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.
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred's full bio.