August 20, 2021
During a 500 km bikepacking trip on Vancouver Island, we wanted to test the Salsa Anything Cages (HD & standard) and the all-new EXP Bag to see how they would stand up to the terrain.
For the ride, we filled two new EXP Series Bags up with food and strapped them on to our cages—one Anything HD Cage (2015) and one original Anything Cage (2010), to understand how the newer version stood against the original. With the two cages hooked up to our front fork, we hit the (dirt) road.
Before we jump in, let's go over the specs of each of the products we used during our ride. We chose Salsa because they've been an innovative leader for bikepackers and gravel riders since the 1980s. Their contributions have been making headway for bikepacking cyclists to maximize the efficiency of travel. We heart them. Salsa, if you are reading this, please send us a Timberjack for review ;)
There's a reason we chose Salsa for our trip. Every product is designed for accessibility, security and durability. Now, let's see how these cages stack up against each other on installation.
We were able to install the Standard Anything Cage as easily as any water bottle cage. It was super straightforward, held the EXP bag effortlessly, and was a perfect fit for our 2020 Surly Krampus—solid and secure.
When attempting to install the HD cage, we discovered we couldn't attach it to the down tube of the Krampus even though Salsa says this is possible. The mounts are near the bottom bracket and the HD couldn't clear the cranks. Also, it turns out we didn't read the instructions properly and had a bit of a crisis. While cycling at 25km/hr the HD cage flew off the fork due to improper installation. Always read the instructions, people :) We had to find a bike shop at the last minute for longer hex bolts and washers to correct our mistake. Ooops.
Also worth noting if you are riding a carbon frame, mounting the HD cage can cause wear. You may want to consider something in between the HD and your frame to protect your carbon from damage. For more on this, check out this article at hypertelia.com.
The two new Salsa Anything EXP bags were able to carry 4 days of food for the trip: with 3.35L of space, it was the perfect size for storing just the right amount of food. We were able to fit everything we needed except our MSR bowl and GSI pour-over coffee filter due to the radius. Small boo, but all other nourishment needs were good to go.
The roll-top closure allowed for easy accessibility during the ride and we noticed the benefit of the new rigid bottom as soon as we started packing. The EXP stands at attention, ready for packing, which allows for easy storage at home or at the campsite. We were also able to use the loop from the roll-top to carabiner the bags together and hang them in a tree for nighttime bear safety. Also, they are fully waterproof—an essential for any serious bikepacker.
As we strapped the bags in, we noticed the very long length of the nylon straps. They could have easily been 5 inches shorter and still had enough slack to tighten a fully loaded bag. However, it seems Salsa has updated the straps (to rubber!) on its latest release.
As far as attaching the EXP bag to the cages, the experience was very different for each. The HD cage is designed for the strap to pass through the holes, so lining it up was super easy. Attaching the bag to the standard cage, however, was a total pain. We ended up strapping the bag to the mount itself; this worked fine but was not ideal. We also tried numerous ways of strapping the bag to the cage, but it never felt quite right.
When the Salsa Anything Bags are full, the cages and bags work great, but when the bags are empty it's like pushing a wet noodle uphill—they are floppy and hard to keep in place, especially with massive amounts of excess strap interfering with cables and spokes. We also had to make sure the straps weren't tightening on our hydraulic brake cables during strapping, but this issue isn't unique to the Anything Cages.
All of that said, the straps did allow us to secure our flip-flops very nicely 👌 We didn't have to cram them into a seat bag this time since we were able to tie them up in the long strap.
After our trip with both styles of Anything Cages, we know that the HD cage is worth a few extra bucks. Hands down. The Standard Anything cage ($30 USD) was a pain when strapping on bags, and apparently aluminum can be at risk of failure. The HD Anything cage ($35 USD) is still lightweight, it is more efficient, and far easier to work with. It also looks pretty bad-ass.
The newly designed EXP bags are worth every dime. They stand, have excellent grip, and are easy to access at any time. The durability and weatherproofing make this bag a must-have for any avid bikepacker.
Barry has been cycling and creating digital products around the world for 20+ years. He was a design leader at IDEO, IDEO.org and Nike’s Innovation Lab.