There are few things in cycling that cost as much per gram as a carbon fibre bottle cage, but if you must have a drink retainer made of the black stuff then the Vel SL-O Carbon Cage is a smart choice. It's a sturdy, rattle-free solution to carrying your bidon.
I've had a lot of gravel/adventure bikes in for testing lately so the SL-O has been thoroughly put through its paces on the local rough gravel tracks and potholed bridleways. The fact it hasn't jettisoned a single bottle means it's passed the most important test of bottle retention.
The carbon arms offer a firm grasp, which when paired with the curved top and bottom lips means that your bottle is held from all angles and isn't going to go anywhere whether it is full or empty.
The cage uses an open design (that's what the 'O' stands for – open) with the arms not joining in the middle, allowing you to remove and fit the bottle without hassle as the arms spread a little when you put the bidon at an angle.
You have to be quite precise lining up the bottle to put it in to start with, but once you've got used to it it's easy.
SL means Super Light, with the Vel weighing in at 20g on the road.cc Scales of Truth; that's 4g less than that quoted on Vel's own website so it'll definitely impress the weight weenies.
It is impressive that this carbon offering can offer such high levels of retention for such a small amount of material though.
Overall build quality can't be knocked either. It doesn't feel flimsy and the carbon feels to be good quality. It's full carbon, too, not a nylon/carbon composite mix like some of the cheaper cages on the market.
If you're looking for a carbon cage then value for money probably isn't a major priority, but we'll take a look anyway. The Vel is priced at £44.99 which when you look at something like the Elite Vico carbon cage at £24.99 is quite high, even if the Elite only really works with the company's own bottles.
Overall, if you want some bling and only carbon will do then the Vel is a smart looking, top performing, lightweight bottle cage provided you're willing to pay for it.
Secure bottle cage for weight weenies who are happy to pay the price
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Vel SL-O Carbon Cage
Size tested: One
Tell us what the product is for
The Vel SL-O bottle cage is designed to suit all bottle sizes and offer retention on a mix of terrains.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
SL-O Carbon Cage (Super Light – Open)
Open cage design
Full carbon construction with brushed unidirectional carbon finish and white VEL with logos
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Exit and entry is easy plus it holds the bottle secure.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, if I could find it cheap enough.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
100% carbon fibre cages are notoriously expensive and the Vel is no exception. Offsetting that, though, is impressive bottle retention and ease of use.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!