Monday, May 4, 2015

Cool Vintage Bits: Specialites TA Pocket Flasks

That's the model #150 on the left, and the #300 on the right.
The numbers tell how much they hold in ml.
While looking through a bin of vintage bike stuff in my basement, I came upon these two fun little flasks. Made by Specialites T.A. in France, I've sometimes heard of these things referred to as "bonk bottles." They were available in two sizes, fit into a jersey pocket, and were stoppered with corks. I don't know when they started making them, but I do know they were listed in catalogs at least into the early 1980s. The bottles are made with a T.A. chainring logo molded into the side.

The bottles don't hold much liquid. The larger is listed at 30 cl (centiliters) or 300 ml -- which is only 10 oz. The smaller bottle holds half that much. That being the case, they wouldn't serve much purpose as regular water bottles, which is, I believe, where the "bonk bottle" name comes into play.

An old catalog image. I've never
actually seen one with that exact
logo on it, though.
The way I've heard it, riders would mix various concoctions to put into the little flasks -- recipes designed to give a little boost during a long ride, fight the bonk, and relieve fatigue. At the most benign, it would probably be some kind of glucose and/or electrolyte boost. One such recipe I've read about (though I cannot remember where) involved about a half a can of Coca-Cola and a couple of crushed up aspirin dissolved into it. A less benign variation might have also included some kind of amphetamine added to the mix. That would not be recommended for a long hot ride up Mont Ventoux, by the way (actually, I wouldn't recommend amphetamine use under any circumstances).

Nowadays, lots of people use glucose supplements and the like for long rides. If it weren't for the fact that many of those boost products come pre-packaged in little disposable packets, I'd think that mini-flasks such as these should be quite popular. In fact, I've sometimes seen long-distance runners using "marathon belts" -- like utility belts that would hold a couple little flasks that are almost like a modern version of these bonk bottles. They'll mix up their GU (yeah, that's one of the brands) with some water and keep the little bottles in the utility belt. Doesn't quite have the vintage style factor going for it like these old TA flasks have, though.

This little guy easily fits into a jersey pocket.
I recall that I had three of these at one point, though I don't remember how I came to possess that many. But I'm pretty sure that I gave one of them away as a Christmas gift to the mechanic at my local bike shop who always gave my projects a bit of special attention. Like me, he was a noted fan of vintage bikes and gear. Always be good to your mechanics. A six-pack of some good craft brew was generally welcome, too. I never had to wait for repairs when he was there.

I've never actually used the bottles, but I hang on to them for much the same reason that I hang on to things like old leather helmets. Just an interesting bit of vintage cycling ephemera -- a display item, or a conversation piece. Maybe one of these days, I'll get to take part in one of those Eroica rides on one of my vintage Mercians, wearing a classic wool jersey and leather helmet (hmm. . . maybe not the helmet), and one of these little flasks tucked in a jersey pocket. No amphetamines in my recipe, though.

1 comment:

  1. Fred "Fritz" Kuhn, the owner of Kopp's Cycles (Princeton, NJ) and a former six-day racer pnce told me trainers would "put anything and everything" into "bonk bottles". He also told me that riders would carry whiskey or other booze in those flasks during winter training rides.

    The TA flasks are one of the coolest vintage accessories.