Tailfin Mini Cage Review
Joining the ever-growing ranks of Tailfin gear comes the Mini Cage, a chopped-in-half version of their Small Cargo Cage that’s designed to carry anything from an inner tube, to a tool kit, to a water bottle, to a Nalgene bottle. Cass Gilbert spent a few months with one permanently affixed to his bike, and reports in for this review…
Okay, so it’s not really a chopped-down Tailfin cargo cage, because aside from having the same profile and wingspan, the Mini loses the detachable foot, as seen in their larger models, and sports some specific touches that aren’t seen elsewhere. For one, it includes a set of nifty nitrile gasket feet – Load Pads, to use Tailfin parlance – permanently bonded into the cage’s frame, helping spread loads that can sometimes lead to rivnut failures. According to Tailfin, these tiny supports create a contact patch that’s 16mm wider around the rivnut, lending it additional support – as you can see in the diagram below.
The strap slots are also wider on this model – allowing a degree of adjustability for Voile straps or velcro, the ability to tuck in errant ends, and the option of running double strap setups. Like their big brothers, they do an excellent job at retaining the strap when your cargo is removed, so it doesn’t snake out onto the ground. This really speeds up the loading and unloading process.
The general concave shape is the exact same throughout the range – in both its width and in the way it securely cups a bottle or bag. And similarly, the Mini Cages are extremely nicely CNC machined from high-end 7075-T6 aluminium, sporting rounded edges to prevent undo poking into soft bags and minimizing any chance of abrasion.
In use, I’ve found the cage, with a single strap, to be perfect for hauling bottles up to about 700ml in capacity. With the addition of a second strap, I can also run one of my favourite 1.5L Nalgene bottles, great for longer day rides and overnight campouts alike, without any rattling around or sliding. At the other more petite end of the scale, they’re also perfect for attaching a tool bag, or even a single inner tube (longterm, I’d store it in a heavy duty zip lock, just in case). And I admit, I couldn’t resist fitting mine with a small and equally cute jar of peanut butter, though the underside of a bike frame is definitely not the best spot to store food, especially in the rainy season!
In fact, these cages are so handy I’d be tempted to fit them almost anywhere. During one of our tours, I attached mine to my son’s bike so he could carry an extra tall, insulated bottle, without the risk that it might jump out, as with a standard water bottle. Bottles won’t be as quick to access, of course, but as the retaining strap stays perfectly in place when loosened off, it works just fine.
I quizzed Tailfin on load capacity and they suggested the following combinations of bottle sizes and strap numbers, which rings true with my own testing. Note that whilst it definitely works, I think that by the time you’re getting to a 1.9L Klean Kanteen, you’re better off with a longer cage if this is your regular setup, as getting the right bottle placement is more fiddly. Numbers-wise, the Minis are rated to 3kg – which ties in with recommendations from brands like Bombtrack, who stipulate each rivnut as being capable of handling 1.5kg in weight. How you’d get 3kg compacted into such a small area, however, I don’t know. Apparently, Tailfin used lead shot diving ballast in their testing!
Bottle size recommendations
Tailfin specifies the following bottle sizes and strap configurations with the Mini Cage:
Plastic cycling water bottles
- 500ml and 750ml any terrain – one strap
- 1000ml – two straps any terrain
Rigid bottles – e.g. Nalgene and Kleen Kanteens
- 900ml/32oz – one strap on any terrain
- Up to 1200ml/40oz – one strap on road, two straps off road
- Up to 1900ml/64oz – two straps on any terrain
Quality is excellent, as per usual with Tailfin. After several months, the bonded gaskets show no signs of peeling. The eyelets in the cage are also ovalised, so there’s some minor adjustment possible if the eyelets on your frame don’t quite line up. And despite living under a crust a mud, they still look brand new – whether I’ve needed it or not, I’ve left the Mini Cage on my bike, always at the ready.
What else? The shape does an excellent job at cupping hard plastic Nalgene bottles, with stainless steel, button-head T25 Torx bolts nestled discreetly into the cage, where there’s no risk that they’ll scratch your bottles when bouncing around on a dirt road.
The only comparison I can make with a product that has a very similar intention is drj0n’s smallest deWidget Strapdeck (24g, without bolts), though I’m not sure if this size is currently available – the most minimal version is another ‘nano cage’ that I really like, often leaving on my bike whether I’m planning to use it or not. The image above shows how the two shape up against each other, length and width-wise. The wider Tailfin Mini (33g without bolts) promises more support and stability for bigger bottles, but the UK-made Strapdeck offers some adjustability, is slightly lower in profile, and comes in at a touch lower weight, though we’re really splitting hairs at this point! In terms of hardware designed to carry a small tool kit, or inner tube, there’s the excellent Wolftooth B-Rad system, but it’s not designed to cup a water bottle too, at least without an additional cage.
- Very well made with excellent attention to detail
- Neat little load pads that should help protect rivnuts and frame
- Small enough to stay out of the way when carrying the bike…
- …yet capable enough to haul larger bottles when needed
- Reasonably priced
- Less support than longer cages for the likes of 1.9L Klean Kanteens, and more fiddly to position bottle
- No adjustability in terms of cage positioning (well, they’re small!)
- Load Capacity: 3kg (6.6lb)
- Material: CNC machined aluminium
- Dimensions: height 87mm, width 72mm, depth 17mm
- Weight: 38g (inc mounting hardware)
- Place of Manufacture: China
- Price: £20/€25/$25
- Manufacturer’s Details: Tailfin
Tailfin’s Mini Cage does an extremely good job of carrying what it’s intended to haul, be it an inner tube, tool kit, water bottle, or even larger volumes of liquid cargo. It’s really useful for both day rides and campouts alike. It’s small, light, and discreet enough to leave on your bike all the time – given the minimal sub 40g weight, including the bolts that would already be plugging the eyelets in your frame, you’ll hardly know it’s there. And because it’s short in length, it’s less likely to get in the way of your hands when portaging the bike from the downtube.
Clearly, the Mini isn’t intended to support larger bags (there’s plenty of options on the market for that, including Tailfin’s own) but when pressed into service, it can still do a surprising amount of heavy lifting, right up to larger Nalgene bottles. All in all, a great little compact, “fit and forget” cage!
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