Arundel Mandible Carbon Fiber Bottle Cage
We've been riding the Arundel Dave-O cages since we reviewed them a few years back. They were the best cages we had ever used. Light, 29g, and they held our bottles better than anything we'd used previously. We had a few 24oz bottles (probably only two in total) get ejected from the seat-tube mounted cage, but the cages have yet to break and still look good. Haven't lost a single "standard" bottle from them. Ever.
The Dave-O cages definitely aren't perfect, as witnessed by the occasional ejection. The ejection is and isn't serious. On the one hand, we used to have large bottles eject from that position with greater frequency when using Specialized and King cages, and the Specialized cages we had would occasionally let a bottle slip downward. On the other, the risk of ejection is something you don't want to think about during a bike race.
An amusing problem with the Dave-O's was that the substantial surface area of the cages occasionally get sticky from beverages leaking out of bottles. While the greater friction could be a good thing, it would occasionally surprise us when we were tired; having trouble pulling out a bottle after 160k is a bit rude when your life seems to depend on sucking down what's left inside that bottle. And the converse has occasionally happened as well; got a little polish on the inside surfaces of the cages and the bottles would go in and out with less force than we wanted. The polish would wear off quickly, so it was a very short-term issue.
We praise Arundel for wanting to design a better cage. Plenty of companies know the shortcomings of their products and don't work on improving them for any number of reasons. Even better, Arundel succeeded at building a better cage with the Mandible.
Mandible, as in the exoskeletal jaw of an arthropod. Like an ant. It's used for cutting and holding food. You never want to fight an ant for food. With a name like this, the cage ought to hold bottles just before the point of pinching them.
Arundel says the new shape "provides 40% more bottle grabbing power," and is tough enough for "mountain bike, triathlon style brackets, and cobble-esque road riding." We didn't try mountain-biking with them, nor did we bolt them on to a triathlon-style saddle bracket, but we did ride cobbles and rough roads and dirt roads. We jumped curbs. We jumped railroad tracks. With a large-capacity bottle in the seat-tube mounted Mandible cage. No ejections over several weeks. We rode in the rain and hit some rough roads. No ejections. We're sold on these; looks like its time to retire the Dave-O's or put them on a less-important bike.
It's good the Mandibles are a practical improvement; the aesthetics are better, too. They look so much better, we'd probably want to change for the shape alone, even if they didn't hold onto bottles any more firmly. The Dave-O's are blocky. Simple design is good, but they have such dramatically long cross-sections that the look from the side is arguably low-tech.
The Mandible possesses thin arms and a sleek, swoopy shape. They look lighter and don't dominate your field of vision when seeing them empty of bottles. They weigh the same as the Dave-O's; ours weighed in at 29g apiece, which is exactly what our Dave-O's come in at. The set of included bolts weigh in a 6g per pair.
While the shape is a nice improvement, the reason for it has little to do with looks. It's about changing the arm geometry for greater strength. The arms are thicker on the outside edges and thinner on the inside, kind of like each section is half an I-beam. This puts more carbon fiber "meat" in a smaller area, thus stiffening the arms. There is a foam core under the bracket section, where the mounting holes are, but it disappears as the arms protrude.
In addition to the improved shape, Arundel finally put two sets of holes in the cage, giving you two mounting position choices. The Dave-O had one set. The lower we can mount our cages, the better. The lower we can get the weight of the bottles, the easier the bike will move. Turning will feel easier, standing on the pedals will feel easier. The distance change isn't much, slightly over two centimeters, but it helps.
We loved this, until we put the Mandible on the seat tube braze-ons of an aluminum road bike. The new cage design, which has a protruding rib that runs for 1.7cm below the holes, made it impossible for the cage to sit parallel with our seat tube with by our front derailleur braze-on clamp. The Dave-O doesn't have the protruding ridge. This is a problem "created" by the frame maker, who ran the mounting holes a tiny bit lower than is common. So we swapped out the Shimano braze-on clamp we've been using for a Campagnolo clamp. The problem persisted as the clamp didn't go low enough. On Dave-O's advice (he's a person as well as a bottle cage), we put a 1mm spacer behind the cage. Some frames, Giants come to mind, run ultra-low bottle mounts and front derailleur clamps; they include fairly significant spacers with the frame to clear the clamp. With the 1mm spacers in place, the cage fits on the lower holes now. If we put 2mm of spacers behind, we could probably use the upper set of holes to get the cage lower. Interestingly, on our carbon tester bike, the seat tube water bottle mounts in the frame are higher, and we had no problem running the cage on the upper set of holes, even though a front derailleur clamp is needed.
The only thing that gives us pause with these cages is the price. It hurts our sensibilities. But losing a bottle in a bike race could cost us as much or more. For triathletes, a single race entry can cost way more than a cage. Maybe this is just us reaching for justification, not that we need any when the cage is so strong and beautiful, and if it's like the other Arundel products we've tested, so durable.