Hydra Cycle: Product Story
My family rediscovered a passion for cycling after I completed a bike touring trip in summer 2016. We began road cycling as a family outside on vacations and whenever we could on weekends. The inspiration for Hydra Cycle came from my mom’s experience. She picked up cycling later in life than my dad and I. Because of this, she often struggles to pick up her water bottle while maintaining her balance on the bike. As part of my Manufacturing and Design class, I decided to investigate creating a system that would allow her to drink from her water bottle conveniently without carrying any extra weight or falling off balance. Hydra Cycle is a hands-free solution that enables her to keep up with the rest of the family and stay more hydrated and happier on the ride.
I wanted to incorporate my favorite part of the hydration packs I had used in the past: the usage of a magnet to allow the bite valve to stay in a convenient area when it was not in use. My final system is composed of a purchased bite valve, hose, magnet, and water bottle combined with my water bottle-hose interface piece and my magnetic bike valve mount. Both of my pieces are silicone molded and one has two overmolded components. This system helps my mom, and many others, make their rides more enjoyable.
My first ideas came from my experiences came from products that I had seen offered for serious triathletes. Many competitors use aerobars to reduce drag during a race. Because of this shift in weight to the front of their bike, they are able to drink from their water in front of them. I wanted to make something that had similarly easy access, but was for recreational cyclists like my mom. From my experiences hiking and touring on my bike, I was familiar with hydration packs and thought that there could be a cool way to incorporate the hose, bite valve, and magnet from them into my design.
I sought out Marlo Kohn, the Product Realization Lab's silicone specialist and we came up with the idea for an interface piece between a water bottle and a hydration straw that would stretch over the threads of water bottles and hold the hose in place inside. This would allow the interface to be used between multiple bottles and provide a watertight seal.
After finalizing my idea, I started to prototype to understand what kind of geometry I would need and to get familiar with the silicone molding experience. Honing in on the correct dimensions was tough because both the silicone and the water bottle are rubbery materials that can give with some force. As I settled on my desired geometry, I found another issue: the molds were super difficult to get apart afterwards. To make it easier, I added grooves around the entire mold, so I could pry different pieces apart when I needed to. I also split the mold into more pieces and added locating dowel pins to ensure that I could get repeatable results.
Then it was on to machining my final mold. I used the lathe for the majority of my operations to ensure that I was creating concentric features and then I moved over to the mill to create my locating features and my grooves for prying the mold apart.
With a couple weeks left, I turned towards making my magnetic clip that would hold the straw in place when it wasn’t being used. I overmolded the magnet inside the part as well as a clip that would allow the strap to latch into place on the handlebars. After weeks of molding, I felt that I knew the process pretty well and it was fun to come up with another application that would make my product that much more useful.