Weight, it’s a heavy issue – Part 2

Weight, it’s a heavy issue – Part 2

In Part 1 we talked about the weight of bikes and the potential weaknesses that may exist in super-light carbon fibre race frames. Here we’ll look at where weight can be saved on a bike.

If you do really want a light bike though, is a super-light frame the best option when we add in the considerations of strength and durability? Even if your goal is a bike very near the UCI limit of 6.8Kg, provided you’re not at the top end of the size scale riding a 61cm or XL frame, that should be easily achievable.

Take this Time Skylon Aktiv (in the picture above). Time will never build the lightest bikes around because of their method of construction. It’s incredibly strong and durable consisting of bespoke woven carbon fibre tubes. It rides like a dream but does sacrifice a couple of hundred grams over the lightest frames out there. This is an XL frame. It’s their aero model, so everything is stacked against making it light. And yet fully built it’s 7.21kg with 55mm deep section aero wheels, standard chromoly Speedplay pedals (with longer spindles) and bottle cages. It’s hardly a porker. So how is it so light, even for a 6’4” Clydesdale like me? Well, the light-weight has been created by components rather than frame.

Yes, components do make that much of a difference! Compare this to a ride buddy with a Canyon Ultimate CF SLX in XS size – the complete opposite end of the size spectrum. It’s also the lightest bike Canyon make, coming in at a claimed 790g frame weight. Everyone that has seen it and picked it up has commented on how light it is. And yet, weighed back-to-back with my Skylon, the weight difference fully built is 110g. Why is that? Quite simply the difference in groupset…. I run SRAM Red with a Rotor 3D+ chainset vs him running Shimano Ultegra. His frame is clearly lighter, probably by 400-500g, but Ultegra is about that much heavier than SRAM Red, so the all up bike weight is nearly the same. Yes, it surprised me too (and meant I had no excuse for being slower up hills than him!)

Furthermore, frame weight is mostly irrelevant too. It’s a well-known fact that wheel rim weight (rotational weight) is more important in terms of effort and speed. If you can save some rotation weight, it will have a much greater effect on how much effort you have to put in and how easy the bike is to accelerate. So why spend so much money on getting the lightest frame possible?

When you next come to upgrade your steed, maybe consider not going for the lightest frame you can – pick a good frame that’s well built. It may be 200g heavier than the ‘super bling’ model, but will last you longer and be more durable. It’ll also save you a big heap of money that you can then put into wheels or groupset (or both!) and so still achieve a very light bike.

A final thought to leave you with – how many ‘retro’ bikes from the ‘70s and ‘80s are still rolling around quite happily? Now, how many of today’s super-light race whips do you think will still be rolling in 20 or 30 years time? My guess is not so many…

Disclaimer: The opinions above are the author’s own. They may or may not represent the opinions of Ten-Point as a company.