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by James Huang
October 19, 2019
Photography by James Huang
There are dozens of different carbon fiber water bottle cages from which to choose these days, although almost without fail, you’re limited to modern-looking designs. Calfee’s new carbon cage, on the other hand, blends the ultra-low weight and secure feel many have come to expect from good composite cages, with the traditional shape of a metal cage.
Calfee openly states on its website that its carbon cage “drew inspiration and styling cues from the time-honored King Cage shape and design.” While the result isn’t quite a carbon copy of that classic King — pun very much intended — the overall aesthetic has far more in common with a metal bottle cage than a typical carbon fiber one.
In fact, Calfee’s cage is even made similarly to a metal cage, starting with a long section of raw carbon fiber that’s then bent into shape using a special mold, cured, and then bonded with the mounting plates and upper cradle. When all is said and done, what you get is a lovely little 41g widget that costs nearly the same as other premium carbon fiber cages despite the fact that each one is made by hand in Calfee’s California studio.
The Calfee cage obviously looks different from premium titanium cages that are currently on the market including Wolf Tooth (left), King Cage (foreground), and Silca (right), but the overall shape is similar.
Raw cages are sold in the United States for US$60, while gloss and matte clear-coated variants are slightly more expensive at US$75. Calfee currently sells these consumer-direct via its website, and international costs vary depending on exchange rates.
It seems ironic that Calfee pictures the carbon cage on its website with a Camelbak Podium bottle since that bottle doesn’t actually fit all that well (which isn’t all that uncommon given that bottle’s unconventionally large neck shape). It’s such a perfect fit around a Specialized bottle, though, that I strongly suspect Calfee may have even molded prototype cages around one.
Seriously, the fit could hardly be more perfect.
With that close pairing in mind, then, it’s no surprise to find that Specialized (and similarly shaped) bottles easily slide in and out, and secure in place with a very satisfying “snap” that can be both felt and heard. There’s no rattling at all, and after more than six months of regular use both on-road and off, I’ve yet to come close to losing a bottle, large or small.
One of my sample cages does fit a little tighter than the other, but Calfee says this was an early production issue that has since been rectified.
“We have new tooling now, so the variation is a lot less than what you have,” said company founder Craig Calfee, “and soon, we will be trying a new metal 3D-printing service that will allow us to have metal molds that have ‘Calfee’ embossed really small on one of the carbon bits.”
As always, aesthetic opinions are a matter of personal preference, and not everyone will get on with the more classic appearance Calfee has opted for here. For sure, something like this might not look right to some on, say, a Specialized S-Works Venge, Trek Madone, or another ultra-modern aero machine.
Owners of bikes with more traditional shapes have already had the option of the stalwart King stainless or titanium cage, and, more recently, similar options from Silca and Wolf Tooth. But if carbon is your thing, Calfee finally fills that long-standing void, and it’s a peach.
Unlike most true carbon fiber cages that are essentially formed from a flat sheet, the Calfee cage uses more of a tubular construction.
On the right bike, the Calfee carbon cage strikes the perfect balance between high-tech and traditional.
The 41g actual weight is inline with other premium carbon fiber cages.
The upper cradle and mounting tabs are bonded on separately from the rest of the structure.
The split mounting tabs are handy for straddling front derailleur clamps, but it’d be nice to see slotted holes for more positioning flexibility.