Lightweight gear — hot or not?

Why have light, when you can have right?

I’ll not deny that the easiest way to market a bike, or any cycling component is to claim how little it weighs. I’ll also admit I readily fall into the trap of seeing how a new component measures up on the scales.

However, that attitude belies good and sound engineering design. I’m here to argue that weight is maybe one of the last things we should consider when making sensible choices about our bikes.

Sure building a 2.7kg road bike is mighty impressive but, realistically how much use is that going to be on anything but the most perfect roads? Would you want to hit an unexpected pothole blasting downhill at top speed?

Lightweight, but I'd be scared riding it anywhere...
Lightweight, but I'd be scared riding it anywhere...

Other than for esoteric builds that try to prove a point, lightweight just starts to get a bit ridiculous. Even Joe’s various hill-climb builds, that arguably should be the lightest they can be, have various nods to usability and practicality, so that they can actually be ridden in real life.

My argument is that most bikes and components today are so good (and so light) that you should focus on what matters most — which is fit, comfort and ride. Get those right and I’m willing to bet that you’ll be riding a whole lot faster than your buddy who’s bike weighs a scant few grams less.

Having a lightweight bike is not the panacea to making you ride faster — riding more is. But you’re not going to be riding more when your lightweight components wear out much faster than you were expecting.

The thing is, weight just isn’t the most important thing and we experience this time and time again.

Give me some volume for comfort and grip
Give me some volume for comfort and grip

You can run some noodly ultra-lightweight wheels with super skinny tyres if you want to. But add some rim-width and tyre volume and weight and give me a plush, comfortable, grippy ride any day.

Or take mountain bike tyres. I’d much rather have a beefed up tyre casing that can take some abuse and let me ride hard rather than a paper thin flyweight ,that will tear at the first sign of rocks.

If there’s one thing I’ve never understood it’s the obsession with lightweight bolts for a few negligible gram savings.

A steel bolt is strong, stiff and has a lot of tolerance for tightening. A titanium bolt is sensitive to being torqued correctly and is more faff than I'm willing to deal with. It adds bling, but literally at what cost?

Lightweight, but my nether region feel sore just looking at it
Lightweight, but my nether region feel sore just looking at it

Ultralight components can be a mighty impressive engineering showcase, but I want something that I can use and abuse day in and day out. There can be a reasonable middle-ground of lightness and function — but of course you’re going to have to pay top-dollar for that.

I suppose that what I’m saying is that whilst striving for a lightweight build is nice because less weight to schlep up the hill is undoubtedly noticeable, going lightweight at the expense of practicality is no use at all.

THM's Clavicula cranks might be one of the few examples of lightweight and reasonable durability — at a cost though
THM's Clavicula cranks might be one of the few examples of lightweight and reasonable durability — at a cost though

Don’t fall into the marketing hype of light-is-right, because it’s not always true. Choose durability, choose practicality, choose faff free riding, choose a bike that’s right, not a bike that’s light.

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