In South Africa, where endurance mountain biking still dominates the market, two bottle cages inside the bike’s frame has become a critical feature for many. Some bike brands offer this, but others, by way of their suspension design, can’t. As we head into another hot summer, let’s consider how the local bike market is currently split on this feature.
By Sean Badenhorst
There was a time when everyone accepted that carrying a hydration pack was just the way mountain biking was. But then South African events – stage races, marathons and ultra-marathons – began to add very impressive refreshment stations or water points at regular intervals and riders realised that they didn’t need to carry all their food and drinks with them. They could take bottles and top up along the way…
The Trek Supercaliber carries two bottles inside the frame.
Some events also have tech zones at selected water points, which further minimises the need to carry too many spares and tools. And then of course bikes also improved. Tubeless technology (rims, tyres, sealant, plugs and CO2 inflators) was fine-tuned; double- and then single-chainring drivetrains significantly reduced chain drama; and suspension design evolved to become a lot more robust.
This led to fewer riders using hydration packs and opting to rather carry basic spares on the bike (saddle bag, SWAT, or just secured with insulation tape) or in their pockets – or both.
From around 2011, when 29-inch bikes became more mainstream in South Africa. Twenty-nine-inch wheel hardtails briefly became more popular than 26-inch full-suspension bikes. At the time, bike brands were still trying to improve rear suspension design for the bigger wheels. Obviously it is easy to fit two bottle cages into the frame of a hardtail, but when 29-inch full-suspension frames started to flood the bike shop floors, things began to change.
Bikes with a vertically orientated rear shock are unable to accommodate two bottle cages. Well, unable to carry a second bottle against the seattube. South African brand, Pyga, with its vertically orientated shock, found a way to fit a second bottle cage mount underneath the toptube, which is unconventional, but practical.
Two bottles fit into the frame of the new Cannondale Scalpel.
Interestingly, Scott’s Spark used have its rear shock under the toptube. Then, when Boost width technology was introduced, it changed the rear shock orientation to be vertical because it offers a more efficient suspension platform, according to the Scott engineers. It’s worth noting that the previous Spark never accommodated a second bottle inside the frame.
Around the same time, when Merida launched its first 29-inch wheeled full sus bike, the Ninety-Nine, it came with a vertically orientated rear shock. And then around a year later, it changed the rear shock orientation to be ‘horizontal’, beneath the toptube. A much more svelte design and certainly more in tune with a competitive racer’s bike. At the time, a Merida employee told me that Merida has designed both options when it moved to 29ers and found the vertically orientated shock was more efficient in terms of rear suspension action. But there was a greater demand for bikes with horizontally orientated rear shocks, so it switched its XC/Marathon bikes to that (it uses the vertical orientation for its trail bikes now). Curiously, the Merida horizontal shock design still doesn’t accommodate a second bottle though.
A number of leading brands use the vertically orientated rear shock design, which essentially cancels out any chance of a bottle cage mount on the seattube. Pyga’s Patrick Morewood once said: “Do you want a second bottle or do you want proper suspension? You can’t have both.”
Lyne’s Holy Rail delivers a two-bottle solution to a number of brands/models.
We ran a recent poll on our TREAD Twitter account:
South African mountain bikers, how important is it that your bike carries two bottles inside the frame?
|Not negotiable – it must!||27%|
107 votes in total
Looking at the results, it’s not unreasonable to say that 59% are unlikely to buy a bike that doesn’t allow for the carrying of two bottles inside the frame. That’s quite telling, although to be fair, it’s not a huge sample size.
There’s the aftermarket option of adding a bottle cage clamp to your seatpost in order to carry a second bottle. It’s a method that’s been used by many that have single-bottle-cage bikes for long races and training rides. The problem with this is that it means you can’t attach a tool bag beneath your saddle.
The seatpost bottle cage has become rather popular.
There’s also that back-tyre bottle buzz… When the suspension compresses and the tyre makes contact with the bottle/cage. It’s one of those sounds – and feelings – that makes you shudder, partly because you don’t really expect it but mostly because the bike wasn’t designed to carry a bottle on the seatpost. Despite this, the seatpost bottle-cage mount is the most popular method of carrying additional fluid without using a hydration pack.
More recently, South African brand, Lyne, launched its Holy Rail, an innovative dual bottle cage mount that attaches to the downtube bottle cage mount and helps fit two bottles into frames that have the space, but not the ideal tube angles. We haven’t tried one yet, so aren’t aware of how well it works, but it does look rather practical.
If you’re in the market for a new XCO/Marathon bike and need to know – at a glance – which your options are, here’s a list we compiled from the most popular bike brands in our 2019 SA MTB Race Survey, presented by Garmin.
Full-sus XC/Marathon bikes that can take two bottles inside the frame
Pyga Stage/Stage Max
Momsen Vipa Ultra
Note: Not all bikes listed above will take two large bottles inside the frame. Some may take one large and one small, depending on frame size.
Full-sus XC/Marathon bikes that don’t take two bottles inside the frame
Santa Cruz Blur
Trek Top Fuel
Merida Ninety Six
Got any valuable thoughts on this topic? Email Sean Badenhorst at firstname.lastname@example.org