Bento boxes are an efficient way to carry fuel—some may even have aerodynamic benefits.
Pure cyclists are known to scoff at bento boxes, and we can’t always blame them—some triathletes load theirs up like they’re preparing for war. But jersey pockets can only hold so much and the longer the ride, the more important the calories. Bento boxes are a convenient way to carry lots of fuel on long rides or to access nutrition during races without completely disrupting your bike position.
Contrary to popular belief, adding a bento box to your frame will not hurt your aerodynamics, says Mark Cote, the aerodynamics and triathlon product marketing manager at Specialized. “If you have a stem and spacers sticking up off your bike, there’s already a lot of drag that comes from that recirculation area,” Cote says. “It’s just like putting water bottles behind your butt—it hides in the wake of the rider so it doesn’t add any drag. The nutrition kind of hides in the wake of your stem.”
If you’ve ever been to an Ironman event, you’ve probably seen athletes with 15 gels taped to their top tube, which “messes up your aero like crazy,” Cote says. “The bike should be as smooth and as perfect as possible. Personally, I would race with a good bento on a frame where it makes sense or with gels in my pockets and that’s it. I try to keep everything off the bike as much as possible.”
Companies such as Dark Speed Works (mentioned at right) have improved the bento box design by creating more aero-shaped options that form sort of a “tail” instead of a box shape, which essentially just moves the drag area farther back. When adding a box to your frame, Cote says to make sure it’s tucked up next to the stem for the most aero benefit.
We tested the following three bento boxes on recent rides.
Profile Design E-Pack
Profile Design offers multiple sizes of no-frills E-Packs with an open top for easy access. Attaches to the top tube with four Velcro straps and is available in black, red or gray.
FuelBelt Aero FuelBox
The Aero FuelBox is FuelBelt’s performance-focused box, with a curved shape instead of a straight edge. The plastic inner liner makes it easy to clean, and the zippered interior pocket is the perfect place for car keys or salt tabs. Comes in nine colors, including wild berry, kiwi green and surf blue.
Dark Speed Works 483
Dark Speed Works has made a splash in the aero-savvy tri community with its sleek, low-profile design. In addition to the Speedpack 483 that fits nearly all tri bikes regardless of stem arrangement, the company created specialty boxes that integrate into the frames of high-end “superbikes” such as the Trek Speed Concept and Cervélo P5. The 483 zips from both sides so you can access what you need without things flying out, and the skinny tail area is the perfect place for CO2 cartridges.