Bottle Cages

Bottle Cages

When I knew Ernest Cuska, the long-time owner of Cycles Alex Singer, he did not have bottle cages on his bikes. After riding with him a few times, I realized why: He did not drink anything while riding. Imagine my surprise when I looked at old photos of him and saw a bottle on the down tube of every one of his bikes (above during the Tour de France Cyclotouriste 1950). When he was younger and one of the fastest cyclosportifs of France,  even he had to hydrate while riding.
When I was a teenager, putting a bottle cage on my bike was the first act of becoming a “serious” cyclist. No longer did I just ride around town, but I was riding for hours now, and I needed to carry a drink. (In those days, it was water with a little lemon juice.)

At the time, everybody used the inexpensive TA aluminum bottle cages. They worked well, but eventually, they broke. We tried extra-sturdy cages from Specialized, but they also broke, albeit a little later. When I moved to the United States, I discovered the American Classic bottle cages, which lasted much longer and held the bottles more securely. All these cages were made from aluminum, so they marked the bottles.
On my new bike, I did not want grungy-looking bottles, so I needed a steel bottle cage. TA used to make steel cages (above), but they were heavy, and they got rusty, especially if your bottles contained electrolytes (salt). Fortunately, Nitto offers stainless steel bottle cages that are lightweight, hold the bottle securely, don’t rust, and look beautiful.
There are three models:

The R Cage (above) consists of two wire loops that act like a spring. It holds your bottle very securely.

The R80 Cage is similar, but made from stainless steel tubing rather than wire. This reduces the weight by 20% (10 g).

The T Cage is the most beautiful cage I know. It has a closed loop on top, which holds the bottle very securely even when it is mounted underneath the top tube. However, because it has no spring action, inserting the bottle requires more precision, and some bottles may rattle.
Nitto bottle cages are hand-made in small batches. They can be hard to find. We sell the products we like and use on our own bikes, so Compass Bicycles now carries Nitto bottle cages. Click here for more information.

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Comments (13)

  • Tom S

    I have the R cages on my Rivendell. They have worked beautifully for 12 years. One thing I find particularly impressive about the R / R 80 is that they are constructed from one continuous piece of stainless wire / tubing, elaborately bent into that elegant shape, with the ends fillet brazed back on to itself. A work of art.

    December 4, 2011 at 9:15 am
  • Julian

    Jan, I’m a bit confused. The cage page says the Nittos are fillet brazed, but in the description for the Iribe cage you say ” silver does not lend itself to fillet-brazing” in describing how Mr. Iribe makes his cages. So how does Nitto do it?

    December 4, 2011 at 9:48 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I asked Nitto, and here is the answer: Their first bottle cages were fillet-brazed with a special silver, but after 8 years of hard use, they had some failures. So now they are TIG-welded, which is much stronger. Nitto’s TIG welds are as smooth as fillets, so there is no difference in the appearance…

      December 5, 2011 at 7:45 am
  • Christopher Grande

    Why didn’t he (Ernest Cuska) drink while riding? Even going around the city, I get super dehydrated if I don’t bring at least one bottle…

    December 4, 2011 at 11:01 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      We can’t ask him any longer… but everybody’s hydration needs are different. I rarely drink much on short rides, but when crossing the dry regions of eastern Washington on a hot day, I often drink a bottle every 40 minutes.

      December 4, 2011 at 1:33 pm
  • Bob

    In the late 60s/early 70s I used a TA steel cage that clamped on the handlebars, and also carried a couple of those TA white flasks in my jersey pockets (they had a cork stopper). Those were the days before bottle cage braze ons were common, and depending on the placement of down tube decals, clamping a cage on the down tube would sometimes look less than elegant.

    December 5, 2011 at 5:39 am
  • Harald

    Those are certainly very elegant cages. I’m very happy with my Velocity aluminum cages, however. They’re lightweight (55g), sturdy, hold the bottle securely, and, best of all, cost less than 10 bucks. The owner of my LBS loves them so much that he bought up all the cages he could get when Velocity announced that they would no longer make the cages. Last time I checked he unfortunately only had ones in weird colors left. Too bad that they’re no longer in production, but I believe that my current cages will live for a long time.

    December 5, 2011 at 7:28 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      The Velocity cages are similar to the American Classic cages I use on many bikes. What amazes me about the Nitto cages is that they could get the weight of a beautiful, classic cage down to less than the very lightweight Velocity cages.

      December 5, 2011 at 7:46 am
  • Matthew Joly

    I have a steel TA on my Spectrum as it matches the build manifest:
    I bought two Iribe cages for my MAP Rando bike (also in my flickr stream). Unfortunately the Iribe design projects the bottom out more than many cages. Mitch placed the bottle bosses low on the downtube and seattube for a cleaner look. I did not tell Mitch I planned to use Iribe cages. When I went to install them I discovered the MAP will not accomodate two Iribes. So the MAP has one Iribe and a neat little tool carrier cage made by King Cage.
    The other Iribe is now on my commuter. Looks lovely but is seriously underused. Plus I sometimes worry when locking up that a passerby might notice it is worth more than the average commuter rat trap cage. Heck, an Iribe might sell for more than many a commuter bike frame.

    December 5, 2011 at 2:06 pm
  • Daniel

    I’ve always like the stainless Elite Ciussi waterbottles. They’re very attractive, hold the bottle well and are nicely priced.

    December 7, 2011 at 3:35 pm
    • Rob Johnston

      Are these the ones with dime size red plastic wafers? If so, the looks and price might be good, but of the three that I have two have broken — the steel tubing, not the plastic wafers. No problems with durability with my Nitto cages, and they hold bottles more securely. – Rob Johnston, Maine USA

      December 8, 2011 at 4:32 pm
  • Ἀντισθένης

    I prefer the durability of steel cages, but I’m only willing to spend a certain amount. I run the Arundel Stainless and the Velo Orange Retro Cage. I am mostly happy with both, once I got them formed into a shape that keeps my steel bottles quiet. I would recommend the Arundel more: holds more firmly and retains its shape better.

    December 7, 2011 at 6:08 pm
  • Chris

    very nice article… I really like the Nitto cages, however I also like the King cages made here in the US (Colorado?). The King cages aren’t quite as elegant as some of the Nitto stuff, but they do last… BTW- I just use the stainless version, not the Ti (too pricey for me)…
    I did notice how upright Ernest Cuska was in his position… just more proof that you don’t need to be in a super low, flat back posture that so many modern bikes want to force you into… you can be a strong rider without it…

    December 12, 2011 at 6:03 pm

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