If you are going to use a water bottle (or bottles) for your on-bike hydration, you are going to need a bottle cage in which to put it. While the simplest and most inexpensive bottle cages will do the same job as the premium models – securely holding your bottle and allowing you easy access whenever you need a drink – many riders view it as one component where precious grams can be shed, or consider a sleek and modern cage as adding to the aesthetics of their bike.
Read on to find out more about the different types of water bottle cage that are available and to help choose which one is right for you.
Which water bottle cage is right for you?
Water bottle cages are mounted on the bike’s frame – usually on top of the down tube and/or on the seat tube, but different frame designs (especially some full-suspension MTBs) may have mounts under the down tube. Mounting is by means of threaded holes in the tube, into which the cage is secured via two bolts provided with the cage. Most bottle cage designs will feature elongated holes in the mounting plate to allow for small variances in the distances between the holes, and to enable you adjust the bottle position to fit your preference, or your frame size.
Some smaller frames may not have enough room to fit two bottle cages (indeed some may forego seat tube braze-ons for this reason) so if you are a smaller rider needing to carry a large volume of liquid on board you may need to consider another method, such as a hydration pack or a bracket which enables the bottle cages to be mounted behind the seat post.
Some things to consider when choosing a bottle cage are:
• Materials: Bottle cages are typically made from stainless alloy, plastic or carbon fibre. The simplest types consist of a single shaped loop of tubular alloy, while other manufacturers offer titanium cages or models pressed and shaped from a single sheet of aluminium. Alloy cages are simple and secure, but heavier in comparison to their plastic (polycarbonate) or carbon fibre cousins. Additionally manufactures of the latter usually design futuristic-looking cage bodies that claim superior retention/access abilities but in reality may be preferred by many soley due to their sleek, ‘racy’ styling (and that’s ok too).
• Bottle retention: The primary function of the cage is to hold the bottle, so it must grip the bottle securely around the collar and/or bottle body. Some minimalist carbon/plastic cages use wraparound designs and the inherent spring in the material to grip the bottle body rather than the collar, but anyone riding over rough road surfaces or off–road may appreciate the secure grip of a ‘traditional’ style alloy cage. Many designs feature rubber inserts or collars for extra grip on the bottle’s exterior and to help absorb road vibrations that could shake the bottle loose.
• Ease of access: You will need to be able to reach down and easily remove and replace the bottle while riding at speed, so the retention can’t be too secure as to make this difficult. There’s a balance to be struck between security and ease of access, so reading some reviews of bottle cages will help to gauge other riders’ opinions on how effectively this is achieved. Some race-bred cages may lean more towards access over security, and vice versa. Certain designs, meanwhile, are shaped in a way that enables the bottle to be removed and replaced from the side as well as from the top – a consideration if you have a small frame into which the bottle and cage is a tight fit.
• Weight: High-end carbon fibre cages are popular among ‘weight weenies’ as they are yet another area in which precious grams can be shaved. However it’s worth considering that in the grand scheme of things, a 20g weight saving has to be balanced against the fact that a full 750ml bottle is a considerable load in itself, so any weight reduction is negligible overall. Also, minimalist cages, as above, may prioritise light weight and ease of access over security, so some models are best advised for those riding on smooth road surfaces only.
• Size: Most water bottle cages are standard sized to fit both large and small bottles (which will usually have their collar in the same position, regardless of volume), but some feature adjustable bottle stoppers to fine tune fit and retention. One advantage of alloy cages is that if they lose their retention grip over time (as can happen, when road vibrations and full bottles combine) they can simply be bent back into shape.
Traditional alloy cage
A simple loop of tubular alloy. Heavier than the more space-age cages but secure, cheap and can be bent back into shape
Carbon or plastic ‘wraparound’ cage
Light weight and sleek looks make them the racer’s choice, but top-end models come with a premium price tag.
Rear mount systems
Mounting brackets are available to allow cages be positioned behind the saddle, offering improved aerodynamics for TT or tri riders, or additional capacity for small frames.
Bar mount systems
Mounting plates that fit on aerobars allowing a cage and bottle to be positioned close to the rider’s face. This means that TT and tri riders can drink (through a straw) while still maintaining the aero tuck position.