The Elite Ala Resin bottle cage features the same design and geometry as the Italian company's pro-level models, but it is made from resin – a fibreglass-reinforced composite – rather than carbon. So although it costs less than half the price of the Elite Vico and weighs almost twice as much, its performance is not too far behind.
Like groupsets, bottle cages benefit from trickle-down technology. As Elite supplies multiple WorldTour teams and is regarded as one of the bottle and bottle cage market leaders, you can be sure the design of its pro-level equipment will be reproduced sooner or later at the entry level, with the price kept low through use of cheaper materials.
The Ala is more than just a plastic version of the carbon Vico, though: although the Ala uses similar angular wings that enclose the bottle from the side and sweep round it to meet in front, the Ala's wings start wider and from further down the cage, probably to make up for the more flexible characteristic of the resin compared to carbon – and it works really well.
An Elite Jet bottle engages very smoothly and firmly, with a reassuring thunk. The arms individually allow quite a bit of flex, so if you're not looking when you're putting the bottle back and your aim is not one hundred per cent true, the arms will field it and bring it safely home from probably a maximum angle of 45 degrees. That's also useful for small frames that might not have space to put the bottle in square. And once the bottle's in, it's very securely held.
With 74mm standard bottles from other brands the fit is not so precise, and this is inevitable because the Ala and the Vico – as Jim noted in his review – have clearly been designed specifically around Elite's bottles.
It's not like using Shimano STIs with a Campagnolo mech (the horror), but there are bottle cages out there that work better with a wider range of bottles from other brands, such as the Tacx Ciro. However, the Ala works so well with Elite bottles that it's arguably worth getting it and sticking with Elite bottles.
The angular aesthetic goes well with modern carbon bikes, and the graphics set it off nicely (available in this 'Stealth' matt black, black/white and black/red). However, the silver band with the Elite logo on our matt black version began to wear very quickly – it was possible to damage it simply by rubbing it with a fingertip.
The new Ala is part of Elite's FRP (fibre reinforced material) range, whereas the Vico, which costs £24.99 and weighs 23g to the Ala's 40g, is in the Carbon range and is the one used by pros.
Price-wise it's on a par with the Deda Gabbia which is also plastic, but it's cheaper than the Zefal Pulse B2, which uses two different materials. It also undercuts Tacx with its Ciro, though the Ciro is lighter at 30g as it uses carbon with its polyamide (plastic).
The Elite Vico is one of the cheaper carbon cages at £24.99, and you can easily go up to £50 and over for the likes of the Topeak Shuttle Cage X.
This is a really well designed, good quality bottle cage that's easy to use and holds bottles securely, performing best with Elite's own bottles. It was slightly disappointing that the graphics started to wear so quickly, but for not much more than the price of a couple of lattes and a slice of cake it's money well spent and will certainly last longer.
Good quality, well designed and smoothly functioning bottle cage, at its best with Elite's own bottles
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Elite Ala Resin bottle cage
Size tested: One size
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?
Elite says: "Weighing only 39g, ALA is a bottlecage designed to ensure lightness on your bicycle while maintaining reliable performances thanks to its variable sections structure, relieved of excess material and reinforced in those areas subject to most stress."
I would agree that it's light enough for all but the most obsessive weight weenie, and performance is not only reliable but also very impressive, especially when used with Elite bottles.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Elite says: "ALA is the new entry in Elite's range of highly-resistant fibreglass reinforced bottlecages. Characterised by a dynamic design available in three different artworks, to suit any frame, ALA features a structure developed to embrace the bottle in its upper part, as if two wings were ready to unfold and expand on any course. It's a sophisticated yet athletic solution to have great bottle retention on any terrain.
"Available in three graphic artworks with a strong aesthetic impact, the ALA bottlecage features an elegant and modern design, created to make it easier and more ergonomic to extract and insert the bottle, even when there's not much room on the frame.
"The new design features two wing-shaped arms connected in the front, created to envelop the bottle in its upper part, thus enhancing the retention abilities of the bottle under any circumstance, such as high speed descents or off-road courses."
I would guess it's injection moulded. It has popped out of the mould with no defects and has been finished very neatly. Made in Italy.
It performed extremely well with Elite's own Jet bottle.
I have no doubt that the cage itself is durable, but it was a bit disappointing that the graphics were easily damaged.
Plastic bottle cages are heavier than carbon ones mainly because they have to use more material to achieve the same level of stiffness, so 40g is ballpark for this type of cage.
It's in line with other similar cages, but has a has a good quality look and feel, is made in Italy, works very well, and should last a long time, so for under a tenner it's definitely money well spent.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It performed very well indeed when used with an Elite bottle; acceptably well with other manufacturers' bottles.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The open design makes it very easy to slot in a bottle quickly, and it clicks home with satisfying thunk – particularly Elite's own bottles.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
It was a shame the silver graphic damaged so easily.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's cheap at just under a tenner, but in line with cages from rival manufacturers such as Deda with the Gabbia, and undercutting the Tacx Ciro, which is admittedly 10g lighter and incorporates carbon.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, but I would recommend they stick with Elite bottles.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Although the silver graphic damages easily, and those people who like to use whatever free bottle comes in a goodie bag won't like that it's designed for and works best with Elite bottles, I've given it a score of 'very good' because I was impressed with its design, construction and performance, all for under a tenner.
About the tester
I usually ride: Racer Rosa custom alu My best bike is: Colnago Master Olympic
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: time trialling, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, School run on a tandem
Simon finished his MA in online journalism back in 2003 when the internet wasn't very exciting or popular yet. So he got a job as a sub editor on Britain's biggest weekly cycling magazine, where as well as taking out commas and putting them back in again he got to review a lot of bikes and kit.
As a keen time triallist he has spent many hours riding up and down dual carriageways early in the morning and has a national medal, a 19-minute 10 and a few open wins in his palmarès.
He and his eight-year-old son do the school run on a tandem, beating the traffic in car-choked Reigate and getting a great workout at the same time (for one of them).