A “gravel” bike came in for review, complete with some new bottle grabbers from Wren Sports to test out. The lines of these cages are smooth and the glossy carbon finish pops in the sunlight. There’s no need to wait for a rainbow to show up in the sky, the world champion stripes are already on the cage next to the signature of Tinker Juarez. Tinker worked with Wren to develop a better, grippier, and tougher cage which would keep him from losing critical hydration on his huge rides and races (that he’s still crushing – btw). When Tinker is out on a long training loop or in a self-supported race he can’t afford to lose a bottle so he worked directly with Kevin Wren to come up with a functional solution.
I have to admit that before this test, I was an alloy bottle cage holdout. After many years of never losing a bottle out of my cheap aluminum cages, I had no reason to use anything different. All the fancy carbon cage options that I saw had a habit of ejecting H2O bottles like rockets halfway into the first rock garden of a race. I may have missed something in grade school, but I thought the point of spending more money on a bicycle component meant that it will perform better than the lower cost product. The Wren Cages are specifically designed to have superior bottle retention but I wondered if they’d be rugged enough to stand up to a real off-road beating? (That’s one of the reasons why we do these reviews)
Installation was a bit tricky (for a water bottle cage). The included stainless steel button head cap screws seat down in the rubber bottle grabbers. When tightening the screws, they tend to spin the bottle grabbers. Nothing to worry about there, it just takes a little longer and more attention to keep everything nice and straight. What caught me off guard was the screws actually seat against the rubber. Once the screws are a half turn past finger tight, they just keep squishing down without really getting any tighter. A touch of thread locker would be plenty of insurance against loosening up, as there were never any signs of backing out.
A strangely cool result of the rubber clamping setup is that it functions as a damper. When the going gets rough, the cage can wiggle a little bit side to side without deforming and losing grip of the cargo. I was lucky enough to crash hard with a full bottle in the cage, hard enough that I didn’t know if I would even be able to find my bottle on the forest floor. Fully expecting to find a broken cage, I was shocked to see the bottle hanging out in the cage like nothing happened. I’m convinced those few millimeters of movement afforded by the rubber were the only thing that saved everything from vaporizing in the woods.
When things get tight, these cages are like little transformers. Normally nicer bottle cages have a few millimeters of adjustment, these have slots that allow almost 20 millimeters of wiggle room that could make the difference of fitting an extra bottle in a frame. I refer to the extremes of this adjustment as work and party modes. That little extra freedom for mounting locations could potentially solve a lot of bottle fit problems.
Speaking of fit, I tried every bottle I could find at home for size. All but one fit perfectly snug. That one oddball bottle was just a tiny bit small, I would consider this a function of the design. The light carbon frame is surprisingly stiff and isn’t meant to accommodate more than slight variances in bottle size.
I occasionally fumbled getting bottles in and out of the cages, but that was mostly the learning curve of switching to a bottle different than I am used to. The maximum angle to load and unload a bottle is fairly low, so it is definitely a top-load only cage. The only interference was with my half frame bag and tall bottles.
All in all, I think the Tinker cages from Wren are a unique and highly functional carbon bottle cage. The price is about midrange for a carbon cage at $39.99 USD as listed on Wrensports.com. For only weighing 22 grams, I am amazed at the impacts this cage has brushed off like it was nothing. This has changed my opinion on carbon cages enough that I might just mount these on my other bikes. These things rule!