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Practical importance of bike weight (kinda' long...)(33 posts)

Practical importance of bike weight (kinda' long...)MLCrisis
Jan 3, 2003 9:07 PM
There is certainly a lot of chatter about weight reduction in road bikes! I've been riding the same very heavy, very durable (and well-maintained) equipment since my youth (almost 30 years on the same fillet brazed Schwinn). I'm riding more every Summer now...every time I stop into my LBS (for parts) I get the hard sell on how I "need" a new bike - reduced weight and more modern (complex?) controls seem to be the main advantages that are cited. My good old bike is all I've ever known. Would a new 18-20 lb. bike ride a lot better than my 25+ lb. bike on casual/club rides? Does a 18 lb. bike really feel significantly different than a 20 lb. bike? Is the main benefit of weight reduction for racers and hill climbers? (we don't have much elevation in my area). I'm not a very competitive rider...just like riding a comfortable, reliable rig for fresh air and exercise. Would my endurance be measurably enhanced on longer rides with a lighter bike? I guess I just need some hard evidence to get me into the buying mood. I think my body weight probably fluxuates plus or minus 5 pounds during the year...but I'm not sure I can really tell the difference as I ride. Is the change clearer when it is in lighter equipment? Are lighter wheels/tires more important than the rest of the rig? I'm sure this has been studied extensively for the competitive cycling industry...I would really appreciate any references. Thanks!
Yes every pound makes a big differencescottfromcali
Jan 3, 2003 10:19 PM
When I was initially shopping for my first road bike I had ridden quite a few different road bikes. C-dales, Trek, Giant, Le Mound, Bianci (spelling?). The Le Mound was a nice bike, came with Ultegra and a steel frame. The ride was smooth but I could tell it was heavy and slow. The LM didnt accel as well as my Giant TCR Aero. I had the shop wiegh the LM to find it was 20.1 lbs. My TCR wiehgs in at 18.5 with a 105 Group and accel's much better. Stomping on the pedels on the LM made little difference, while cracking on the TCR offers instant acceleration. Just my 0.02 cents.
Yes every pound makes a big difference... Not!Americano
Jan 4, 2003 8:38 PM
I don't really agree with this. I ride a lot, about 4000 miles in 2002. The difference two pounds make in my opinion is practically nothing. I just don't feel any difference in the performance of my bike from when I have 2 water bottles full of water, and when they are both empty. Also, when I have my bike loaded up with a water bottle battery, and headlight, with another full bottle of water, I really don't feel that there is any appreciable difference in how the bike accelerates.

I've ridden a steel lemond back to back with an airplane tubed AL bike that was 1.5 to 2 lbs lighter. While I could tell the differences in the bikes stiffness, and road vibration transmission, I didn't see this huge increase in acceleration.

Now you were asking about 7lbs difference, I would imagine that you probably feel a difference there. 7 lbs is a lot.
re: Practical importance of bike weight (kinda' long...)aliensporebomb
Jan 3, 2003 11:08 PM
My old road bike weighed 27 pounds without bottles or
any other gear attached to it. With bottles, bottle
cage, computer, lighting gear, etc. it was close to 38.

When I got my Giant TCR2 this past July, the shop weighed
it and it was just a hair over 18 pounds, I believe 18.3
or 4.

The thing was a freaking ROCKET SHIP in comparison. The
gears and brakes were full 105 but worked so smoothly in
comparison to the over ten year old stuff I'd been using
before it was unreal.

Believe me, you'll want to ride even more too.

Try something out. Just for fun.
re: Practical importance of bike weight (kinda' long...)aliensporebomb
Jan 3, 2003 11:09 PM
My old road bike weighed 27 pounds without bottles or
any other gear attached to it. With bottles, bottle
cage, computer, lighting gear, etc. it was close to 30.

When I got my Giant TCR2 this past July, the shop weighed
it and it was just a hair over 18 pounds, I believe 18.3
or 4.

The thing was a freaking ROCKET SHIP in comparison. The
gears and brakes were full 105 but worked so smoothly in
comparison to the over ten year old stuff I'd been using
before it was unreal.

Believe me, you'll want to ride even more too.

Try something out. Just for fun.
re: Practical importance of bike weight (kinda' long...)morkm
Jan 4, 2003 12:22 AM
Here's the best example I can give you for weight difference. I ride a bike at work. An old Raleigh with a rack and a rear bag, headlight, battery pack for headlight and a water bottle. The bike easily pushes 35+ pounds. While riding the bike, i wear around 30 pounds of equipment. The bike is also around 5 years old. The difference between my work bike and my personal bike (which weights around 20 pounds with seat bag/bottle/cages...okay, maybe more like 25 with full water bottles) is AMAZING.

I know your question was more along the lines of 5-10 pounds making a difference, and I'm talking about a LOT more of a weight difference, but I know you will feel a HUGE difference between a new bike and your older bike.

Like a previous post suggested, go to a good shop dressed to ride and see if they can't give you a real (30 minutes to an hour, minimum) test ride on a new bike. The lighter weight of the frame and especially the wheels, will amaze you....Just my opinion.
re: Practical importance of bike weight (kinda' long...)Jowan
Jan 4, 2003 2:23 AM
From my own experiences I can say that the acceleration ( partly contributed to the frame material)of a light bike is much better compared to a 'heavy' bike, and that lesser weight can be a big advantage on (long)climbs. However, once on speed, the difference is much less noticable. So, if you not a racer, and you dont need the acceleration to keep up with your buddy's and most of your riding is on flat roads, you don't necesarely need a lighter bike.

But there is something to say for a new bike. Over the past years bike technology has made a big improvement. The new gruppo's and (frame)material's used will give a different 'feel' of the bike compared to your old bike. You'll probably get a better handling, crisper shifting, more gear ratio's which enables you to find the right cadance, and might be more stable on high speeds. When I got a new bike, compared to my old one it seemed to 'glide' more fluently over the road.

Just make an appointment with your LBS to try out one of the newer bikes and see how it compares to your own. If its better, buy it, if not, keep riding your own.

re: Practical importance of bike weight (kinda' long...)Juanmoretime
Jan 4, 2003 4:38 AM
Technology has come a long way in thirty years. Geometry, frame and component materials, brakes, shifting, wheels and bearing material. As everyone else has suggested. Take a test ride and judge for yourself. After you do, I think you will be in the buying mode.
re: Practical importance of bike weight (kinda' long...)geeker
Jan 4, 2003 5:59 AM
If you're purely interested in weight difference (as opposed to differences due to a new, smoother-functioning gruppo, etc), you can run numbers at

Effect on climbing is less than you might think, and practically nothing on the flats. You still ought to try out a new rig if you're thinking about it, though.
Sprung vs. unsprung weightSlip Stream
Jan 4, 2003 6:51 AM
A mechanical engineer would be able to explain sprung vs. unsprung weight better than this attempt. But, I'll try any way and thank all who correct me. The question of weight is better phrased on how the weight is distributted. Light rims will make a bike feel lighter than a light frame with heavy rims. Rims are unsprung weight. The frame is somewhat sprung because of give in the spokes. So many mtb'ers use camel backs becuase it shifts the water from the unsprung rig to the sprung rider.

I hope this helps start a discussion by some one who can explain it better than me.
No such thing as sprung or unsprung weight on a road bike...IAmtnbikr
Jan 4, 2003 8:35 AM
sprung weight on a car or suspension bike (be it front or dual) is the weight of the frame, etc. and the portion of the suspension device that is not moved with the unsprung parts, which would be the wheels, rearend housing, etc. A road bike with no suspension is all "unsprung" since there is no suspension to use.
Don't know that I agree with that.frankamo
Jan 4, 2003 1:56 PM
The front fork acts as a suspension of sorts by flexing. I would imagine that the heavier the front wheel, the more the fork would flex, and the more vibrations transmitted to the rider.
the heavier the front wheel, the more the fork would flex, HUH??scottfromcali
Jan 4, 2003 4:12 PM
I dont think so, heavy wheels do not flex. Am Classices 350's are one of the lightest wheel sets I've seen (non carbon that is) and they are only reccommended for riders up to 175lbs. Because of their light wieght, they are flexy for even light riders.
Not the wheel flexing, the fork.frankamo
Jan 6, 2003 5:23 AM
The fork is a cantilever - a beam that is fixed and one end (the frame) and the load is attached at the other end (the skewer).

The heavier that the weight of the wheel, tire, tube, etc. the more of a load the fork has to carry. Therefore, the more flexing of the fork and more vibrations carried thru to the frame.

But honestly, I don't think that the weight difference is enough to cause a very noticeable difference in ride quality.
you will notice difference but...DaveG
Jan 4, 2003 7:34 AM
I think you certainly would notice the difference between a 25lb bike an an 18lb one. The question is whether it is going to enhance your enjoyment of cycling. Whenever we get into these weight discussions, the responses usually center around deltas in performance and racing. While you can prove that weight differences do affect climbing and acceleration that doesn't necessarily translate into more enjoyment of cycling for the recreational rider. You already enjoy riding now, right? Once you get the lighter bike, then that becomes the benchmark and the older bike will seem heavy. The excitement of the lighter bike wears off and it still comes back to the riding and not the bike. I would suggest you go to the shop for some test rides, or perhaps borrow a friends lighter bike and draw your own conclusions.
Seems like the most sensible advice.djg
Jan 4, 2003 8:15 AM
I agree that there's no way that you'll fail to notice a difference. I also agree that it's hard to know, in advance, whether this will substantially increase your enjoyment of cycling or not. Bottom line: I agree with the suggestion. Borrow a bike or take out a loaner from the shop that's pitching your "need" for a new bike. Take a newer bike out a couple of times or so, not just once. Try to get a long ride in there somewhere. And see what you think.

There are all kinds of practical benefits to newer bikes. It's not just going lighter--although I like going lighter--it's clipless pedals and better shoes (both better power transfer and, for me, greater comfort over longer distances). It's greater gearing options and moving the shifters from the downtube to the bars/brake levers. Etc. Etc. I really like all these things. I don't want to go back. But do I enjoy cycling more now than when I got my first road racing bike 20 years ago? Dubious. Is it a fundamentally different experience now? Maybe, but I attribute that mostly to the ravages of age, family, and career--I was better on the Reynolds 531 Raliegh than I am now.
Along with that advice,sn69
Jan 4, 2003 8:49 AM
which is very good, I would also suggest you focus on component performance and frame geometry. It might be that you've found a geometry that works perfectly for you and the type of riding that you enjoy. If that's the case, then try bikes that are close and avoid bikes that differ greatly, such as hyper-responsive crit-style bikes. Stick with what works.

The second part of the equation is components. Modern mid- to high-end frames simply don't differ too significantly in weights. A foco steel frame weighs relatively the same as a ti frame, and so on. The components and wheels, however, make an enormous difference. For example, I'm assuming you're using downtube shifters (which are light). Have you ever tried STIs or Ergoshifters? You might love the action, you might hate the ergonomics, etc. Likewise, newer bearings in hubsets and bottom brackets provide smoother action, often giving that "fast" feel. Static weight in components like bars, stems and seatposts can also vary greatly.

Basically, fiddle around, but keep common sense in the equation. I'd recommend also doing some reading by highly regarded members of the industry who have different takes on fit and bike design, specifically Tom Kellogg, Rivendell, and Sachs. Perhaps a retro upgrade of a frame you love is more appropriate--a whole different subject and message board.

Good luck,
do you have clipless pedals?ishmael
Jan 4, 2003 9:32 AM
if not start there...thats probably the cheapest,easiest, and most fun bike improvement....
re: Practical importance of bike weight (really long...)Woof the dog
Jan 4, 2003 10:45 AM
My vision for your bike:

you want a steel frame that is not very expensive or light. No need to go to ultralight modern steel frames that cost a lot. So if you find one used with GOOD STABLE geometry that works for you, buy that. Talk to somebody about fit who is willing to help you, not just make a sale. I'd measure your old frame and see what size/trail, etc. are you looking for in a new bike. I'd plan on spending 3-5 hundred green on that, maybe you could even find a new frame for that kind of money, I don't know. Generally, if the weight of the frame is between 3 and 4.5 pounds, that is great. Anything lighter is not going to be better by much. Aluminum frames are great for racing and are replaceable. It just doesn't make sense to me to buy a 2.2 pound frame to ride around town.

You want custom wheels built on durace or ultegra hubs with revolution spokes and mavic rims (Open Pro rims or cxp33) I would go with 28 front 32 back, but of course it all depends on your weight. The wheels should come around to be in the same range as most wheels you see out there. I'd say if the weight is between 1500 and 1700, you are good. I'd actually say, the more spokes the better if durability is in mind, and they shouldn't add much weight anyway. You want brass nipples, no aluminum. If possible, I would opt for downtube shifters. They work really well for everything else other than racing. I still ride them and love them. YOu don't want light 190gr bars. something around 250 grams or more would be great. I wouldn't get a light stem either, but that depends on your frame, if its for threaded headsets, you'd need a threaded type of stem. Cranks would need to be Ultegra (I am a shimano guy, i guess, so don't know what campy stuff is like), and I would buy them used. Front and rear deraillers must be dura ace. For parts, see or buy used! Chainrings, chain and cassette - use ultegra, buy new. I would get a carbon fork with alloy steerer. There is a whole bunch of them out there. I would also indulge myself in buying expensive but hopefully very light brake calipers just because it doesn't sound like you will need a lot of braking force where you ride. For clipless pedals, get looks or time or speedplay if knees give you trouble. Get a really light seatpost and a good comfortable seat. All of this would make a bike probably around 20 pounds. Anything lighter than 18lb is bound to be more expensive, more specific, and certainly won't last 10 years.

The biggest difference you will see affecting your enjoyment is wheels, so if you'd like to spend some more money, you should hunt down some used zipp or head clinchers (don't know if head even makes clinchers), better if built up with durace hubs. You don't have to ride them all the time either unless its the only wheelset. In my opinion, there aren't that many good proven wheel choices out there. If I wanted real performance, I'd get something carbon, something tubular, something light, and I wouldn't use it often. For everything else I'd ride durace/revo/OP(or some other rim). In the end, its the engine, not the bike.

Check out pictures in the gallery on this site. Maybe after that you will want a real performance machine. hehe.

P.S. I can guarantee that you WILL get frustrated with some of the new technology out there. Sealed hubs will go out of adjustment, light prebuilt wheels will go out of true, That is the price you should be willing to pay for riding light bikes. In my opinion they do require a little bit more maintenance, and its definitely annoying.

It especially sucks to have f*cked up a light bike in a crash. Ah yeah, rip that 140 gram Selle Italia open! Grind down your speedplay to nothing, beak off that IRreplaceable derailler hanger, grind the hell out of that light titanium skewer! Thats right, break off your 190 gram carbon bars and better yet, crack that TCR every year and wait 2 months for a replacement to come in. Its o
I think you're at a crossroads . . .micha
Jan 4, 2003 11:43 AM
. . . and you're not sure which way to go. I'm guessing at this, but you're probably thinking about the competitve side of cycling more than ever before. Not racing perhaps, but the kind of friendly competition between club riders. Or the competition between your will and the inner voice that keeps telling you to take it easy.

If I'm guessing right here, you should go ahead and take the plunge. Keep the old bike for a while. If you ride the new bike and find you enjoy immensely being a bit faster or stronger than another rider, you can sell your old bike. You may also find out that you like to ride fast one day, but go on a leisurely tour the next. In that case, keep both bikes.

Here's an extreme analogy: I used to row a 30-pound recreational sliding-seat single scull because I liked to be on the water and go fast using my own muscles. A friend of mine also liked to be on the water, but he motored a 120-pound, beat-up aluminum jon boat with swivel seats from which he fished, sitting absolutely still on the water for hours on end. Which was the better boat? Well, my rowing shell was lighter, much prettier, more efficient and much more hight tech (carbon fiber oars!) than the old fishing pram - but was it better boat? No way to answer that.
re: Practical importance of bike weight (kinda' long...)gtx
Jan 4, 2003 12:29 PM
going up--can be significant in a race situation, but mostly for rotating weight.

on the flats--no big diff

going down--no big diff, and I think heavier bikes feel a bit better at speed over rough pavement.

I'd say if it ain't broke (and if you don't race), don't fix it. After 14 years, I'm still happy with my 22 pound tank.
My suggestion after reading your post a few times...Lone Gunman
Jan 4, 2003 4:26 PM
Without a doubt you will notice the difference between a 30 year old frame and something new, frame performance and component performance.

I still ride as a fun retro rider my 1978 Viscount with Shimano 600 parts and 27" tires. The bike is heavy and soaks up road deformities like a caddy. And I can hang with the CF crowd on it, it just takes a bit more effort.

My latest bike is 853 steel and it rides like silk.

My suggestion is that you take a look at some steel frames; 853 or lugged steel like Tommasini. I think you will be happy with the weight reduction, road manners and parts performance. Don't need to go with top of the line stuff, 105 or Ultegra in the Shimano lineup will serve your purpose and you will retain the retro flavor you seem to cling to, with you not wanting to give up the Schwinn cruiser and by staying with old school lugged steel.

Lugged steel frame, Ultegra components, open pro wheelset. But above all get a frame that fits and based upon what you described as your riding style, laid back geometry like Lemond or Tommasini will probably work for you, just be aware of the top tube length differences between mfger's.
The cheap way to get fasterMR_GRUMPY
Jan 4, 2003 4:42 PM
#1 loose 7 pounds
#2 If you are using old heavy wheels, spend $200 on a new set of 32 hole modern wheels
#3 Take the $3000 dollars you saved by not buying a 18 pound bike and take a cycling vacation

The difference between an 18 Lb bike and a 20 Lb bike would all be in your head. If you were an "in form" top Cat 1 racer without any weight to loose, it might cost you 1 place in the the big race of your choise.
On the other hand, you might enjoy a modern $1000 bike with STI over your Supersport, even though it might weigh 21 to 22 Lbs.
1 more cheap shortcut to gain speed: FIXED GEAR riding. -nmTig
Jan 4, 2003 5:32 PM
It dependsLeroy
Jan 4, 2003 5:10 PM
Actually total weight is just one factor. Some bikes "ride light." My 22 lb. univega veloce triple rides light - it feels lighter than it really is. Great feeling; cheapest roadbike I own [and weight-wise it's a pig] and I'm always looking for ways to retire it until I get on it again. Go figure! So if the bike fits, the geo. is right and you like it enough to ride it all the time, why screw around with success? It's fun to get another bike, but don't expect too much from it; it'll just be different, that's all. The main thing is to ride them, unless you're merely a collector.
You'll likely notice no difference...HillRepeater
Jan 4, 2003 6:34 PM
You'll likely notice little to no difference associated with the weight. Weight will have an impact when accelerating and when climbing, but while you're actually just motoring along at a constant pace, it has virtual no impact. Since you have few climbs and aren't racing crits or whatever that would cause to to have lots of pace changes, weight isn't going to be a huge deal.

That said, you probably will notice a big difference in a new bike. As others have said, lots of things have changed since you last bought one. Would the changes be good or bad for you? Only you can answer that.
wheels/tires or the whole enchilada?MLCrisis
Jan 4, 2003 6:46 PM
Thanks to all who have responded...great, thoughtful ideas here! Looks like I'll have to wait until Spring to ride some newer, lighter stuff and draw my own conclusions. Anybody in the Midwest have a nice, light bike (60+ cm) that they want to lend me for a weekend in May? ;-)

My old reliable Sports Tourer is now heavily modified, but still has original wheels (rebuilt with new 27" rims about 10 years ago). I've been thinking about cold setting the frame and going to modern cassette hubs and gearing as an experiment, but haven't had the inclination yet. How much would I notice the change to decent, durable new 700c wheels/tires compared to my old basic 27s?

Also, my "old" (replaced) tires are 27 x 1 1/8" and look a lot wider than modern road bike tires. To get more zip yet preserve durability and a forgiving ride in new 700c equipment, would I be looking at 25 or 28 width tires? Wider yet? Thanks again...
wheels/tires or the whole enchilada?Walter
Jan 5, 2003 6:14 AM
Cold-setting and then upgrading to modern drivetrains is problematic from a $ viewpoint. I ride a retro (Basso w/Campy) and I just ride that bike for what it is, though to be fair I should point out that I have bikes with moern drivetrains as well.

If you're truly attached to that frame go for it anyways. Nashbar has 27 inch wheelsets in their catalog if you want to stay on tht size and have a cassette rear hub. You can also have wheels built. Going to 700C is probably better as it greatly improves your tire selections/options but you need to check your brake reach and make sure they'll work on the new size. Like I said converting from new to old, esp. if the old is 27" always has issues.

If you do switch 25mm tires should ride real well and you'll have no trouble fitting 28s if you want.

I reread your first post and you mentioned filet brazed. Is your bike one of the oder Schwinn "Sports" models that have the 1 piece cranks like Varsitys but were brazed cro-moly frames instead of electro-forged heavy steel? If so that's a cool bike with some collectability but even harder to upgrade.
it's a "Sports Tourer"MLCrisis
Jan 5, 2003 12:39 PM
My old ride has alloy cranks...have upgraded a couple of times over the years. French threaded bottom bracket has limited my choices somewhat. Thanks for your comments and interest.
Retro wheelsets ; my most recent experience....Lone Gunman
Jan 5, 2003 2:42 PM
Last winter I rebuilt an old bike I owned. got the retro restoration bug real bad and wanted to have that bike better than new. I wanted to use 27" rims and I had a great set of shimano 600 32h hubs. I searched the US as best as I could and was not able to locate 32h 27" rims until I finally located a set in Scotland, Wolber Alpines for $70. I bought them and they are in use. I tried every shop I could think of to find rims. 27" rims are more available in 36 holes than 32s. Wanted to stay with 126mm spacing.

Tires were no problem. Continental sells the sport 1000s in 1", 11/8, 11/4". The 1" is very close to 24mm, I run 11/8" on my 27" rims.

Bottom line is you will probably struggle to find rims, they are out there, I think Sun makes a decent 27" alu rim in 36 hole. You won't save much weight if that is your goal, the 27" tires I have seen are heavy.
re: Practical importance of bike weight (kinda' long...)Ian
Jan 5, 2003 1:17 PM
I only read a few of the other posts, so this may have already been said, but, although I believe the weight of the bike is an important factor, you also need to consider the upgraded parts that will come on the bike.

Back to the weight for a moment, if the bike you ride now weighes 25 lbs and you go to an 18 lb bike, you will feel it. That is a 25% reduction. Going from 20 lbs to 18lbs would me more subtle and tougher to notice.

And then factor in the parts, if you are now using downtube shifters, either friction or indexed and go to STI, that will be a big difference. To go from single pivot brakes to dual pivot, better stopping power. From 7 speeds to 9 speeds, more gears which can help make you more efficient.

And of course, what purchases always come down to, discretionary income. Do you have it? And do you want to spend it on cycling?

Happy shopping,
re: Practical importance of bike weight (kinda' long...)fbg111
Jan 5, 2003 1:41 PM
I'm not a very competitive rider...just like riding a comfortable, reliable rig for fresh air and exercise.

In that case, no. Only racers need be concerned with 2 - 5lbs frame weight difference. Don't be a weight weenie if you don't have to.

Is the change clearer when it is in lighter equipment?

Not clearer per se, but it is clear, but only in acceleration and climbing. Riding a steady pace on flat ground, bike weight is not as noticeable. On flat ground >20mph, wind resistance is much more of a factor anyway.

Like somebody above said, go ride some super light race rockets at some LBS's and decide for yourself. If you can't notice a difference worth forking out $1000 - $2000 for, then you've answered your own question.
Yes, I noticed the differenceKenS
Jan 5, 2003 1:42 PM
When I switch back-and-forth between my mid-80's Specialized Hardrock and my new steel bike (853/751 tubing) then, as noted by others above, the new bike feels like a rocket, but a very comfortable rocket. I also ride a newish Electra cruiser, and it feels like the Hardrock. It is not just the age or the weight difference, it is the geometry, the quality of the steel used in the frame, and the quality of the components.

Go to your LBS, explain your riding style, and ask to test ride an appropriate upper-end bike. I bet you can tell the difference. The real pain will be trying to decide which new bike is best for you because there are a variety of very different and excellent bikes available.

Good luck.