Unlike motorbikes and vehicles that depend on engines to move, road bikes require human energy to power them on. For this reason, they have to be as light as possible without compromising on their vital aspects like carrying capacity, component strength, and overall speed.
As developments continue in the cycling world, we’re seeing an avalanche of improved road bikes that come with improved features. Every manufacturer is trying to come up with the lightest bike that still possesses all the qualities that make it usable.
This then begs the question, what’s the recommended road bike weight?
We’re going to explore how much a road bike weighs, why it matters, and list some of the ways you can make your bike lighter.
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What Determines the Right Weight for a Road Bike?
The average bike weight lies between 20 pounds to 30 pounds. It’d be wrong to assume that this average difference is the standard poundage for them all because this assumption will be ignoring the factors that determine the weight of a bike. They include the following:
The general purpose of a bike is a critical factor.
A commuting bike weight for group rides won’t be the same as a mountain bike or a racing one. The three have a stark difference in their design and purpose.
A racing bike has to be very light for higher speeds; a mountain bike has to be heavy to deal with the rough terrain on mountains and hills. At the same time, a commuter bicycle can be anything between the two considering how less of a hassle an urban road is.
A steel bike with a frame crafted out of pure stainless steel is one of the heaviest bicycles you may come across. An aluminum bicycle is less heavy, and a carbon fiber one is the lightest of them all.
The reason why all these exist at the same time has a lot to do with economics.
Steel frames are cheap, easily available, and durable. Aluminum frames are a little costlier and lighter.
Carbon fiber frames are the lightest but the most expensive—the reason why you don’t see them very often.
The difference in wheel sizes impacts the poundage of the bike. Lightweight bikes will have wheels that weigh less than a pound, while heavy fat-tire bikes will have a set of wheels that are close to 3 pounds.
Another thing worth considering is tubeless tires. They have fewer materials going on for them, and this reduces the weight to some extent.
Not any type of bicycle can handle any type of terrain; you may try, but the experience won’t be that good. A commuter bike, for instance, will probably break down if you used it as a mountain bike as it isn’t heavy enough to deal with the bumps, rough roads, and punitive conditions.
A heavy fat-tire bike, on the other hand, will find using the smooth urban surfaces a bit of a challenge, and the rider may experience problems with handling and judging speeds as they are used to roads with lots of obstacles.
This is the reason why mountain bikes are heavier. They require more than one bicycle part to deal with challenging terrain.
Why Does the Weight of a Road Bike Matter?
When people walk into a bike shop to buy something, there are many different things that they have to consider before flashing their wads of cash. It has to be the right fit, has to have the right parts and accessories, has to have good bike performance, and most importantly, it has to be of the right weight.
Why should cycling enthusiasts care so much about the weight of the bike? The following are the reasons why weight does really matter.
Believe it or not, sports cycling is governed by a myriad of rules that are dictated by the Union Cycliste Internationale. These weight limit rules aren’t for show; they’ve been put in place to oversee all cycling sport events to grade riders, just like how they do in boxing.
You can’t pit a lightweight boxer against a heavyweight one; that’s too much of a weight difference.
According to the UCI, how a bike weighs determines its qualification. The bike may not be less than 15 pounds, a rule that was created in 2000 to stop manufacturers from cleverly making super-light bikes that weren’t structurally safe for the riders.
Therefore, if you thought road racers and triathletes could stroll into any event with any bike they want, then you’ve been wrong all along.
It’s easy to conclude that lighter bikes are faster than heavy ones, and to some extent, you’d be right. But all that’s subject to other factors, namely the weather, the terrain, and the weight of the rider.
Whether it’s a single-speed, 10-speed, or 21-speed bike, when cycling against the wind, a heavy bike will have an advantage as it’ll be forcing itself through it using part of the weight, something that a lighter bike would have trouble with as it’ll be pushed back easily.
The same applies to rough terrain; heavy bikes will squash little pebbles underneath and move on as nothing happened. A lighter bike will keep bouncing off these, affecting the overall speed.
The only place a lighter bike will have an advantage would be on a calm day down a smooth road.
In the cycling world, this is called the watts and refers to the amount of energy you spend to move fast on a bike.
When an athlete is heavier, they’ll require more energy to power the bicycle gear and move forward, especially on climbs. When you add a hefty bike to the equation, the energy you need to pedal increases exponentially.
Switching to a lighter bike won’t solve the problem entirely because that’ll again present another problem where the bike doesn’t move as it should. After all, it’s way below your weight class.
The bike becomes harder to handle the heavier it gets. When speeding up, for example, most riders tend to stand on their bikes, and in the process, the bike starts to sway from side to side as it picks up speed.
This swaying takes a lot more energy for a heavy bike as you would be struggling to pull it back up every time. This leaves little energy for powering it forward, and you end up tired from doing much less.
Lighter bikes, on the other hand, are easier to handle and will move much faster, especially when the rider is also within the bike’s weight capacity.
A lightweight bike doesn’t come cheap at all. You get fancier and well-designed bikes the higher you go on the price scale.
When you have a limited budget, you’ll be forced to use a much heavier bike that isn’t as streamlined to your needs as it should. A cheap bike frame tends to be heavier and clunkier, most likely made out of heavy steel, while its expensive counterpart would have a carbon fiber frame.
The average weight of a $500 bike is about 25 pounds; as you climb higher, that figure starts decreasing to a total weight of 18 pounds for $2,000, a 15-pound bike for $5,000, and finally averaging 10 pounds for a $16,000 bike.
5 Tips to Reduce Bike Weight
There are many ways you can use to get the most out of your bike, and since buying a $16,000 10-pound bike is out of the question for most people, making what you have lighter with upgrades is the less expensive option.
Here’s how you can go about the weight reduction.
1. Go carbon
The frame, the handlebars, the seat post, the saddle, the stem—switch out every metallic part with carbon fiber. It may cost a considerable amount of money, but the lightness at the end of it will be worth it.
2. Go paint-free
This may sound like an insignificant idea, but you’ll be freeing your bike off 200g worth of paint, something that you can totally do without.
3. Choose lightweight tires
Upgrading your tires to lighter ones is one of the most effective methods of shedding unnecessary pounds off your bike.
Most kit tires you get on purchasing your bike aren’t the ideal size, as most bike manufacturers use heavy tires to offset the final price of the bike.
4. Go for tubeless tires
To further cut down on the overall weight, use tubeless tires.
Conventional tubed tires have an extra layer of rubber on the inside that combines with the protective outer one. This adds unnecessary bicycle weight.
5. Cut down the accessories
Rear racks, holders for water bottles, handlebar extensions, all these are things that make it easier for you to ride, but they do add more poundage to your bike. If you can do without them, the better your weight savings.
The Bottom Line
The details of how much a new bike weighs are crucial. A normal bicycle should never go past the 25-pound weight range; the lighter it is, the better the experience.
However, it takes a keen eye to notice all these differences.
Not everyone takes on cycling for sports or serious riding, and most do it for leisure and training. Therefore, they don’t use the bikes quite often.
If you’re an avid bike user, then going light becomes something of an obsession. However, in your pursuit of the ultimate light weight bike, caution has to be exercised to avoid stripping a bike way too much to the point it becomes unsafe.
Also, stripping your bike off unnecessary accessories like a water bottle holder and replacing metallic parts with carbon won’t do you much good if you weigh like a Sumo wrestler.
You have to factor in your body weight too and get a bike that fits for optimal cycling performance. Consider enrolling in a weight loss program and keeping your body weight within those limits.