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Weight loss secrets of the (cheapskate) stars

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. 

Wheels

novatec-jetfly-wheelset-new.jpg

novatec-jetfly-wheelset-new.jpg

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.

Tyres

Continental-4000S-II-Road-Tyre-Road-Race-Tyres-Black-Black-CONTI-0100935.jpg

Continental-4000S-II-Road-Tyre-Road-Race-Tyres-Black-Black-CONTI-0100935.jpg

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.

Tubes

conti-tube-supersonic-race28 (1).jpg

conti-tube-supersonic-race28 (1).jpg

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 £11 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; ideal for a cheapskate weightweenie.

Saddle

5360108317-Blk_White-03.jpg

5360108317-Blk_White-03.jpg

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 224g, and is curently on offer for just over ten 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 £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 £285.

Read more: Buyer's guide to performance saddles.

Seat post

Selcof monocoque carbon post.jpg

Selcof monocoque carbon post.jpg

Bargain lightweight seatposts are rare, but they do exist. For 40 quid, Selcof's carbon MC03 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, though, so if you have a lot of seatpost showing it might not be long enough.

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 £50 and weighs around 230g in a 330mm length.

Handlebar

Zero100-RHM_black.jpg

Zero100-RHM_black.jpg

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 £50. It features a shallow drop and Deda's Rapid Hand Movement bend shape that's claimed to make it easier to shift your position.

Stem

wcs-c260-blatte-stem_1.jpg

wcs-c260-blatte-stem_1.jpg

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 £61.49 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

Purple aluminium bolts.jpg

Purple aluminium bolts.jpg

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/£)
Wheels Novatec Jetfly 2,000 1,455 545 £360.00 1.51
Tyres Continental GP4000s II 23mm 540 410 130 £58.00 2.24
Tubes Vittoria Ultralite 220 160 60 £6.00 10.00
Saddle Cosine Ti Road 300 226 74 £10.05 7.36
Seatpost Selcof carbon BZ8 300 210 90 £40.00 2.25
Bar 3T Ergosum Pro 325 248 77 £50.00 1.54
Spacers FSA polycarbonate 20 4 16 £5.99 2.67
Cage bolts Pro-Bolt aluminium 16 5 11 £3.64 3.02
Totals       1,003 £533.68 1.88

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.

45 comments

Avatar
Geraldaut [24 posts] 1 year ago
9 likes

What about the motor?

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bibdanmerry [25 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

great piece similar to that Cycling plus did a few years ago but with the welcome addition of the all important Hairsine ratio 

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Simon E [3018 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

Could you save a 1 KG by spending the £500 on a lighter model?

Some figures I rustled up a couple of years ago using a £/g calculation.

  • inner tubes: Conti Race Light 28 (100-110g) to Michelin Aircomp Ultralight (75g) 8p/g. To Conti Supersonic 5p/g
  • skewers: Shimano (125g) to PX Ti (45g). 22p/g
  • wheels: RS10 (1848g) to RS80 (1590g), 81p/g
  • 10 speed cassettes: 105 to Ultegra 32p/g, to Dura Ace £1.54/g
  • pedals: 105 to Dura Ace £3.18/g
  • shoes: Specialized BG Sport Road to Expert £1.54/g, S-Works 79p/g

Apart from tubes, tyres and skewers most seem overly expensive to me. Diminishing returns.

Avatar
stefv [215 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Remember, for wheels, tyres and tubes, you get a better improvement per kg saved, as the kinetic energy is K = Kcm + Krot , rather than just Kcm.

Avatar
wycombewheeler [1068 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes
stefv wrote:

Remember, for wheels, tyres and tubes, you get a better improvement per kg saved, as the kinetic energy is K = Kcm + Krot , rather than just Kcm.

only relevant while accelerating, for cycle couriers in the city centre probably a big thing, for the rest of us, not so much. Once you are cruising at a steady speed rotational weight is irrelevant.

Avatar
peted76 [605 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes
wycombewheeler wrote:
stefv wrote:

Remember, for wheels, tyres and tubes, you get a better improvement per kg saved, as the kinetic energy is K = Kcm + Krot , rather than just Kcm.

only relevant while accelerating, for cycle couriers in the city centre probably a big thing, for the rest of us, not so much. Once you are cruising at a steady speed rotational weight is irrelevant.

Of course you have to maintain that speed also not just get up to it, so not 'irrelevant' as such... just saying. 

 

Avatar
wycombewheeler [1068 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes
peted76 wrote:
wycombewheeler wrote:
stefv wrote:

Remember, for wheels, tyres and tubes, you get a better improvement per kg saved, as the kinetic energy is K = Kcm + Krot , rather than just Kcm.

only relevant while accelerating, for cycle couriers in the city centre probably a big thing, for the rest of us, not so much. Once you are cruising at a steady speed rotational weight is irrelevant.

Of course you have to maintain that speed also not just get up to it, so not 'irrelevant' as such... just saying. 

 

 

maintaining speed only requires overcoming of friction, you do not need to create momentum again. in fact additional rotating weight can help maintain momentum, as the heavier rotating wheel will have to dissipate more energy somewhere to slow down.

have you never heard of flywheels?

Avatar
dafyddp [428 posts] 1 year ago
10 likes

@SimonE rightly mentioned the other bits like shoes and especially pedals (surely part of the bike). The cheapest way to save a kilo though just involves eating a bit less and cycling a bit more.

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BBB [452 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

Unless you live in the mountains or among big hills ditch the front mech, second chainring, left shifter internals and the cable...smiley

 

Avatar
wycombewheeler [1068 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
BBB wrote:

Unless you live in the mountains or among big hills ditch the front mech, second chainring, left shifter internals and the cable...smiley

 

 

ride fixed, no shifters, no mechs, one brake lever. one caliper.  got to be lighter.

Avatar
MrB123 [55 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
BBB wrote:

Unless you live in the mountains or among big hills ditch the front mech, second chainring, left shifter internals and the cable...smiley

 

 

Then again, if you live somewhere flat then you're probably not so bothered about saving a few grams anyway...

Avatar
BBB [452 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
MrB123 wrote:
BBB wrote:

Unless you live in the mountains or among big hills ditch the front mech, second chainring, left shifter internals and the cable...smiley

 

 

Then again, if you live somewhere flat then you're probably not so bothered about saving a few grams anyway...

It's good pont actually, although I don't know many places which would be completely flat.

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Grahamd [453 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

Ditch the second water bottle.

Avatar
Simon E [3018 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

All this talk of saving weight off the bike is good for websites hits and for the marketing bods but really it's just a distraction.

The weight of a front mech, a second chainring or your shoes makes f..k all difference in the real world. Unless you take your racing (and nutrition) seriously then spending a wodge to save 500g off your bike is an indulgence, a bit of fun and of no consequence.

If you want to do it that's perfectly fine of course but if you think it's going to help you ride faster when you get to an uphill section then you're living in cloud cuckoo land.

Avatar
BBB [452 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes
Simon E wrote:

All this talk of saving weight off the bike is good for websites hits and for the marketing bods but really it's just a distraction.

The weight of a front mech, a second chainring or your shoes makes f..k all difference in the real world. Unless you take your racing (and nutrition) seriously then spending a wodge to save 500g off your bike is an indulgence, a bit of fun and of no consequence.

If you want to do it that's perfectly fine of course but if you think it's going to help you ride faster when you get to an uphill section then you're living in cloud cuckoo land.

As an owner of a recently built half retro all steel Sun best bike I totally agree especially seeing all the overweight cyclists coming out only when the temperatures rise above 12 C and the sky is clear  1 There's no better therapy for weight-weenie syndrome than riding a lot.

Also I believe that cycling mags and websites should really debunk the idiotic myth of rotating mass ... The science and even wheel/tyre manufacturers are very clear about it. Yes the effect exists but it's so tiny comparing to the mass of the whole system that it makes **** all difference for people who don't fight for the place on a podium.

Lighter or not, a single (narrow-wide) ring is lovely btw. Looks pretty and it's simple to clean;-)

 

Avatar
Jamminatrix [157 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

Pretty sure the cheapest way to lose the most weight is skip the cake and pie... Drop five pounds off your belly and that's the equivalent of around couple thousand euros to get that kind of weight savings from the bike (assuming you own a mid-level bike already).

wycombewheeler wrote:

maintaining speed only requires overcoming of friction, you do not need to create momentum again. in fact additional rotating weight can help maintain momentum, as the heavier rotating wheel will have to dissipate more energy somewhere to slow down.

have you never heard of flywheels?

Nailed it.

It's amazing how people still think/believe lighter wheels are better for everything, in *every* situation. Just shows how much marketing propaganda has been engrained into people by manufacturers, that lighter is always better. Aero trumps weight when consistent speed is maintained. Why else do pros add few hundred grams to their wheels to run deep section rims?

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muppetteer [91 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
Jamminatrix wrote:

Why else do pros add few hundred grams to their wheels to run deep section rims?

 

I think the pro's bikes are already under the legal UCI weight as standard, thus they opt for heavier components in some places to get them up to race weight. As a consumer you can walk into a decent bike shop and buy something below the 6.8kg weight limit. And for serious cash you can get a bike under 5kg off the shelf. 

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Fish_n_Chips [512 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes

Nice article.  Think I'll drop 10kg by going on a diet first.  Then that carbon post is on my shopping list.

 

yes

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cyclisto [192 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

Heavy wheels though have some good stuff too. They will not need any trueing even when going off-road or crash and they enhance balance thanks to the gyroscopic effect

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Vejnemojnen [239 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

many people overlook finish kit when trying to shred weight, but it is a mistake imho.

good lightweight alloy bars with a nice curvature (latter is paramount! that is why i love deda zero100 and ritchey wcs classic curve..) : a sub-260grams alloy bar has quite significant flex and compliance as compared to stock 333 gram bars, which can punish the wrists and palms far too much.  1

 

chinese carbon seatpost with 25mm setback: good for regular road-graver riding for riders up to 110 kgs, and they flex quite a bit, and even good at reducing high frequency road vibrations from imperfections of the asphalt.

 

kalloy uno stem from ebay: go figure. looks stealthy with graphics removed, and you can easily adjust the bike fit to your likings due to their range of length and 6-7-17 degree variants.

 

tyres-tubes are very important: a good set of tyres will improve ride quality better than anything else out there.

Avatar
DaveE128 [857 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

This all reminds me of the paper equivalent of click bait that I seem to recall MBUK ran back in the nineties. Front page headline: how to save half a pound without spending a penny. Answer inside: take a dump before going out for a ride. Strictly I suppose this does require spending a penny.  3

On a more serious note, it's worth bearing in mind the old "light, strong, cheap: choose two." I think this is usually attributed to Keith Bontrager. There are occasionally exceptions but I'd want to see them well proven before I used them.

I'd also remind people who are thinking of Ti skewers that not everyone thinks they are a great idea : Do your research first.

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lushmiester [195 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Lest we forget the engine! resently compared myself to another cyclist on a local climb I was burning 84 watts more for the same time. Assuming he/she was not motorised and weather conditions matched, then the best explanation is my wieght. In this scenario less weight cost less money so it's a win win.

And yes I'm over weight so other health benefits arcrue.

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Leviathan [2549 posts] 1 year ago
8 likes

Don't forget to clean your bike, dirt is heavy.

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darrenleroy [217 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
Simon E wrote:

All this talk of saving weight off the bike is good for websites hits and for the marketing bods but really it's just a distraction.

The weight of a front mech, a second chainring or your shoes makes f..k all difference in the real world. Unless you take your racing (and nutrition) seriously then spending a wodge to save 500g off your bike is an indulgence, a bit of fun and of no consequence.

If you want to do it that's perfectly fine of course but if you think it's going to help you ride faster when you get to an uphill section then you're living in cloud cuckoo land.

 

But it's in our DNA to try to improve our chances of killing our prey through marginal gains in our weaponry.

Avatar
NOC40 [37 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
wycombewheeler wrote:
stefv wrote:

Remember, for wheels, tyres and tubes, you get a better improvement per kg saved, as the kinetic energy is K = Kcm + Krot , rather than just Kcm.

only relevant while accelerating, for cycle couriers in the city centre probably a big thing, for the rest of us, not so much. Once you are cruising at a steady speed rotational weight is irrelevant.

actually Stefv is right. think about how much effort you'd need to accelerate the wheels of the bike if they weren't spinning (here the weight saving is the same as for any other component). now you ALSO have to get them spinning. hence K = Kcm + Krot. rotating weight counts twice

Avatar
cyclesteffer [258 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Heres a very decent carbon seatpost you could also include. Available in 400mm and a range of sizes. RSP (Raleigh special products) branded. I've been running it for a few weeks and it is lovely. Nice carbon weave and really comfy too. http://www.tredz.co.uk/.RSP-Elite-Carbon-Seatpost_50752.htm?sku=136830&u...

Avatar
BBB [452 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
NOC40 wrote:
wycombewheeler wrote:
stefv wrote:

Remember, for wheels, tyres and tubes, you get a better improvement per kg saved, as the kinetic energy is K = Kcm + Krot , rather than just Kcm.

only relevant while accelerating, for cycle couriers in the city centre probably a big thing, for the rest of us, not so much. Once you are cruising at a steady speed rotational weight is irrelevant.

actually Stefv is right. think about how much effort you'd need to accelerate the wheels of the bike if they weren't spinning (here the weight saving is the same as for any other component). now you ALSO have to get them spinning. hence K = Kcm + Krot. rotating weight counts twice

Oh dear...

1. Put your bike in a stand or upside down and spin your wheel(s) by hand up to certain speed.

2. Put your mate on a bike and push him quickly until the whole bike with him on board achieves the same speed in the same amount of time as in the previous part of the experiment.

Can you feel the difference in required effort? I'd say it will be of a completely different magnitude of forces.

It's been done to death many times before on forums and by people in the industry. Lighter wheels/tyres make **** all difference in ACTUAL (not perceived) performance comparing to "static" components, even when climbing. The forces are simply too low.

Avatar
joules1975 [454 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
BBB wrote:
NOC40 wrote:
wycombewheeler wrote:
stefv wrote:

Remember, for wheels, tyres and tubes, you get a better improvement per kg saved, as the kinetic energy is K = Kcm + Krot , rather than just Kcm.

only relevant while accelerating, for cycle couriers in the city centre probably a big thing, for the rest of us, not so much. Once you are cruising at a steady speed rotational weight is irrelevant.

actually Stefv is right. think about how much effort you'd need to accelerate the wheels of the bike if they weren't spinning (here the weight saving is the same as for any other component). now you ALSO have to get them spinning. hence K = Kcm + Krot. rotating weight counts twice

Oh dear...

1. Put your bike in a stand or upside down and spin your wheel(s) by hand up to certain speed.

2. Put your mate on a bike and push him quickly until the whole bike with him on board achieves the same speed in the same amount of time as in the previous part of the experiment.

Can you feel the difference in required effort? I'd say it will be of a completely different magnitude of forces.

It's been done to death many times before on forums and by people in the industry. Lighter wheels/tyres make **** all difference in ACTUAL (not perceived) performance comparing to "static" components, even when climbing. The forces are simply too low.

i think you are both right, but it depends on where you are riding. Plus no-one has mentioned effect of wheel weight on handling.

if you ride somewhere where you get up to speed and they stay there, with no chance of speed at all, rotational weight will have no effect except that initial acceleration. However the more a ride requires change of speed, the more the rotational weight will become noticeable. I'm not saying it's huge, but it is there and it is noticeable -it is why a bike with light wheels feels like it's leaping forward with each pedal stroke. On the road though, aero is more important fore the majority of rides and majority of people.

Where rotational weight is most noticeable is handling. Easy way to test this is to hold a heavy wheel by its axle, spin it, and then try to twist the wheel  left and right. Repeat with lighter wheel, and the difference very noticeable. So if you like throwing your bike down twisty roads, lighter is better.

the best example to explain all the above are 29er mountain bikes. They maintain momentum much better, but are harder to get up to speed and don't do tight corners as well compared to their smaller wheeled mtb cousins.

Avatar
Crashboy [46 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes

Interesting discussions: However I think I'll SAVE the £500 and just a ride a little bit more until either a) I'm fit enough to ride my bike where I want at the speed I want, or b) I lose 1 kg off my lardy bum from the extra effort.

Actually, getting my head around all the science and maths with the rotating mass etc in the thread has probably burned off a few grams of my body fat......marginal gains and all that!

Avatar
Simmo72 [645 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Re "nuts and bolts"

That is a strong view point but I can't say I agree.  Plenty of leading manufacturers produce seaposts and stems with titanium bolts, pedals with titanium spindals etc....and i have some of it.  What is this founded on?  I've witnessed an alloy stem break and I've snapped a pair of alloy handlebars.  

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