Since launching the GRAVELBIKE site in 2011, my track record for predicting whether I’ll like a product that’s under test has been pretty reliable. Sometimes, though, my intuition is way off base. Looking at the specs for Elite’s Rocko Carbon bottle cage, I figured the slender, 27-gram model would be more at home on a skinny-tired road bike rather than my gravel bike or plus-size MTB. But after several months’ testing, I’m happy to report that my spidey senses were indeed wrong when it came to the Rocko’s suitability for dirt and gravel riding.
Unlike carbon cages that rely on traditional lay-up-style fabrication, Elite’s Rocko Carbon cage utilizes injection-molded carbon fiber construction. According to Elite, injection molding enables the use of less material while still maintaining the complex shape necessary for strength and bottle retention. Look closely at the above photos and you’ll see that the cage is reinforced only where it’s absolutely necessary. Pick up the Rocko cage ($49.99 MSRP) and you can’t help but notice how little it weighs (just under one ounce). That light weight, and the cage’s ultra-thin profile belies the cage’s stiffness, however. Give the Elite a good squeeze and there’s virtually no flex.
While I certainly appreciate lightweight products, security is my number one criterion when selecting a bottle cage. An ultralight cage is useless if it launches a bottle on rough terrain. Would a cage with such a minimalist design live up to its name on Colorado’s rocky trails? To evaluate the Rocko’s retention capabilities I tested the cage with water bottles of various capacities from CamelBak, Elite, and Specialized. My test methodology was simple: install the Elite cage on my rigid MTB, fill up a bottle, slap it in the cage, and then go for a ride on the rocky trails near my home. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The verdict? Not one dropped bottle. Even a full 750 mL bottle was no match for the Rocko’s tenacious grip. But the Elite’s unique design isn’t just about security, though. The cage’s front/side-entry structure makes removing and inserting bottles a breeze. My Jones MTB is equipped with a Rapha frame pack, and while the half-height pack does leave room for one bottle cage, there there’s minimal clearance between the pack and bottle. This makes inserting and removing bottles somewhat difficult with traditional, head-on cages. My workaround has been to use side-entry cages, but accessing the bottle while riding can be tricky. With the Elite cage, however, bottles are easily removed (and replaced) at a 45° angle instead of the usual head-on, or side-entry direction.
If the Rocko Carbon has one drawback, it’s the cage’s $49.99 price. Yes, you can find perfectly adequate bottle cages that sell for a fraction of the cost. Many of them, however, will weigh more than the carbon Elite. If you’re counting grams, you’ll probably be hard pressed to find a lighter–and more secure–cage at this price. For small frames or full-suspension MTBs with limited clearance, the Rocko Carbon is an especially smart choice due the cage’s easy access design and generously slotted mounting holes.
Disclosure: Elite provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.