Strategic Opportunity

Strategic Opportunity

I once asked a bike shop employee why a water bottle cage did nothing other than hold a water bottle. I was new to cycling, serious cycling as we say, and given that my frame had these mounts to carry something, it made sense to me to get as much use out of that opportunity as possible. It’s also fair to note that this was the 1980s and I thought it was a good idea to wear blazers with shoulder pads.

It wasn’t long before I was convinced that they were both bad ideas, though one was a little more quickly instilled than the other. I’ll leave you to decide which was which.

I’d say fast forward 30 years, but 30 years only passes quickly in parenting and Hollywood films, so I’m told. But here we are, 30 years later, and I’m confronted with water bottle cages that do more than just hold a water bottle. Sure, there have been secondary mounts that will allow you to carry a frame pump alongside your bottle cage, but I’ve always found that look to be inelegant to the point of ugly. I’d rather carry a pump in my jersey pocket than there.

I believe Specialized gets credit for starting this particular wave of innovation, but I’m aware some people would rather have a root canal than buy anything from the Big Red S. Personally, I like their approach and have enjoyed using one of their SWOT cages, and have even had occasion to pull out that mini-tool while on the trail.


Topeak is not to be outdone. If Company A offers a 150 gram mini-tool have five tools, Topeak’s will have six, and it will weigh 145g. When I encountered the Topeak Ninja TC Road cage with tool, I couldn’t help but note that they’d already gone one better by incorporating tire levers that mount to the sides of the cage. Also, while it’s theoretically possible that the latch on the Specialized SWOT cage could be knocked open by an errant rock or branch, you can’t actually remove the mini-tool from the Topeak cage until you give the compartment a 90-degree twist. Only then is it possible to flip open the latch and unhitch the clasp, which it’s worth noting, also offers greater security than a simple flip-up latch. If you doubt how secure this system is, then I will admit to you that when I first pulled it from the package I didn’t read the instructions (or even look at the diagram) and attempted to open the latch. I couldn’t do it and began to doubt my intelligence or their engineering. I couldn’t tell which was the culprit, at least not until I read the instructions. And yes, my ready, fire, aim approach was the problem.

Bottom line: you’re not losing this tool unless you ride off without it, post repair.


The mini-tool includes eight different wrenches: 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5 and 6mm Allens, plus Philips and T25 Torx. The rise of the 2.5mm Allen as an adjusting screw makes its inclusion much more necessary than it would have been 10 years ago. Same deal with the T25 and stem bolts. The cage plus levers and tool came in at 172 grams, which would be insane for just a bottle cage, but given the tire levers and mini-tool it makes for a gravity bargain.

The hardened steel tools are of high enough quality for regular use and because I’ve been mounting this cage on gravel bikes as well as road bikes, it’s been splashed with water on a few occasions. The compartment is reasonably water resistant.


The cage with tools goes for $54. Initially, I had one real reservation about the Ninja TC—I like my cages to match. Mismatched cages offend my sensibilities like muddy boots in the Oval Office. Recently, Topeak began offering a tool-less version of the Ninja TC so that you can match the cages on your bike. Problem solved.

Final thought: Matchy-matchy and utilitarian makes my geek’s heart go pitter-patter.


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  1. Greg

    I have chain tool in my stem, a mini-tool under my bottle cage, a mini-pump next to the other bottle cage, and a spare tire and lever under the seat. The tools are Specialized and the lever and tire are held by a Camrat strap. I don’t have to carry any tools in pockets, and my race bike still has a low profile and minimal added weight. I’m very happy with all of them. I’ve used all of them except the chain tool on the road, and all of them have been useful.

  2. Dave

    I’ve never liked the look of “stuff” hanging on my frame. And, I’ve never minded carrying said “stuff” in my jersey pockets.

    1. Greg

      Take a look at the image from the day before:×411.jpg

      I didn’t even notice the multi-tool hanging off. This looks like an elegant solution to me. I still have some of my jerseys from the 90s, and I notice that even the pockets in my ca 2014 “touring” jersey are smaller than the pockets from my late 90s “racing” jerseys. I also now carry a phone (barely owned on in the 90s) and a first aid kit on every ride. Those take up space in the pockets that was used for a few tools in the past.

  3. Dave King

    Thanks, Padraig. I have been wanting something like this since about 7 or 8 years ago and even drew some sketches for a design similar to this where the traditional saddle bag would be attached below the bottle cage and be able to hold a tube, small too, tire levers, etc and could be easily removable and be either part of the cage itself or attached under the cage. The advantages would include: eliminating chafing of shorts from seat bag strap wrapped around seat post, moving weight to the center of gravity of the bike, eliminating scrotal seat bag sway (admittedly a problem usually for larger seat bags only).

    I hope Topeak adds CO2 cartridge cage that will hold cartridges larger than 16 g for MTB’s.

    I appreciate what Specialized has done in this realm. I know that they also make some great bikes but I have a hard time getting past their business practices. I have also known them to be pretty heavy handed with bike shops.

  4. Pat O'Brien

    Genius. Now if I can remember where the tool is before tearing through the seat bag looking for it. You’re right Padraig, tempus does fugit.

  5. hoshie99

    Neat set-up.

    My warning about putting the mini pump in your jersey is hard won: a pit bull decided to come play with my front wheel as I was cruising at 24 mph. After landing back first on the tarmac, I felt a sharp pain. The mini pump shaped bruise took weeks to heal. Goofy bottle attachment is just fine now, thanks.

    The new mantra is soft items can go in your pocket, hard ones in the seatbag or attached to frame.

  6. Ron

    Great idea!

    Um, can’t let the muddy boots comment go though. How about feet on the sofa? Or an unrepentant liar sh*ting on democracy on a daily basis? Those are surely worse than muddy boots.

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