'd part with my cash. Some form of protective cap would also be welcome to shield the teat, and ultimately us, from nasties that lurk in general road grime, let alone dung and mud.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
High quality materials and intelligent design.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Flow rate needs improving.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, but only if the valve/spout were improved.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? As above.
Use this box to explain your score
Brilliant concept with some lovely touches but valve needs further refinement.
About the tester
Age: 41 Height: 1m 81 Weight: 70 kilos
I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)