It’s been a little while since I’ve had an article about the “Do It All” project bike because I’ve been working on it and testing a bunch of great products. I’m ready to start talking about some of it, though. Previously we’ve covered shoes, pedals, a saddle and I’ve introduced the frame. The next thing I’d like to talk about is something you might not immediately think of when building up a bike: bottle cages…
You might not immediately think of bottle cages, but they aren’t any less important than other parts and you will likely go through the same thought process that involves price, performance and weight. I actually love the classic look of a basic aluminium bottle cage, but they are pretty heavy at upwards of 50 grams each; they are extraordinarily cheap though, and work well. On the other side of the fence, you can find a number of carbon options for around $80-$100 that will come in around 20 grams each.
There are all kinds of shapes available, so you’ll be able to find something that works well, but $200 on a set of bottle cages might be tough to swallow. It’s certainly not unheard of to spend that kind of money to save 60 grams, but for me, I have a hard time justifying the money for bottle cages.
You also have to be careful with the weight of carbon cages. Just because they are expensive and carbon doesn’t necessarily mean they are particularly light weight. You will find a lot of stuff that’s both expensive and carbon, but still weighs in around 30 grams. If you are going to spend the money at least make sure you are actually getting something truly light. I haven’t used it, but the Bontrager XXX lite cage goes for $80 and weighs 19 grams. Pricey but it is indeed light.
But I’ve got another option for you: the Blackburn Slick bottle cage is as cheap as an aluminium bottle cage, but weighs less than most carbon stuff you’ll find and looks great. At 23 grams, it’s lighter than a whole list of expensive carbon options – like the Arundel Mandible at 28 grams for about $60 – and you can pick the Blackburn up for only $15. It’s pretty much a unicorn, but it’s not absolutely perfect.
Blackburn is primarily a mountain bike company and while the polycarbonate Slick looks absolutely at home on a road bike, the holding power is definitely tuned for mountain biking. The bottles I ride with are from 2009 and while they still work just fine, the outsides are not slick the way a new bottle is. They were also holding on to some road grime from the winter and the first time I put them in the Blackburn cages, I couldn’t get them out without a wrestling match. I decided to see about different bottles, though, so I grabbed a couple of brand new bottles I had laying around and those actually went in just fine. A scrub down of the outside of my bottles fixed things up, but I’ve certainly had looser fitting cages.
On the other hand, I know people who regularly lose bottles riding on rough roads and you are in no danger of that happening here. I think it’s just worth noting that these are tight and you might need to clean up your bottles if they are a bit older. In terms of actual use, I’ve never had an issue getting my bottles out while riding.
Bottom line is that I think the Blackburn Slick is a really fantastic option – super light, super cheap and they look good. They are a bit tight, but for some of you, that’s actually going to be a plus. For the rest of us, it’s pretty much a non-issue if your bottles aren’t wrecked. Your road bike research might not lead you to Blackburn, but it should.
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