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Standard cage won’t fit? Try one of these awesome alternatives
If you’ve recently bought yourself a full-suspension mountain bike, then you may well be wondering how the heck you’re supposed to fit a water bottle cage to it.
Quick Answer: Sideloader MTB Water Bottle Cage
The challenge here is that full sus bike geometry is different from hardtail bikes. Hardtails have a large triangular space in the center of the frame, made up of the top tube, down tube, and seat post tube. This is perfect for fitting a bottle cage to the down tube, and possibly a second to the seat post tube, depending on the bike ride distances you tend to do, and the temperatures you cycle in. The triangular space is big enough to fit the cage and bottle, leaving sufficient space above them to slide the bottles in and out.
So far, so easy.
Unfortunately, for all the benefits of a full sus bike, they don’t have a lot of space in that central triangle. The top tube is normally sloped downwards at quite an angle (shortening the available section of seat post tube) and, in any case, the rear suspension mechanism is often placed in front of the seat post tube, effectively removing that space.
It’s a very efficient use of the triangular gap, but not great for finding a home for your water bottle cage.
Thankfully there are plenty of options for carrying water with you on your bike ride. Choose one or more, depending on your needs and the circumstances.
Fully suspended and fully hydrated. It’s the holy grail, isn’t it?
We’re going to take a look at these with the assistance of a friend of mine called Mary. If you’re a long-time reader of Bicycle Volt, then you might well remember Mary. She’s a helpful sole and is going to help me demonstrate each of the options available for carrying water on a full sus bike.
Shall we take a look?
Short on time? Here are my top recommended methods of carrying water on a full-suspension bike:
My Top Recommended Methods of Carrying A Water Bottle On A Full Suspension Bike
Okay, let’s say hello to Mary and together we’ll inspect each of these in more detail.
Mary and I have created this handy infographic to demonstrate:
This shows the 5 main locations where you can carry a water bottle whilst cycling on a full sus, and we’ll go through each of these now.
Option 1 = Backpack
What You Need To Know
So, this is not my favorite place to carry water when I’m cycling. However, there are a couple of major benefits to it.
With a backpack you can either:
– Put a normal water bottle in your standard rucksack, or
– Get a specialist backpack with an integral soft water bottle (a ‘bladder’) and a hose attachment that you suck the water through, like drinking through a straw
The downside to this technique is that water isn’t light and having lots of weight high up (vs carried on the bike) can affect your balance and make you wobbly. Also, on hot days, if I have a backpack on, I get a sweaty back, and this makes the issue worse: by trying to keep hydrated I actually make myself thirstier!
It does have a couple of important advantages though. Firstly, you can carry far more liquid on your back than you can on your bike. Your only limitation is the size of your pack and the strength of your back. Also, having a drinking hose just near your mouth acts as a useful reminder and will encourage you to drink more. If it’s easy, you’ll do it.
Option 2 = Waist pack
So, waist packs. For my US readers, here’s a little secret. I know you generally call these ‘Fanny packs’. Brits find this very funny, because in the UK, ‘fanny’ is a slang term for, um, a woman’s, um, naughty bits. If you visit Britain (and I hope you will, there’s some fantastic cycling to do here), please just call these waist packs ‘Bum bags’. Which probably causes even more trans-atlantic confusion – Brits use the word ‘bum’ to mean the part of your body that you sit on.
Anyway, whatever you call them, waist packs are a very useful way to carry water when you’re cycling.
They were originally used by long-distance runners for carrying their food and water, and bikers have also now started using them. They’re really cost-effective, and you can easily stash a bottle or a couple of bottles in them, depending on the style. I find them easy to reach whilst cycling and you don’t get the whole sweaty back thing like you do when you’re wearing a backpack. They also keep the weight lower than with a backpack, so help with your balance.
Option 3 = Handlebars
What You Need To Know
Probably the most easily accessible place to store a water bottle on your bike. It’s really easy to reach the bottle, and it’s always on view, so a useful reminder to keep drinking and stay hydrated.
Handlebar mounts like this are versatile in that you can usually position them on either right or left of the bars (depending on which hand you prefer to drink with). They can also go on the upright part of the handlebar stem, just below the joint with the horizontal handlebars. This placement has the advantage that the weight is all stored centrally, rather than swung forward and back with the handlebars as you turn round corners
Option 4 = Seat post
What You Need To Know
You will often find that the handlebar mounts can be fitted on the seat post as well, and this would tuck the bottle underneath your saddle.
It can be a great position if you’re looking to improve your aerodynamics, as the bottle is tucked out of the way. However, bear in mind, that because it’s tucked out of the way, then it will be ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and you will need to keep tabs on the amount of water you’re consuming.
Option 5 = Downtube
What You Need To Know
This is the classic position to store a water bottle on the bike. And it’s not hard to see why, because with this positioning the weight stays really low on the bike, so it’s great for balance.
The trouble is that, as we’ve already seen, whilst there’s generally room on a full sus bike to fit the bottle here, there often isn’t room to then slide the bottle up out of the cage.
Thankfully, manufacturers have now recognized this and begun producing cages that are side-loading. This means that you put the bottle out to one side, rather than sliding it up from the cage.
These new cages are similarly priced to standard bottle cages, and there are growing numbers available.
If you’re wondering how to fit these on your bike, take a look at this great video here.
Final word on methods of carrying a water bottle on your full sus bike
It’s really important to keep fully hydrated when you’re out for a hard day’s cycle. But it’s sometimes hard to work out how you’re actually supposed to carry water with you on a full-suspension bike.
Try one of these great methods of carrying water next time you’re out cycling and you’ll keep yourself from getting thirsty.
Stay safe and have fun.