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Bento Boxes: Essential Gear for Cyclists and Triathletes
Cycling and the Bento Box
Need a place for your gels, cell phone, credit card, and cash for your bicycle?
Forget about the saddle bag and go for a Bento Box. A Bento Box sits on your top tube, adjacent to your handlebar stem. It has four velcro straps, two that attach to the top tube and two that attach to the stem, and four sides reinforced with thin, hard plastic inserts for rigidity.
The box itself is made of nylon and the cover is a stretchable mesh that closes with a velcro strip. The velcro is very easy to open and close with one hand while riding.
Depending on what I have in my box and what kind of a ride I am going on, I will sometimes use the box with the cover tucked underneath whatever products I am carrying. Either way, the contents are easily accesible while riding.
How Many Energy Gels Does It Take to Fill a Bento Box?
The Bento Box weighs in at about 2 ounces and comes in two sizes. Both sizes are 3 1/4" high by 1 1/4" wide. The small size is 3" long and the large size is 5" long.
According to TNi, the large size will fit 10 energy gels or 6 energy bars, while the small size will hold 6 gels or 2 energy bars. I think you'd have to break those energy bars in half for the small Bento Box, but other than that those do seem like reasonable estimates of what you can fit into the two sizes.
I have the large one and I typically bring a credit card, cash, my cell phone, a couple of energy gels and/or a pack of Gu Chomps. In the winter I also bring a bunch of tissues or napkins, and on longer rides I'll put in a couple of peanut butter and banana sandwich halves.
The box has no problem holding all of these -- but when I have everything, including 2 peanut butter and banana sandwich halves, I need to stretch the cover a bit to hold everything in.
The Cyclist's Feed Bag
The Bento Box comes in four colors; black, royal blue, red and pink, all with white lettering. In addition to the two original Bento Boxes above, TNi has introduced two new models.
The first is the Bento Box ST (Stem Top), which is designed to rest on the aerobars between your aerobars and your armpads. I haven't seen this version of the box first hand, but I don't see how it can have the same stability as the original versions. I also don't see any advantage in moving the box from the top tube to the aerobars -- the contents could not be more easily accesible than they already are.
The second new model is the Bento Box TRZ. It is very similar to the original model and attaches to the top tube and stem in the same way, but is a little more flashy as it is tapered on one end. It also comes in 6 colors instead of the original four. I haven't used this version, but I see some potential problems with items falling out from the low-depth of the tapered end of the box.
The Bento Box has made my rides much smoother. I used to carry everything in a saddle bag and would have to stop every time I needed a gel or some food. Now the trough is right there in front of me, no need to stop to gain access to the feed bag.