Totally rethinking a classic design that has been unchallenged for generations

D&I Awards: Gold award

Sewing the seed: the idea

The fabric Cageless bottle concept was born in 2015 after visiting the go-to-show in the cycling industry; Eurobike, and coming to the realisation that the Fabric brand needed to expand the range of products from just saddles and handlebar grips to include hydration.

gold design award
gold design award winning fabric cageless bottle by designer Rebecca Crowder

The whole ethos around the fabric brand is taking an existing product and redesigning it using new or ground breaking technologies. It soon became apparent through my design exploration, that the only way to create an innovative bottle was by changing the way the bottle could attach to the bike frame.

Concept exploration

I explored close to one hundred different concepts for the Fabric bottle. I mainly focussed on the ‘bottle to frame’ attachment system and how the bottle could be mounted to the bike in a new and innovative way, whilst still being secure and user friendly. I explored magnetic snap fits, mechanical clips, material straps… all sorts! As far as I was concerned, the sky was the limit – the conceptual stage for this project had to tie in with the ethos of the Fabric brand, which was all about pushing the boundaries of convention.

Design development and prototyping

The bottle concepts were then narrowed down to a handful of designs to pursue and develop. These were chosen based on feasibility, ease of manufacture, style and usability. The next stage was then about refining the designs such as working out features to ensure the product would fit every existing standard bike frame. Refining how the new ‘cageless cage’ would mount to the bike, and how exactly the rider would attach and detach to use the bottle.

After several rounds of prototyping and testing the most promising bottle mount designs, the two stud mounting system out performed all the other design concepts by miles. It was easy to use, secure on the bike frame when tested on rough ground, and looked great! It was a super system but still had a lot of design refinement needed before it was ready to release to the public.

Pushing the manufacturing boundaries

We approached several factories, both in the UK and in Asia with our design. All but one turned us down. The thing with most factories, is that they like sticking to their conventional ways of manufacture and aren’t willing to push the boundaries. I had designed the bottle to be blow moulded and so knew it was achievable, albeit a challenge. Finding a factory who is willing to work with you to make your product work, rather than telling you how to make it is key. After several rounds of first off samples and testing we modified our design to have a reinforced bottle mount clip, just to give the bottle extra strength and durability. These Polypropylene clips were injection moulded and sonic welded onto the bottle to make it much more robust than the original all in one design.

Testing production products

During our product testing, we found the bottles would fall off if a test cyclist rode over any uneven surface, such as a cattle grid. It became apparent that the bottles were falling off because of the vibrations coming up through the bike frame and passing into the bottle mounting system. The bottles were being shaken off the bike by the rough ground surfaces. The next step was to explore vibration reducing materials for the studs to overcome this problem. Skate board wheels came to mind. They are solid and firm, yet have enough give in them to dampen vibrations coming up through the ground to the riders feet.

I worked closely with the factory to tweak the material composition and hardness of the studs by 2 percent difference at a time until we had a perfect solution which meant the bottles stayed on the bikes.

The lightest bottle cage in the world

I also discovered that being such a small mounting system, it also had a huge weight advantage over it’s highly priced weight saving carbon fibre cage competitors. Which for keen road cyclists, is a huge advantage. The patented cageless system is the world’s lightest bottle mount, weighing a total of only 3g. It is also one of the Fabric brands top selling products, selling hundreds of thousands globally every year.

Not bad hey?

Above photo credits go to the Fabric Instagram account.