Stop reading right here if you are a 130 pound stick shaped whippet, as the ONLY way you’ll get lighter on the bike is to spend lots of money!
If though you are like the 90% or riders out there, fitting riding in between jobs, family and everything else, I have a question for you – what’s the best way to make your bike lighter?
I can hear the myriad of answerers pouring in now. In the wheels, lighter stems, posts, cranks… get a new bike. Was that your answer too, to make your bike lighter, by either replacing it or buying lighter stuff? Well, you can do that, it’s true and that is what most riders out there like to do. Buying a new part (or bike) not only makes your ride lighter but also makes you feel good, right? Nothing quite like a new shiny bike or bit.
Until very recently I was like that. The surest way to a lighter bike was spending money on lighter stuff. That’s because these days I fit the bill of the vast majority of riders out there, trying to fit my riding in amongst everything else I am doing in life – it’s just the way it goes and while I said it would never happen to me, here I am. As such, I found my own weight going up and down as one seems to do, watching it slowly creep up the scale when the big weekly miles vanish and when you start riding properly again for a period, coming back down some. Ultimately though, there is a point where it levels out and you never really shift from it too much. That’s exactly what I had found, on average I was maintaining a weight. By no means could it be said that I was carrying ‘too much’ weight but it settled at a point that was a far cry from my ‘fighting weight’ – not riding almost every day made it impossible. So in order to make my bike lighter, I’d buy new bits.
Here’s a question. What’s the heaviest part of your bike? if you answered something that involved a component, or frame, you are wrong. The heaviest part is… you.
Towards the end of 2013 I wanted to make a change and do something different. 2014 was going to be the start point of something new. I’ve always read stuff about fitness, training and all that, pretty much like most riders I guess, but somehow stepping out of my ‘maintained weight’ was always something that never seemed to happen for more than a summer. Over a chance conversation at a birthday lunch, with some people old enough to be my own folks, I was reintroduced to a ‘diet’ they were following which amazingly, was delivering astounding results for them. Usually I hate the concept of diets and everything associated with them (healthy eating etc. is fine but dieting was a no go) but this one was a little different, hence my interest. Earlier in the year I had watched a doco in which a UK based doctor gave it a go after doing research into its supposed benefits, and, finding it so successful he has since adopted it as part of his way of living. Without going into it (after all, this is about riding and not diets), the premise is simple. Forget fat, and all that and just work to pure calories eaten vs. calories expended. Do some simple equations, work out some numbers and then for a few days a week, eat no more than the number you’ve come up with in calories. In other words, for a number of days a week, fast.
Ongoing studies show all sorts of core functional upsides to this eating ‘lifestyle” (as hokey as that sounds, it does become a part of one’s life) but the biggest thing for me is that it works. Over the past few months I have already shed 7+ kg’s, and it’s still coming off.
Getting back on the bike, the weight loss has been a revelation to me, especially when riding climbs I have been doing for the past few years. In a sport where power to weight is so important, dropping something like 5kg’s for the same given output is like sticking a rocket up your proverbial. Add to that, as one’s strength increases while the weight is still dropping, it’s akin to getting on the juice for the ‘average man’!
The question I now ask is how much would it cost you to drop 5kg’s from your bike, if I work to the assumption that the bike you’re on is already pretty decent? Can you even do it would be an even better question to ask.
Ultimately, the weight you push on the bike is that which contacts the ground though the tyre’s contact patches. The rotational mass vs. acceleration issues of wheels aside (let’s just assume you have wheels not made of lead already), then weight is weight, weather it comes off you or the bike the net effect is the same*. While more than a few people I have known over the years (including myself) have stressed that their bikes are not light enough, worrying on the best way to drop a pound or three, not once can I recall a discussion when any of them ever considered drinking a little less beer or eating a little less pizza.
There’s nothing rocket science here, in fact it’s just plain old common sense really. But the next time you or someone you know talks about making their bike lighter, it might be worth considering that you can probably loose more riding weight, and actually save money doing so, by eating less, rather than spending hundreds on that new part that’s 50 grams lighter than the perfectly good one you already have.
G’s top tips for being lighter on the bike:
For the average road rider, I really only have three:
1: Eat less – not eating that big café breakfast after you finish is a good start.
2: Do you really need all that junk in your back pocket and saddle bag?
3: Take a dump BEFORE you ride!
For mountain bikers…
1: Do you need all that water in your hydration pack? A 1-2 hour ride generally does not need 3 litres of water (where 1l = 1kg)
2: Do you need ALL this tools? I bet not.
3: Do you need all that other junk in your pack?
4: Less beer and pizza.
5: Go tubeless.
6: Go 1×10
7: Take a dump BEFORE you ride!
*Well, it’s not really the same. Loosing weight from one’s self make you more efficient in a number of different areas, so one could say that dropping the personal weight actually has more impact on riding than dropping it off the bike alone.