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flexr 21 oz bottle

For something as simple and basic as a water bottle, we sure have had a lot of innovation the past few years! We had the BPA fiasco and all the new BPA-free bottles, bottles with new types of insulation, and bottles with new bite valves on the lids.

Well, now we have bottles that don’t need washed! OK, so that’s not exactly true, but these FLEXR Sports Water Bottles I’m testing out have some very new and interesting features.

flexr liner

Most obvious is how, rather than pour your drink directly into the bottle, you actually put a special liner in the bottle first. It’s a lot like putting a trash bag in a trash can… except more sanitary!

What’s the purpose for a bottle liner? Oh, only to prevent your bottle from becoming a foul-smelling, mold-infested, awful-tasting bacteria breeding ground!

The thing with us mountain bike racers is that we often spend the weekends at races, living out of our car and/or a tent. We don’t exactly have the greatest facilities to keep our water bottles clean and fresh for each race. Heck, we don’t have time to do such things – we’re too focused on racing.

flexr bottle inside view

Then when it’s all over, we’re too worn out to clean up our mess, so we toss our water bottles aside for later. It’s not uncommon for my bottles to spend a few days in the trunk of my car still partially full of some sugary, protein-enriched sports drink.

This means the bottle probably has some nasty bacteria growing in it, and even after cleaning, it could retain a hint of the flavor from said drink.

Sometimes, this means water bottles get thrown out, even though they’re still perfectly functional. With the Flexr system, you just toss the liner, and you’re left with a clean bottle.

How-To Video

This one minute video shows you how to use the liners in your bottle:

Sounds great, but does it work as advertised?

My Experience With the Flexr Bottles

I love innovative new products, but man, I had a hard time with these Flexr bottles!

To start with, I couldn’t even drink out of them the first week I had them. For whatever reason, the smell of their plastic was awful. It was so overpowering that putting the bottle near my nose literally made me feel sick. (The liner had no smell, but the plastic bottle and cap sure did.)

I spent close to five days washing the bottles, soaking them in Dawn dish soap, soaking them in bleach, washing again, soaking in baking soda + vinegar, and washing again. Finally the smell diminished to a tolerable level.

As if I wasn’t annoyed enough at that point, when I pulled the liner out of the 16oz bottle prior to washing, I found two dead spiders beneath it! Apparently they crawled in the vent hole on the bottle and got stuck in there!

Hold on – let’s talk about this vent hole…

flexr vent hole

Do NOT fill up a Flexr bottle without a liner in it! I probably wouldn’t have thought about this if I hadn’t gotten a 16oz Flexr run bottle, but each bottle has a hole in it! (On the 21oz bottle, the air escape hole is hidden behind the neoprene sleeve, so you don’t notice it.)

This means you can’t use these bottles without using the liners. Which does make sense if you think about it. If you put a liner in the bottle, the bottle is filled with air and the liner. When you fill the liner with liquid, the air between the liner and bottle needs a way to escape without blowing the liner off the top of the bottle! Hence the vent hole in the bottle.

Anyway, none of that would be a big deal if the bottles worked as promised. Just look at some of these purported benefits:

  • You don’t have to tilt the bottle or your head to drink from it.
  • The liners contract as you drink, preventing the liquid from sloshing up and down. (Very, very annoying when running!)
  • Flexible bottle is easy to squeeze.
  • Sleep well at night since the bottle is eco-friendly.

Unfortunately, I have no proof that any of those benefits exist. I’m extremely disappointed, because I would have loved the bottle if it did all that!!

Let’s talk about drinking out of the bottle.

squeezing flexr bottle

The bottle is easy to squeeze, yes. But squeezing the bottle isn’t as simple as it sounds. For one thing, you have to put your finger over the vent hole whenever you drink, or else you’re just squeezing air out the side rather than water out of the top. Even then, it’s like clamping down on a puppy’s squishy chew toy.

To actually get water out, I ended up using both hands at once, squeezing the bottle like an old tube of toothpaste! And I most certainly had to tilt the bottle upside down as well!

And seriously, I have to put my finger over the vent hole when I drink?! If I’m racing, there’s no way I’m going to take the time to feel around the bottle for the vent hole. That’s just plain ridiculous, not to mention inefficient and dangerous.

Did I mention the cap is hard plastic, i.e. not comfortable whatsoever if it touches your lips?

What about those liners?

There’s nothing magical about these liners. They are one size the whole time – there is no expanding when filled up and contracting as the bottle empties out.

This means, you guessed it, that the water still sloshes around just like any other bottle!

I’m not really sold on the “eco-friendly” claims either. I must be in the minority, but even if my bottles get nasty inside, a good scrubbing with Dawn dish soap and a bottle brush does the trick 90% of the time. The other 10% of the time, a follow-up soak with baking soda and white vinegar is all that’s needed to remove any scent or taste.

These people throwing away perfectly good bottles all the time must never have learned to do the dishes!

So, I don’t go through bottles very often. For me, these bottle liners would be excess trash piling up beside my energy bar and gel wrappers. Even if they do biodegrade quickly in landfills, consider that the liners must be produced in a factory and once used, will require some sort of garbage truck to transport them to the landfill.

OK, I’ve made my point – I don’t like the bottles. But if you race time trials or triathlons, keep reading!

flexr triathlon setup

Flexr for Time Trials and Triathlons

For you time trialists and triathletes out there, Flexr makes a 28oz aerodynamic bottle that looks perfect for you. You can even turn it into a full-on aero hydration system with one of their kits (pictured.)

It’s almost funny, because this type of setup would negate most of my complaints!

  • The bottle isn’t near your face, so you don’t smell it.
  • You don’t have to squeeze it, keep your finger on the vent hole, or any of that nonsense.
  • You have a soft bite valve, rather than a hard cap spout.
  • If the water sloshes on your bike, you’ll hardly notice.

Plus, this is cheaper than most similar hydration set ups! If I was in charge of Flexr, I’d make this my flagship product!

I can’t give you a review on this bottle setup, but let me say this: Despite my disgust with the regular Flexr bottles, I’d still be willing to spend $50 on this remote hydration setup!

flexr 16 oz bottle

For what it’s worth, this bottle holder that Velcros to my hand in pretty nifty!

My final verdict is…

Flexr has an interesting idea, but by solving one small problem, they brought on many new problems. Since I’ve never had a serious problem with cleaning bottles, I’ll be sticking with my Specialized Big Mouth bottles and CamelBak Podium bottles.

However, the Flexr system looks awesome for a TT or triathlon remote hydration setup. If that’s what you’re looking for, I definitely suggest considering the Flexr products.

Official website: www.FlexrSports.com

Product Review Details
Company: Flexr Sports
Product: Flexr Sports Bottle
Reviewed by: Coach Levi
My Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Date last updated: 2012-02-15
Obtained Product: Free sample from company.
CoachLevi.com Advertiser: No.

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  1. Wow, I guess this means the patent on the Playtex baby bottle ran out. You would think they could have done a better job of knocking it off; those bottles worked great when my kids were born.

  2. @Joe

    Someone else emailed me about that. I’ll have to find a friend with that style baby bottle and compare it to the Flexr!

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