Xlab comes in Interbike with a head of steam. Certainly, the new Torpedo is the centerpiece item for the venerable brand, existing front and center at Xlab’s booth on the Interbike show floor. The unit, a few years in the making at the hands of Xlab founder and longtime aerodynamics expert Craig Turner, and we sat with Turner to go over its features (and are currently testing it on the roads in San Diego.)
And it’s a worthy debut. At this point, we can all agree that Between The Aerobars (BTA) hydration setups are an optimal hydration; they fill an aero void between the forearms, have better drag characteristics than a downtube- or seattube-located bottle and they prevent the need to break from the aero position to uptake fluids.
Xlab’s solution has quite a few items of differentiation from other brands. For one, the bottle itself is designed with rearward location (closer to the rider) being a focal.
But while ever bottle we’ve seen terminates at the back lip of the cage, the Torpedo bottle has a stop at that lip, but the rest of the bottle continues back, back back, toward the rider. The reason will impress you.
“When we spoke with Pete Jacobs, his one complaint about between the aerobar bottle setups was that the bottles were too far out on the aerobars, and he wanted to see how to get it further back on the bike,” Turner says. The sloshing water weight, especially in windy conditions (think Kona) creates a level of unnerving instability. The same holds true on climbs and descents; the more the bike moves with a large weight out on the aerobars the less stable the ride becomes.
For some, they can pull the mount back as far as possible. But due to the variety of aerobar setups, clamp and pad locations, there’s no way to guarantee getting that cage further back.
So Turner worked to extend the bottle itself further back from the cage terminus, and closer to the rider. The result is a 26-ounce bottle (for reference, a standard, low-neck bottle is 16 ounces) that moves that fluid weight about three inches closer to the rider. While pros like Jacobs will appreciate it, it’s our opinion that smaller female riders will appreciate moving that center of gravity back toward their steering axis.
The bottle itself was designed for aerodynamics; beyond the bullet design, it has a Kamm-designed aft, featuring a line of “flow straighteners” or longitudinal lines that indent along the bottle’s top edge trailing edge—an aerodynamic cue he garnered from the same function-first design found on the Ferrari 430.
The Torpedo also features a Dolphin Tail retainer, which serves as a simple tab to store the straw underneath and out of the way when not in use.
Functionally, the Torpedo includes a computer mount that extends from underneath the bottle forward of the unit. Any computer can strap or zip-tie to the unit, and to this point, it’s one of the best integrated computer brackets available, for one reason: location. Being forward of the bottle, it’s in direct line-of-sight while in the aerobars. No looking directly down (or, unsafely, looking down and back) to see your speed, distance or power numbers.
The Torpedo will come with two reservoir caps: a slotted cap for on-the-fly refilling, and solid cap, and a flexible bite-valve straw.
Xlab provided LAVA with drag testing data conducted in July with Ero at the Olympic velodrome in Carson, Calif. with pro triathlete Luke McKenzie as the guinea pig. Testing was conducted on a Scott Plasma with Zipp 808 Firecrest front and rear, the Xlab Torpedo mount and an Xlab Aero TT bottle on the downtube, as well as nutrition in McKenzie’s singlet pockets for true effect.
The results came up with the Torpedo providing nearly five minutes of advantage over a 112-mile Ironman-distance bike at 300 watts (that time advantage rose to 5.2 minutes at 250 watts, and 5.6 minutes at 200 watts) using the Torpedo, versus 4.2 minutes at 300 watts, 4.5 minutes at 250 watts and 4.8 minutes at 200 watts using a position-optimized behind-the-saddle setup. Factor in the fact that the rider won’t have to break position with the Torpedo to uptake fluids, and there’s simply more proof that this is a great solution for distance racing.
The Torpedo is offered in two iterations: the Torpedo 100 at $75 with an aluminum mount base and nylon cage (in black/red or black/magenta color options) and the Torpedo 400 with a carbon fiber mount base and carbon fiber Torpedo cage.
Xlab also added several new pieces to its line for 2014. For those who prefer to use a bottle cage as a location to store tool kit necessities, Xlab debuts the Mezzo Cage Pod (a full bottle size screw-top storage container, $10) and the Mini Cage Pod (a shorty version at $9) that features a felt inner bag to prevent parts rattling around. Our guess is the Mini Cage Pod will go well nicely in rear hydration systems, with its low profile making it easy to mount and dismount the bike without banging a leg into a tall bottle.
Of keen interest to us is the new Tire Mate dual CO2 inflator and mini pump. While it does everything any other pump does, it does it at a space-saving minimum; this one will fit easily inside any small tool bag, or the above mentioned Mini Cage Pod. For tri bikes with space at a premium, this is a tiny $30 piece of peace of mind.