How to Become a Better Climber – Lesson 3
This is the third post in my series about how to become a better climber. This lesson will not focus on you but on your bike. In the first two lessons, you were supposed to describe in detail what hill you would like to climb faster and your optimal body weight/body composition. Since you will have to carry your bike up the mountain, it’s evident that bike weight is also essential for your performance.
What is the optimal bike weight for a road bike?
If you race under UCI rules, the answer is pretty exact: 6800g if your bike weight is more than that, you will get a ‘weight penalty’ to your opponents. If your bike weight is less than 6800g, you might be disqualified. I have never heard of any rider having trouble with this rule, but maybe this is because of infrequent testing.
Rules are rules and should always be followed. As a rider under the UCI rules, you should aim for a bike weight of exactly 6800g.
If you ride just for fun and want to achieve the best possible performance uphill, you might benefit from an even lighter bike. Today, building a bike weighing less than 6kg is not that difficult. Of course, it will cost you, but it is possible.
What is the optimal bike weight for a mountain bike?
There is no limit to how light a mountain bike can be. However, if you can make your mountain bike lighter, there is room for improvement in your climbing performance.
Reducing bike weight is challenging and does not have to cost a lot of money. Every single gram saved is an advantage on the climbs. Naturally, it must not negatively affect the riding performance.
Weight savings can be costly, but you are probably not that far from optimal bike weight regarding UCI’s 6800g rule. It is a little more tricky and expensive for mountain bikers since they must estimate how many grams or kilograms they are from the best mountain bikes in their competitions.
Your task today:
How lightweight is your bike, and how lightweight would you like it to be?
5 Tips to Make Your Road Bike Lighter and Faster
One of the most critical factors in road cycling performance is the power-to-weight ratio. This is the amount of power you can generate in relation to your body weight. The lighter you are, the more small reductions in bike weight will benefit performance. As previously shown in an experiment, one additional kg will add one minute to your finish time on Alpe d’Huez.
But for normal riders with average bodies, it’s always much more effective and affordable to reduce body weight and increase fitness.
So, if you’re ready to take your road biking performance to the next level, then read on!
How to make your road bike lighter
1. Invest in Lightweight Tires
One of the best, easiest and cheapest ways to reduce bike weight and faster is to invest in lightweight tires. Most road cyclists know that lightweight tires are the way to go if you’re looking for speed. But what many don’t realize is that lightweight tires are also more susceptible to flats and other damages.
That’s why, for the average rider on a budget, durability is more important than lightness.
Heavy duty tires may not be as fast, but they’ll stand up to more wear and tear, making roadside repairs less likely. So save those lightweights for race day when every second counts, and stick with a more durable tire for your everyday rides. Your wallet will thank you in the long run. There are a number of different lightweight tires on the market, so do some research and find the best option for you.
As any road cyclist knows, tires are one of the most important parts of the bike. They play a crucial role in providing traction and stability on the road, and they also help to absorb shocks and protect against punctures.
However, tires also wear down over time, and it’s important to inspect them to ensure they are in good condition regularly. The most common sign of wear is a loss of tread depth, which can cause the tires to lose grip on the road and become more susceptible to punctures. If you notice any cuts or cracks in the sidewall of your tires, it’s also a good idea to replace them as soon as possible. By regularly inspecting your tires and replacing them when necessary, you can help to ensure a safe and comfortable ride.
For many years 23mm wide tires were the default choice for road bikes. Many racers used the 20s or even narrower. In the last few years, 25mm tires have become the most popular option for both professional and amateur riders, and some riders have gone wider still. If you’ve not yet made the switch, it’s about time to consider it.
Comfort is one key factor that makes wider tires more desirable than narrower ones. With a larger chamber of air between you and the road, a wider tire allows you to drop the pressure without running the risk of a pinch flat (where the inner tube gets punctured as a result of being sandwiched between the wheel rim and the ground). The lower pressure increases the amount of cushioning you get from the road, improving your comfort.
Another consideration is grip. Wider tires provide a larger contact patch with the ground, giving you more traction in all conditions – whether you’re cornering on dry pavement or descending in wet weather. This can give you the confidence to ride faster and take on tougher terrain. And if you do happen to lose traction, wider tires are less likely to “roll” (fold over at the edges) than narrow ones, minimizing the risk of an accident.
2. Upgrade Your Wheelset
Another great way to save weight on your bike is to upgrade your wheelset. Just like with tires, wheels are also quite heavy, so upgrading to lighter options can make a big difference.
Many riders, even beginners, can feel the difference when riding lighter wheels. They make a bike feel snappier and easier to accelerate. Carbon wheels are one of the most popular aftermarket upgrade options for both road and mountain bikes. Carbon fiber is exceptionally light, stiff, and strong.
While carbon wheels are typically more expensive than aluminum wheels, many riders feel that the performance benefits are worth the extra cost. If you’re looking for a weight-saving upgrade for your bike, carbon wheels are a great option to consider. Also, rotational weight may possibly be more worth than other weight reductions.
There are many different wheelsets on the market, so be sure to do your research and find the best option for you.
Please bear in mind that in many cycling races, aerodynamics has more impact on overall performance. So considering a slightly heavier carbon wheel with an aerodynamic profile may be the best option. A quick look at the pro tour will confirm that most riders use 40 to 60mm carbon rims for most flat-stage races.
3. Get a Carbon Fiber Frame
It’s no secret that carbon fiber bikes are often considerably lighter than their aluminum counterparts. But what does that weight difference actually mean for the rider? In short, a lighter bike is easier to accelerate and easier to maintain speed on climbs. It’s also generally more nimble and responsive, making it a good choice for racing. All of these factors can lead to a better riding experience, even if you’re not otherwise concerned with weight.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that carbon fiber isn’t always the best choice for every rider. For instance, carbon frames can be more fragile than aluminum, making them more prone to damage in a crash. They can also be more expensive, so if you’re on a budget, an aluminum bike may be the better option.
Ultimately, the best choice for you will depend on your specific needs and riding style.
If you really want to save weight on your bike, then you should consider getting a carbon fiber frame. Carbon fiber frames are incredibly lightweight yet still stiff and responsive, making them ideal for road biking. Of course, carbon fiber frames come at a higher price point than most other options, so be sure to factor that into your decision.
4. Save Weight on Your Pedals
Another way to save weight on your road bike is to upgrade your pedals. A total weight saving of up to 150g is possible depending on the weight of your current pedals and cleats. Take for example Shimano’s top-level Dura-Ace R9100 pedals that weigh in at just 247 grams for the pair, and offer a wide platform for excellent power transfer and stability. But are they worth the weight savings over Shimano’s Ultegra-level pedals?
For road cyclists, the answer is a resounding “no.” The Ultegra pedals weigh in at a mere 309 grams, and while the weight difference might be noticeable on the scale, it’s not going to make a noticeable difference on the road. Your money is probably better spent elsewhere.
In fact, the small advantage gained by switching to the Dura-Ace pedals could largely be achieved just as easily by choosing lighter footwear. So when it comes to saving weight on your bike, wheels, tires, and tubes should be at the top of your list – not pedals.
However, in addition to being lightweight, you should also consider how large a contact area, smooth clip-in, and release action. So overall, Shimano’s top-level Dura-Ace R9100 pedals are a great choice for road cyclists looking to improve their performance. But for a weight-saving investment, your coins are spent better on other bike parts.
5. Exchange heavy components
Finally, don’t forget about small details like bar tape, rim tape, seat post, saddle, bottle holder, cassette, etc. Take a close look at your current bike setup and figure out where you can make the most significant weight savings, and see if it is possible to time it with upgrades that you are planning to do. However, you must be aware that weight savings can be very pricey.
Example of bike component upgrades:
Shimano Dura-Ace 9100 Cassette 11-25t (claimed weight 175g).
Shimano Ultegra R8000 Cassette 11-25t (claimed weight 232g).
Thus, you can buy yourself a 57g weight saving at the price of about $120.
Upgrading to a lightweight bar tape or carbon saddle can help save a few grams, but don’t forget that comfort is important, too. For example, Supacaz Super Sticky Kush is a high-performance handlebar tape that is loved by road cyclists for its superior grip and comfort. This tape is made from a special foam material that conforms to your hands, providing a cushioned feel that reduces road vibration. Such features may be more important than weight.
Therefore, I suggest you test different brands to see what works best for you. You’ll probably need new bar tape at least one or two times per season. Also, there is a pretty obvious solution to use less bar tape. On the other hand, most riders will never buy a new seat post unless they buy a new bike. Visit your local bike shop and determine the most reasonable and cheapest upgrade.
Following these tips will, you will end up with a lighter road bike. So, if you’re looking to improve your performance, then be sure to give them a try.
But there is one final and important message you shouldn’t miss:
Don’t forget the rider
Being a weight weenie is fine, but the number-one factor in performance is always the rider. Also, if you primarily ride flat terrain, a lightweight bike may not be nearly as important as aerodynamics. So if you’re looking to improve your power-to-weight ratio, the best place to start is with your own body weight. Get fit and lose weight, and you’ll see a major difference in your riding performance.
A bike’s weight can make a significant difference in a road cyclist’s performance. A lighter bike requires less power to move, which is especially important for climbs and accelerations. Even if lighter components save you only a few watts, it could matter in a race situation. In that case, spicing your bike setup with fancy carbon components to save a few grams may be the solution for you.
You’ll find many weight weenies out on the roads, but don’t forget that following a structured cycling training plan will have the most profound impact on your performance. If you want to optimize your body weight, read this interview with Matt Fitzgerald.