By Nathaniel Wu
Hydrate. It’s the one biking tip that is on every website. Although water is essential, some people haven’t found the optimal way to bring water on a biking trip. Storing the water bottle in a bag causes problems with sliding around, and holding it in a cycling jersey might not feel comfortable. Hydration packs solve the sliding issue but leave a large footprint on your back. Plus, they are difficult to clean. Taking in all of these considerations, what is the solution? The water bottle cage!
The water bottle cage is a device that holds a water bottle on the bike’s frame instead of on your person. Even though there are different types, most function like a basket that can hold the bottle tightly. To use it, you reach down and pull the bottle out of the cage. Once you are done hydrating, you can slide it back. This simple solution is popular among all levels of bikers, and you can be one of them!
The water bottle cage has many advantages. The average price ranges from $6 - $18. Compared to the hydration pack, it is much cheaper. The convenience of reaching down and accessing the water bottle is a great advantage compared to storing it in a bag. The versatility of the bottle cage cannot be understated. Not only can it be mounted on various points, but it adapts to a wide variety of bottles. As long as the bottle is somewhat cylindrical in shape and less than 2 inches in radius, a bottle cage should be able to accommodate it. The typical athletic water bottle (not jug!) fits in the cage just fine.
However, there are a few drawbacks to the water bottle cage. For example, if you want to use it while riding, you'll need to ride with one hand on the bars. Although not difficult to learn, not everyone can do it, so either learn to ride one-handed or use the water bottle when you are stationary. Also, if the bottle cage is mounted close to the pedals, sometimes you can hit the bottle while pedaling. Storing the bottle on the diagonal part of the frame mitigates this problem. Most cages require mounting points on the frame, but the lack of mounting points usually isn't a problem.
There are two main types of water bottle cages. One type is the typical cupholder-like structure, which is more popular, and the other is the side-loaded cage. This means that instead of a cage, the locking mechanism is more low-profile and can only be loaded and unloaded from one side. They are typically more secure and more expensive. To load a cage, you need an allen key or hex wrench that fits the mounting bolts on the bike. Unscrew the mounting bolts, line up the holes of the cage with the holes on the bike frame, and tighten the bolts. Make sure to not fully tighten until every bolt is partially in the frame.
If you are interested in getting one, you can buy a water bottle cage from various websites like Amazon or at any bike shop. Be sure to read the reviews to ensure quality, and as always, happy riding!