Fidlock’s magnetic system is better than the classic bottle-in-a-cage in the same ways that wireless shifting is better than mechanical shifting. Let’s unpack that a bit. Wireless shifting, by pretty much all accounts, performs the duty of shifting better than its mechanical counterpart. But, there are some downsides to the system that really turn people off: price, batteries, shifter ergonomics and serviceability on the trail or replaceability on a trip are but a few. The same sort of thinking applies to Fidlock’s suite of magnetic accessories. They’re really good, but they have some quirks that might not jive for everyone. The concept of the Fidlock system is pretty simple; it’s magnets that attach things to your bike. Said system consists of two basic parts, a base plate with magnetic nubs, and an attachment plate with recess for those nubs to bed into. To attach the two halves you just get them close and they snap together, but to separate them you have to twist the attachment plate. It holds firm in the rough but is easy to access when needed.
Fidlock actually makes quite a few other magnet-based devices, for both in and outside the bike industry. You may even have a Fidlock device on your helmet strap. But the system we’re talking about, dubbed Twist by Fidlock, is the most relevant to our bikes themselves. The Twist lineup is a modular system, with a range of attachment styles for the base plates as well as accessories to attach to those base plates. The most ubiquitous is the Fidlock bottle, of which there are multiple sizes and shapes, but if that’s not enough, I also tested the Uni Connector (a BOA-based universal mount). Among the base plates, I’ve had the Bike Base (bolts to bottle bosses) andUni Base (straps to the tube) in for review.
First, let’s talk about the bottles because as the internet has already established, water bottles are required for a mountain bike to function properly. The most common setup you’ll run with the Fidlock system is the 590 bottle. The 590 holds, you guessed it, 590ml or about 20 ounces, putting it a bit below par with standard tall, 26-ounce cycling bottles. Despite being almost the same height, the Fidlock bottles give up a bit of volume in place of the magnetic attachment plate—if you just want water carry capacity, look elsewhere. The largest bottle you can get is a 600ml, which is one inch shorter in height than a 26-ounce (770ml) Purist bottle.
The 590 also has a leg up on the Purist, though, in that, on top of an anti-drip valve, there’s a mud cap that covers the valve and prevents you from inadvertently drinking liquified cow pie. During the winter months, that cover is a lifesaver. Say what you will about the extra step of flipping a lid, nobody likes sipping little bits of mud all winter and chalky dust all summer.
Fidlock, in addition to the 590 bottle, also makes a smaller 450ml(15-ounce) version and the tall 600ml option, the latter of which doesn’t have the nifty little nipple cover or drip-free valve. You can buy the valved/protected lid for $7 to upgrade the 600 if you want.
But the 450 bottle does come with the protected lid, and I’ve found that I used the 450 more often than either the 590 or 600. The 450 is a perfect size for short after-work rides when it’s not blazing hot. It’s like a little mental gauge of “I should drink this much” accountability. Further, when combined with the Uni Base strap-on base, it can act as an additional bottle for longer rides if you’re like most of us and your bike has just one bottle mount. When clipped to the strap-on Uni Base, the 450 is small enough to remain very secure and inconspicuous on a top tube (even the 590 is, for that matter) and is an easy alternative to breaking out the hydration bladder. Combined with a hip pack that can carry two standard full-sized, 770ml bottles, your total water capacity with the 450 and 590 on-bike jumps to almost 2.6-liters, realistically the same as a large hydration bladder (for those of you that have shunned the bouncing monkey).
I’ll use that as a segue into the Uni Base and Uni Connector, two options that really open up modular options for storage and on-bike carry. The Uni Base straps on any tube and the Uni Connector uses a Boa system to carry any tube-like accessory (within reason, just because you can strap on a liter-o-Cola doesn’t mean that you should). I’ve tried everything from a small plastic disposable water bottle to an MSR fuel canister to a Nalgene bottle to a can of bear spray, and all of the above have been rock solid in the Uni system. Yes, there are traditional bottle cage options for putting a Nalgene or odd-sized bottle-type things on your bike for bikepacking, but the Uni Connector offers up all that versatility in one package. And the Uni Base lets you swap between any of the above without removing and installing specialty cages, and you can put just about anything in places there aren’t any bottle bosses. It is important to note that, once you get over about a liter of water, the Uni Base becomes pretty unusable with its stretchy bands. Using the sturdier bike base cuts down on much of the wobble.
And now here’s the part where I talk about price. The Uni Connector with Uni Base runs $60. The Uni Connector alone, $48. The bottles, $36 (450), $42 (600), $48 (590), though replacement bottles can be purchased for less without the Twist connection mechanism. The bolt-on base alone is $12. Those are not inexpensive items, especially when you compare them to the traditional alternatives. It’ll cost you all of around $15 for a regular bottle and cage from your LBS, which honestly have been working fine for years and will continue to work fine. Just like mechanical shifting works just fine, to get out and ride your bike you don’t need wireless shifting or any of the Fidlock suite.
There’s also the fact that you can’t just walk into any bike shop and buy a new Fidlock bottle if you lose yours somehow. I wouldn’t worry about breaking a mount or losing a bottle—I’ve never had one fall off while riding. But the point still stands that the replacement accessibility—like any niche product—of the system is sorely lacking.
Fidlock, again, makes more than just bottles. Ditching the cage means that, technically, anything you can bolt a Twist connection to can snap to your frame. So, I also tested the $50 (with base) Fidlock Toolbox, a 550ml semi-soft zippered cargo storage device. But I didn’t test it much. If the goal of on-frame storage is putting less in your pack, displacing water bottles to do it is not the way. Of course, it will work with the Uni Base, but at that point, there are plenty of other on-frame bags that aren’t as complicated and fit more inside—the Uni Base barely fits a tube and tire levers. The main benefit to the Fidlock Toolbox is its easy removal, but we’re not talking about taking a drink. The use case for this is remarkably small, but if yours is that use case, it does what it says.
Like most niche, high-end systems, there are as many ways to argue why it’s not worth it as ways to argue that it’s the best thing since tubeless tires. At the end of the day, its value is going to depend on one thing—you. For myself, I’ve found more than enough utility to justify the high price of entry, and genuinely find the ‘snap’ and ‘twist’ mounting system of the bottle to be more ergonomic and intuitive than a standard bottle cage. My bottle of bear spray is now going to live in a Uni Connector instead of a cut-up water bottle, and right now I’ve got an extra Uni Connector and Uni Base in the Fidlock shopping cart in preparation for some bigger rides this summer. But I also know many riders won’t find these uses of the Fidlock system, well, useful. And that’s fine, no one’s forcing you to ditch the bottle-in-a-cage, or buy AXS. But just like AXS, Fidlock’s system is out there, and depending on your viewpoint, it is a better way of doing things.