Gear Water Bottle Sagas

DIY Water Bottle Holder for a Brompton

It’s taken more attempts than I could have imagined, but I finally have a water bottle holder I can live with on my Brompton bicycle.  It’s adapted from this Childress stroller/pushchair cup holder, widely available at infant goods stores and online.

cdchAs supplied, this cup holder was too shallow to safely contain my tall water bottles (though it might work well, as is, with others).  I added a cordura cuff at the top, reinforced with a thin strip of plastic*, setting the cuff inside the bound edge, and zigzagging it in place on my sewing machine.


The cuff is 1.75 inches/4.4 cm (without an allowance for the attachment seam), which brought the total height of the cup holder to just over 7 inches/17.8 cm.

To hold it in place on Basil’s handlebars, I sewed hook and loop fasteners to webbing straps, and attached the straps to the top edge of the holder.  For ease in use, and to make tightening the straps simple, I sewed rectangular loop locks on each end of the straps and ran the webbing through. (You can usually find loop locks at EMS or REI or other camping goods stores.)


The loops give enough leverage to fit the straps snugly against the handlebars.  Using this method also reduces the stress on the hook and loop fasteners, making them less likely to work loose.


Then I removed the cup holder’s original attachment loop — the large one on the left in the top photo — and changed its placement so that it circled Basil’s stem.

This part was a bit of a pain, since keeping the liner waterproof required hand-stitching the loop back onto the holder.  As much as possible, I used the existing needle holes to reduce wear on the exterior vinyl.


Once all the adjustments were made, I strapped the water bottle holder in place and we were good to go.  The interior is slippery enough that lifting the bottle out is easy, but it’s also just snug enough that the bottle doesn’t flop around.  The altered holder is sufficiently deep that the bottle doesn’t fly out when we go over bumps, and the insulation is a nice plus on hot days.


Love the little mesh bags — those are gels in the pockets.  A skinny cell phone would fit there, too.  Or keys, or whatever.  There’s elastic at the top, so the gels don’t fall out.

Best of all, this cupholder is crushable and it doesn’t interfere in any practical way with the slim fold of a Brompton.  Sure, it sticks out a bit, but it mashes flat at a touch, yet it pops up ready for use as soon as Basil is ready to ride again.


The pros?  Everything.  The cons?  It’s not elegant engineering, folks, and that pains me deeply.  But it works exactly the way it should, and I haven’t had to think about water bottle issues since I installed it.

*That plastic reinforcement?  I love using IKEA’s flimsy placemats for this kind of support.  Very inexpensive, very thin, and works like a dream!

Gear Water Bottle Sagas

A Look at the Monkii Cage and Holder

In my never-ending search for a solution to the Brompton water bottle problem, I ordered a Monkii V cage and clip from CycleMiles, in the UK.  CycleMiles, and Miles, in particular, were terrific — even following-up unexpectedly when the Internets failed, and I couldn’t complete the sale without additional help.  The Monkii, sadly, didn’t  work out quite so well.


It’s a very clever design, for which you need two relatively inexpensive parts:  the cage itself, which comes with adapter buttons for using with existing cage bolts, and the clip, which wraps around a bicycle stem to hold the cage in place.

Together, installed, they look like this (nice and sleek!):


To use, the Monkii cage is placed around a water bottle of just about any size (a cool feature!).  The bottle and cage are treated as one, and snap onto the clip on the bicycle stem.

The clip is quite unobtrusive on the stem, and I found that it holds very well; there was no slippage at all on Bssil’s stem.  It was rock-solid once installed, and installation, thanks to padding, leaves no marks on the bicycle chassis.


For genteel riding, it’s not necessary to snap the cage fully in place, but for more rugged terrain — or jumping rough patches — it’s best to snap the cage fully in place to secure it most snugly.  For whatever reason — and unique difficulties with my hands may be the reason — I couldn’t easily remove the water bottle assembly from the clip while riding.

That may be a personal coordination issue; it’s hard to know, but it made using the Monkii on the fly quite tricky for me.  That may not be true for most users, and certainly the positive snap of the clip addresses any issues of the bottle flying out during use.


The other difficulty I had with the Monkii was that old Brompton bugaboo:  placement.  Where can the water bottle go without interfering with the fold?  I placed the clip to the right side of Basil’s stem.  That allowed virtually no interference with the cables when folding (though I did watch them carefully).


However, I could find no position for the kit that didn’t interfere, at least a little bit, with steering, once the water bottle was in place – and that’s about as thin a water bottle as anyone would use. The inhibition was minor, and at first I thought I could live with it, but in the end I felt that the advantage of having full control over the steering was more important.

So, unfortunately, the Monkii didn’t work for me, or for my Brompton.  The clever and innovative Monkii is likely an excellent cage and clip for a variety of other situations — virtually any other bike, for example — but it wasn’t the answer for Basil and me.

5 Boro Tour Gear Water Bottle Sagas

Update: Dual Water Bottle Cage

I wrote about this dual water bottle cage last year.

pd-btI finally got around to taking pictures of the mount for the rings.  It’s under my Brompton’s saddle, and stays permanently  on the bike.

bclgThe support isn’t in the way when the cages are detached, and I don’t notice it when my bicycle is in everyday use.


When attached, the cages add minimally to Basil’s length, and slightly to his weight; those premiums are not too much to pay for the convenience of having three full water bottles handy on a hot day.

pd-ov This is also a convenient way to go at an event where hydration bladders are banned, as they are at the 5 Boro.  The 5 Boro administration recommends carrying three water bottles, but does not allow packs or panniers; Basil also has a trim water bottle holder on his handlebars, which, combined with these cages, allows me to carry all three bottles directly on my Brompton.

Gear Water Bottle Sagas

Dual Water Bottle Cage for a Brompton Bicycle

Just before a recent event — 34 hilly miles (54.7 km) in summer heat — I impulsively bought a double water bottle cage and had it installed on Basil’s saddle rails.

This is a Profile Design system; one of its selling points is that having the bottles in back is supposed to be aero-dynamic. This is not a consideration for the pace at which I normally ride; however, having three water bottles on hand for long rides is excellent.

(Also, another cyclist told me that my metal water bottles look like rockets when they’re riding in these cages. That may be justification enough.)

I don’t notice the cages or the water bottles while riding, and the bottles remained well-seated on the test run, which covered 34 miles of hilly terrain and speeds of up to 31.2 mph/50.2 kmph (gulp).  An elastic “wire” around each holder grips the bottles so that they are unlikely to pop out while the bike vibrates down the road.

I can’t vouch for how easy (or difficult) it is to remove and replace the bottles while actually cycling; I’ve just barely mastered drinking from the bottle in front of me. I swapped empty bottles for full ones at rest stops, and drank from my front cage while on the fly.

The cages extend Basil’s length a bit, but not enough to be an issue most of the time.  The angle is adjustable, so the bottles can be set whatever way is most convenient. Mine are quite upright, but the bottles could be tipped in toward the rider, if that makes the bottles easier to grab from the front.

The mount and bracket are metal and look well-designed. I expect them to prove quite durable.

The cages are completely out of the way when my Brompton is folded; they aren’t wide enough to rest on the supporting surface when Basil is folded and lying on his side, so there’s no obvious vulnerability there.  Because the mount is attached to the saddle rails, there’s no interference with the Brompton fold, either.

For easier access, I dropped Basil’s saddle bag a bit.  Although it’s not quite as easy to use the bag as it was before the installation,  it’s still no problem to get to the gear inside; I got used to the change quickly.

For travel to or in a place like New York City — anywhere space may be at a premium, and the need to carry so much water less essential — I will disconnect the cages, and leave them home.  Removing the double bolts (you can see the heads in profile, above) leaves just the nose of the mount, which curves above the saddle bag, and is surprisingly unobtrusive.

This was a terrific set-up for my first real summer weather ride; I’m eager to see how well it serves as the season continues.

Update 4 August 2013:  I installed this cage on the original Brompton saddle, which has narrow  rails; a commenter has noted that the version he purchased does not fit on his Brooks B17 saddle.  If considering this bottle cage, it might be worth contacting Profile Design to see if  the model you are buying will work with your saddle rails.

Gear My Brompton Water Bottle Sagas

An Unexpected Cupholder Limitation

I didn’t see it when I first used my mesh cupholder with Basil’s Brompton “basket”

but Basil can’t be folded with the basket in place if the cupholder is folded down for use.  The angles are wrong, and the basket frame hits the cupholder, so that the hook that holds a folded Brompton together can’t engage.

The difficulty is easily solved by simply removing the basket, but, when shopping, that solution’s not ideal. Of course, the other option is to simply put the water bottle into the basket, and flip the ring and mesh upward — or, in  my situation, forego the water bottle altogether on these basket-enhanced trips, since I shop close to home, and can easily get water at the market.

It’s little details like this that make one appreciate how carefully a Brompton is engineered, and how neatly all the bits fit together.  I, myself, hadn’t considered all of the ramifications of my water bottle/cupholder fix . . . not that the stakes were high, but it’s well to remember these little missed calculations, in order to avoid them in the future.

Gear My Brompton Water Bottle Sagas

Bar-ista on a Brompton

The Camelback bottle I’m wearing is working really well, but I need to be able to carry more water on longer rides, and I’d rather not wear the water belt on shorter ones.  While wandering around the Internet, I read about the Bar-ista, made by Portland Design Works.

Leaving aside the whole question of why you’d ride a bicycle with a cup of coffee (rather than a closed mug) on your handlebars, it occurred to me that I might be able to make this work for my Brompton. It’s simple, sleek, and all-metal (!).  So I bought one.

When it arrived, I realized that, to use it on a Brompton, I would have to unscrew the loop, and re-install the clamp upside down.  Then I mounted it on Basil’s handlebars — making sure, of course, to cut a piece of inner tube to put between the clamp and his handlebars.

The supplied clamp screw was too short to allow the clamp to go around my Brompton’s bar, so I found a longer one at a hardware store, along with the wing nut I’d need so that I could swivel the holder out of the way when folding Basil.

My Brompton has the M bars, so I installed the holder at the bottom, near the stem.

I’d read that people complained that coffee cups could fall through the Bar-ista, so I added a mesh bag that is part of my travel gear.  (It’s ostensible purpose is to allow me to carry liquids attached to my suitcase handle.  It works, too, but Basil’s need is greater.) The mesh pouch is attached by cable ties.

I had to place the cup holder carefully, so that using the wing nut would not interfere with my Brompton’s cables.  I do have to be dexterous, but it’s amazingly easy to flip the holder up so that it aligns with the handlebars.

The impact on the sleekness of Basil’s fold is almost non-existent.

The mesh pouch tucks into the ring. It tends to stay in place, but even if it didn’t, it’s small enough that it wouldn’t matter if it flipped out when Basil is folded.

If I do choose to leave the holder flipped out when my Brompton is folded, I can put my water bottle back into the ring, which means I don’t have to carry it separately when lifting Basil.  This is especially nice when boarding trains.

A skinny water bottle is required.  This Sigg fits perfectly, and is easy to lift in and out while I’m riding.  However, the cable ties were not kind to that lovely matte finish on the black Sigg, so I bought an unfinished stainless Sigg to use instead; it won’t matter if its surface gets dinged and scratched a bit. (The second Sigg is in the photo above.)

As of this writing, I’ve only tried this kit on a short run; a longer test is in the works.  But so far, I’m very pleased.

I’ve also discovered that the mesh pocket, when not in use, behaves like a wind sock sometimes, which is quite amusing (but doesn’t slow me down a bit.)

Gear Water Bottle Sagas

Water Bottle Fix, Take: 2 (?) (3?) (47?)

Here’s  solution to a problem very few people have.  Since I’m one of them, though, here it is.

Bike hydration is an issue for me.  I can’t wear anything on my shoulders for long. “For long” can mean as few as ten minutes, especially if I’m using my arms, or the item is heavy.  On long rides, then, a hydration pack worn on the back won’t work for me.  I have a waist pack, but I hate it because it’s so hard to fill and clean.  And yet . . . it’s kind of important to have water handy, especially if riding where convenience stores may not abound.

Last year, I bought a Camelback water bottle with a hose and valve.  Mine is stainless steel, but this is the idea.  On a previous cycle, this went into a bottle cage, and I could sip to my heart’s content without fumbling with the whole bottle.  Good enough.

Now that I have Basil, though, this isn’t the best solution.  A water bottle cage isn’t ideal on Basil as it widens his profile when folded, and is kind of a pain in the neck if I’m folding him often, as I do.  Brompton is developing a waterbottle for their bikes, and I’m sure it will be smashing, but it’s already a year and a half overdue (we call this kind of calendar problem “Brompton Time”).  In the meantime . . .

I found this Nathan waist pack at REI.  Replacing the Nathan bottle with the Camelbak solved the problem of how to carry water.  All that was left was to figure out how to get the hose somewhere useful, where I could reach it without thinking.

Mr. Diarist said “Magnets!”  It was a great idea, so I sewed a little pouch, popped a magnet inside, and attached it to my mesh vest.

Then I made a similar pouch, added an elastic band to it, and slipped it over the hose.

The tab connects with the magnet on the shoulder of the vest.

Here’s the back view.  The water bottle holster is worn slightly to the side.

(Yes, I’ve used it once, and it’s got grease on it.  How did that happen?  You have to really work to get grease on anything when riding a Brompton!)

I can grab the valve easily.  It’s possible that the dangling hose might be irritating, but it doesn’t bother me. I’m not going fast enough for it to go flying. If I cared, I could add another magnet to control the end, and then just pop it to use it when drinking.

No weight on my shoulders, easy access to water, and, best of all from my point of view, a metal bottle that can be refilled at any faucet or drinking fountain, without a lot of floppy drama.  Win-win-win!

(I’d really like Brompton to work this out, though. Their solution purportedly involves magnets, too, but just one small one which will hold the water bottle directly on Basil’s frame, with no cage.  I’m on their waiting list — times nearly a year now, I think. No doubt it will be worth the wait, but, in the meantime, summer’s a-comin’.)

Luggage Water Bottle Sagas

Waterbottle Mod for Brompton T Bag

The problem with the open sleeve on the back of the T bag is that, if you want to use it for a water bottle, the bottle tends to stick against the fabric of the pocket as it is used. That’s a pain when you are riding.

One of the clever fellows on Brompton Talk  (I’m sorry to say that I don’t remember who) said that he’d slipped a cut-off milk carton into the open sleeve at the back of his Brompton T bag in order to solve this difficulty. UK milk cartons must be a better fit; ours here in the USA didn’t work well.

However, a cut-off seltzer water bottle worked perfectly. (Something slightly larger would, too, but I’m not sure what that would be.) Above:  back of the T bag, cut off Faygo bottle (midwestern? must have bought this back from a trip), and tall Sigg metal water bottle.

Seltzer bottle dropped into the T bag sleeve. There’s room for a larger inner “sleeve”, but for my purposes, this works just fine.

Water bottle in place, and now super easy to lift in and out. No drag at all — it’s a brilliant, low-impact fix, in fact!

Notice the fuzz on the pocket in that final picture?  Fuzz that isn’t present in the first image?

I had “help”.

Gear Water Bottle Sagas

Two Fish on a Brompton

OK, it’s really “TwoFish”, but it reads better that way, don’t you think?

Brompton is (theoretically) coming out with a water bottle (due at the end of last month) which will attach to the bike with a neat little magnetic clip.  The clip should have no effect on folding the Brompton, and won’t increase its folded size, either.

In the meantime, I’m making do with a TwoFish cage.

The TwoFish  is a clever, and effective, water bottle cage.  There’s a soft rubbery block that sits on the bike tubing.  No drilling, and no permanent mounting required, but the wide hook-and-loop strap still manages ti keeps the mounting block firmly in place.  If the strap is wrapped tightly enough, the cage doesn’t slip. Here it is, without the water bottle, on Basil’s handlebar stem:

Here’s an upright view of the empty cage.  The strap is quite long, so I’ve tucked the end back; that’s the lump popping up.  The cage is angled to keep it out of the way when folding the bicycle. Coincidentally, it’s also easier to grab the bottle when the cage is in this position.

I don’t use the TwoFish bottle, though I like it.  It’s quite fat — too fat for me to hold comfortably on a bike — and I find it difficult to wrestle it out of the cage.  Instead, I use a Nalgene bottle; works a treat, and has a covered, and  easily-opened, top as a bonus.

Here’s the problem:

Basil folds just fine, but the cage adds considerably to his width.  Not, ultimately, a good idea.  A bit of a pain, actually.  My money is on Brompton’s upcoming water bottle.  (Literally.) In the meantime, though, this is a workable, if not exactly desirable, solution.