The attention to detail that has gone into the design of the Tailfin Cargo Cage is evident as soon as you pick it up. Yes, it's expensive, but it's well made, from 7075-T6 aluminium, it won't get in the way, and it won't let you down.
Cargo cages have been around since Salsa released the Anything Cage in 2010. In essence, they provide a way to attach cylindrical objects that don't fit in a bottle cage to your bike. They are usually mounted to bottle bosses that can be found on the top and bottom of the down tube and on the fork of more adventure-orientated bikes.
You can also find three cage mounts on the legs of Tailfin's own X Three pannier rack, or you can buy an AP mount to attach a Cargo Cage to Tailfin's trunk top bag.
Tailfin's small Cargo Cage, which I'm reviewing here, has three M5 slots, which are spaced for bottle cage mounts. On a normal two-bolt bottle cage inside the frame's triangle, that gives you two positions, space allowing. Or you can use all three if you have them inside the frame, or on your fork.
If you don't use all three, the Cargo Cage comes with a paint protection rubber bung just in case your chosen place of mounting means there's a chance of the cage touching your frame or fork.
That is just one little detail that reveals how much thought Tailfin has put into this Cargo Cage's design.
Another is the detachable foot (Tailfin calls it the 'load chip'), converting the cage into an L-shape. With the foot, heavier items like big Nalgene or Klean Kanteen bottles are better supported, and easier to mount. Without it, you can mount longer items, like tent poles for example.
The load chip fits securely into a slot; if it was made from wood, you'd call it a mortise-and-tenon joint. An M4x10 Allen bolt stops the load chip sliding out – but it's the aluminium cage construction that takes the strain. That load chip, by the way, also works as a bottle opener.
The passion that has gone into the CAD drawings for these is further evident in the finish of the cages: there isn't a sharp edge anywhere, and chamfer sizes vary as appropriate to function and aesthetics. The cage won't damage your frame, your hands or whatever you strap to them. I did a product design degree at uni and this is the kind of object we would have used as a case study for Doing It Right.
The Cargo Cage has a slim profile, keeping the load tight to the bike to reduce strain on the mounting points as much as possible.
I haven't seen any calculations, but when Tailfin says that load capacity is 5kg per cage for road use, and 3kg for off-road use, I trust that they will be good for that, and for many adventures.
At 60g on the road.cc Scales of Truth for the small cargo cage (plus 11g for the load chip), the weight is negligible. There's not really any functional reason to take these off the bike when you're not planning to use them. With the slim profile, even mounted on forks there's not much chance of the cages getting caught on anything.
Tailfin supplied us with two cargo cages and two pairs of 20in Voile straps. I tested the cages in the normal bottle cage position on the down tube and on both sides of the fork with 1.5-litre Nalgene bottles, and with Alpkit dry bags, on a mixture of roads, potholed lanes and gravelly byways. The Cargo Cages took all this in their stride without batting an eyelid. The load feels as if it's part of the bike, there's no play or flex anywhere. Basically bombproof.
The 15in Voile straps would probably be easily long enough, but for the £2.50 extra cost for the longer ones, I'd go for those. The extra length can be tucked away securely behind the cage in the unused strap slots, and at 55g for a pair of 20in straps, the extra weight is insignificant.
You can buy the cage with or without the Voile straps. This review isn't about the straps – we reviewed them on off.road.cc a few years ago – but they are so good that I'd recommend you get some if you're thinking of buying a Cargo Cage. While they started life more than 30 years ago as a backcountry skiing accessory, they're universally liked by bikepackers for their versatility and durability.
At £39 each without straps, or £56.50 with a pair of 20in Voile straps, these are not cheap. The Free Parable Gorilla Cage we reviewed a while ago retails for £24.95 and comes with straps. However, it's not made from aluminium, it's not as versatile, and Shaun didn't sound like he particularly trusted it to be durable.
Looking at cargo cages we haven't reviewed, Topeak's Versacage, Blackburn's Outpost Cargo Cage and Salsa's Anything Cage are all cheaper, especially if you consider that they come with straps. None of them look as well designed to me, though, nor are those straps made by Voile.
The King ManyThing Cage is around the same price as the Tailfin Cargo Cage (once you include the straps), it's lighter and made from titanium. It's not as versatile as the Tailfin, though, as it's a permanent L-shape so wouldn't carry long objects as well.
As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. Tailfin's Cargo Cage is expensive. It's also well made, versatile, a joy to use, and no doubt will go the distance.
Well-made cage that works perfectly and will last a long time, though more expensive than most
If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website
road.cc test report
Make and model: Tailfin Cargo Cage
Size tested: Small
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The Cargo Cage helps carry extra load on your bikepacking trip safely and securely. The modular design and different size options can be adapted for any shape and size luggage, and fits via regular bottle cage or cargo mounts.
Machined 7075-T6 aluminium construction results in a cage built to last. No welds to fail, no plastic to crack – simply built for ultimate strength and reliability.
The Cargo Cage has the high-end looks to fit in with any bike. With no jarring, ugly lumps of metal, or bulky plastic you won't need to remove these cages when the adventure ends.
Boost the ability to carry big loads for really big adventures. Turn any bike into a bikepacking rig thanks to the versatility of the Cargo Cage system. Fit one anywhere a bottle would fit.
Use it as a cradle to carry long items or convert to an L shape for heavier items. The modular design allows you to carry any shaped load without hindrance.
The chamfered edges of the Cargo Cage will hold any luggage beautifully without fear of damage, even when strapped tight.
Dedicated strap guides keep everything in place and make attaching loads a breeze.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Construction material: 7075-T6 aluminium
Weight: 57g (additional 11 grams for load chip)
Colour: Tailfin black
Attachment: M5 slots
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It just works. The incredible attention to detail makes installing and using a pleasure.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The low profile, the attention to detail, the weight... pretty much everything.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing comes to mind.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Tailfin's Cargo Cage is no doubt towards the expensive end of what you can spend, but its design and build quality justify it, to my mind.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's excellent. It might be more expensive than most of the competition, but it's very well made, very well designed, and should last.
About the tester
I usually ride: All of them! My best bike is: Ribble Endurance SL disc
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, mtb, Zwift