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Bike Weight: How Much Better Are Lighter Bikes?

By Bruce Lin


Is your overweight bike making you depressed? You’re not alone. Many cyclists dream of having the lightest bike possible. It’s the primary motivation of "weight weenies," people who count grams obsessively.

When it comes to improving a bike’s performance, weight is tangible. We feel it every time we pick up a bike. We can put a bike on a scale, get a number, and determine that a smaller number is “better.” We can spend money on new components that save more weight. As consumers, we have an ability to control and modify bike weight in ways we can’t with other aspects of bike performance like stiffness, aerodynamics, or geometry.

Specialized S-Work Tarmac does light road mountain bike weight matterThis Specialized S-Works Tarmac comes in under 15 pounds. Will it make you faster though? | Photo by Matt Jones.

But does bike weight really matter? Weight weenies would say yes. But the real answer is far more nuanced. In reality, weight is only one factor of many that affect bike performance. It may surprise you to learn that it's also rarely the most important factor. Let’s take a deep dive into the subject of bike weight and look at the costs, value, and what real riders think about saving weight on their own bikes.

The high cost of lightness

Rocket scientists are perhaps the world’s ultimate weight weenies. When sending objects into space, they deal with a problem known as the “tyranny of the rocket equation.” As the amount of weight they want to move increases, the rocket fuel required to do so increases exponentially. For example, increasing the payload of a rocket by only 5% may require a massive 130% more fuel to move it. Because of this problem, minimizing rocket weight is paramount. Aerospace materials are made to be as strong and light as possible to balance out the equation, and they’re hugely expensive because of it.

Of course, bikes aren’t rockets, but plenty of riders treat them like they are. Trimming off excess weight can become an obsession. Some riders might begin to believe that a matter of a few grams will be the difference between a great bike and a mediocre bike. Or winning and losing. An inconsequential component might go under the microscope and hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars could be spent to save less than a pound.
Weight weenie carbon vs metal bottle cage
Take the water bottle cage for example. A metal bottle cage might weigh only 30 grams more than a carbon one. But the carbon cage will cost significantly more. You might spend $70 for a carbon cage versus $10 for a metal cage. Say you have a fairly light, 17-pound road bike. If you choose the carbon bottle cage, you’re spending seven times more money to shave off a negligible amount (0.4%) of your bike’s total weight. The math is similarly bad for most of the other components that can be upgraded.

It's bad for complete bikes too. For example, a top-of-the-line Specialized S-Works Tarmac retails for over twice as much as a similar Tarmac Expert. This higher price gets you a lighter frame and lighter components. But the S-Works model is not twice as light. The weight difference is only one or two pounds. You’re paying over 130% more, to save about 5% of the total weight.

This could be seen as the "tyranny of the bike equation." As bike weight decreases, the cost of increases exponentially. Being a hardcore weight weenie not only requires a lot of dedication but also a lot of money.

The value of a light bike

But is spending money to make your bike lighter worth it? It’s hard to say exactly when reducing a bike's weight actually becomes noticeable. You could probably tell if your bike suddenly became 10 pounds lighter, but would you notice if your bike became only one pound lighter?

The water in a small 20oz bottle weighs a little over a pound. Do you ever notice if you’re riding with a full versus an empty bottle? If not, then you probably won’t be able to tell that a pair of carbon handlebars are 100g less a pair alloy ones. It will take a lot of component upgrades throughout a bike and a lot of money for all those saved grams to add up to a meaningful reduction in overall weight.

But even if small reductions can’t be felt, the fact is that a lighter bike requires objectively less power to move. Especially on climbs, the power-to-weight ratio of bike and rider plays a huge part in overall performance. Even if it’s a small difference of only a few watts, it could matter in a race situation. Take two riders with the exact same fitness and body weight. The rider with the lighter bike will hypothetically make it to the top of a climb first, or they’ll have to expend slightly less power to reach the top at the same time.

There are limits to this, however. Rider weight is far more important in the bigger picture because riders far outweigh their bikes. A 180-pound rider on a 20-pound bike results in an overall weight of 200 pounds. The rider is 90 percent of that weight. This is why really good climbers are generally skinnier or smaller than average riders. 

Decreasing bike weight can only go so far. Bigger gains are likely to be found when addressing aerodynamics, but that is a whole different topic. 

The best lightweight bike upgrade

If you are going to spend money on a single weight-saving upgrade for your bike, wheels are the number one improvement you can make. They’re generally considered the best place on the bike to shed grams because wheels and tires are rotating weight. Additional weight increases inertia and wheel inertia matters a lot in cycling because the rider has to overcome it to accelerate. Heavier wheels require more energy to overcome this inertia. Many riders, even novices, can actually feel the difference when riding lighter wheels. They make a bike feel noticeably snappier and easier to get up to speed.

Carbon wheels are one of the most popular aftermarket upgrade options for both road and mountain bikes. Carbon fiber is exceptionally light, stiff, and strong. Because of carbon’s strength to weight advantage, road bike rims can be made deeper, wider, and more aerodynamic, without a massive weight penalty. Independent testing over recent years has shown the aerodynamics of a wheel to be of equal, and sometimes greater importance when riding on the road.

Upgrading to a wheelset that is both lighter and more aerodynamic is the ultimate win-win.

Do you need a lighter bike?

So who actually “needs” a lighter bike?

Riders who are already exceptionally small, light, and fit will enjoy the most benefits. If you are near peak fitness, then losing additional weight off your body could be detrimental to your power output or even dangerous to your health. The only option for improving power-to-weight is to reduce the weight of the bike. The lighter you are, the more small reductions in bike weight will benefit performance.

But for normal riders with average bodies, it’s always much more effective and affordable to reduce body weight and increase fitness. The number-one factor in performance is always the rider.

Weight weenie climbing advantageI had a lighter bike and still got dropped.

If you simply like the idea of having the lightest bike possible, and you can afford to buy an ultra-light, high-end bike or a slew of lightweight upgrades, then go crazy. Light bikes are cool, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Just knowing you have a lighter bike could also help you mentally. Aerodynamics and fitness are important, but the mind also plays a huge role in performance. The belief that your bike’s weight is an advantage can give you a bigger advantage than the weight actually does on its own.

Durability and reliability are also important factors to consider. Lighter weight often coincides with reduced durability. The average weight for the bikes used by enduro mountain bike pros is over 30 pounds. This is significantly heavier than your average XC mountain bike. These types of bikes have to survive rough riding conditions. Running a lighter, more delicate frame or components will increase the risk of race-ending damage. In all forms of riding, adding weight to a bike is the trade-off you must make for increased robustness and reliability.

Even if you’re not racing, durability should be considered, especially when you aren’t a professional rider with access to a supply of replacement parts and skilled mechanics who can service and repair your bike. An ultra-light bike is cool, but it’s no fun having to make emergency repairs on the side of the road or end a ride prematurely due to equipment failure. This is especially true of tires. Lightweight, less puncture-resistant tires are better saved for race day when it really matters.

The takeaway here is don't worry so much about how much your bike weighs. If you have a light bike, that's good. If you don't, that's also fine. Make sure your bike fits your budget and is reliable to ride. Invest in your fitness, and if you can spend some money, get nice wheels. 

What Riders in the Shop Think

Our shop is full of riders who obsess over their bikes and have access to a huge selection of high-end pre-owned products. Everyone’s been tinkering with their own set-up for years and they each approach bike weight in different ways. Here’s what they have to say.

Weight Weenie Bike Discussion
Axel V., Purchasing Associate - “I train on my race bike, and when it’s set up for training it weighs 22 pounds. It’s heavy compared to most high-end road bikes, but I’ve never wished it was lighter. I prioritize durability, and the heft means it’s sturdy and it’ll keep going no matter the riding conditions. I don’t like to break things. Flat protection is key so I’m running heavier puncture-resistant tires and tubes. If you flat, you’re not riding! I’ll put carbon race wheels on for race days only. They make the biggest difference and on my bike, it’ll shed three pounds where it really matters. But only for those special occasions.”

Asher R., Bike Technician - “My mountain bike is 33.5 pounds. I think a bike should weigh as much as it needs to be durable. When you try to save too much weight you start compromising on durability, and you start spending lots of money when parts fail. The way I ride, I do notice the weight on climbs, but once I point my bike downhill I can go as hard as I want and it’s all worth it. Saving weight is a good thing, but save your money too. If you ride hard things will break. Durable, light, or cheap — you can only pick two.

Pete K, Bike Technician - “Racing at the pro level, weight is something you definitely think about. Where I’m at now, it’s easier to take the weight off my bike than my body. If an XC bike is over 24 pounds it feels pretty ridiculous, like it can’t go uphill fast. It’s like wearing a backpack. But I wouldn’t say I’m even the craziest one out there. I do care about durability and performance a bit more than weight. I did run a dropper post all season. The bike rides so much better with it. You have to be selective.”

Richard S., Merchandising Associate - “I’ve definitely gone down the weight weenie rabbit hole. I’m a climber so I think about it a lot. I’ve bought certain components when they were the lightest, even if they weren’t the best. I built up a bike that was around 14 pounds already but then I added Lightweight wheels and got it down to about 13 pounds. Once the bike got that light I could definitely feel the benefit uphill, but it lost so much stiffness and responsiveness. Then I had a bad crash and destroyed a lot of parts. It was a super expensive crash. My current bike is heavier, but I’m actually going faster now than I was before because the new bike is so much stiffer and more aero.  

Steve G, Shipping Manager - “For me, it’s all about reliability and durability. When you ride deep into the backcountry, you need to know that your bike is going to make it back out. My mountain bike is 37 pounds. It’s the heaviest bike in the shop, but the geometry actually puts me in a good climbing position and that makes a difference. I keep up with everyone just fine. I haven’t had a flat or mechanical all season. There’s a time and place for light parts, XC racing probably. But when you’re riding long distances far from home you shouldn’t skimp.


  • God did not invent expensive. People have known that for a long time. Why then are people insisting on having whatever to be exspensive, or even cheep, for that matter? Give and it will be given to you pressed down and shaken together. People will do what others are doing. The church made people think that whatever will drop down from the sky. That will not happen.

    Jonathan Hughes on

  • I raced in my 50’s on my 14 lb Venge and won a stage race and a few other races. I’m 60 now and decided to get a 35 lb ebike to help me get home against strong headwinds on my routes home. I’ve always been a decent rider , but noticed added health benefits riding the heavier bike ( I alternate riding my Venge and the Specialized e-bike) . Firstly , I can go longer and I’m not affected by the wind in my longer tides. Secondly, as fitness goes, I feel that the Venge is much easier to ride on rides during the week that are around an hour and thirty to two hours. My knees have always been good and the heavier bike is not a problem on rides over 3-4 hours. It’s changed my outlook completely on weight. I feel like I’m getting huge benefits in riding my lighter -13 lb bike while still having fun on the long group rides and assisting in pulls against some fierce headwinds . So weight in the context of ‘cross training’ is beneficial to health , training and basically keeping me on the bike as I enter the later stages of my life.

    Al on

  • Here’s a thought experiment regarding weight… you have two road bikes the fit and handle the same, we’ll just say two Tarmac SL6 Disc bikes, for the sake of familiarity. Bike A weighs 16 lbs, and Bike B weighs 15 lbs. Bike A is an expert-level frame with 10R carbon and a mechanical Ultegra hydraulic 11s drivetrain. It also has crazy light wheels and tires, and a crazy light cockpit and other small details, which allow its weight to stay at 16 lbs. Bike B, remember is full pound lighter than bike A. It has an S-Works frame, Dura Ace mechanical hydraulic drivetrain, but a more modest cockpit that fits the same as bike A, and Roval SLX24 alloy wheels (1500g) and solid, but not super hi-end tires. Again it comes in at 15 lbs and bike A is 16 lbs. Which bike do you pick? I honestly think I am going with bike A, the 16 lb bike. The lower center of gravity from the super light cockpit combined with the lightweight wheels will actually make it a more lively and fun bike to ride. If you answered bike B, I have a follow-up question. Because bike B is S-Works and Dura-Ace, are you ok with paying about $3-3.5k more to save 1 lb that you might not really even notice when you ride? Did your answer change?

    Bennett Shane on

  • Great write-up, Bruce. You touched on some interesting points regarding weight that often get overlooked. I think it’s fair to say that most people only notice or care that a bike is “light” when they are climbing or during a significant acceleration. In both of these scenarios, the flex characteristics of the bike also play a big role in how that weight is perceived by the rider. If a frame is very light and also has a bit more flex in the downtube – bottom bracket – chainstays, it will probably have a very nice feel in this situation, like it wants to dance. Thinking of SuperSix Evo and Aethos. Now a bike that is only a handful of grams – certainly less than .5 kg – heavier, could have stiffer flex properties in this parts of the frame and therefore feel completely different climbing and jumping out of a corner. This bike will have the feeling of a 2×4 that you are sitting on just spinning the cranks around and it will not be “nice” bike to climb on at all. Thinking here of a Venge or Cefvelo S5 (both awesome bikes, btw) So, all that to say I think that how the bike flexes is a filter through which the rider feels the weight (more exactly the mass) of the bike.

    Bennett Shane on

  • Hi:

    Like Eddy Merckx said “ride upgrades not upgrades”…I am 60 and weigh between 180-85lbs. What are upgrades? I reckon living in a relatively roller landscape in eastern SD, that means something else than say Colorado upgrades. I have an OPEN Wi.DE with the Ekar groupset. A Colnago C60, and a Salsa Horsethief. The weight runs 20 lbs, 20lbs, and 30ish lbs. The Open and Salsa have similar gear range and the C60 12-28. They all ride differently. The wind here is the main factor it always blows and the avg is somewhere around 10-15 most days (those are calm days). I think body weight plus aero makes has the biggest impact. I am not a weight weenie. But I reckon the fun is in how fit you are and how this translates out there. Sitting on a trainer doing intervals now that’s a different scenario. Us avg riders have to make it work for us and the $ are best spent on eating healthy food and having a training pattern that keeps the weight off :) Great article folks!

    Alan on

  • After 60 years of near daily pedaling, here is where my healthy hobby has landed …

    Number 1
    Body: power vrs healthy light weight

    Number 2
    Areodynamics: Aero vrs comfort ratio

    Number 3
    Machine weight: reliable stiffness vrs affordable parts ratio

    David Plantenga on

  • As light as you can afford is the way. I use the $1/gram rule for deciding what to upgrade. I’m 43, 205lbs, two mountain bikes at 21 and 27 pounds. The light one is a rocket and the heavier is more comfortable and fun. The heavier was 31 pounds and felt like a pig until I got it down to 27. I don’t care about the weight of my shoes, pedals, or water bottle cages. Lighter bikes are easier on my knees, way better to carry, and feeling fast is way better psychologically.

    Seth on

  • I got my Niner Aluminum with Carbon Fork and it enables me to keep up with other riders, especially on uphill gravel (gravel tires, 40mm). I like the fit and it’s stable for easy gravel at my age (56). So the weight savings is great compared to my hybrid Giant Escape, which is great for steep climbing but relatively slow everywhere else. Big concern here is wheels. Heavy wheels hurt acceleration because of their rotational inertia, but they also provide a stable ride. I saw the comment by the person who only uses carbon fiber wheels on race day. That makes good sense to me.

    Steven Knudsen on

  • Fantastic article, true to the bone.

    Ricardo Tovar on

  • Hey Andrew M. I read “speed wobble” and immediately shuddered. I ride road and cyclocross, build / repair race motorcycles for work, and have experienced speed wobble, it might be the absolute worst.

    Remember that weight is a measure of how gravity effects you and your bike, so to equate weight and stability results in a big maybe. Speed wobbles, on the other hand, tend to occur (on motorcycles, too) when the geometry of the bike and or the condition of the front wheel is exceeded by the speed that the bike is travelling. Meaning that if your head tube angle is too acute (aggressive) or if you have bad wheel bearings, the front wheel / tire will have a smaller, less stable contact patch and in the case of bearings, an erratic path of travel. It could also arise from rider position / technique.

    Speed wobbles are dangerous and should be addressed with your mechanic and maybe a bike fitter. Careful buddy!

    Eric N on

  • Thanks for the question, Charles. Here’s my opinion: gearing always beats weight. It doesn’t matter how light your bike is if you don’t have the gearing to maintain a comfortable cadence. Once you start mashing a gear, you’re wasting energy and burning matches. That being said, you should ride the bike you are most comfortable on. I’d place comfort above gearing and weight. If that happens to be the Airborne, maybe consider options for improving the gear range. If you’re regularly riding and are accustomed to the Globe, then go for it!

    Bruce Lin on

  • Getting ready for the Hilly Hundred and I am 65. Not as fast or strong as I used to be. Been comparing my Airborne titanium road bike (20.7 lbs, low gear goes 109.33 in per revolution) against my Globe City Bike 7.1 (31.2 lbs, 79.72 in per revolution). The Globe is a pig but I think I can almost climb a wall with that low gear. In past years, I have walked hills on the Airborne and am getting tired of it. Not sure I can train hard enough to get in shape although I know that is the right answer. Comments?

    Charles M Groover on

  • First of all, I dont ride to win races.
    I ride for the enjoyment of seeing nature, riding trails with a friend, to see what my body is capable of and improving my fitness. I’m relatively new to it and just got a Ghost AMR 2955 from my dad after he got to old for it.

    That thing weighs over 13,8kg out of the box and I couldn’t care less about the mass.
    I mean I currently come in at a hefty 82kg (Although that changes drasticly, end of last season I came in at 75kg while I started on 86kg) , not to menttion I often use it to commute to work and I carry over 5kg of lugage.
    The bike weight in negligable compared to that.

    And most importantly, I dont see wheight as something negative or that holds me back. Cause, as I said, I ride to test my body. And every additional kg I carry up a hill or mountain, I consider a testimony to the perfromance my body can deliver. The distance I ride and elevation I climb is gonna be the same for a planned route, no matter the bikes weight. More wheight = more work = more Traning.

    As for Trails, Im not on a skill level where i would even notice a big difference in Mass, but I’m actually thinking about getting a dropper post which would make it even heavier.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Lane Schröder on

  • I like this article. I’m definitely leaning more towards heavier weight. Going downhill on my current bike often causes speed wobble, which if you haven’t experienced, you are blessed. If there is a cross wind I feel the bike want to almost lift off the ground (not literally but it gets carried by wind easily). I would like the pros here (or the publisher) to comment and if the heavier weight would typically equate to more stability and control when going downhill. I don’t care if I go a snails pace uphill….I’m not a racer.

    Andrew M on

  • I am 84. Have Santa Cruz carbon fiber
    Have only one shifter due to arthritis.
    Weigh 146
    If I like light bikes.
    I was a runner till 7 years ago then started mtn biking .

    Rex Webster on

  • Ok now don’t laugh but I’m 53 on 2/25. I desperately want to join a bike group. I like ve walking but I see a lot of groups around my home town in NJ which is on the boarder of where 3 counties meet. Bergen Cnty, Pass and Morris Cnty. So we have a lot of everything wilderness, lakes parks , up hill , mountains trails etc you name it we have it, how do I start out I want this to be a new pass time for me. I’m not in great shape but I’m very comfortable on a bike. I purchased a $1500 a Giant Def Adv a few years ago and it’s still in awesome condition but my adult children use it. What type of bike should I start with? I don’t want to pay a fortune because I am broke lol like half of us but I need to get out of the house. What’s a good kind of bike that you get a good bang for your buck any suggestions?

    Kim on

  • I am 69 weigh 220lbs and have been riding bikes for many years (lost count) so my opinion is weight is weight. I own a Cervelo R3 (16 lbs) and a Diverge (24 lbs). My Cervelo is light as air but my diverge is like riding a tank ugh. My preference is to ride fast and longer like the MS 150.

    Rudy Elizondo on

  • I am a total weight weenie, but I guess that just comes with the territory. I am a purebred XC racer and to me, grand are everything! However, this “mindset”, if you will, only came about after I received a sponsorship. When you don’t have a budget on a bike, you can go as crazy and as light as you want! On the contrary, I am also a total penny-saver! Before I had any sponsors, my goal was to get my bike as budget-friendly, as well as a great performer for what it was. I would try to keep my bike under my total budget so that I could use the extra money towards other things (savings, stock shares, investment properties, etc). Bottom-line: if you’ve got the money, great! Do your research and get the bike/components that suit your discipline as well as your body. If not, no worries! Keep on keeping on! A heavier bike means more power output on the climbs, but guess what! That also means that you’ll be progressing faster than your buddies. Happy riding!

    Brock Miller on

  • On a flat road, the vehicle ( bike and rider ) are the same as a railway train. Heavy means ‘hard to stop’. Momentum.
    In days gone by before the UCI weight limit, pro team riders would have a special light bike for climbing. On flat stages, they’d ride a bike 2 – 3 lb heavier for the ‘momentum effect’.
    Aerodynamically, an identically shaped vehicle with greater mass will roll further than a lighter vehicle.
    Lighter vehicles are advantageous when accelerating and rising against gravity. Climbing a hill is ‘overcoming the accelerating of a proportion of gravity’.
    Summation – Don’t feel bad about having a bike 2lb heavier than you buddies. The 2lb is helping you roll :-)

    James Lee-Pevenhull on

  • My first bike shop bike was a consignment Schwinn Mirada “ATB”. It was 4130 Chromoly and so much more responsive than a Huffy. My bike closet has 2 steel, 2 aluminum, and one CF. The CF Tarmac Expert is roughly 16lbs. My heaviest is a 2008 F4 Caffeine hardtail near 26lbs. My mountain bike days ended in the 20th century, so only having 26" wheeled MTBs for tooling around and mild off-roading is fine by me. That being said, having a good basis for a lightening a bike is critical. As others have mentioned, don’t buy a cheap frame that can’t be lightened. My 18" Marin Eldridge grade is my lightest 26" MTB due to several factors. I built the rim-brake wheel-set myself choosing higher end (at the time) rims, double butted DT spokes and decent 7-spd hubs. The crank is a heavier 22-32-42 cheapy, but works. The skinny Continental Cross Country tires are really helpful for weight (not serious off-roading though). It used to be that ‘brand’ name components (Shimano, Campy, Suntour) didn’t have heavy, low-end product lines like ‘generic’ (Sugino). Or at the least, a bike-shop bike couldn’t be fitted with anything less than a minimum quality. When you bought their components, they were already a light, durable product. Now, Shimano will make a 50-34t square-taper crankset that easily ways 1.5x more than an old 105. Here’s where I would save my weight if you wanted to maximize your frame’s capability (if the frame is not, at the least, in the top half of aluminum lightness – don’t bother): wheels – you have to have good hubs, rims and spokes altogether… skimping on one won’t do you any good. Cranks – yes, most are light, but you can save weight if your are doing what I am doing (maintaining square-taper BB build bikes). Cassette – buying a basic replacement from Amazon may be cheap, but you can also, for not much more, get a lighter one… keep that rear wheel light! Tires – I was just comparing my WTB Velociraptors to Continental Cross King Racesport.. I can save about a 1lb or more and get a wider, higher volume tire. And, there are the more negligible gains like handlebars and stems and such. I learned that if you get 7000 series aluminum v 6000, that can save on the handlebar front; but that was 20 years ago and not sure if it still holds true. I still have steel stem and seatpost on my old 3.0 Cannondale. With the WTB tires and a really old Rockshox Quadra (springs now, no elastomers), it weighs 25lbs. I am 145lbs, and sometimes lighter.. I felt the 3.0 become heavy and sluggish when I took off the 1.5" dirt road tires off and mounted the WTBs.. what a difference I felt. I guess the key is train heavy, race light – for those that race. If you do adventure trips on long rail trails or towpaths and are trying to ride swiftly, starting with the lightest weight ‘sturdy’ bike BEFORE adding racks and gear will be beneficial. nothing like adding the weight of a medium to small sized dog to crush your dreams of maintaining 25kph! One last note – rim brakes will save you about a pound and a half versus comparably equipped disk-brake bikes… Compare the Trek Domane AL2 to the AL2 Disk. At the time of this writing, there was 2.6lbs difference or so for 56cm selection. And this is with the assumption that the $200 more for the disk is getting something in components that is worth more than the cheaper bike. Last thing I can imagine when it comes to what weight your bike should be is the watts per kilogram that a person can turn. A lighter person is like a car’s engine – the less power it puts out, the smaller the vehicle must be to make it serve its purpose. Should there be a BMI for rider to bike weight? Divide your body weight by your bike’s weight? I think everyone would agree that a number under 4 probably isn’t useful. But a 190lb rider and 16lb bike is 11.875.. so, not sure if that is useful in that direction. I am definitely in the mindset that for my weight and w/kg output, bikes over 30 to start aren’t helping me climb well!

    Kyle G on

  • @Tom Lewis—I, too, have a custom Alberto Masi-built 3V made for me in 1989. Not my lightest bike by far, but it fits perfectly. A $500 bike that fits right is better than a $5000 bike that doesn’t. That’s Rule #1.

    Having spent 15 years designing and building bikes for Paketa in Boulder, the US’ only manufacturer of magnesium bicycle frames, I think I understand the weight/performance/price trade-off pretty well. #1 recommendation is, start out with a solid, light-weight frame (that fits—see above) if you think you’re possibly going to want to buy lower-weight components. #2, concentrate on the wheels (as others mention), as that’s likely to be the most noticeable improvement. #3, think of it in terms of $/gram saved. That’s a useful metric for many upgrades. I used to go with $1/g saved; now maybe $2/g saved, but go with your budget. A lot of carbon parts (e.g.) don’t actually save much weight but cost a fortune. A good example is handlebars and stems. Carbon bars and stems are hugely expensive (in many cases) but hardly any lighter than comparable high-quality aluminum parts. You really need to look at each item and compare them carefully. One thing I’ve stopped “comparing” is saddles: If I’m not comfortable, then no weight savings is worth it.

    And on the point of buying used-vs-new, I agree. My latest #1 ride is a 10-year-old Crumpton carbon frame with a SRAM Red 10-speed rebuild and Zipp 202 tubular wheels at 12.9 lbs. Total investment: under $5k.

    David Walker on

  • Really good article on weight. I agree with every word. That said there is a third option that os rarely talked about. Why not have the lightest bike without spending a ton of money. I ended up buying a quality carbon frame from the pros closet and purchased all other carbon components on ebay. For about 3k total cost I was able to build up my scott foil frame with new ultegra r8000 and all carbon finishing kit with 50mm deep section carbon wheels. A comparable setup from a bike shop would have cost 8-10k. Recently I bought a wheelset direct from china that weighed 1288g. The risk of buying poorly made carbon components from china is vastly overstated by bike shops to protect their margins. After all a large percentage of branded carbon comes from these same factories. Many of the items sold on ebay will have stated weights. The finishing kits of many of these mass produced road bikes have heavy aluminum finishing kits.. bar/stem/seatpost/seat/waterbottle cage/crank.
    Replacing these can save you a pound. To give you a rough idea of how much these could cost on ebay.
    Carbon handlebar. 50.00
    Carbon seatpost. 40.00
    Carbon waterbottle cage. 15.00
    Carbon stem. 30.00
    Carbon deep section wheels 1600g 300.00
    Aluminun climbing wheels 1260g. 250.00

    Brian H on

  • Thanks for this informative article. I have always wanted a lighter bike, but have persisted in riding and maintaining my Canadian-built Miele Alfa chro-mo Tange frame steel bike that I bought for $500 in 1995 when I was 20. It weighs 28lbs, which makes for good uphill workouts. I have never ridden an aluminum or carbon fiber bike, and really don’t know what it would feel like, to say nothing of what it would feel to ride something 10lbs lighter.

    But at this point, my beloved steed has many thousands of miles, and after so many years, it would just feel wrong to sell it!

    Tony S. on

  • As I have said on more than one occasion to a good friend who is a compulsive weight weenie: “I can skip a couple of happy meals and shed more grams than those crazy expensive parts you are running save you – and I save a few bucks at the same time.”
    For the lean and fit, it may make sense but most of those I ride with have plenty of grams they should shed first before spending big $$$ on lite parts.

    Russell Hughes on

  • By the way, in addition to my original comment I should add that you either made an egregious mistake with the Specialized Zee cage weight analysis comparing a carbon cage weight against an alloy cage. The alloy cage weight is right, but you didn’t weigh a carbon zee cage. You gave the price of a Specialized carbon zee cage but you gave the weight of a plastic cage. The weight difference between your aluminum cage and a real carbon zee cage is 49 grams. Two cages, that’s 98 grams – almost a quarter of a pound on a couple of bottle cages. First, you need to correct your post. Second, almost a quarter-pound is worth $140. Will it help me “go faster”? Of course not, but who cares?!

    Jim Lanave on

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