Virtually everyone wants their bike to feel more responsive, especially when climbing or under acceleration. The best way to do that is to shed some weight, something that can be done relatively cheaply and easily if you shop around. Here we look at the most effective ways of shedding some grams without breaking the bank, plus some product suggestions and stats on how much weight you could save, plus (crucially) how much each lightweight upgrade will cost.
Well, it all depends on how much you’ve spent on your bike in the first place. Generally speaking, the cheaper the bike, the more scope there is for swapping out heavy components for lighter options for not a huge amount of cash. If you’ve blown north of, say, £4,000 on your bike, those marginal gains are going to be harder to find.
With that in mind, we’ve chosen two stock builds to base our weight saving calculations on: Trek’s Emonda ALR 5 aluminium road bike that is priced at £2,325 and weighs 9.08kg on our scales, and Orro’s Terra X GRX400 gravel bike. That one tips the scales at 10.45kg, and costs £1,599.99.
All of the components recommended below have been reviewed by us, so the weights are from our own scales. You can also click on the links to read the full reviews.
Right, let’s get shopping and get tinkering...
Your wheelset is probably one of the best places to start shedding weight, as many off-the-shelf bike builds will most likely see compromises here. This means that the wheels fitted tend to be either generic in-house branded options with basic rims and hubs, or the entry level models from well-known brands. Most are durable, but light they ain’t.
The Trek, for instance, is wearing wheels from their Bontrager parts catalogue (in fact, pretty much every component fitted to the bike is from Bontrager), a set of shallow rimmed Paradigm Comp TLR Discs. They are a good-looking set of wheels, but at around 1,800g they are fairly typical in weight for a bike at this price point.
If you want to keep your spending down and lack of weight is more important than aero, then something like Scribe’s Race-D Wide+ wheelset would be a good option. They weigh in at a svelte 1,448g, not bad for a set of aluminium hoops costing just £352!
If you want to upgrade to a carbon wheelset, then you can’t go far wrong with the £699 Hunt 30 Carbon Aero Disc wheelset. They are superlight at 1,347g, and we found when testing them that in the quest to drop the grams they hadn’t sacrificed overall stiffness.
Moving over to the gravel side of things, the Orro Terra X is wearing a pair of Fulcrum 900 DBs with a weight of around 1,950g.
Switching to a set of Prime’s Orra Gravel wheels will drop you around 340g for an outlay of £599.99, while if you want to go really light then you could plump for Just Riding Along’s Monitor wheels. These are £879, but their build including deep section carbon fibre rims and anodised hubs, and other colour coded components, means a weight of just 1,360g. This would be a massive 590g less than the Fulcrums.
What’s wrapped around those wheels also makes a huge difference in how much your bike weighs, but also how it rides.
Heavier, cheaper tyres also tend to be less supple and can give a dead feel to the ride, but they can offer more durability from a harder rubber compound which will last longer, but sacrifice grip. A read through our best road bike tyres guide will give you all of the information to make the choice on what tyres will suit your riding and budget.
In terms of our builds, Orro have played a bit of a blinder here speccing Continental’s Terra Trails in a 40mm width, as they only weigh 956g a pair. That’s not bad considering some gravel tyres can come in around 1,200g a pair.
You can still drop some grams, though, by switching to a pair of Bontrager’s GR2 Team Issue TLR tyres, which weighed just 828g a pair when we reviewed them. That’s a saving of about 128g.
As for the Trek, well you can make some big gains here.
The Bontrager R1 Hard-Case Lite are anything but 'lite', at 858g per pair in a 25mm width. You can definitely drop some serious weight then!
If you aren’t too fussed about using tubeless set-ups on the road, then you won’t go much lighter than Continental’s Grand Prix 5000 in a clincher version. They aren’t cheap at £65.49 each, but they do weigh just 432g per pair. That’s a saving of 426g over the Bontragers.
If tubeless is the way you want to go, then the S TR versions of the GP 5000s are still pretty lightweight at 500g a pair, saving you 358g. They’ll cost you another tenner a pair though.
If money is no object, then consider the Challenge Criterium RS tyres. They aren’t much lighter than the GP5000s above, but their handmade construction gives them a super supple ride feel, and they look the business too. Prepare yourself for the £180 (per pair) dent they’ll put in your bank account, though.
So far, for both bikes we have dropped between 400g and 900g by changing the wheels and tyres. Not bad gains, but from here on in shifting those grams becomes more of a challenge.
Let’s kick off with the seatpost, as it’s one of the most commonly changed components; especially with many people wanting to swap from aluminium to carbon fibre.
Both the Orro and the Trek use in-house branded seatposts with weights of 255g and 300g respectively. Both are aluminium alloy, with an alloy clamp sat on top, and are 27.2mm in diameter.
To shift a noticeable amount of weight from a seatpost isn’t going to be cheap, highlighted by one of the lightest we’ve ever reviewed, the MT Zoom Ultralight which weighs just 148g. It costs £95.
It was reviewed by May over on our sister site off.road.cc, so it’ll definitely be tough enough for gravel use on the Orro, as well as the Trek for on road duties.
Prime’s Primavera Inline Carbon seatpost weighs 190g, but costs even more at £129.99.
Just like the seatpost, to drop a lot of grams from your handlebar is going to take money. Something like Prime’s (yep, Prime are here again) Primavera Aero Carbon handlebar is light for how much material is being used, weighing 226g compared to the 310g of the Bontrager Comp VR-C found on the Trek.
It costs £149.99 but does give plenty of hand positions due to its aero styled top section.
The standard round Primavera X-Light is lighter at 183g for the same cost, but some bigger riders may find it a bit too flexy.
For the Orro Terra X, the build sent in for us to review was fitted with a Deda Gravel 100 handlebar which costs £99.99, so it already has a decent weight of 257g. That’s a decent drop from the stock bar that it should come with, the FSA Adventure Compact, which weighs 320g.
If you want to really drop the weight of that front end though, it’s back to MT Zoom again with their aptly named Ultralight Gravel handlebar. This weighs just 195g, although at £160 it’s not cheap.
If you are switching your stem to save weight, you are now beginning to scrape the barrel, so to speak. Regardless of the amount of cash you lay out, there is unlikely to be a huge amount of grams to be saved. If you need to change your position on the bike then it’s worth upgrading for something bling, but otherwise we'd recommend putting your money elsewhere.
If you do want to shave a few more grams though: alongside the FSA handlebar Orro have also specced a stem from the same brand, the Omega ST, which weighs 127g for a 100mm length. Genetic’s STV is one of the lightest alloy stems we’ve reviewed at just 119g for the 100mm version, and that would be a £49.99 upgrade.
The Bontrager Elite stem used on the Trek AR5 comes in at 175g, which does give you more scope to cut some weight.
Going for the Genetic would save you around 55g, or FSA’s Energy stem would shave off 42g for a £68 spend.
If you want to make a statement, what about the Mythos Elix…. you’ll only save about 5 grams over the Bontrager, but it’ll look the business. It'll cost you £500 mind!
The weights between various saddles can fluctuate massively depending on how much padding you want and what materials are used in its construction. Having a cut-out can also save weight.
The Trek’s Bontrager Verse Comp nudges our scales up to 307g, and you could easily drop nearly 100g by plumping for the Pro Griffon Performance saddle at £89.99. It weighs 210g, has a carbon reinforced shell and stainless-steel rails.
If that price is too steep, then you could try the Smanie GT 137 which comes with a dropped nose and chromoly rails for £59.99. It weighs 267g.
The Orro’s saddle is in the same ballpark weight-wise, as the Bontrager and the majority of road saddles also work on the gravel. If you would like a short-nosed saddle, then a good option would be the Prime Doyenne Shorty which comes with titanium rails and a pressure relieving cut-out.
It costs just £59.99 and weighs 215g.
When it comes to the brakes fitted to off-the-shelf bikes you can’t really fault the performance, so the need to upgrade is minimal. But we all love a bit of bling though, don’t we?
Weight savings are very minimal indeed, mind. On the Orro the BR-RX400 hydraulic calipers weigh 294g a pair, which is the same as the 105 R7070 offerings on the Trek. The rotor weights differ slightly with the Orro’s 160mm SM-RT64s coming in at 280g a pair, with the Trek’s RT-70s being slightly lighter at 266g a pair.
Hope’s Road CL Disc Rotors were described as a ‘blingtastic way to upgrade your bike’ in our review, although the £130 per pair upgrade will only give you a weight saving of 28g on the Trek.
Swisstop’s Catalyst Race rotors are a similar weight to the Hope’s, just 2g heavier per disc in fact, but they are ‘only’ £119.98 a pair.
Hope’s RX4 calipers are designed to match their rotors, but you won’t save any weight although you will get improved performance over the stock calipers. They cost £200 and weigh 348g, so an increase of about 50g.
While many of you are running tubeless these days, most stock bikes come with tubes fitted. If you wanted to swap those out for some of the lightest on the market by Tubolito, it won't be cheap but you could save a lot of grams.
A standard gravel-sized inner tube (35mm to 45mm) weighed 158g on our scales, with the Tubolito S-Tubo CX/Gravel coming in at just 33g.
The Tubo Road 700c tubes are 38g compared with 121g for a standard road tube. The replacement costs are £29 and £29.99.
Let’s take a look at how each bike stacks up after being put on a cash-induced diet then...
So there you have it: if you go for all of our recommendations, the price of your Orro goes from £1,599 up to £2,737.90, and the weight from 10.49kg down to 9.46kg. Spending £1,398.93 on your £2,325 Trek Emonda ALR (to bring your total spend on the bike up to £3,723.93) will take the weight down from 9.08kg to an impressive 7.60kg.
While we've tried to recommend affordable products in this article, if one thing is for sure it's that chopping weight from your bike/your Hairsine ratio (scroll down to 'H' in our A-Z of cycling jargon if you don't get that reference!) isn’t going to be cheap to get any significant gains. Overall, you're looking at about £1 per gram if you update every component suggested.
The wheels, tyres and inner tubes are definitely the most cost-effective, especially in the case of the Trek. We scrubbed nearly 900g there for about £830, although at the time of writing Hunt are offering those Carbon Aero wheels for seventy quid less.
Some components also bring performance gains without huge drops in weight though, like the Hope brake calipers, which would allow you to hold off of braking as you go into corners where you might not need to slow down. This brings better efficiency overall.
If you haven't worked it out already, the truth is that the rest is just tinkering. It would be more cost-effective to lose weight from yourself by dropping your bodyweight instead if you can.
Are there any cost-effective lightweight bike upgrades that we've missed? Let us know in the comments.
As part of the Tech Hub here at F-At Digital, our senior product reviewer Stu uses the knowledge gained from putting well over a 1,000 products through their paces (including hundreds of bikes) to write in-depth reviews of a huge range of kit. After first throwing his leg over a race bike back in 2000, Stu's ridden more than 160,000 miles on road, time-trial, track, and gravel bikes, and while he's put his racing days behind him he still likes to smash the pedals rather than take things easy. Although, as he spends a fair bit of his time reviewing ebikes these days he's becoming an expert in letting the motor take the strain. He's also waiting for 23mm race tyres to make a comeback!