On one of my first gravel riding experiences, I went down a rather rough bit of gravel and, in the process, lost a water bottle. Nothing worse than reaching down only to feel nothing where a bottle should be. Fortunately, the bottle in my second cage was still there so no big loss. I debated about backtracking to find the bottle but decided to just let it go.
Still, losing the bottle wasn’t cool. Imagine it happening on a really long ride in high heat. Your cages hold what many cyclists consider as the most important element of any ride: hydration! One wrong bump and half your hydration is lost in an instant. No telling how long you would have to ride till you got to the next water station. So, yeah, that one incident made me think about my bottle cages. As such, it was time to consider replacing my bottle cages!
The ones I was using were just a couple of inexpensive aluminum bottle cages. They worked and you could bend them to hold a bottle more securely. Unfortunately, these thinner aluminum cages just don’t hold a bottle as securely as needed for gravel rides. They’re great for road rides since, realistically speaking, the chances of losing a bottle are quite slim. But for gravel rides, the chances of hitting more rough patches are much, much higher. For that, I needed a more secure bottle cage for sure. The aluminum cages just weren’t cutting it.
Enter King Cage bottle cages!
I had read about their titanium cages before. Many folks within the cycling community have mentioned about how good they are. They’re durable, don’t leave marks on bottles, and are super secure even on gravel rides. However, they’re expensive! No way I can afford to pay $60 a piece for bottle cages! I get it but I need something on a more realistic budget...especially since I need two of them.
I considered the stainless steel version of the King Cage but, after seeing the King Iris cages hanging on a hook at my local bike shop, I bought them instead. And at $18 a cage, they’re priced just right to buy two without breaking the bank.
Now, I will tell you this right up front: I had never seen an Iris bottle cage before seeing on at my bike shop. My dumb ass, not knowing how an Iris cage actually works, mounted the thing upside down. Seriously, take the following photo of one of my mounted cages and look at it upside down. Never seeing an Iris cage you might come to the same conclusion and mount it the same way I did initially.
I just couldn't see how this thing worked. Lots of stupid questions came to mind like: Do the bottles go in sideways? How do they stay in place? They seem awfully tight. How do I keep my bottles from squirting out water when I push them into the cage? Gee...sure seems like they would just slip right out if I hit a bump!
I actually had to go online and look at the Iris cage itself to see how it worked. Once I did that I completely had a full on DURP! moment. Seriously...I was that freaking dumb with this thing. Just wasn’t obvious to me. And it’s not that it's a horrible design. It’s just a different approach than most metal bottle cages. After you realize how it works you understand why it’s a good design. I was like, “OHH! Ok, I see how that might work better!”
With my new King Iris bottle cages mounted and ready to go, time to test them! I was going on a 50K gravel ride event so perfect test! The route has a lot of mixed terrain so no doubt I would put them to the test. There were a few areas with some rather rough gravel and I even had a few “bull pits” that I ran over (I call pot holes on gravel roads “bull pits”). Definitely had a few good jolts on my bike for sure, jolts that with the previous bottle cages would have likely ejected a bottle for sure. Regardless, bottles stayed fully secured through out my entire ride! Sweet!
Now, I did have to loosen them up a little, which is pretty easy. There are two areas that you can adjust. The bottom loop of the cage can be bent in or out to adjust the tension on the overall bottle itself. The two top bars of the cage can be squeezed in or pulled out to adjust how much the cage hugs the bottle towards the top. And you really don’t have to fiddle too much. Just need to make sure it hugs the bottle good enough to give it a tight fit while still allowing you to get the bottle in and out without too much fuss while on the bike.
I will say that these do take a little getting used to. I keep mine pretty snug so getting a bottle in and out is a little tougher than my previous cages. It’s a fair trade off though. I’d rather deal with that than lose more bottles any day of the week.
Only thing I noticed after my first big ride with them was that my bottles seems a bit scratched up. I’m not sure if it was me or the bottle cage that did that. It’s possible that I set the tension too high for this ride and pulling them in and out caused a lot of scratching. I mean, these cages are great and, while their stainless steel, they’re not exactly super polished to avoid scratches. It’s quite possible that having them too tight could cause plastic bottles to get a bit marred and scratched on a longer ride. Regardless, it’s kind of a small thing really. I'm not too terribly concerned about it. The cages do their job and that’s what counts. Better to have scratchy bottles than completely lose them!
Pretty safe to say that I’ll be sticking with the King Cages going forward. By comparison, I’ve never been a fan of plastic cages. Just don’t have any confidence in them. Nor am I really all that confident with cheap aluminum ones either. But these steel one? Yep! They definitely work! Like any product, once you find something you like you tend to stick with it. From now on, King Cages all the way! :D