Reducing bike weight to improve performance

How engineers are finding new ways to reduce bike weight

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Mass is the enemy of cyclists. And the quest to jettison as much weight as possible from the bike has been a long accepted part of building high performance bikes. Eddy Merckx’s 1972 hour record bike was riddled with drill holes to save weight. Even the chain had been put under the pillar drill. That’s because lighter bikes, usually, are faster bikes. They accelerate better and, especially when the road turns upwards, it means a rider is propelling less mass uphill – and that means they travel faster. 

The arrival of new materials such as aluminium, magnesium and, lately, carbon, has opened up new vistas of opportunities to create bikes that are both extremely stiff, which means more pedalling power is transferred to the road, and lightweight. And now many companies are in the realm of producing 650g frames. Last year, Cervelo unveiled its superlight RCA frame which weighed just 667g – two thirds of a regular bag of sugar. The fork added just 300g to the frameset.

Composites engineers are now looking at making weight saving gains in numerous areas. New resins are being developed – the substance that binds the carbon together – which could mean lighter bikes without any compromise on rigidity or, crucially, safety. Minute tweaks to the lay-up – how the layers of carbon are built up – also offer engineers opportunities to save weight. And that’s before looking at the rest of the componentry – wheels, groupsets and cockpit components that contribute the majority of mass to a bike. Save weight here, and bikes could regularly hit 6kg.

In August 2014, it’s expected that a new set of safety standards for bikes from the International Organization of Standardization (ISO) will be published, and this could give the UCI, cycling’s international governing body, an opportunity to remove a 14-year-old rule that dictates that a professional’s race bikes must weigh at least 6.8kg (14.99lb). And then the race will really be on for lightweight bikes and components.

A similar minimum weight rule exists in motorsport, where F1 cars must hit 691kg. The principle motorsport engineers are following is the same: lighter cars are faster cars that require less energy to reach maximum performance. And what applies on the track also applies in everyday motoring too.

And that’s why the all-new Mazda3 engineers have made the small family compact car much lighter. Through increasing the use of high and ultra-high tensile steels in the SKYACTIV-Body, a lighter yet stiffer suspension and a smaller, lighter steering system ensures the car is nippier, more fuel efficient and more fun to drive. When allied to superior aerodynamics and its ‘KODO-Soul of Motion’ design,  the all-new Mazda3 – which has a top five star NCAP safety rating – has become a winner with motorists who love the thrill of the drive and won’t compromise on performance.

For more information on the all-new Mazda3, please click here

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