There is nothing worse than getting to the bottom of a descent, reaching down to grab your bottle and discovering it's no longer attached to your bike. There are plenty of excellent bottle cages out there, but there are even more that are absolute bottle rockets.
Not only is it important for your water bottle to stay in the cage, it's also essential that your bottle can be easily taken in and out of the cage. A poorly accessible design may lead to you dropping a bottle or even crashing because you're distracted.
Depending on your budget, there are bottle cages ranging from simple resin designs to futuristic carbon options and don't even utilize a cage at all. Each option has been designed to hold your bottles firmly in place, but which ones are the best? Continue reading to see our picks for the best MTB bottle cages.
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The best bottle cages for mountain biking
The Zee Cage II is a side loader made from a reinforced composite material that weighs about 43g. This cage is compatible with Specialized's SWAT system, which means you can connect the brand's EMT Cage Mount Tool for quick repairs on the trail. The cage is also compatible with the Specialized MTB XC Box, a small box that attaches to the cage for storing a tube and other tools.
It's available in a range of colors, comes in both left and right varieties and has kept bottles attached to this writer's XC bike for years.
Handmade in Durango, Colorado, King Cage has a long legacy of being a cage that just works. The design of hasn't changed since the '90s; however, they continue to be some of the best you can buy.
Available in stainless steel or titanium, both versions weigh less than 50g and won't chew up your bottles. The design has attracted plenty of knock-offs and copy-cat versions, but the King Cage is known for little if any bottle ejections and worry-free riding.
The injection-molded plastic Bat Cage has been around since 1997, however, Bontrager now makes this time-tested bottle cage from recycled fishing nets. This comes thanks to the brand's membership in Nextwave, a cross-industry coalition of companies working to reduce plastic in the environment.
Beuro, a company specializing in collecting and recycling fishing nets, processes the nets into tiny plastic pellets which can be used for injection molding, perfect for the Bat Cage.
I purchased a set of Blackburn Camber bottle cages with my very first race bike in 2009, and that same set has graced my bikes for a decade. The hold is superb even after all this time. Plus, there are no cracks thanks to the flared opening.
At 30g they are pretty light, but they do severely mark bottles. Blackburn also backs them with a lifetime warranty, though it's probably a claim you'll never have to make.
Fidlock makes magnetic clasps for everything from backpacks to helmet straps, and they've used the same technology for a cageless water bottle holder. It works with either a proprietary 400ml or 600ml bottle, and also a Boa based bottle connector.
When you need a drink, you twist the bottle, and it releases from the plate; to reconnect just pop it on and let the magnets do their magic. The downside to the system is that you'll either need the proprietary Fidlock bottles or the Boa Connector, which also limits how much you can squeeze the bottle.
Based roughly on the popular Mandible cage, Arundel adapted the design to work as a side loader. Technically these are two different cages; DTR stands for Down Tube Right, and STR stands for Seat Tube Right. Most full-suspension mountain bikes don't have an option to mount a cage on the seat tube so the STR can also be bolted to the downtube.
According to Arundel, these cages were developed over a two-year period and tested with MTB World Cup riders. At 25g, the DTR and STR have plenty of hold but command a pretty hefty price.
For most full-suspension MTBs, space in the front triangle is limited. This means that clearance for bottle cages can be tricky, and sideload cages offer a solution. The clever folks at Elite designed a side load cage that allows you access to the bottle from either side.
The Cannibal XC is made from reinforced fiberglass, and the wide opening allows you to place the bottle in from any angle. The elastomer in the middle of the arms allows the cage to adjust to different shaped bottles.
Made from a blend of polyamide and glass fiber, the Tacx Diva has a tenacious hold and is surprisingly light on the scale. Weighing in at 32g, its cylindrical shape holds on tight through rock gardens and drops alike.
There is a full carbon version, but the cheaper polyamide version is less than half the price, comes in 13 colors and offers the same bottle hold.
Everything you need to know about bottle cages
Bottle cages come in carbon, plastic, fiber-reinforced resin and metal. There are pros and cons to each, however, the material will influence the price and weight. Carbon and titanium cages will cost a pretty penny, while plastic and resin cages are cheaper.
2. Weight and Grip Strength
When looking at bottle cages, counting grams should be pretty low on your list of priorities, as even the heavy ones aren't all that heavy. Especially for mountain biking, a bottle cage needs to have oodles of grip strength so as not to send your bottles flying the first time you hit a bump. There are great lightweight cages out there, however, don't expect a cheap cage to deliver low numbers on the scale and have much holding power. At the same time, the cage needs to release the bottle when you pull on it.
3. Top-Load or Side-Load?
Bottle cages come in top and side-load versions, and what's best for you will depend on your frame. If there is tons of room in your front triangle, a top-load cage will work just fine. However, as most full-suspension frames possess tight clearances, a side-load cage will make your bottles more accessible, however, you'll only be able to access from one side.
While the cageless designs look great and solve some of the frame clearance issues with full suspension bikes, they often require proprietary bottles. Everybody has their own preference when it comes to bottles, and there is something to be said for the near-universal compatibility a standard cage affords.