The Elite Cannibal is an alternative to their race proven Custom Race cages. They're inexpensive and relatively heavy, so why would you chose the Cannibal over the Custom Race?
Well, if you're riding a frame size/design which offers plenty of clearance to allow easy access to bottles you wouldn't. Why deviate from the lighter, more proven design of the Custom Race? For one, the Custom Race isn't very friendly if you've got tight bottle clearances. The Cannibal is likely to be marketed at those of us riding smaller and/or sloping frames. If you struggle with removing your bottle because your top tube or head tube is in the way then these cages are a dream come true.
Unlike traditional front loading cages you can load your bottle from the side, and unlike traditional side loading bottle cages you are not restricted to which side you can load from. Elite's design allows easy loading from any direction, left, right, and front. This makes it a very versatile cage, especially if you're ambidextrous in terms of bottle grabbing. Many of us may have preferences as to which hand/side they prefer to use to grab their bottle, and certainly after becoming accustomed to using a traditional side loading cage you become used to only using one side. However, being able to use both sides gives the rider more freedom, your bottle cage is no longer dictating which hand you must use to grab your bottle. It may sound gimmicky, but it's surprisingly handy in some situations.
Design wise the Cannibal (slightly) resembles an inverted Custom Race bottle cage, and certainly this cage holds the bottle just as well as their Custom Race cage (which is very well if you're wondering). Elite use a flexible, grippy tab for the centre section which not only allows some movement (in the cage) to better accommodate all bottle sizes but also holds your bottle tightly (Elite refer to this as their "A.R.S. design"). It is quite a tight affair getting the bottle in or out on the first few rides, but after the plastic tab has stretched slightly removing bottles becomes a breeze.
Over rougher roads the cage doesn't let the bottle rattle around, it's got a good firm grip on the bottle. This doesn't make it impossible to remove the bottles though (about on par with Elite's Custom Race cage). While it is harder to remove than a traditional cage, once you become accustomed to Elite's slightly 'firmer' hold it doesn't present any issues.
What really sets this cage out from many other cages (particularly many side loaders) is that bottle entry/exit is swift. Traditionally, with many side loaders it was a two part action, involving sliding your bottle in at an angle, and then straightening. With the Elite Cannibal cage no finesse is required, simply force the bottle into the cage, and the Cannibal will consume the bottle.
Also, should you be racing and the race presents a situation where you have to suddenly grab the handle bars whilst halfway removing your bottle you can be confident that the Cannibal has a good grip on your bottle. While I wouldn't recommend riding around with your bottle half in (it does rattle out eventually), the Cannibal can hold your half in bottle briefly while you focus on getting out of trouble.
Overall, the Cannibal does everything a bottle cage should do, and that's hold your bottle without ejecting it when the road gets rough. Sure, it's not super-light but it's strong and a good budget cage that allows side loading. If you're riding a larger frame I'd be inclined to stick with the Custom Race, however if you struggle with removing your bottle due to clearance issues this is a great alternative to Elite's own Custom Race or other side loading cages. Frankly, this cage is now my favourite cage, yes it may be twice (or even three times) the weight of some super light carbon cages but it's versatile in race situations and holds your bottle firm.
The Elite Cannibal is available direct from Starbike and as always, active weightweenie members generally recieve a 5% discount on all items. They're available in 8 colours, ranging from a loud "neon/fluro yellow" to a stealthy "skin black" (essentially black on black). The colour featured in this review is black with white graphics.
Finally, this review is not a paid review and I have no affiliation with Elite. The cage was purchased with my own money at retail price for the purposes of this review.