We need to talk about bottles and bottle cages, the wonderfully simple and straightforward system we’ve all been using to carry liquids on our bikes for as long as we can remember.
Bottles, cages and the mounts they fit onto are one of the few parts of modern bikes that have stayed standard, and I want to keep it that way.
The winds of change blow hard in the bike industry. Old designs are callously consigned to the dustbin and once universal standards regularly fall by the wayside.
We’ve seen it time and time again. Quick releases gave way to thru-axles; quill stems to threadless systems; 26in to 29in and then back to 27.5in and then up to 27.5+ and oh wait, actually we still like 29in, really.
Meanwhile freehub bodies have morphed to accommodate ever-larger numbers of cassette sprockets and bottom brackets have creaked their way through a messy series of engineering dead-ends.
New stuff is great, but it often comes at the cost of backwards compatibility. Josh Patterson / Immediate Media
It’s not all bad. Shifting components have never been better, brakes have never been more effective and modern bikes are astonishingly capable and, for the performance on offer, they’re remarkably affordable too.
I don’t oppose progress and I will never tire of reminding you that new products don’t magically render the ones you own unusable.
However, I will fight you (with words) if you try to reinvent the way we carry bottles on our bikes.
Go and look at your bike right now. Assuming it’s not something truly odd, I’m guessing it’s got at least one set of bottle cage bosses spaced about 2.5in (64mm) apart.
How do you improve on perfection? Simon Bromley / Immediate Media
Those bosses will accept almost every bottle cage on the market right now, and pretty well any made in recent history.
And those cages will, in turn, accept just about any cycling water bottle in existence.
And you know what? That’s brilliant.
It’s entirely possible that bottles, cages and mounts could be improved incrementally, but the fact is they don’t need to be.
We don’t need cageless attachments because bottle cages work. Magnets and proprietary interlocking mounts answer a question absolutely no one was asking.
How is a proprietary bottle ever an improvement over a universal one? Oliver Woodman / Immediate Media
It’s incredibly convenient that I don’t need to do hours of internet research to work out which combination of bottles and cages will fit my specific frame. Contrast this experience with, say, upgrading your cranks or buying a new headset.
It’s a joy that I can fit anything from a £3.99 alloy cage to a £70 titanium one to the same bike, without getting tripped up by arcane standards and mysteriously specific compatibility considerations.
You can be pretty confident that a 30-year-old steel frame you pull out of a skip will accept the same bottles and cages as a ten-grand carbon race bike bought in 2020.
I shall say it once more: leave our bottle cages alone.
More columns by Matthew Loveridge