Some people (ok me!) have a reputation for always looking for opportunities to save weight on their bike, but is this the right thing to do, or should you just cut down on the pies?
There seems to have been a general trend recently for heavier bikes. When I was first into mountain biking (that might have been not too long after it was invented actually!) it was a criminal offence to have a bike over 30lb, but now you can spend several thousand pounds and still be comfortably over that. So why is it more acceptable now, or perhaps looked at another way – what’s the reason for having a light bike?
So let’s start there – why would you want a lighter bike?
The traditional adage has been “a lighter bike goes up hill faster“. Sure there’s a little bit of physics in that, but I’m not sure I actually buy into that much. Mountain biking takes place on bumpy, uneven terrain that is likely to have far more of an impact, so unless you’re dramatically shaving kilos off your bike, and there aren’t many upgrades that can deliver anything you’d notice going up a hill.
Ok, so if it’s not for the hills, why else might you want to lose weight off your bike?
What about being able to handle your bike better?
This is perhaps a less obvious reason, but for me its much more compelling. I’m smaller than average for a man, and not exactly built either and I really struggle with heavy bikes – I’m going to call anything over 30lb heavy, as I really struggle beyond that.
Now you might be quite happy with a 32lb bike and wonder what I’m making a fuss about, but it’s all about relative weight. I happened to get a particularly heavy bike in its factory spec (15kg!), because other than that it was a great bike and I was sure I could do something about that excessive weight. At that factory spec 15kg the bike was the equivalent of 25% of my body weight. For someone allergic to the gym, that’s a real handful! And this isn’t about bunny hopping competitions, but the physical side of hauling a bike out of a steep corner, or elevating it to take the next drop properly. At 25% of my weight that was a real struggle.
So the bike went on a diet and shed 2kg. That dropped it to 23% of my body weight. 2% doesn’t sound much, but when it was so high to start with, it made a massive difference. Suddenly I could handle the bike properly and I felt in total control of it, rather than fighting a constant battle with momentum, that previously I didn’t always win!
Back to relative weight – so for me a 15kg was 25% of my body weight, but I’m fairly light for a bloke. Taking a more average male weight, at say 14 stone, a 15kg bike would be only 17% of your body weight and there would probably be more muscle mass to handle it too. In that scenario, to get back to the title, a reduction in pies would probably be more effective than shedding a few hundred grams off your bike.
Now I might be quite light for a bloke, but 50% of the population aren’t blokes. On average women are a lot lighter than men and also tend to develop different types of muscle mass, with men developing more outright strength (on average!) and women more endurance. Add that all up and bike weight is probably more critical for women than men. For someone at 8 stone, that 15kg bike would be 29% of their body weight and a significant challenge for them.
Therefore, should you lose weight off you or the bike, does depend a bit on the relative weight of both , but in my case, shifting 2kg off the bike has transformed things for me.
Which I think means I can have another pie now… 😉