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.
Tyres, tubes and wheels are the best place to trim weight on a stock bike
Keep a close eye on sales and special offers for weight-saving deals on components like saddles
There's almost no point replacing your stem and handlebar unless you also need to make bike fit changes
Please don't replace safety-critical steel bolts with aluminium or titanium ones
Eat fewer pies
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 light 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.
If your bike is running disc brakes it's hard to look beyond Hunt's Aero Light Disc Wheelset at £399 for a claimed 1,488g.
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.
Wire-beaded tyres commonly fitted as original equipment on bikes, like the Schwalbe Lugano, Vittoria Zaffiro, Specialized Espoir Sport and Bontrager R1 typically weigh 340-370g each in 25mm width, so there's a lot of scope for trimming weight there. In general lighter tyres also roll faster, giving an extra performance boost for your money.
You can pick up a pair of 215g, 25mm Michelin Pro 4 Service Course for just £54.99, so compared to those original equipment tyres you're saving around 270g.
When it comes to really good all-purpose tyres, it's hard to go past the Continental Grand Prix 5000. The best price we've found for the 220g, 25mm GP5000 is £36.99, so the Michelin Pro 4 Service Course is currently the way to go for budget gram-trimming.
All 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 at £40 are the lightest clinchers you can buy, but as Conti points out, they're for time trial and track racing only.
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 best choices are £10 Continental Supersonic tubes at 50g each, and 65g Schwalbe Extra Light tubes at a fiver each. The Conti Supersonics can be fragile; the Schwalbe tubes are probably the best compromise between low weight and being easy to live with.
If Selle San Marco seats fit your bum, then the 190g San Marco Monza Full-Fit Dynamic is £25. To go significantly 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 ££251.79.
One exception to that rule is the Prime Primavera Carbon from WiggleCRC, which weighs a claimed 132g and costs £84.99, when it's actually available. As far as we can tell, it's been out of stock for months.
Bargain lightweight seatposts are rare, but they do exist. Selcof's £80 Delta HM seatpost remains our go-to recommendation – decently light at a claimed 210g thanks to its carbon monocoque construction.
If you need a size other than 27.2mm or 31.6mm, your best choice at the moment is the good old Thomson Elite, which will set you back about £85 and weighs around 230g in a 330mm length or 201g for the recommended for road 250mm. It's available in wide variety of sizes and in both inline and set back designs.
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 £65. 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 £45 Controltech SLA — 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 about £8 for a pack of ten. Bargain!
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.
For fans of tables, here are the cheaper options in the significant components we've mentioned - we've stuck with the Novatec wheels although we could have gone a fair bit cheaper for a small trade off in weight. 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 SL||2,000||1,335||665||£499.95||1.33|
|Tyres||Michelin Power Competition 25mm||700||430||270||£54.99||4.91|
|Tubes||Schwalbe Extra Light||220||130||90||£10.00||9.00|
|Saddle||San Marco Monza Full-Fit Dynamic||300||190||110||£24.99||4.40|
|Seatpost||Selcof Delta HM||300||210||90||£80.00||1.13|
|Bar||Deda Zero100 RHM||325||248||77||£65.00||1.18|
|Cage bolts||Pro-Bolt aluminium||16||5||11||£6.07||1.81|
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.
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John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.