The Cargo Cage – Product Design Notes

As cyclists, bikepackers and tourers we are always on the lookout for the simplest and most versatile ways to strap kit to our bikes. Maybe it’s to stash some extra clothes and a sleeping bag for a quick overnighter or a way to carry enough food and water to see you through a few days in the wilderness until the next resupply point. Sure you can go basic and just use some straps, hanging things from your frame but if it’s a real, practical solution you’re after most experienced bikepackers will opt for a cargo cage.

What is a cargo cage?

Tailfin Cargo Cage

The term ‘cargo cage’ is an all encompassing term given for what is, in many cases, an oversized bottle cage or something that often looks pretty similar to an ordinary bottle cage. It provides a secure base upon which you can mount almost anything you wish to carry and ensures those items stay put when strapped in place. Most are made from steel or aluminium tubing, sheet metal or a plastic composite – much in the same way as a standard water bottle cage – although one or two, like the King Cage, are made of lighter (and more expensive) titanium.

Where can I fit a cargo cage?

Many of us are riding bikes that are more than capable of mounting a cargo cage or two (or three or four…) with ease. In the most part a cargo cage will fit anywhere you would normally mount a water bottle, thanks to the fact that almost all cargo cages feature mounting holes that share the same spacing as a regular bottle cage . 

Tailfin Cargo Cage
A cargo cage can be fitted anywhere you have mounts and space on your bike.

Alongside the ability to fit a cargo cage wherever your bike frame has bottle cage mounts, plenty of us are riding bikes that already have dedicated cargo cage mounts – usually on the fork legs or seat stays. Yes, if you didn’t already know it, those three (or sometimes four) threaded holes on your bike’s fork legs are designed for fitting cargo cages, allowing for turbo-charged load carrying. When added to the typical two bottle cage mounting points within the frame and the increasing popularity for bike brands to stick another set of bottle cage mounts underneath the down tube, these mounts can give rise to five individual locations a cargo cage can be fitted.

Of course, we aren’t suggesting you stick five cargo cages on your bike at all times. Standard water bottle cages are still pretty important for carrying your liquids, so we would always recommend you keep a couple on your bike to allow for regular and easy hydration. 

What can I carry in a cargo cage?

The type and shape of the load a cargo cage will work with almost always comes down to the style of cargo cage you choose to fit. Almost all fit into one of two designs; an ‘L’ shaped cage or ‘cradle’ style, with both suiting specific loads.

Tailfin Cargo Cage
Cargo cages can be basic cradle shapes to carry oversized loads or more traditional ‘L’ shape or caged in design.

An ‘L’ shaped cargo cage is most bikepackers’ cage of choice as it tends to feature a lower shelf or cage that will hold heavy or bulky items in place even when riding over unmade roads and rough terrain. Riders will often choose to mount bulky dry bags or cylindrical items such as water bottles that need a little extra support. 

Cradle style cargo cages are perfect for carrying light and also long items of luggage. Think extra clothing or kit such as tent poles or fishing rods. Without a restrictive shape the luggage capacity of a cradle is limited only by an item’s capacity to hinder free and safe movement of the bike.

Tailfin Cargo Cage
Carry heavy items with an L-shaped cage or long and light items with a cradle.

As with any form of on-bike luggage carrier a cargo cage will have weight limits imposed to maintain safe performance without risk of failure; often no more than a few kilograms. This might seem like a small amount but, when you consider that most cargo cages will be fitted to the fork legs of your bike, you must consider that overloading here will have a possibly detrimental impact on the steering and handling of your bike. With this in mind we tend to use fork mounted cargo cages for carrying lighter items such as shelters, sleeping bags, sleeping mats or spare clothes. When cargo cages are fitted low down on the frame or on a rack you can mount heavier items such as larger water bottles and incur less negative impacts on the ride quality.

How do I fit stuff to my cargo cage?

Tailfin cargo cage
Simple but effective Voile straps are the choice of many a bikepacker.

Unless your cage is designed and shaped to fit a specific item such as a water bottle then you will most likely find that some form of strap/s will be necessary for attaching a load to a cargo cage. Whilst some brands sell cages with proprietary straps, using velcro or some form of buckle system, most cargo cage users will need to supply their own mechanism for fixing kit to a cage. If you ask any experienced bikepacker or long distance cycle tourer which strap system is the best, almost all will immediately answer with Voile straps. These simple and inexpensive straps are durable, reliable and have a retention buckle that is almost genius in its simplicity and ease of use. A degree of stretch allows you to really hold items snugly in place – even really heavy items – and the grippy material will make sure things stay put even over the roughest surfaces. The best thing is Voile straps are available in a veritable rainbow of colours!

Explore the Tailfin Cargo Cage options for the ultimate in cargo cages