[This article was last updated on December 11, 2017]
Everyone likes a light bike, but nobody likes spending money unnecessarily. Choose carefully and you can shed a couple of pounds — or more — from your bike without breaking the bank.
For many of us, tweaking and upgrading your bike is part of the fun of cycling, and ending up with a lighter bike is a common aim. Very very ight components are expensive, but the good news is that if you're starting out with a typical £1,000 bike, there's plenty of scope for saving weight without spending a fortune.
This is one of the most popular upgrades because the stock wheels on many bikes aren’t great and often weigh between 1,850g and 2,150g. A change of wheels to something lighter and better-built can make a substantial difference to your bike’s feel and overall weight.
For just £360, we like the look of Novatec's Jetfly wheels at 1,455g. We've tested and liked the company's CXD disc brake wheels so we'd expect good things of these too. You can spend a lot more than this without saving any more weight; if you're determined to spend big on wheels, get some with aero rims.
It’s very hard to go past Continental Grand Prix 4000s II tyres for their combination of weight, rolling resistance and reliability. There are lighter tyres, and ones that roll slightly faster, but they all sacrifice puncture resistance, so they’re not really suitable for general use.
That said, if all that matters is weight and you’re doing, say, a time trial on very clean roads, then Continental’s smooth-treaded 150g Supersonics are the way to go.
Inner tubes are a surprisingly cost-effective place to save weight. That’s because even the lightest tubes are relatively cheap compared to saving weight by replacing a major component like the saddle or your wheels.
Your three best choices are £10 Continental Supersonic tubes at 50g each, 65g Schwalbe Extra Light tubes at a fiver each and 80g Vittoria Ultralite tubes which can be had for a mere £3.49; ideal for a cheapskate weightweenie.
If you want to lose weight on a budget it’s very hard to go past Wiggle’s Cosine line of saddles. The titanium rail version of the Cosine Road weighs a very reasonable 226g, and is currently on offer for just under 16 quid.
If Pro Bike Gear seats fit your bum, then the carbon-railed verson of the Pro Griffon Saddle Carbon, currently on offer for just £73.48, is a bargain at a claimed 155g. To go any lighter, you're looking at hefty three figure price tags, like the Selle San Marco Mantra Superleggera that weighs 112g, but costs a wallet-clenching £290.
Bargain lightweight seatposts are rare, but they do exist. For 80 quid, Selcof's Delta HM seatpost is decently light at a claimed 210g thanks to its carbon monocoque construction. It's available in 350mm length and 31.6 or 27.2mm widths.
If you need a different size, then your best choice at the moment is the good old Thomson Elite, which will set you back about £60-£70 and weighs around 230g in a 330mm length.
Saving a substantial amount of weight here is expensive. You have to go carbon fibre to lop more than 100g off the typical 325g and you quickly get into diminishing returns.
At 248g (42cm width), the Deda Zero100 RHM bar is made from high-strength 7075 aluminium alloy and costs around £60. It features a shallow drop and Deda's Rapid Hand Movement bend shape that's claimed to make it easier to shift your position.
You might guess there's not much weight to be saved in a small part like the stem, and you'd be right. A typical £1,000 bike comes with a reasonable forged stem that weighs about 140-150g in a 110mm length. The lightest 110mm stems — such as the £53.59 Ritchey WCS 260 — are about 110g, so you pay a lot to save a few grams. Worth it if you have to buy a stem to change your position, otherwise, probably not.
In the same area of the bike, FSA polycarbonate headset spacers weigh just 1g each in 5mm thickness and cost £6 for a pack of ten. Bargain!
Nuts and bolts
It's tempting to try and shed a few grams by replacing steel bolts in places like stem clamps with titanium or aluminium bolts. We have just one word of advice: don't.
High-strength aluminium and titanium alloys are great in parts designed around their properties, but you can't just swap materials without changing the design. If you replace the high-strength steel in a bolt with aluminium or titanium, the resulting bolt won't be as strong or durable. If a bolt fails in a handlebar stem, you'll be lucky to get away with a large dentist's bill for tooth repair after the stem lets go of the bar. I'll leave to your imagination the consequences of the failure of a seatposts's saddle clamp bolt.
You can get away with lightweight bolts in a few places, where the load is small and doesn't involve the cyclic changes that cause fatigue: waterbottle bosses; derailleur cable clamp bolts; and headset tension bolts. Otherwise, again: don't do it.
Adding it all up
For fans of tables, here are the cheaper options in the significant components we've mentioned. The total weight loss is just over a kilogram, and could be increased by spending just a few quid more on tubes. For each replacement component we've listed the Hairsine ratio – the grams saved per pound cost. This gives an indication of value for money from the ‘lighten your bike’ perspective.
|Stock Weight (g)||Replacement Weight (g)||Saving (g)||Price||Hairsine Ratio (g/£)|
|Tyres||Continental GP4000s II 23mm||540||410||130||£60.00||2.17|
|Saddle||Cosine Ti Road||300||226||74||£15.99||4.63|
|Seatpost||Selcof carbon BZ8||300||210||90||£80.00||1.13|
|Bar||Deda Zero100 RHM||325||248||77||£60.00||1.28|
|Cage bolts||Pro-Bolt aluminium||16||5||11||£3.64||3.02|
Footnote: As many people have pointed out in the comments, you're much better off laying off the pies and riding more. But lots of people (myself included) enjoy messing about with and upgrading their bikes, and spending money is much more fun than discipline and self-denial.
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.