Why Total Bike Weight Should Be Discounted In Purchasing Decisions

by Robb Sutton

How Much Does Your Bike Weigh?Back in the day, when basic geometry was pretty much set and 3″ of front suspension travel was considered DH (hard to believe it wasn’t that long ago), the race for the lightest bike meant you were also riding the fastest rig on the market. With little to really distinguish the differences between brands outside of paint, the weight wars begun and everyone was on track to find the lightest bike that would still stay together on the trail.

Fast forward to today’s mountain biking culture and we still see that same race. Marketing giants still brag out shaving the grams to make the lighter bike. We still see online bragging rights over a 1/2 pound weight savings over the other guy and the tutorials on how it was done. Now…where does this leave the recreational mountain biker and occasional, un-sponsored racer?

Why You Need To Look At The Bike And Not The Weight

Within the mountain biking industry, I see far too much emphasis focused on bike weight instead of what the bike was built for in application. Riders from all over the world are passing by bikes they have never ridden because they are a 1/2 pound heavier than the competition. In today’s mountain biking market, advancements in geometry, suspension and materials has completely changed how we need to look at the overall weight of the bike and be more focused on how that weight translates into the trail experience.

Let’s take a look at two bikes that have come through the stable at Bike198.com to illustrate a point.

Bike Comparison: Time To Make A Point

Specialized Niner Weight Comparison

At only about a pound weight difference, on a excel spreadsheet…these two bikes might look like they are competition. However, the Niner Jet 9 is an 80mm purpose built race bike and the Specialized Enduro Pro Carbon is a 160mm all mountain/freeride sled. Both of these bikes have drastically different handling characteristics and are meant for two completely different riding conditions and purposes.

Now…let’s take that theory one step further. The Niner Jet 9 is “heavy” by today’s mountain bike race standards. However, the 28.36 lbs Jet 9 was also the fastest bike I have ridden in my 14 years of riding. Yes…it pedaled and moved forward on climbs faster than all of the sub 23 pound 26″ bikes I have owned/ridden and it was faster than the sub 27 pound 29ers…so what gives? Aren’t heavier bikes supposed to be slower and lighter bikes faster?

There Is More To The Bike Than The Weight

As mentioned before, there is a lot more than just weight that goes along with how fast a bike is on the trail. The geometry, frame material, suspension setup and overall frame design have a drastic affect on how “fast” a bike feels. Two bikes, in similar markets (xc race, trail, whatever else), with similar weights can feel completely different once you put rubber to dirt on your favorite trail.

Next time you are looking to pick up a new rig for your riding style, try to ignore the weight measurements and actually get on one to test ride. You might be surprised at the result as you start to spin the cranks. Purely discounting a bike over weight issues in today’s market will keep you off some extremely fast and capable rigs in all sorts of riding conditions.

10 comments

10 comments

FastRide September 27, 2010 - 5:23 pm

But what if you’re looking at bikes within a same category built for same purpose? Wouldn’t you want a lighter bike within a given category?

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gt350 July 19, 2010 - 7:56 pm

26 and over seem like tanks, thats just me, but who cares it about having a great ride.

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Heavy Bikes June 30, 2010 - 4:27 pm

riding bikes or being a “biker” has always being a good experience, especially in this conversation, light and heavy weight bikes are of a great concern. In fact, it matters a lot in racing type thing or anything else like that, especially in brakes, speed and last but not least performance.

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DeCappa June 26, 2010 - 8:15 pm

Where the weight is makes a huge difference too. A bike with less weight on the wheels and tires and more on the frame will almost always be faster than a bike with a lighter frame and heavier wheels and tires.

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El Moro June 29, 2010 - 1:44 am

Thanks for this helpful info Mr. DeCappa about weights of frame viz tire and wheels.

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EMil June 24, 2010 - 1:53 pm

I’m not an “A” rider, but I notice a huge performance difference between light and heavy wheel/tire weights, especially climbing. My experience would tell me to look at where the weight is on a prospective bike/build.

Old folks and racers need all the help we can get. Young whippersnappers can probably push just about anything anywhere and it’ll be good for them!

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Federico POGGIOLI June 3, 2010 - 11:14 am

Absolutely agree and another good reason for it is that as you grow older (I’m 44) you start building fat and no matter how feather weighted your bike is, what really counts is the whole: The bike and the rider. I bet that for most of us there is more weight to get rid of from our body than to our bikes… Start working on it!

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Mike Wyman June 14, 2010 - 12:42 pm

In the competitive market most bikes in the same category are within ounces of each other.Yet we spend thousands on light weight components and gadgets to saving a few ounces but hardly consider just shedding a few pounds off the waist line to achieve the same affect.

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El Moro June 22, 2010 - 7:11 pm

Good points Mr. Poggioli and Wyman . I totally agree with your point of views. Heavyweights need heavy bikes, then as we shed weight later, reward ourselves with lighter bikes as incentive for a job well done. Makes sense.

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Greg @ Greg Rides Trails June 3, 2010 - 8:11 am

Great post. I agree that weight becomes too big of an issue at times, but it still is a factor. I would rather go with a 30 lb All mountain rig than a 38 lb rig most any day of the week.

But the other thing that needs to be talked about is cost. The Specialized Enduro Carbon costs more $$ than I even want to think about spending on a bike! And if the 38 lb rig rings in down near a thousand dollars, that’s going to be way more affordable. There’s always going to be a trade off between cost and price, which means some of us will never get to ride a Carbon Enduro. But that’s life.

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