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review

Bontrager Side Load Water Bottle Cage

8
£14.99

VERDICT:

8
10
Well-designed cages for bikes without much space for bottles
Very easy bottle entry and fairly easy exit
Sensible weight and price
Limited range of colours
Side-specific, so you'll need one of each to equip a typical bike
Weight: 
48g

Bontrager's Right Side Load and Left Side Load bottle cages hold your bottles firmly and help make them accessible when space is tight.

Once fairly unusual, side-load bottle cages have become a bit of a Thing in the last few years as adventurous riders have partially filled their frames with luggage dangling from the top tube. Such frame bags don't leave much space for bottles, so if you've gone down that less-ridden path, you need side-load cages and these Bontrager units are definitely worth your attention.

> Find your nearest dealer here

> Buy this online here

The name refers to the side you use when the cage is on the down tube, so bear that in mind if you're only buying one to fit, say, a seat tube on a very small frame. In that location you'll need a Right Side Load cage if your left hand is dominant, and vice versa.

I've become a convert to the cult of the frame bag since using one for a tour last year and finding it just a more convenient place for Stuff than pockets or a seatpack. The downside is that they get in the way of the usual exit and entry route for bottles.

Bontrager's Side Load Cages deftly solve the problem by having you point your bottle diagonally into the cage and push it home with a flick of the wrist. The cage then has a firm grip on the bottle so it doesn't bounce out on rubbish roads or trails. I can't vouch for its ability to hang on to a bottle on a super-rocky, steep mountain bike trail because Cambridgeshire has a tragic shortage of them, but it coped just fine with the knackered fenland 'roads' I mentioned in a previous bottle cage review

> How to eat and drink right for long rides

Technically I suppose, this isn't quite a pure side-loader, since the bottle goes in diagonally whereas some side-loading cages really do accommodate shoving the bottle in from the side. But the practical upshot is the same: your bottle goes in without snagging on your small frame or frame bag. The holes for your frame's cage bolts are actually slots so you've got a bit of up and down adjustment too.

Bontrager Left Side Load Water Bottle Cage 1.jpg

Some bottle cage makers pander to your vanity with a rainbow of colours so you can match your cage to your bar tape, saddle, sunglasses, tyres and pedals. Bontrager offers you gloss black, gloss charcoal grey, matt grey/black, gloss red and gloss white.

Fifteen quid is probably the upper limit of what's reasonable for a moulded plastic bottle cage. You could almost get two Zefal Pulse A2 cages for the Bontrager Side Load's price, but of course they wouldn't load from the side.

> Read more road.cc reviews of bottle cages here

Among true side-loaders we've tested in the last few years, the Arundel STR/DTR carbon fibre cages are £65 each, which makes the Bontrager cages look like an absolute bargain. The Topeak Dualside cage is £14.99 which is much more like it, and the same as the Bontrager cages.

A reasonable price, then, combined with ease of use, a solid hold on your bottles and the convenience of side entry makes the Bontrager Side Load bottle cages an excellent choice, assuming you need to squeeze bottles into a restricted space.

Verdict

Well-designed cages for bikes without much space for bottles

If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website

road.cc test report

Make and model: Bontrager Side Load Water Bottle Cage

Size tested: One

Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

This is a bottle cage for anyone who has a really small frame such that the top tube gets in the way of pulling a bottle out of a standard cage, or whose frame is partially filled with, say, a frame bag.

Trek makes two versions, left-hand and right-hand. If you get one of each you can put one on the down tube, the other on the seat tube and access them both with your dominant hand.

Trek/Bontrager says:

'Side loading for tight spaces

'This side-loading cage lets you easily access bottles from small spaces while you ride. It's suitable for road and mountain use and is the ideal choice for smaller frames, full-suspension bikes and when using a frame bag.'

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Product details from Trek/Bontrager:

Lightweight and durable composite construction

The side-loading design allows for easy bottle access on compact frames

Suitable for road and mountain use

Use with the [matching] Side Load Cage for seat tube and down tube access on the same side of frame

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
8/10

Nicely moulded from nylon.

Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10

Really easy to get a bottle in and out, but holds them well when riding potholed dirt roads.

Rate the product for durability:
 
9/10

I wouldn't want to bet they'd survive a fluke crash, but in regular use should last ages.

Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
6/10

Not a priority for me, but there are significantly lighter cages for around the same or even less money, though of course they don't have the handy side-entry facility.

Rate the product for value:
 
5/10

Thirty quid a pair to be able to access water even with a frame bag. Bargain! Okay, they're actually about the same price as other plastic side-load cages and I think that's a fair price.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Really well.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Being able to use two bottles with a frame bag.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Nothing.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

Fifteen quid is probably the upper limit of what's reasonable for a moulded plastic bottle cage. You could almost get two Zefal Pulse A2 cages for the Bontrager Side Load's price, but of course they wouldn't load from the side.

Among true side-loaders we've tested in the last few years, the Arundel STR/DTR carbon fibre cages (https://road.cc/content/review/269133-arundel-strdtr-side-entry-bottle-c...) are £65 each, which makes the Bontrager cages look like an absolute bargain. The Topeak Dualside cage (https://road.cc/content/review/195641-topeak-dualside-cage) is £14.99, which is much more like it.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

The Bontrager Side Load cages work so well I'm tempted to give them 4.5/5, but in fairness they're very good, but they're not quite exceptional. Definitely highly recommended though.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 53  Height: 5ft 11in  Weight: 100kg

I usually ride: Scapin Style  My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, mtb,

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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