8 ways to make your road bike lighter

How to embrace your inner Weight Weenie without going bankrupt

A lighter road bike won't necessarily make you ride faster, and lighter bikes and feathery components are usually less durable and require a bit more love than their heavier, more robust cousins — but there's nothing like riding an uber light bike.

While your Garmin may tell you you're not actually up for a KOM on your favourite loop, you'll definitely feel like you are. Lightweight roadies have a snap about them and they definitely feel faster, and fast = fun — even if it's only in your head.

The quest for a lighter ride is taken to the extreme by a special breed of rider, the Weight Weenie. Weight Weenies can be found tinkering in their garage, replacing each alloy bolt on their bike with titanium ones, cutting off the “useless” part of the seat post, and we’ve even seen a particularly wild one drilling holes in his saddle to "make it lighter."

There are plenty of obvious upgrades you can make to shed heaps of weight, like a shiny new set of wheels or a full drivetrain replacement, but we’ve put together a list of slightly cheaper ways to save. They may be are small on their own, but if you add them up you may be taping fishing weights to your seat post before your next race.

1. Buy latex inner tubes

Latex tubes are a bit lighter than butyl tubes, but their effect is amplified because they contribute to rotational weight
Latex tubes are a bit lighter than butyl tubes, but their effect is amplified because they contribute to rotational weight

The absolute best place to shed weight is on the outside of the wheel: rim, tyre and tube. This is because the rotational weight is what you're fighting as the wheels are spinning and it's said that the energy required to spin the mass on the wheel is twice the mass on the frame.

The cheapest upgrade, and arguably the most significant upgrade, you can make here is swapping to latex inner tubes. Vittoria latex tubes are claimed to weigh 75g each, while the brand's standard butyl tubes are claimed to weigh 84g each. So if you swap front and rear tubes to latex that’s a saving of 18g of rotational weight gone.

What's more, latex tubes are thinner and more flexible than their butyl brethren meaning lower rolling resistance. However, they’re also more porous so they lose more air and are more fragile too.

2. Use lightweight tyres

Upgrading your rubber not only sheds weight but improves ride quality
Upgrading your rubber not only sheds weight but improves ride quality

To shed even more rotational weight take a look at your tyres, there are grams to be saved here. Continental's Grand Sports are pretty common on bikes off the shopfloor nowadays and they weigh in at 270g for the 25c tyre. For a bit more money you can get the Grand Prix 4000 ii, which are claimed to weigh 205c in a 25c tyre. So if you swapped two tyres you could save up to 65g per wheel of rotational weight and if you add in the latex tubes that's 148g gone lickety-split.

The added benefit to upgrading to a lighter tyre is, in most cases, an improved ride quality and rolling resistance too.

3. Change to velo plugs

Velo plugs are a rim tape alternative
Velo plugs are a rim tape alternative

Most clincher rims still need rim tape to protect those lightweight latex tubes you have just bought from the spoke holes in the rim. Usually made from plastic, rubber or adhesive cloth, rim tape runs the circumference of the rim, which adds mass that a Weight Weenie would argue doesn't need to be there.

Velo Plugs are little rubber plugs that, you guessed it, plug the spoke holes and are claimed to save 15g over cloth tape on a 32 spoke 700c wheel.

4. Use lightweight bar tape

You can save weight by not only using less bar tape when you wrap your bars, but also by using lighter tape
You can save weight by not only using less bar tape when you wrap your bars, but also by using lighter tape

Another often overlooked area to shed weight is bar tape. Aside from being more strategic with your wrapping and using less of it, there are some options out there that are lightweight yet still offer some padding for your mits.

Cinelli's Cork ribbon is pretty light at 68g (including bar plugs) while still keeping comfort at a premium. If you want to go lighter still there’s Lizard Skins DSP 1.8mm Race Bar Tape, which weighs 50g (including bar plugs) and is still thick enough to keep your hands happy after a long ride.

If you want to go full Weight Weenie however, you can wrap your hands around Deda's Traforato Perforated Bar Tape, which weighs 29g (including bar plugs) — but you’re going to want some gel padded gloves.

5. Get carbon everything

While there are plenty of full carbon, ultralight saddles out there, there are much more practical weight weenie upgrades available
While there are plenty of full carbon, ultralight saddles out there, there are much more practical weight weenie upgrades available

There's always another way to shed weight from your bike, but unfortunately the more weight you want to shed, the more money it’s going to cost. Upgrading your handlebars, seat post, stem and saddle is still cheaper than a group or wheelset, however.

For example, the alloy 3T Carbon Ergosum Pro drop bars weigh 245g, while the carbon LTD version weighs 180g. A Ritchey WCS Carbon Link seat post weighs 181g, while the alloy version is 230g and it’s also half the price.

If you're erring on the side of extreme weight savings then a full carbon perch like Tune’s 79g Komm-Vor Plus Saddle could save you more grams, but you better have some good bibs. For a more realistic upgrade, the ever popular Specialized Power saddle with carbon rails is 79g lighter than the Power Expert version with hollow Ti rails.

6. Go paint free

Choosing frames and components sans paint can shave a bit of weight too
Choosing frames and components sans paint can shave a bit of weight too

It may seem silly, but everything adds weight including paint. So if there is a raw carbon version of a component vs. a painted version, the raw carbon will always be lighter. It won't be a massive weight saving but according to our friends over at Paint My Bike, paint can add up to 200g to a frame — which usually equates to closer to 100g.

7. Change your cassette

Upgrading your cassette offers a bit of weight saving too
Upgrading your cassette offers a bit of weight saving too

While reducing rotational weight will make the most noticeable weight saving on your Weight Weenie-fied steed, there are still a fair few grams to be saved at the cassette.

For the SRAM users among us, the weight saving from a Force 11-26 cassette (PG-1170) to a one piece machined Red 11-25t cassette (XG-1190) is 96 grams.

If that still doesn’t scratch your weight saving itch, the 96g one-piece CNC machined SeqLite Full Aluminium cassette might be just the ticket. While it performs well on the scales, the SeqLite and other similar exotic lightweight cassettes are known for poor shift quality and extraordinary prices.

8. Keep your hands out of the cookie jar

It's not the easiest way to shave weight, but losing weight off your body will reap the most performance benefits
It's not the easiest way to shave weight, but losing weight off your body will reap the most performance benefits

While having a sub 6kg bike is bound to impress your friends at first, when they drop you on the first climb they will be decidedly less impressed. Unfortunately no matter how light or expensive your ride is, what’s really important is the engine that drives it and losing weight is the best way to go faster on your bike.

Are you a weight weenie? Have we missed an easy weight saving upgrade? Lets us know in the comments.

Colin Levitch

Staff Writer, Australia
Originally from Denver, Colorado, Colin now resides in Sydney, Australia. Holding a media degree, Colin is focused on the adventure sport media world. Coming from a ski background, his former European pro father convinced him to try collegiate crit racing. Although his bright socks say full roadie, he enjoys the occasional mountain bike ride, too.
  • Discipline: Road, mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Tarmac mountain climbs into snow-covered hills
  • Current Bikes: BMC TeamMachine SLR01, Trek Top Fuel 9
  • Dream Bike: Mosaic Cycles RT-1
  • Beer of Choice: New Belgium La Folie
  • Location: Sydney, Australia

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