Okay, first off, congratulations are in order. The bike industry has won the weight war, we’ve advanced bikes to the point where they’re insanely light, yet stiff, and respectably durable. So instead of chasing grams, I vote we chase ride characteristics and increased component life spans.
- Weight weenie? Here’s why it’s not your fault
- Lighter bike won’t get you to work faster, says doctor
Why it’s all about weight
Yes, a lighter bike is easier to pedal up hills, faster to accelerate, and quicker to change direction. (That might not be a good thing for most riders.)
But the real reason the bike industry is so utterly obsessed with weight is that it’s a simple metric to demonstrate improvement.
Bike weight really doesn’t matter
Wha, wha, what? I can hear you from here. Bike weight doesn’t matter all that much because it’s a small percentage of the total package, which is: you, your clothes, shoes and helmet, the stuff in your pockets, water bottle(s), and the bike itself.
- Are lighter bikes always faster? We find out
- Losing weight from your bike or your body — which makes you faster?
When you add all the pieces together, after all, that is what’s going up the hill, the actual bike weight is a small percentage of the total. And what’s even smaller is the difference between last year’s 7.3kg bike and next year’s ultra-new, uber-fancy 6.9kg bike.
It’s simple math. Let’s say fully kitted up you weigh 72kg / 160lbs, and you have a nice bike, it weighs 7.2kg / 16lbs. Your bike is 9 percent of the total mass of 79.2kg / 176lbs. Saving your pennies to buy a frameset that’s 400g lighter is roughly 0.50 percent off the total package, less than one percent.
The advancements that should matter
In an ideal world, where all the roads and trails roll downhill at just the right grade, and the wind is always at your back, bike companies would boast “this year’s bike rides 7 percent better” or “coming next year, a bike that’s 4 percent more fun!”
But those metrics, unlike grams on a scale or bottom bracket flex tests in a lab, are impossible to define. And they vary from rider to rider somewhat.
What isn’t impossible to define though are components that stay in tune better and last longer. Imagine a world without flat tires, without wonky shifting and replace that with miles and miles of that quiet, silky performance of a new bike.
Picture a bike that’s still wonderfully light but feels magical on every ride. A bike that handles and performs like new for seasons.
Bottom brackets that spin effortlessly, wheel bearings that don’t feel like they’re pushing through sand, and suspension pivots that soldier on for a few seasons of ragged riding, all of these should be on the bike engineering agenda, not saving 12 grams.
A bike that doesn’t require a full overhaul if you get caught in the rain or ride a nasty, slop-filled trail.
Imagine disc brake rotors that stay straight and true, hydraulic fluid that doesn’t need changing every few months, and brake pads that can survive more than a few weeks or one wet, muddy ride.
Think of all the potential riders that avoid going for a spin because when they grab their bike it has a flat tire, or even a low tire, or the shifting’s not right because the derailleur got bumped, or the brakes are rubbing. Bike weight isn’t what’s keeping people off their bikes, it’s functionality.
Bikes are light enough, let’s truly make them better and keep all riders happy and most importantly, riding.