26 January 2017

When An Iris Doesn't Fit: Twofish

All four of my Mercians have a few things in common besides, well, being Mercians.  For example, they all have Phil Wood hubs and bottom brackets, Zefal HPX pumps, Brooks saddles and at least one part from Nitto.  In addition, all of them have Ruth Works bags, made by Ely Rodriguez, attached to them.

They also have King headsets.  Arielle, Tosca, Helene and Vera are also have another King in common:  water bottle cages, specifically the Iris model.  I have been very happy with them:  They are easy to use, hold the bottle well, don't bend and haven't shown any signs of breaking or even wear.  And, yes, I like the way they look.

Only recently have I discovered a "problem" with King Iris cages.  Actually, it would not have been a problem if I hadn't stumbled across the 1981 Trek I've been working on.  That frame doesn't have braze-on mounts for water bottle cages.  Most Bike Boom-era ten-speeds, even high-quality ones like my Romic and Peugeot PX-10, didn't have them. Around the time my Trek was made, a good bike was as likely as not  to have brazed-on water bottle mounts.

Most water bottle cages of that time, whether the high-quality ones from Specialites TA, Blackburn or REG, had tabs for clamps (which sometimes were supplied with the cages) as well as mounting holes.  On the other hand, many modern cages--like my Irises--do not have the provision for clamps and are made only for braze-ons.

I know that adapters are available.  Basically, they are plastic bands or zip-ties cinched with a plastic boss that contains a nut into which the cage is bolted.  I have never tried them, so for all I know, they may work just fine.  But I don't think they're worth $15.  Also, they just wouldn't look right on the Trek (or, for that matter, any other decent bike).

So, the obvious solution is to use a classic or classic-style cage with clamps.  Turns out, I had clamps but not, to my surprise, cages I could use with them.  So, I searched for some vintage or vintage-style cages.  In particular, I would have loved to find the single-clamp model TA made for a few years.  Back in the day, they cost about $4 or $5 new.  The ones I found on eBay were listed for $50 or more, and some of them looked as if they were fished out of the nearest bayou.  And other classic steel cages--or even the old Blackburn alloy ones and the near-clones made by Minoura and other companies--were expensive and some, shall we say, looked as if they had been more than used.  

Finally, I came across something that looks like a stainless steel version of those early Blackburn cages:

The welds on it are very clean and the finish is nice.  It weighs about twice as much as the Iris, or almost any other modern stainless steel cage:  The manufacturer lists a weight of 96 grams.  Then again, almost any vintage steel cage weighs at least that much--and if I were so concerned about weight, I wouldn't be putting my effort into a bike like the Trek 412, would I?

The cage is made in the USA by Twofish.  They make a similar cage with an attachment that allows it to be strapped onto a frame.  People seem to like it, but I would rather go with the more traditional clamp setup, especially on a vintage bike.

Perhaps the best part of all is the price.  When I bought my  Iris cages, I paid $14 to $17 each. To me, such prices are entirely reasonable for good-quality stainless steel cages, especially ones made in the USA.  And Ron Andrews makes those cages (as well as the titanium version) by hand in his Durango,Colorado garage.

Now, I don't know whether equally colorful individuals or little elves in Sequoia trees weld the Twofish cages.  But they are made in this country, in California:  one of the highest-wage states.  So imagine my delight in finding this cage for $10.50.

Unlike most modern cages, this one has "tabs" that will accommodate vintage-style metal water bottle clamps.  The ones I have will fit just fine.

And I think it will look right, and fine, on the Trek.  That is what matters most, doesn't it?


  1. Have you seen these? Might come in handy if you wanted to go "Full King"

  2. MT--Now that I have the Twofish, I'll use it . If I need to replace it, I'll keep those King clamps in mind. Thanks for passing on the info.

  3. Good to know about this cage! My big question is how well does it hold a stainless steel water bottle cage, like a Klean Kanteen? Because that's all I use.

    And I will note that King Cages and Chris King (the headsets) are two separate companies.

    Another option for a "tabbed" water bottle cage is the Dia-Compe E-NE. It looks a bit like the King Iris cage, too. But it is more expensive. I use it on my Raleigh Superbe:


  4. Hi Shawn--I use Kleen Kanteen stainless bottles, too. So, at some point, I'll let you know how they play with the Twofish cage. For what it's worth, I've never had any trouble using the KK bottle with the Iris cage.

    The Gran Compe cage looks nice, too.

    You're absolutely right about King headsets and water bottle cages. Chris King also makes hubs and other items in addition to his great headsets.