PRO Smart Cage System: At The Finish – by Guitar Ted
The PRO Smart Cage System is a configurable storage/water bottle cage/repair station for your bicycle. The system has several options so make sure you check out my introductory post to understand how the system works and how you can customize it to your needs. In this post I will give my opinions on how the system worked out as configured for this review and what my perception of this system is in terms of value to the rider. Let’s dig in.
To be honest, I wasn’t thinking I’d particularly care for the Smart Cage System idea. It seems that there is a lot of effort being put into stowage of tools in oddball places on bicycles these days. Handle bar ends, steer tubes, heck, even through axles are all places companies are trying to convince you that these are great places to stow tools. Some companies even go so far as to build little cubby holes into their carbon frames so you can hide your tube and whatnot. Cute, but is any of this really useful or even necessary?
Maybe I’m a bit more of an “out of sight – out of mind” type of person. I say that because I have tested and reviewed some of these aforementioned ideas and in a couple of cases, I had forgotten all about the tools hidden until I was removing the component the tool was hidden in for replacement. What good does that do me if I am out on a ride and actually needed to repair something? And on top of that, I typically already had a bag with everything I needed on the very same bike!
So, hiding tools in weird places on the bike isn’t really working for me. I say that here because I was surprised a little bit by what happened when I began to use this Pro Smart Cage. The typical “out of sight” thing didn’t happen this time, and I found that I really appreciated the system for another reason.
But before I get to that, this system doesn’t really work for any rider unless, you know…..the stuff in the system actually works. So, I need to break down each part of the PRO Smart Cage and let you know how each bit actually performs.
Minipump Compact Hose: Probably the most important part of the PRO Smart Cage that had to work, or it would have been kind of pointless, was the mini-pump. This mini-pump has that retractable hose feature that I first saw on a Lezyne pump 15 years ago. It still is a great idea for a compact pump. That screw on hose thing keeps you from manipulating the valve as you pump. The hose is taking the movement there instead of being leveraged on the valve stem, which is smart, especially in the era of tubeless set ups. The pump’s action is smooth and for its size, it does an admirable job of airing up a tire. It won’t set a bead on a blown-off tire, but it does what it is intended to do well. I give this a passing grade.
Minitool Performance 13F: I recently reviewed a Topeak mini-tool that I praised for its ease of use. The same applies to this PRO mini-tool in the PRO Smart Cage. The Minitool Performance 13 has a decent compact chain tool. It would get the job done in a pinch, so that’s pretty good. The spoke wrench is actually one of the best designs for that function in a mini-tool that I’ve come across. The bits are easily deployed, and the tool is minimalist without being useless. I’d still prefer actual individual tools in a lot of cases, ( having been a shop mechanic for so long, I am a bit of a tool-snob) , but for what this is and for its intentions, I give it a passing grade here.
PRO Storage Pouch: The most iconic feature, perhaps, of the PRO Smart Cage is this detachable pouch which is intended for a tube or smaller items that you’d want to stow away and have at hand for a repair. I can imagine there being a tube, patch kit, and a tire boot in there, for instance. My experience with this facet of the PRO Smart Cage was mixed. Yes, it is easy to detach and put back on the PRO Smart Cage itself. However; the pouch, being oddly shaped as it is, does not hold a very big tube. Now, as a mechanic with the experience I have, I understand a smaller-than-you-need tube can expand to a larger size and do the job without an issue for me. But if your are picky about having a matching tube size to your gravel tire, I would tell you that you will be hard pressed to get a butyl tube in a 700c X 35-45mm size to fit in that space.
So, I used a 700c X 18-25mm tube, (shown in the image) and you can see how that fits. Maybe a Tubolito type tube is a better bet here, but because of this I have to give the PRO Storage Pouch a failing grade. I had no issues with having to possibly use a “too-small” tube, but I understand many would cry foul there. So, there ya go……
Pro Smart Cage: So, about that main cage thing. It’s a water bottle cage. It can be set ‘low’ or ‘high’, so there is some adjustment to the mounting of the thing. It has tire levers with it. It comes with places to attach the mini-tool, the mini-pump, and the pouch. As a base for this system, how does this all work?
Well, first off, let me say that as a bottle cage, this is a great component. Nuff said there. As a base for the other things? Well, it is a good thing the PRO Smart Cage comes with those two rather anemic tire levers, because you’ll probably want to use them to pry out the mini-tool when it comes time to use that. A bit of a pain, but it makes what would be something I’d replace useful in those two plastic sticks masquerading as tire levers here. (Remember- I am a bit of a tool-snob) Other than that? I’m fine with this as the foundation of a pretty good storage/tool base/bottle cage component.
At The Finish: While the PRO Smart Cage System has its quirks, and while I typically don’t care for gimmicky tool stashing ideas, this time I found something about this particular system that I was surprised by. That being that I actually could physically see a reminder I had repair tools onboard and that allowed me to utilize space I normally allocated for these items to be used in other ways. The PRO Smart Cage System streamlined my bike, made room for items that used to have to be crammed in with tubes and multi-tools, and it made sense to me.
And I suppose that is where something like this has to be at for anyone- It has to make sense. If that applies to you, as it did for me, I can heartily recommend this with the caveat about the storage pouch/tube thing. That didn’t bother me, but it might be a deal-breaker for you. The tire levers aren’t too great either, but I only need one, stout lever, and I can pack that in the storage pouch, actually. Anyway, I think this makes sense for the gravel racer, or anyone that wants a streamlined, good looking, mostly functional, customizable system. It’s got most everything right, so I give the entire PRO Smart Cage System a passing grade.
For more on the PRO Smart Cage System see the webpage.
Note: PRO sent over the Smart Cage System with the featured items at no charge to Riding Gravel for test and review. We were not paid, nor bribed for this review, and we always strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.