Review: Koala Magnetic Bottle Cage System Hugs Like a Bear

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While new materials and shape changes appear on new bottle cages almost daily, the basic concept is still the same.  Koala Bottle, however, is taking a truly innovative approach by using an open cage with magnets that hug a metal ring that you install around your bottle.  I had my doubts, as I often do with new products, but the Koala Bottle assuaged most of those doubts.  Weights, impressions, doubts, and more after the break.

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Weighing in at 71 grams with cage and ring, doubts pertaining to weight were quickly disproved.  And, since it’s so open, the Koala Bottle system installs quickly and easily.  The metallic rings that ship with the Koala Bottle system can be fitted to any Specialized bottle, so that freebie you recently acquired in a local race probably works.

 

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Installing the rings, as you can see in the video below, is a simple process of folding the top of the bottle into a triangle and slipping the ring over.  I slipped mine on and off a number of times on a few different bottles and never had a problem with threads matching up or caps leaking (another doubt I’d had) despite the contortion I put the bottle through.

 

The next thing I was skeptical of was how well it would actually hold the bottle, but the Koala grips tight, probably tighter than the cages you currently have.  I initially put them on my hardtail mountain bike, but never lost a bottle.   The only time I lost a bottle was cruising over some train tracks at 20+ mph.  In fact, the Koala Bottle is sometimes a little too tight and takes a bit of a jerk to get it out.  It was never really a problem for me, but might be a nuisance for some riders.

 

Another nice little feature is that you can hear the bottle click into place, which cuts down on doubtful glances.  I was chasing a friend of mine towards the end of a 2o min. interval nearing max effort and I was able to take a drink and return the bottle without inadvertently slowing or looking down, partially because I heard that click.

Durability seemed decent, but not perfect.  I beat them up pretty good in a variety of conditions and they held for the most part, but I did have one cage crack (still usable) due to the various angular forces placed on the plastic, and I did have one ring break (again, it was still usable for the other 70 miles of the ride and the same one I popped out over some train tracks) but the cage and ring were from a previous generation.   I’ve experienced no problems with the current generation of cages.

The bottom line: if you really like magnets and gadgets, having unique things on your bike, or are prone to losing bottles, the Koala Bottle  system may be for you.  If you’re happy with your current cages, why would you change anyways?  Being limited to Specialized bottles is a major drawback seeing as they aren’t as ubiquitous as they once were and over half my water bottles didn’t quite fit the system.

The entire system retails for $27.99 with a 22oz bottle and 29.99 with a 24 oz. bottle.  Extra rings sell in pairs for $8.99, and a cage alone will set you back $24.99.

Comments

carl - 06/27/13 - 8:48pm

Did I miss it? How much $$$ for extra magnets?

Shreddie - 06/27/13 - 9:33pm

Trek’s Bat Cage works just as well, (I’m sure) is cheaper (where’s the price of the Koala system?), doesn’t have rings that break (really? It’s a metal circle…), and I’ve never once lost a bottle – not even over railroad tracks at 20mph (!!!)…

Last I was aware, they (Bat Cages) were still made in the USA as well.

Bryce - 06/27/13 - 9:35pm

I bought one of these but two sets of the magnetic rings busted apart at the rivets. I’m sticking with standard bottle cages for now.

Shreddie - 06/27/13 - 9:48pm

Sounds like they’re off to a great start.

Did I mention that most other bottle cages work with more than just Specialized bottles and are also lighter?

Timo - 06/27/13 - 10:30pm

So you lost a bottle, broke a ring and a cage. How is this a pass? Not only does it limit your bottle choice but it also seems flimsy.

Also, Koalas aren’t bears.

earlybird - 06/28/13 - 1:26am

We get the message. This isn’t a pass, but the author doesn’t want to say it directly.

Jon - 06/28/13 - 5:23am

Lets not slag these guys off. A small company trying to do something different. Yes the product might not be perfect but they can work on it and perfect things. Breaking rings and cages are all things that can be fixed. Lets try and support the small guys as this is what makes the cycling world so interesting

velorider - 06/28/13 - 8:31am

Sure, supporting the small guys is always the right thing to do.

So: I’m a small guy who has a great idea – square wheels. Yep they’re a bit of a hassle to ride on, and they don’t fit a lot of frames just yet (I’m hoping to fix that in the future), and they aren’t actually improving on anything currently available. But I’m a small guy! You should support my efforts.

Can you see the problem with generically supporting the small guys? Even if Koala Bottle fixes everything and makes this a perfectly functioning product…what have they accomplished? A slightly less functional alternative to something no one is currently complaining about.

Austin - 06/28/13 - 11:13am

I have raced this spring (endurance mtb) with Koala system with 100% success! (Not sponsored by them…took a chance using my own dime) No popped bottles, no broken rings or cages after multiple 4 hr races and countless training miles. They may be a little heavier, but Koala system is really nice for me. Not perfect, but I like the magnetic click and easy pull removal. I also love Specialized Purist Watergate bottles.

The last time I dropped a bottle…was with the one standard cage I still have on my road bike.

Nick - 06/28/13 - 1:45pm

What a pointless invention.

Champs - 06/28/13 - 3:15pm

You could do a lot worse than being forced to use Specialized bottles. I bought one Purist and immediately wanted to throw away all my Camelbak Podiums.

Henry - 06/29/13 - 3:16am

It appears that these cages/bottles would work well on frame with limited clearance above the bottle? Suspension frames, small frames, etc… Sort of another alternative to those cages that you can access from one side or the other. Can you confirm that the bottle can be clicked in and/or removed with a sideways motion? I’ve got a few bikes where I was considering using a side-accessed bottle – but I like to be able to drink with either hand and like this potential option better. Thoughts?

Evan - 06/29/13 - 10:06am

I have Koala Bottles and they work great! If you read carefully you see he mentions that the one he had problems with were an older generation. Also, the author mentions that they are difficult to remove from the cage, but they come out quite easily if you grab from the bottom of the bottle and lift it out due to the leverage you have on the bottle. This motion removes the bottle in the sideways motion that Henry is talking about so I think it would be a viable option for frames with limited clearance.

Trucker - 07/04/13 - 9:30am

If I may weigh in, while Koala Bottle may not be for everyone, the system is not entirely negative. The crack in one of the cages was from a previous generation and I wouldn’t have even noticed it except I was transferring it from one bike to another. The cage is still functional. While it’s not for everyone, there are niche applications, for example, being able to remove the bottles from a number of angles makes Koala Bottle a good solution for limited clearance frames, as Henry points out.

wojtek - 07/06/13 - 12:38pm

I got the system at The Sea Otter (yes, this is my video in the article) and so far no problems.
Changing the ring between bottles is not super easy but doable. This is not the only magnetic bottle system out there ( I also have a video for a different system), but the price is under $30 for the entire system.
You have to practice a bit, but once it clicks it always sticks.

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