Monday, April 6, 2009
Waterbottle Cage Primer--Elite Ciussi Stainless Steel Gel Are The Pinnacle
Anyone who has ever had a full bottle fly out on a fast descent during a 80+ degree race knows that water bottle cages are a very important bicycle component. Losing your drinks puts a quick end to your competitiveness for the day.
With Battenkill-Roubaix on the horizon, we should all be thinking about our water bottle cages. Last year, unexpected high temperatures caused many riders to be caught out under hydrated in the heat. Cramping and severe dehydration were common. Battenkill 2008 was the first time that I ever experienced cramps on the bike. Hair raising gravel descents insure that water bottles will be flying, races ended because of chemical imbalances.
Waterbottle cages are important.
There are countless options, but they can be summed up as follows:
Alloy cages mark water bottles and are heavy.
Carbon cages are light but brittle, often offer poor grip (since you can't bend them to make them grip better) and are wildly expensive (a Campagnolo Record cage is over $100).
Obviously nylon cages are garbage all around: heavy, fragile, not so grippy, ugly.
Stainless Steel cages are lighter than alloy, heavier than carbon and super durable. They are only as effective as thier design allows.
Titanium cages are prohibitively expensive, ultra durable, super light and rare. I have only heard of King Cage making these. By all accounts these are the be all, end all of bottle cages. I don't personally know anyone who has a set of these.
For years I have used Tacx Tao Alloy cages.
The little tab at the bottom of the cage breaks regularly, but the tabs are replaceable. I have wanted to replace these for some time, but could find no good excuse. Two weeks ago at Wells Ave. One of them broke, offering me the excuse that I needed.
Drew Kennedy loves to buy bicycle parts. Of everyone I know, he has bought and tried the most stuff. Over time, he has come to prefer certain parts. Once he figures out what works best, he puts that item on all of his working bicycles. When I asked him about waterbottle cages, he said that he uses Elite Ciussi Stainless Steel Cages. No caveat, no explanation.
From others, including style-master Yasushi Katsumi, I have heard that Elite are the best cages out there, so I picked up a pair of Ciussi Stainless Steel Gel cages for my road bike from Cambridge Bicycle. While I was at it I got a pair of Elite Ciussi Alloy cages for my B bike (I ran low on money, the Stainless cost almost $40 MSRP).
The Ciussi Gel cages are like a set of strong fingers gripping your bottles.
Seriously it is amazing. I have never been so confident that my bottles are staying put. When you put the bottle in, it kind of clicks in. Even when the bottle is halfway out, the gel inserts grip the bottle hard. My only complaint is that the bottles are difficult to pull out. But when has this ever really been a factor in whether you drink or not? At 48 grams per cage, these are not as light as carbon cages, but the increased level of performance and durability is worth the 10-15 gram weight penalty.
The Ciussi Alloy non-gel cages are less grippy, but the bottles still click in.
These cages need to be bent on the first ride so that they grip firmly. I can't picture losing bottles with these cages. They will hold your bottles well, but they leave black marks if the bottles sweat or if there is rain. I am perfectly happy with these cages. They are a great lower cost alternative to the stainless cage. At 86 grams, these are not light. But if you are short of funds and you don't want to blow a race because of bottles flying out...seriously 50 grams is not going to tip the balance between victory and defeat.
One of the most selfless moments that I have witnessed in a bike race was last year at Tour of the Hilltowns, which is the Massachusetts State Road Championships. It was a hot day. Matt Spaits, a serious contender, lost both bottles early in the race on a rough road, effectively ending his race. His teammate, Drew Kennedy noticed that Matt was bottleless and without being asked, immediately handed Matt both of his bottles, which put Matt back in the game. Drew limped through the next 50 miles parched and broken, while Spaits won the State Championship. Hopefully Spaits has gotten some new cages since then.
This has been my accumulated water bottle cage wisdom, I hope that it helps you.