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I'm planning on getting a bottle cage for my bike, but my bike does not have the standard mount screws for one. As I understand it, there are two types of cages: bolted cages and clamped cages. I'd prefer a bolted cage because they are cheaper ($5ish vs. $10ish).

Is it possible to drill holes directly into the frame for the bolts (I do have a good bit of experience working with aluminum)? Are there any other alternative methods for attachment, or would I be better off with the clamp cage?

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I think you'll be better off with a clamp-on cage. I've never drilled holes in bicycle tubing, but jack-nuts will lock a threaded nut into the hole more permanently than just tapping threads into the walls of the tubing. (Cheap bikes have similar provisions for braze-ons, as opposed to welded-in fittings.) – WTHarper Jul 12 '13 at 2:56
I would advise a clamp-on unit. You can buy separate clamp assemblies for bolt-on cages if you want to use a specific cage, or you can improvise with hose clamps and a strip of sheet metal. I'd be a little leery drilling holes. – Daniel R Hicks Jul 12 '13 at 4:16
@WTHarper - There's nothing "cheap" about braze-ons. Brazing is used on good quality steel tubing to prevent destroying the temper. – Daniel R Hicks Jul 12 '13 at 4:19
I don't think that there is any difference between bolt on cages and clamp on ones apart from the pack for the clamp on ones contains some extra bits. I have added "bolt on" cages to my bike using jubilee clips ( around the frame slipped over the bolt on tangs. I don't know whether that brings the cost down though. – DanS Jul 12 '13 at 7:46
@Daniel R Hicks I was trying to say that crimp-in style nuts are the cheap alternative and was using braze-on in the generic sense of attachment points for parts and accessories. Brazed or welded fittings are totally ideal. – WTHarper Jul 12 '13 at 14:19
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Clamps are easy and reversible - causing little or no damage to tubing (metal jubilee clips might scratch paintwork, but there are plastic versions which work well)

I'm loath to drill holes in perfectly good tubing - I also would be worried about metal shavings falling to the bottom of the tube and causing problems in a bearing race.

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Not to mention, this is how it is done originally, when the frame is built. – zenbike Jul 12 '13 at 16:08
Surely at that point there is no grease etc so any shavings will be easily blown out? Also, the last two bikes I have owned have not had the bottom bearings sealed off from the rest of the tubes...which has always worried me – Rory Alsop Jul 12 '13 at 18:04
In my experience plastic clips do not work. I tried these at first but swapped them for metal clips after a very short while. Like, one journey. – PeteH Jul 12 '13 at 18:47
I have two bikes (both bamboo, so that may be a factor in maintaining grip) that I use the plastic style and they work fine. They are a pain to install have to get them on pretty tight, but once set they work well. – Ken Hiatt Jul 12 '13 at 20:21
@JohnP - I can assure you that quite commonly the frame tubes are open to the bottom bracket. This is desirable to allow any accumulated moisture to escape. – Daniel R Hicks Jul 13 '13 at 2:14

Yes, it is possible to install a set of water bottle "braze-ons" on a frame which was not originally supplied with them.

It requires a very specific set of tools and parts.

The video below shows how a Rivnut works.

The second video wexpolains how to install a set in a bicycle frame.

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+1 Nice answer, but since my main objective in getting a bolted cage was to save money, the tool needed might bake it a bit counterproductive. Helpful answer, though. Thanks – American Luke Jul 12 '13 at 19:58
Many bike shops have the tools, and the rivnuts themselves are cheap. Also, there are many DIY versions of the tool. They just take more time to use. See this link for example: – zenbike Jul 13 '13 at 2:39
FYI, rivnuts can be fitted properly using two spanners and a nut and bolt that fit the internal thread. Just takes a bit longer than using the specialised tool. – Criggie Jun 22 at 2:26

Nylon zip ties. No tools required, no holes to drill and easily can even get 'em in colors.

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That's not a bad idea. Have you tried this yourself? Is it a durable solution? – American Luke Jul 12 '13 at 21:18
I wouldn't expect that zip ties would hold a bottle cage securely, unless there was at least a rubber strip between cage and tube. – Daniel R Hicks Jul 12 '13 at 22:49
Exactly @DanielRHicks, the trick is to use two or four zipties with a strip of inner tube between the tie and the bike's tube. Use the big ones, they support greater forces, and being large allows to pull them real tight. – Jahaziel Jul 12 '13 at 23:11
I have indeed used these myself and I can assure you that your cage is not going to go anywhere. A rubber strip is also a good idea as it will protect the paint finish. May you ride on in style! – Brian Jul 13 '13 at 0:14
I'd still trust spiral hose clamps a lot more. – Daniel R Hicks Jul 13 '13 at 2:12

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