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Review: thinking out of the box with FoodCell

FoodCell food carrier on Cervelo bike - side view

The FoodCell from new UK start-up FlowCell is an innovative nutrition storage unit, or ‘bento box’ for triathlon, time trials and those simply seeking nutrition storage for a day’s riding. The company recently bagged an angel investor to help get the product off the ground, and a new Kickstarter campaign is currently under way for sourcing the final funding for FoodCell’s first production run.

With the aim of hitting a new £20,000 Kickstarter crowdfunding target, FlowCell will then produce its first batch of FoodCell units. We were fortunate enough to get hold of a pre-production model and have been putting it through its paces in recent weeks.

Essentially, the FoodCell unit is a ‘bento box’, nutrition carrier that sits on a bike’s top tube. The packaging of the product has a premium, professional feel; and the unit itself is well-designed – fitting to the top tube either by velcro straps or two (M5) bolts for those framesets containing bolts in the top-tube.

Using it out on the road, it is apparent that there are a number of USPs to the FoodCell product:

  • First, it has a slider opening that gives easy access to all nutrition whilst riding (either in an aero tuck or standard riding position). This easy access opening also means that nutrition wrappers are less fiddly to put back into the unit. So, time penalties for littering (accidental or otherwise) can be avoided.
  • Second, there are claimed aero dynamic benefits (more on this below).
  • Third, once the entire storage unit is attached to the top tube, either by bolts or velcro closures, the main FoodCell unit itself is detachable. This is a handy feature for popping nutrition onto the bike just before a race gets under way; and it also allows the main unit to be cleaned separately.

FoodCell food carrier - detachable

Getting aero
In terms of aero credentials, we didn’t test the unit in a wind tunnel and simply took it out on the road to get a feel for its usability. So, we asked the guys at FoodCell to give a bit more clarity on any aero benefits from using the nutrition carrier.

FlowCell developer and company founder Mark Tallon said, “In the real word, most athletes have a rounded stem and may have their brake/gear cables still coming out of the top tube. As such we wanted to be truthful with our consumers right from the beginning. So we have done our CFD [computational fluid dynamics] work with the FoodCell where it sits directly behind the stem (optimum position as reported by most companies) but also 4cm, 6cm, and 8cm back to represent the vast majority of bike set-ups out there.

He continued, “In addition, not every athlete is flying along at 40-45kph, another value thrown out there when people talk about the drag values of their product. A reason for this is simply because the higher the speed the greater the drag; so you can demonstrate bigger effects (x percent saving in time over y distance).

“We want to represent not only the top end athlete but also the age groupers who do not necessarily fly along at over 40kph, i.e. those that also sit at 30kph or less (the vast majority). So, we also carried out CFD work at 30, 35 and 40kph.”

Mark added, “Over a 40km ride when the FoodCell is next to the stem you save time; and as you move further away from the stem so that more air hits it dead-on then you get additional drag resulting in a maximum loss of around 13 seconds. Over an IRONMAN against the stem you save circa 11 seconds (meaning FoodCell can be a negative drag option for those that can have it against the stem), with a maximum loss of about 50-60 seconds over speeds ranging from 30-40kph when the FoodCell is 8cm (circa 3 inches).

“We are currently working on some alternate dimple patterning and some other size options that again will further reduce any drag; but, in real life, the effect of pretty much all aerodynamic designed food carriers will not impact total race time in any negative manner.”

The key take-out, as underlined by the FoodCell team, is that, in a race environment, given all the variables of athletes siting up to take bottles of fluid or moving out of their tribars, and therefore out of the aero position, ‘FoodCell will not significantly impact your performance over an iron distance event.’ The main advantage offered by FoodCell is an easy-opening and thus an ability to remain aero whilst removing and consuming food from the nutrition carrier. This can decrease the hassle that athletes may experience in trying to get access to food during a race. In itself, this should be a big plus in maintaining performance during a long bike leg, and helping to optimise nutritional strategies on race day.

FoodCell packaging

In summary, the FoodCell is an impressive product that features a ‘why didn’t we think of that’ closure system. The slider that gives access to the nutrition storage is easy to open whilst on the road, in an aero tuck or a regular riding position. Overall, the pre-production model that we received had a real quality feel, with nice packaging too.

The detachable main unit is handy for cleaning. It also means that an athlete’s nutrition can simply be popped into place at the start of a race, for example during an early morning triathlon when bikes are typically left overnight in transition.

Founded by nutritional biochemist and age group triathlete Dr Mark Tallon, FlowCell is dedicated to engineering effective solutions for endurance athletes. The UK FlowCell team are currently designing a selection of premium quality products for cyclists and triathletes to ‘ensure fuelling is delivered in an functional as well as aerodynamic format’. FoodCell is the first of three products that ‘relies on high quality materials and leading edge designs that have been tested in both lab and real world conditions to ensure all products are only of the highest specifications’.




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