Question: I’m a first-year racer and bought my current bike a year ago from a friend for $400. It weighs 22 pounds and has a triple crankset. To lighten my bike, where would I get the best bang for my buck: wheels, fork, frame or drivetrain? Or do I need to bite the bullet and invest in a whole new bike? — Scott P.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: 20 years ago, we thought that a 22-pound bike was light and anything under 20 pounds was so gossamer as to be scary. Now the standard has changed so much that 14-18 pounds is the norm for high-quality road bikes, and the lower weight limit keeps dropping.
An extra 3-4 pounds won’t penalize you much on flat courses, but on long climbs you’ll lose about 2 seconds per mile for each extra pound of bike (or body) weight. That’s not a lot if you’re on a group ride or out training by yourself, but it could put you off the back in races.
The most cost-efficient way to get a significantly lighter bike would be to buy a new one. This way, you can get a lighter frame, a carbon fork with a carbon steerer tube, lighter wheels and higher-end (and therefore lighter) components.
If you keep your current frame but replace the triple crankset with a double and buy lighter wheels, it will make a difference you can feel. After that, replacing components would pare more weight. But when you finished, the bike still wouldn’t be superlight because of the frame, and you’d have spent a large portion of the price of a whole new bike.
Another advantage of buying a new bike is that your old one can become your winter bike for training on wet, gritty roads. For this type of riding, a little extra weight isn’t a problem. Some riders even like lugging extra poundage up hills, believing it makes them stronger.