Miss Grape ILCOSO Review: A Modular Handlebar Cradle
The Miss Grape ILCOSO is a unique modular handlebar bag cradle and accessory mount designed to solve several quandaries often created by handlebar bags, such as tire clearance and cable interference. A few of us have been testing the ILCOSO to see how it performs over the long haul. Find our review here…
Additional insight and photos by Logan Watts
If you’ve seen our Handlebar Harness and Handlebar Roll Gear Index, you’ll know we left out one similar handlebar bag system: the cradle. Handlebar cradles are essentially rigid mini-racks that typically bolt on to your handlebar or steerer tube and provide a wiggle-free spot for strapping on a dry bag, tent, packraft, or other cylindrical item. The Salsa Anything Cradle was one of the first commercially available options, and a handful of boutique alternatives are on the market today. Those include custom options made by frame builders, such as the Spacer Cradle Rack from Goodday + Curiosity, the new Rat King Cradle, and the Hunter Cycles Cow Catcher.
One advantage of handlebar-mounted cradles is that they can be rotated to adjust where the cradle and load are positioned, which means more options for riders with limited bag-to-tire clearance. Cradles also generally protrude away from the handlebars slightly, which leaves room for accessories, different hand positions, and cables. Some modern carbon mountain bikes also have cable routing that protrudes from the front of the headtube, making traditional handlebar bags nearly impossible use. A cradle is one of the only viable options in such cases.
Although cradles have some clear advantages over fabric harnesses and rolls, there still aren’t many off-the-shelf options at a lower price point. From what I’ve found, there are only three: the Salsa EXP Anything Cradle, the Aeroe Spider Handlebar Harness, and the relatively new Miss Grape ILCOSO, pronounced eel-koso—which translates to “The Thing.” Logan, Neil, and I have been testing the ILCOSO for several months for this review. Read on for details, and find their thoughts scattered throughout.
The Miss Grape ILCOSO is a modular handlebar-mounted system that incorporates a lower dry bag rack—which looks very similar to the Salsa Anything Cradle—and an upper accessory mount bar to add versatility and attach a light and/or a GPS device. The ILCOSO is made from PA6 polyamide, a thermoplastic nylon known for its high tensile strength and good impact resistance. The accessory bar is made from anodized aluminum tubing. The system comes with mounting brackets in two lengths, both of which work with carbon or aluminum handlebars with a 31.8mm clamping area that’s at least 83mm (3.3″) wide. In addition, the brackets can be tilted up or down to dial in the position on your bars. The system includes two adjustable straps that live on the cradle, and Miss Grape recommends using a dry bag with a maximum recommended diameter of 19cm (7.5″). The system is rated for up to 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds).
Assembly and Installation
The ILCOSO has a number of parts and requires some assembly, although it’s not all that complicated once you understand what’s there and install it the first time. There are eight main parts: two brackets that attach to the cradle, the cradle itself, the accessory bar, two accessory bar top brackets, and two optional brackets for use without the accessory bar. The cradle-side clamps bolt on directly through the cradle using two M4 bolts. They can be placed in two different positions, one orienting the cradle so it’s facing down or more forward-facing, which is what we all chose. Those brackets mount to the underside of the handlebar, and then the two other brackets mount to the top of the handlebar and connect and bolt to the lower brackets with two more M4 bolts.
Where it gets complicated is how you orient the cradle, or more specifically, how you position the lower mounts. There are two main positions, which you can see above. The orientation shown on the left keeps the accessory mount in a low profile, whereas the alternative on the right moves the accessory bar upward. I used mine with the accessory mount in the higher position, and Logan used his in the low-profile configuration. Note that the higher bar setup could come in handy for mounting lights and being able to position the beam over the bag. In total, there are four potential cradle positions.
The aluminum accessory tube, which provides a clean space to mount a GPS device, phone, or light, slides into the ends of the longer clamps and is bolted into place. Miss Grape includes two 32″ (83cm) long webbing straps complete with side-release buckles with locking cams that weave through the cradle to ensure they don’t slip around or fall off when removing the dry bag. The cradle allows for two positions for the straps, either about 3″ or 5″ (8-13cm) apart, depending on the length of your dry bag. All the required hardware is included, as well as a few strips of 3M clear rubber stickers that go on the inside of the clamps to protect and grip the handlebar. Here’s a detailed installation video from Miss Grape showing how everything goes together.
The assembly and installation of ILCOSO is fairly straightforward, but all the different parts and little screws admittedly had me worried about how it might perform out on the trail or if something were to come loose/fall apart on me. The little screws are sometimes awkward to access with small multi-tools, and if you want to change clamp arm lengths, you must remove the entire system from the bike. Once it’s all set up on the bike, it feels simple and functional, but the installation and removal felt a little complicated. One other complaint that Logan had is that the 3mm Allen bolts seem a little prone to stripping. A larger 4mm or Torx bolt would be better.
During my first couple of rides, I had some issues with the ILCOSO rotating downward on carbon handlebars, so I reached out to Miss Grape to find out just how much I was supposed to tighten the brackets onto the bar. Long story short, Miss Grape tested their cradle system on every type of handlebar out there, from chrome-plated alloy to glossy carbon and everything in between. They specifically chose plastic brackets because they adapt to slight changes in handlebar diameter, where aluminum brackets had the potential to damage the handlebar, especially carbon ones. Miss Grape doesn’t provide an exact torque spec for the bolts, but they confirmed that each bar is different and that if there is any slipping, I should simply tighten the bolts more. Problem solved, but I expect there will be some trial and error for more people. Logan reported having zero movement on his throughout a 200-mile bikepacking trip with a bag that contained a three-person tent, quilt, inflatable sleeping pad, and a pillow.
Once things were tightened up, the ILCOSO stayed put for me and provided a solid attachment point for a dry bag. I was also immediately sold on the accessory tube, which I primarily used to attach a Garmin 830. With the high configuration I chose, the tube positions accessories up above the cradle and slightly further forward, which meant I was straining my neck less to get a look at the screen. Although the Garmin looked exposed in this position, I never had any issues knocking it out of place. The accessory tube also makes a great light-mounting spot, which I’ll be experimenting with more this winter. With the cradle in the lower/tucked position, there’s enough room to mount a light upside down under the tube, making for a nice low-profile setup.
Bikepacking with ILCOSO
Although I was a little nervous to rely on so many screws and plastic bits instead of the usual webbing straps and foam spacers that secure most harnesses, I was eager to give the ILCOSO a proper test. After a quick overnighter on the Snowden or Dust route on Vancouver Island, I headed down to Idaho to help scout and photograph the Sun Valley High Country Loop back in July.
Compared to the Salsa EXP Anything and Aeroe Spider cradles, the Miss Grape ILCOSO is more adjustable and lower profile. However, it also has the lowest load limit at 6.6 pounds (3 kilograms) and weighs the least at 0.7 pounds (320 grams). Having spent some time using all three cradles, the biggest difference in my eyes is the size of the cradle itself. The ILCOSO’s cradle is smaller than the other two, which makes it better suited for smaller dry bags. Both the Salsa and Aeroe cradles do a good job at holding larger dry bags in place when properly strapped. The ILCOSO cradle doesn’t wrap as far around larger loads, and I was worried it might result in some movement when riding bumpy or technical terrain.
Paired with a tightly packed medium-sized dry bag, the ILCOSO provides a solid place to stash bulky items like sleeping bags, camp pillows, and extra layers. On my Sun Valley trip, I had my Western Mountaineering FlyLite, Exped camp pillow, swim shorts, wind jacket, and some camp underwear stuffed into a 15L Dyneema dry bag made by Rockgeist. This felt like the largest dry bag I’d want to hold with the ILCOSO, and I imagine something around 11L would result in a sturdier setup. The amount of dry bag movement wasn’t enough to annoy me, but it was noticeable on some faster descents, which can in turn affect the bike’s handling. Then again, Logan reported using an 11L, fully packed Revelate Pronghorn dry bag with the ILCOSO. He ditched the webbing straps in favor of Voilés and had no issues with movement whatsoever.
Miss Grape Ilcoso vs. Other Handlebar Cradles
Looking at the comparison chart below, we can see how the ILCOSO stacks up against the Salsa EXP Anything Cradle and Aeroe Spider Handlebar Cradle. As mentioned earlier, it’s the lightest weight, has the lightest load limit, and costs the most, but is also the most adjustable. However, unlike the Salsa and Aero cradles, which are compatible with both 31.8mm and 35mm handlebars, the ILCOSO is only offered with clamps for 31.8mm bars.
|Cradle Brand and Model||Load Limit||Weight||Price|
|Miss Grape ILCOSO||
|Salsa EXP Anything Cradle||
|Aeroe Spider Handlebar Cradle||
- Modular system provides several positions to orient the cradle and an accessory bar
- Accessory tube is excellent for providing extra mounting options for GPS devices and lights
- Eliminates contact with frame but doesn’t protrude too far from the bars
- Cradle holds its position well when tightened properly
- Leaves more room for hands and cables
- Not compatible with 35mm bars
- Many small parts and hardware to keep track of
- 3mm bolts are easy to strip and no torque spec
- More expensive than comparable cradles
- Small cradle isn’t ideal for large dry bags or heavy loads
- Capacity: 19cm (7.5″) diameter
- Material: Nylon Polymer
- Weight: 320 grams
- Place of Manufacture: Italy
- Price: €128 (~$140 USD)
- Manufacturer’s Details: MissGrape.net
The simplicity of a lightweight fabric handlebar harness has some advantages over a bolt-on cradle like the Miss Grape ILCOSO, such as the repairability of webbing straps vs. plastic brackets and bolts, which have the potential to break or to get lost. Then again, the ILCOSO means you have no straps or bags rubbing against your frame, there is more free space on your handlebar, and routing cables becomes far easier. The optional accessory tube is a nice touch as well. It provides even more accessory-mounting options and sets it apart from other cradle systems. It’s also lightweight (for a cradle), and has a unique modular design that should eliminate any cable, head tube, or tire clearance issues, as long as you’re running 31.8mm handlebars. All in all, we were all impressed with how well-designed and functional the Miss Grape ILCOSO is, and after extensive testing, the ILCOSO has proven to be durable and reliable too.
Miss Grape ILCOSO Review Video
Earlier this summer, Neil shared his thoughts on the Miss Grape ILCOSO system after using it for several months. Watch his in-depth video review below.
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