Bottle Cages, Bike Stands and Leather Washers

At Compass Bicycles, we carry products we value, even if we don’t expect them to be very profitable. The Iribe bottle cage is a case in point. On the face of it, $ 150 for a bottle cage is a lot of money. It’s only slightly lighter than a Nitto cage. Without a bottle, it looks slightly odd. So what is the appeal?

It’s really a piece of artwork first, and a fully functional bottle cage second. The craftsmanship reminds me of a Samurai sword. Mr. Iribe mostly builds Keirin track frames, and he makes a few bottle cages as well. Each is crafted by hand from stainless steel tubing. Stainless steel must be silver-brazed, and silver does not lend itself to fillet-brazing, so Mr. Iribe wraps tiny plates of steel over each joint to give it enough surface area for the silver-brazed joint. Then the entire cage is polished, not plated, and so you can see how it was made.

The shape actually makes perfect sense once you see it with a bottle inside. When somebody expends that much care on a simple bottle cage, we want to support them.

The Nitto Bike Stand is another simply beautiful object. It’s fillet-brazed from steel tubing, like an upside-down rear rack. It holds the bike securely, making it easy to carry the bike with the stand attached. It’s a very elegant way to display a bike.

Classic bikes are relatively easy to maintain, but the rubber brake lever hoods tend to deteriorate over time, and there is no way of refurbishing them. For classic Weinmann brake levers, we now offer Japanese reproduction hoods that are at least as nice as the originals.

Finally, here is an item that most “real-world” riders need. Leather washers keep your metal fenders quiet and prevent the bolts from vibrating loose. We’ve been frustrated by washers that were too soft and squishy, but these are hand-made by Phil Woosley in California from firm, thick leather. A package of five will be enough for even the most completely-equipped constructeur bike: One for each bridge on the rear, plus two for the fender attachments of the rear rack, and one for the fender attachment of the front rack. (There should not be any washers on the fender stay attachments.) We include these washers with every set of fenders we sell, and we now offer them separately as well.

About Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

I love cycling and bicycles, especially those that take us off the beaten path. I edit Bicycle Quarterly magazine, and occasionally write for other publications. One of our companies, Bicycle Quarterly Press publishes cycling books, while Compass Bicycles Ltd. makes and distributes high-quality bicycle components for real-world riders.
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22 Responses to Bottle Cages, Bike Stands and Leather Washers

  1. Mark G says:

    It’s worth $120 for its fine craftsmanship and $10 for its utility, whichever is less.

  2. Why do you not recommend washers on the fender stay attachments? Velo Cult of San Diego heeded your advice in that regard when they install Honjos on my Roadeo this winter, but they rattled / squeaked / groaned, especially when standing up on the pedals. I asked them to add the leather washers and the unwanted sound effects immediately went away.

  3. Ira Kinro says:

    Lovely. I like the shape of the water bottle cage, and the spring is a nice touch. Designed with use in mind. I wish more things were.

  4. VonCarlos says:

    Thank you-Thank you-Thank you, for having the Weinmann brake lever hoods reproduced. These rarely show up on Ebay, so it will be nice to have a place here in the states to purchase them. I just replaced mine, but I might just have to stock up a few. Thanks!

  5. Mr. S. says:

    How much for a cage? Those stands are sold everywhere in Japan, made by Minoura for a fraction. Leather on a bike? No wonder they are made in California. Never lived in a climate they’d last a season. Get back to posts that deal with reality, please. Much more interesting.

    • The cages cost $ 150. The Minoura bike stands are very different in design and construction. Leather washers have worked for decades in Paris and Britanny, where the climate can be decidedly soggy. I live in Seattle, and my Singer has been ridden through many winters here. If you want, you can treat the washers with Obenauf’s or similar products before you mount them. People have tried rubber to mount the fenders, but the rubber tends to split after a few years. Leather lasts longer: Once you install the leather washers, you can forget them for the next 50+ years. (Note that I don’t recommend leather mudflaps, as I feel that rubber better in that application.)

    • thelazyrando says:

      I thought that about Brooks leather saddles until I saw a photo of one in the rain in Seattle and I realized they won’t melt in the rain. I’m glad I tried on as I ride leather saddles on virtually all my bikes now.

      • Mr.S. says:

        Well, I do ride nothing but Brooks, but keep them from road spray. Though the cage and stand are sturdy, there are far cheaper options that do 95% of the job. I’ll pay for quality to a point, as my money is finite. Interesting about oiled leather washers versus rubber: the latter will split in a few years, but won’t the former need oiling as soon… To each their own.

      • We don’t expect to sell a lot of cages and stands – as I said, it’s not about making a profit. We just thought it would be sad if these products were not available – even if I am perfectly happy with Nitto cages on my own bike…

        The goal of a randonneur bike is to assemble it well, and then forget about it for a decade or more. That is why we like SKF bottom brackets, and that is why we use leather washers. You don’t re-oil them – after you put them on, they are fine for 50+ years. So are well-mounted fenders… It’s a lot more work (and money) up front, but a lot less time and money spent on maintenance and repairs.

    • Aaron VT says:

      You’re not going to find weather anywhere that’s much worse than what we’ve got in Vermont, and yet you’ll have a hard time finding someone with metal fenders that doesn’t use leather washers. Why do you think they wouldn’t hold up?

      Ever heard of leather boots?

  6. superfreak says:

    that bottle cage is just gorgous. but it looks so delacate. how soon before one of the joints seperate??? are they only for rode bikes? off rode use?
    thx superfreak

    • They are well-made and should be durable. However, we don’t really have much experience with them in off-road situations, so I can’t tell you.

      • superfreak says:

        thx can they be used under the dt? i broken cages there before. my surley long hall trucker has a bottle there.
        thx superfreak

      • I wouldn’t use these cages under the down tube. The Japanese fans of constructeur bikes tend to ride more gently than we do. Many of the parts work well under hard riding nonetheless – the Grand Bois tires, handlebars, rims, fenders etc. are copies of French parts that were designed for hard riding – but I’d reserve the Iribe cages for a special bike that gets ridden mostly on smooth roads. For rough conditions, I prefer the Nitto cages. We don’t sell them (yet?), but you should have no trouble finding them elsewhere.

  7. michael n says:

    You seem to be mixing “enhanced functionality/durability up front” (that costs $$$ up front) with “it’s a work of art” for different components, leaving it to your readers/customers to work out what the balance is. You could assign a score for this, you know, to reduce any confusion. The $150 dollar bottle holder I would say is 5 (of 5) for “art” and perhaps 1 (of 5) for “enhanced functionality/durability.” The SKF bottom bracket would be 0 for art and what, 4 for enhanced functionality/durability?

    • The bottle cage really doesn’t work any better than other good bottle cages, so I’d give it 0 out of 5 compared to a Nitto for “enhanced functionality.” As you say, the SKF bottom bracket is the opposite, 5 for enhanced function, 0 for “art”. Same with the leather washers. The metal fenders are 5 for “art/appearance” and 5 for “enhanced functionality” compared to plastic fenders.

      Of course, the value you assign to “art/appearance” depends on the eye of the beholder. At Bicycle Quarterly, we try to provide information that allows readers to form their own opinions, rather than tell them what to think.

  8. Matthew Joly says:

    Speaking of vintage parts. Having just taking delivery of a new frame with Mafac Raids, I suddenly find myself wondering what in the dickens will I do if the straddle cable snaps.

    Paul Racer replacement straddles do not quiet fit the Raids. Possible I could grind them down to make them fit. Still, if you were able to source some – and there has to be someone in Japan making them one would think – it seems I cannot be the only person with interest.

    • The straddle cable on a Mafac Raid/Racer is a standard shifter cable. The only part that is specific is the piece into which the cable fits. But that one doesn’t tend to break. And if you lose it, there are plenty of old Racers that can be “cannibalized.”

      Straddle cables for the high-end “Top 63,” “Competition,” and “2000″ brakes are harder to find, but you can make your own. We’ll describe this in an upcoming issue of Bicycle Quarterly.

  9. Harald says:

    Jan, can you please explain what the advantages of metal fenders are? They sure look pretty, but I’ve always been very satisfied with my SKS Chromoplastics. The only issue with them used to the limited coverage, but now with the Longboards that is no longer an issue. So what’s better about metal?

    • Some of the advantages of metal fenders are:
      - No water dripping out of the sides. (Uninterrupted interior, rolled edges keep water inside.)
      - Lighter weight (aluminum fenders)
      - Stiffer: Less noise and safer (less risk of front fenders crumbling and jamming into the fork crown)
      - More durable: Well-mounted, aluminum fenders last for decades, because they can be installed without inbuilt stresses.

      Disadvantages include:
      - Need bike designed for metal fenders. (Eyelets and ample clearance is not enough.)
      - Cost in the short run, in the long run, they are cheaper.
      - Time to install. In the long run, you save time, because you don’t have to fiddle with or replace them.
      - If installed incorrectly, they will fail prematurely.

      • Harald says:

        Thanks for the information and balanced view. We’ll see if I’m ever going to be in a situation where the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

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