A running belt can be a great way to carry extra valuables or fuel on your run. But what about when you’re on a bike?
The good news is that there’s a bicycle equivalent – the bento box.
You’re already used to carrying a puncture repair kit and a water bottle cage, so a bento box is an easy to use, logical solution for increasing your carrying capacity.
We know it can be hard to find the right one just by browsing, though, so we’ve reviewed the best bento boxes for triathletes.
What is a Bento Box for Triathletes?
A bento box is a small box or pouch attached to your bike that is designed to carry extra nutrition or valuables.
They’re generally easy to attach with Velcro straps, and are usually mounted to the top tube and stem for a sturdy fit, or to the head tube.
They come in both hard- and soft-shell varieties, and in a range of sizes to suit every need. You’ll also find them in various sizes to accommodate whatever you need to carry with you.
What Do You Pack into Bento Boxes?
Whatever you want! But there are certain things that you’re more likely to be carrying around with you while riding that would need the extra space.
If you’re increasing the mileage you’ve been riding, a bento box is an excellent idea. The further you ride, the more fuel you need. And there are only so many energy gels you can store in a cycling jersey!
You don’t want to be caught without enough fuel on a long ride. Lacking nutrition can lead to extreme and sudden fatigue, nausea, and cramping.
Rather make sure you have more than enough, and a bento box is an ideal way to carry a good amount with you.
It’s not always possible to leave the phone, car or house keys, ID cards, or cash at home while you’re riding. If you have to carry these or other valuables with you on the ride, a bento box is a perfect solution.
They’re generally big enough to fit all of these things in comfortably. The hard exterior protects what’s inside, and it’s usually water-resistant to a degree, so you don’t need to worry about cash or your phone getting wet.
If you don’t already have a repair kit on your bike, you may want to carry some essentials in your bento box so you don’t get caught out.
First Aid Equipment
Having some first aid equipment on hand can be invaluable in the case of a crash. Being able to clean scrapes and wounds, apply antiseptic cream, and bandage them is important to prevent infection that could set in before you have a chance to get help.
Take note that having first aid supplies handy does not replace a visit to the ER! If you come off your bike, your own first aid supplies can help patch you up on the scene, but you should always get checked by a doctor to make sure there are no underlying injuries that could become bigger problems later if not caught soon.
Where Do You Install Bento Boxes?
Bento boxes come with different install options. You can get both bolt-on bags, which are a bit more permanent, or Velcro strap-on boxes, which are easy to remove when needed.
Some are designed to be mounted behind the saddle, out of the way. Others are made for attaching to the top tube and stem, or onto the head tube.
The one that you choose should depend on your need for the bento box. If you’re planning on carrying first aid supplies or repair gear, behind the saddle is good. But if you want something that’s easy to get to, the tube and stem box would work better.
Does It Hurt the Aerodynamics?
It’s logical to wonder if adding a bento box to your bike will be an aerodynamic problem. But generally, you have nothing to worry about.
Whether placed behind the stem or behind the saddle, the box falls into the wake of your bike stem, so it really doesn’t cause much drag at all.
Make sure that wherever you place it, it’s up close to the bar and has little room to deviate. The tighter you can get it, the less drag there’ll be.
What Features are Important?
When shopping for a bento box for triathletes, look for certain characteristics depending on your exact needs.
How much stuff do you need to carry around with you? If you know you’re always going to need space for keys and a phone, then you’ll need to find a bento box that can accommodate them.
As we mentioned above, you’ll need to choose the right bento box based on whether or not you need to access it while you’re riding.
If you’re planning on storing a repair kit or first aid equipment, a behind-the-saddle bento box would be perfectly adequate. You most likely won’t need to be reaching around while you’re still riding to grab something out of it.
On the other hand, if you’re storing fuel for quick access on the road, a tube/stem bento box is the better option. It’s situated right in front of you, easy to reach without compromising your position on the bike.
Choose whether you want a box that’s bolt-mounted, which is a more permanent option, or Velcro-mounted, which can easily be moved from bike to bike.
If you have more than one bike, the more movable kind may be best. If you only use one bike, there’s nothing wrong with getting it bolted on.
Although bento boxes are made to be fairly lightweight, those who are sticklers for weight may want to compare boxes down to ounces.
Your bento box should be made of sturdy, durable material that will hold up in the event of a fall. The material should hold its shape to protect the contents of the box.
Also, pay careful attention to the zippers. They need to be of high quality because the last thing you want is to be trailing energy bars or first aid supplies along your route!
If you’re carrying a phone, cash, or other important and fragile items, the bento box you choose should have some weatherproofing abilities.
You don’t want water getting to your electronics or bills.
Cons of a Bento Box
As great as they are, bento boxes do have a few cons. Whether these are deal-breakers or you’re able to work around them is up to you.
Although they’re made to be as lightweight as possible, there’s no denying that they do add a touch of extra weight to your bike. If you’re one to worry about every ounce, you may prefer not to have the box and its contents on your frame.
In the same vein, if you’re extremely into aerodynamics, you may feel that a bento box will add too much drag. The average cyclist won’t notice, as the drag is minimal, but it may be noticeable to sticklers for streamlining.
Depending on the box, it could be hard to open while you’re riding. There isn’t a huge range of sizes to choose from, so if you want to carry a lot of stuff, you may find that there’s not quite enough room.
Some of them also aren’t waterproof, which can compromise the contents.
If a bento box sounds like a good addition to your bike, there are plenty of them to choose from. Here are the ones we like – pick whichever one suits you!
1. SLS3 Cycling Top Tube AERO Bag
This handy top tube compartment is more a bag than a box, but it does the job quite admirably.
With a compartment size of 8.5 x 2 x 2 inches, you can fit a good few energy gels or chews inside it, and if you’re carrying a phone, it fits smartphones up to an iPhone 6 size.
It’s long and sleek, which makes it fairly aerodynamic. It’s actually very discreet, although you should take note that it may not fit onto bikes with small stems.
Simply strap it into your bike frame, which takes just a minute or so. The straps are completely adjustable so you can get a tight fit. You can cut the strap to fit it easily onto your stem, and ride off into the sunset – it’s that easy.
Be aware that this bag isn’t waterproof. It is, however, water-resistant, so if you ride through light rain or a puddle, it will protect your contents nicely. Being caught in heavy rain, though, may compromise what’s inside.
- Adjustable strap system
- Sleek, aerodynamic design
- Main compartment is 8.5 x 2 x 2 inches
- Easy to install
- May not fit bikes that have small stems
2. ROCKBROS Frame Bag
This bento box is a bit bigger than the first one, with a size of 9.25 x 4.13 x 2.55 inches for the large and a medium size also available.
It’s plenty big enough to hold a wallet, mobile phone, keys, and a variety of other valuables, or plenty of fuel for the road.
The box is sturdily made, with stiff walls that keep their shape to protect the contents. It’s covered in 840D nylon, which is abrasion-proof and tough enough to handle the elements.
It also has a waterproof TPU coating on it, and a zipper that’s impermeable. Your valuables will be well protected from rain and splashes.
The long, thin body of the bento box fits perfectly onto the frame of the bike, and doesn’t catch much drag along the way. It’s also nicely out of the way of your knees, so you don’t have to worry about them hitting the bag as you cycle.
With adjustable hook-and-loop straps, it’s super easy to install and move from bike to bike if necessary. No tools necessary!
- Made from waterproof material
- Available in two sizes
- Stiff sidewalls help retain its shape
- Adjustable hook-and-loop design
- Some may feel that it’s a little bulky
3. Rhinowalk Bike Bag Bike Top Tube
If you need a waterproof bento box, we recommend this one. It’s made of highly durable TPU material, 3D-molded, and has a high-quality zipper that won’t let water in at all. It’s suitable for use in all weather.
TPU is an excellent choice of material, being extremely strong and shock-absorbing while remaining thin and lightweight. For easy access, a nylon cable is connected to the zipper. It’s easy to grab and open while you’re moving.
Three adjustable rail systems allow you to strap this box tightly to your bike frame, exactly in the right position. The straps are made of soft, non-slip leather, which is durable and friction-free.
At just 2.8 inches wide, there’s still plenty of space for you to ride without worrying about hitting your knees on the TPU shell.
But in case you’d prefer to use it somewhere else, there are four different positions you can place this bag in – behind the stem, in front of the saddle tube, behind the saddle, or under the frame.
- Waterproof and tear-resistant
- Non-slip soft leather straps
- Easy-to-open design
- Three adjustable rail systems
- It may shift position as you turn the handlebars
Top Large Bag
4. Topeak Fastfuel Drybag X
With a 1-liter carrying capacity and dimensions of 8.9 x 3.6 x 2.4 inches, you can get a lot into this bag. It features a single, large compartment, which allows plenty of space for a variety of items.
A TPU hard shell resists water, keeping your valuables safe and secure. You can use it for important things like electronics and cash, or things like nutrition bars and energy chews or electrolyte tablets.
It’s durable and can withstand the elements, but should also be able to withstand a fall. A recessed and high-quality zipper is unaffected by the elements and easy to use, with a quick-grab tab for easy access.
Adjustable nylon straps make it incredibly easy to attach to your bike. It’s also quick and easy to remove and add to another bicycle if you choose to switch bikes for an event.
It’s hardly wide enough to get in the way of your knees, although if you stand and ride vigorously, it may feel like it’s in the way.
- Hard shell construction
- 1L carrying capacity
- Adjustable nylon straps
- Doesn’t impede pedal stroke
- May be in the way of knees if you stand and ride vigorously
5. Blackburn Outpost Top Tube Bag
4mm, 70D ripstop nylon makes this bag highly durable, tear-resistant, and water-resistant thanks to a special treatment.
Whatever you throw at this bag, it can handle it. It’s an excellent choice for those who ride in heavy weather or on harsh terrain and want something rugged and tough.
It’s also useful in that it has plenty of space. A spacious, 1-liter inner compartment comes with an adjustable organizer, allowing you to separate your items nicely for easy finding while you’re moving.
There’s also a zippered side pouch for cash and credit cards, and a mesh pocket on the top of the bag, which is ideal for a phone if you need to view your screen, like if you’re using it for GPS.
Adjustable straps allow you to fit this easily onto a variety of differently-sized tubes. It can also be either bolted or strapped to your top tube, with a Velcro strap for the stem.
- Made with ripstop nylon
- Can be strapped or bolted onto the top tube
- Adjustable interior organizer
- Water-resistant treatment
- May not fit phones bigger than an iPhone 6
6. XLAB Stealth Pocket 100
This sleek little bento box is designed in a tapered shape for the best possible aerodynamics.
A nice feature that gets a thumbs-up from us is a non-slip rubber bottom, which prevents the bag from moving around, especially when the handlebars are turned.
The compartment, which measures 8.4 x 2.5 x 1.5 inches, allows for up to 3 energy gels and a nutrition bar. It can also hold a medium-sized phone and things like credit cards, cash, and a small bunch of keys.
The interior is long and thin, with a small pocket inside to help separate items. A reflective silver lining inside helps to bounce heat away, and the sides of the bag are insulated to keep your contents cool, which is important if you’re carrying nutrition items.
You can mount this bag behind the stem or behind the seat post, so it’s versatile depending on your needs. An extra-long strap on the front of the bag allows you to attach it to bikes that have cables entering the top tube, without it getting in the way.
- Tapered aero design
- Stretch mesh inner pocket
- Insulated sides
- Non-slip rubber bottom
- May be too small to carry nutrition for rides longer than 2 hours