Product Process: The Anything Cage HD

I sat down with Salsa Product Design Engineer Sean Mailen and P&A Product Manager Andy Palmer to get a glimpse into how the Anything Cage HD came to be.

Mailen: I find that my best product inspirations come when I'm out riding.  When those two wheels are spinning, my mind seems to wander to that perfect spot where dots connect and cool stuff happens. In 2011, my mind was exploding with ideas when I returned from bikepacking the Tour Divide route. 2,800 miles gave me not just plenty of time to contemplate life, but also to think of new bikes and stuff I wanted to ride and use.

Thinking time on the Tour Divide Route...2011...

I had designed the Anything Cage a year earlier to match our new Three-Pack mounts and give riders a completely new way to carry gear. During the trip, my friend Brett and I both used them and loved their ability to carry water, or, well…anything.

The original Salsa Anything Cage remains available...

I really liked the Anything Cage but wanted more out of it; more locations to run straps through it, and flexible enough to literally grab whatever gear you had in it while still being rigid. My engineering head makes me believe that even if something works well, it can always be better.

I studied a variety of plastic water bottle cages because of their incredible toughness, ability to last for years, and their flexibility around the bottle.  Beyond bikes, I sought out inspiration from things like V-blocks and their ability to hold many objects of different diameters. I even looked at sneaker laces seeing how one strap crisscrossing back and forth makes a strong and flexible net that can hold just about any shape. I also noticed the versatility in flatbed semis and how the drivers can literally strap down anything and haul it across the country. My thinking was that if we could add additional strap points we could hold objects more securely. The gears in my brain were spinning.

Palmer: I’d been watching from afar as Sean was tinkering with various versions of the cage in a variety of different materials. When I moved into my role as Salsa P&A Product Manager, I learned that all the development that Sean was doing was in his “spare time” at work. I say “spare time” because it was all taking place in that last ten minutes before a meeting, or as an idea popped into his head while working on something else. Basically, it was a low-priority item, but I was able to change that.

The NEW Salsa Anything Cage HD...

Mailen: We had our objectives but needed to decide on the material. Making a list of advantages and disadvantages, I began to explore the idea of injection-molded plastics. I felt it could give me infinite options for design and provide the toughness we were looking for. Personally, I find it best to explore ideas by sketching before moving to 3D. It's a lot of fun to start carving away in 3D to create your idea, but if you don't really know where you are going you'll never get there. Sketching solves this by playing out most of your ideas simply and quickly while still finalizing direction.  This is something I've learned from the industrial designers I work with.

Palmer: A real kick in the pants to get the project moving came when Sean mentioned a cheap water bottle cage he used to have. It just so happened that for the last eight-plus years, I’ve used that same cage on my bar-cruiser bike.
This particular bottle cage was friendly to my then college budget, has been smashed and crashed about 20 different ways, and still does a great job to this day. If we could bring some of those attributes to the Anything Cage HD, we would have great product. 

Mailen: I finished the first 3D model in the car on my way back from a family trip in 2011. I almost made myself carsick but I really wanted to get it done so I could prototype it. With each 3D sample I‘d learn more about what could, and more importantly wouldn’t, work. With the design goals and literally hundreds of plastics to choose from, narrowing down the list was difficult. Katie, our Industrial Design lead, and I would sit and discuss different 3D prints we had each designed and what the advantages could be or what might leave the consumer wanting. The Salsa team also weighed in with good questions and valuable feedback. I even used some of the 3D printed prototypes for as long as I could to learn how loads reacted while riding. At the same time I learned about the complexities of injection molding: minimum draft, proper thicknesses, two-piece molds, slides, and all the other injection-molded nerdiness that we take for granted every time we use something made of plastic.

Salsa Anything Cage HD backside...

Palmer: It’s always a bit of a gamble when you try and update an iconic product, and it’s doubly so when it’s an all-new material, but the seeds of this project were already planted within our brand team. Sean was also doubly excited to lean about injection molding, so this all came together very well as we got the needed resources to bring this product to market.

Mailen: The Salsa team wanted to make sure we got it right and I wanted to make sure I designed the best cage possible while learning and understanding the manufacturing process. I think its pretty cool to see the graveyard of 3D prints that developed into the Anything Cage HD. Each prototype over that solid three-year development time guided us to the final production version. 
The Anything Cage HD achieved my design goals with multiple tie-down points, and some inherent flex to help grab a load while adjusting to the tension of straps when pulled tight. It has been tested rigorously for months and months, and has surpassed our very ambitious goals.

Palmer: Now that the design work is done and the product has come to life, I’m really excited to see these cages pop up in trip reports from around the world and earn their place on future adventures.

From the graveyard of 3D prints arises a new champion...

This post filed under topics: Andy Palmer Bikepacking Mark Sirek New Product Sean Mailen Tech Touring

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Mark Sirek

Mark Sirek

I had to live on both coasts a couple of times to realize that maybe being born in the Midwest wasn’t just arbitrary. I’m drawn to the terrain here, and if you catch me with one of this region’s supreme IPAs in hand, I’ll talk your ear off about my favorite spots. I’ll always take every opportunity though to explore every nook and cranny anywhere I can on a bike, because that’s what makes me feel most alive.


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Peter R | December 17th, 2014

Is it compatible with the Fargo Gen1 fork?  I know the first anything cage was highly discouraged with the Gen1 fork.

Kid Riemer

Kid Riemer | December 17th, 2014

Peter R - No, it is not. Here’s a bit of history. that Fargo Gen 1 fork had three bolts but they were not positioned in the same fashion as our Three-Pack bosses are now placed. The spacing was different as no Anything Cage yet existed. We put the bosses on their to hold water bottle cages, and then there was an additional bolt so folks could attach a strap if they liked to help secure the water bottle. Those bosses were also angled outward at 30-degrees.

When we created the Anything Cage we knew we needed to provide a more secure mount. 6.6 lbs is not a small amount of weight. Using three bolts to secure it is important. Because we’d created the Anything Cage we also saw that we needed to change the angle of the bosses, so we moved them to 45-degree angle outboard to create the proper clearance between Anything Cage, gear, and front tire.

I hope that helps explain why the Fargo Gen 1 fork wound up the way it did.

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Ken Geel | December 17th, 2014

Curious what the “HD” stands for?

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Ken | December 17th, 2014

Outstanding article. It’s really cool to read the backstory of products, like this.

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Neil | December 17th, 2014

Kid, where is the cage made?



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Scotty McCall | December 17th, 2014

At what point is the generation 1 fork not used anymore on the new bikes? I just bought a new 2012 Fargo I found still on the floor in a bike shop. Is this considered a gen 1 fork? (gawd I hope not)

Kid Riemer

Kid Riemer | December 17th, 2014

Ken Geel - HD = Heavy Duty

Neil - Anything Cage HD is made in Taiwan

Scotty McCall - The Fargo generation 1 fork was only used on the 2009 and 2010 Fargo bikes. The Fargo then received a redesign to become front suspension friendly. So, no, your 2012 Fargo is not a V1 fork design.

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David | December 17th, 2014

Interesting.  Can you show any pictures of this cage in use?  It would be nice to see how it can be used.

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Rick F | December 18th, 2014

No gen 1 fit.
What about Gen 2?  Will it fit my 2013 Fargo 3 fork?

Kid Riemer

Kid Riemer | December 18th, 2014

David - Hit this link and scroll down. 

Rick F - Yes, the Anything Cage and Anything Cage HD fit on all Fargo forks, subsequent of the 2009 and 2010 Gen 1 Fargo forks.

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Rick F | December 18th, 2014

Cool, thanks.
I see a pair of these in my future.  And I like the pic of the dry bags fitted to them in the other article.  The bags will be a great addition to The Anything Cages.

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Jeremy | December 18th, 2014

Hmm…. looks a whole lot like my fabric and plastic fork bag, the “Everything Bag” except molded plastic - that’s a little out of my budget.
Four questions (all of which the Everything Bag addresses)
1. Do the buckles slip when tensioned around a hard round object?  Most ladderlock and side release buckles do. 
2. Is there enough side support that you can leave the straps just a little bit loose to grab a Nalgene without having to operate the buckles?
3. Can they carry square objects such as a 2 liter juice bottle?
4. Are they available off the shelf to mount on forks without the three bosses?

These are important issues you might want to look into.
On the molded plastic - good idea and looks like great implementation.  Plastic is a much superior material to welded metal tubing for this application.

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Mike | February 21st, 2015


It looks nothing like your everything bag. This is a mini rack. It’s designed by a company to work with their 3 point mount.

Celebrate what your bag does. Quit bashing this as some sort of ripoff. It’s not even close.

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