Ever ridden a really light racing bicycle?

Last night I watched some Lance Armstrong specials on the Discovery Channel, and they went on and on about how light the bikes were, and how they were ecstatic because they shaved an extra 100 grams off the weight.

It made me curious how they are to ride compared to a normal store bike. Would an average rider get much gain? Is the ride different since the bikes have no weight to them?

A light, responsive racing bicycle is pure joy to an experienced rider.

Having said that, the extreme chase after lightness is useless to recreational riders. Or, worse than useless. For example, the difference in weight my bike’s frame (a steel, Chromium-Molybdenum alloy frame) versus a comparable carbon-fiber frame is maybe 2 lbs.

That is less than the weight of one full 20oz water bottle.

I can promise you that having or removing the water bottle is not something I ever could notice, not even when climbing a long, steep hill. It’s possible I would notice it during an elite 50k time trial, if I rode such things, where the loss of such weight might reduce my time by 30 seconds or something. Clearly, such an advantage is absolutely irrelevant to the performance and riding enjoyment of a recreational cyclist.

I said worse than useless above because an elite racer’s bike is not meant to last for longer than at most a 3-week stage race. Which, admittedly, is longer than most people ever ride in their lives, and even an reasonable active cyclist might cover that distance in a year or two. But those elite bikes have a certain fragility to them, break during relatively minor crashes all the time, and in a 3-week stage race are simply immediately replaced by a spare from a team car if they break after a crash. Witness Rasmussen’s trevails this year during the last time trial.

For a recreational rider, something a bit sturdier is probably better, unless you have a lot of cash screaming to get spent.

Bottom line: it is much better for amateur cyclists to worry about losing that weight they’re carrying around themselves. I could usefully lose 10lbs myself, for sure. Just remember, that when it coems to weight reduction in bicycles, there is a serious set of dimishing returns, and greatly increased expense.

My bike is made of steel. It is still very light, very responsive, and a lot of fun. People who spend 2-3times as much on titanium or carbon fiber or what have you do not ride faster than me on the basis of that alone. A well-designed, well-crafted racing bike is much more important than absolute lightness.

Tru dat. :slight_smile:

Ultra lite bikes offer a great zoot factor but really don’t make that much of a difference to the average recreational rider. They are fun to sport around on the roof or your car though! :slight_smile:

That’s just wrong. A top of the line bike will last a long time.

Knorf has it right that the weight-saving movement in cycling is really taken to fetishistic extremes, once you’re in the ball park of a lightweight bike (approx 25lbs and under for a mountain bike) then small savings don’t make much noticeable difference to the ride for 99% of people. What can be important though, is wereabouts you save the weight on the bicycle. Rotating weight, ie the wheels and tyres, are were you will really feel excess weight. (I can’t give a cite for why this is, but I’ve seen it quoted hundreds of times on cycling boards. Maybe someone can expand on this). Getting a light set of wheels makes the most difference in the feel of the ride, making a big deal over a lightweight stem, or seatpost is kind of a waste of time.

Its not just weight, either. An ultralight racing bike may be made of carbon fibre, which will have a totally different feel to a steel or aluminium bike. I’ve never owned one, but road-cycling friends talk about the “smooth” feel of carbon on the road. A vague concept, but one which is probably true. I can easily discern the difference between steel and aluminium mountain bikes, for example.

It’s because you’re accelerating wheels not only linearly, but also radially. Not only do you have to expend energy to make them go forwards, but you have to expend further energy to make them go around.

The cheapest and most effective place to lose weight on a bicycle is actually tires and inner tubes.

      • Lighter bikes do feel nicer, but I don’t know that it really means much in actual efficiency. What it feels like is when you stand and pedal, the bike seems to want to scoot forward underneath you. You get this with cheaper heavier bikes too of course, but it just seems much more detectable on a lighter bike. Maybe you just think you’re pedalling harder…
  • And I agree with Gorsnak about “losing weight on the wheels and tires”, this is why every thread about using MTB’s on the street I am one of the people saying to get rid of the fat knobby tires and get narrow tubes and slick/narrow street tires. The slicks don’t squirm on pavement like the knobbies do, and the lower weight lets the wheels (and thus the whole bike) accelerate much easier. Changes the feeling overall for the better.

  • All that said, I am now a recumbent convert (see various other threads). The lively feel of an upright is something you definitely won’t get on a recumbent, but overall a recumbent is simply way more comfortable to ride over longer distances.

But how are they on hill climbs? I’ve always wondered about that. Also visibility can’t be as good as on a traditional bike. Right?

      • Recumbents are usually slower up hills. This is for two reasons–you usually can’t really change riding position when you want (like on an upright, standing on the pedals) and that recumbents are generally heavier than uprights.
  • I don’t know what you mean by visibility, (how one can see the road, or how others can see you) but either way: some recumbents are built very low, but mine is not, and where I ride (rural roads) this has not been a problem. …As far as how well I can see the road, the recumbent is way better–the seat position puts the rider face-forward, like in a car. A upright bike puts your head higher, but then your head/neck is angled down at the ground, you are looking at your front wheel. To watch the road in front of you on these takes neck strain, extra effort.
  • On the upright bikes I used to own, I remember getting off and walking a bit every hour or so, just to give my butt/back/neck/arms a break. You generally won’t need to do that on a recumbent at all; at the least you should be able to stay on a recumbent 3-4 times as long as an upright. One thing I noticed myself, and have seen other recumbent riders do–is when we stop to rest, we just stop and put our feet on the ground, and stay sitting on the bike–because it doesn’t hurt to do so. The bike is actually comfortable to sit on.

I don’t really like the feel of a lightweight road bike, to be honest. It doesn’t feel like a vechicle at all, it feels like flimsy stilts or something. Unless I hang on tight, when I push down on the pedals the bike scoots forward and I’m left behind (at least it feels that way). Then again I’m a recumbent rider, so what do I know? :wink:

That’s because narrow tires can withstand higher air pressure, which results in lower rolling resistance.

The “weight on wheels matters more than weight on the frame” is largely a myth. The only time it makes a difference is when you are accelerating. For hill climbs (where weight is most important), what matter is total weight of the bike.

Both are true to some extent. But I suspect the biggest reason recumbents have a reputation for poor climbing ability is that a large fraction of recumbent riders are either equipment-oriented geeks or comfort-seeking hedonists who don’t train much. I’m slow on hills when I ride a recumbent, but I’m just as slow on an upright bike.

As for visibility, the view from a recumbent bike is fantastic. Except for the view of the rear - it’s tricky to look over own shoulder, but a simple mirror takes care of that problem. As for being seen in traffic, just ride safely (don’t scoot through stopped cars), and use a flag if you must. I haven’t had any accidents or close calls that can be attributed to me being low.

I’ve never actually ridden an ultralight racing bike, but i have hefted one, after i got over how light it was, i was afraid i’d break it, the thing (Giant Carbon-fiber racebike) felt brittle

i couldn’t ride a carbon-fiber bike, i’d be afraid of breaking it, give me a well built steel bike any day (or if that’s not available, i’ll grudgingly accept aluminum, but look for ways to reduce the road buzz…)

Steel is real!

Re: wheels, by a happy conincidence some of the very lightest hubs are made by Chris King and they happen to be about the strongest as well! I have them on my mtn. Bike and I’m a Big Guy . They are wonderful, smooth and dependable.

I have to disagree with this. I wasn’t always fat and used to ride skinny tire bikes. Anyone who has ridden sew ups will probably agree that they are faster even when not accelerating even compared to light 25 or 28mm clinchers. No one’s pedal stroke is as even as we like to think it is and lighter wheels make a difference even at steady speeds.

Maybe you should look into a carbon fiber water bottle; 12 oz for an empty bottle is a lot. :slight_smile:

The lightest bike I’ve ever been on was a Peugeot racer from the late-70s. It belonged to my brother; he bought it while bicycling around Europe. There a definite noticable difference from the last bike I had, an old Schwinn single-speed that had been my brother’s bike before he got a 10-speed. The Peugeut was a very nice ride, much easier to get going and eaiser to ride. Lance’s must be incredible!

As to what happened to the Peugeot, I missed a turn and whacked a column. Bent the front wheel and I wasn’t allowed to ride it after that.

Sure, if you rarely ride it and never crash it.

Typically, bikes used in the Tour De France are not usually exceptionally light compared to what is available.
Professional riders ride so many more racing miles in tightly knit groups that crashing is not an unusual occurance, and the bikes need to be able to stand up to this.

Specialist hill climbers, or perhaps team leaders may change their machines during the stage to switch to a very light machine, but the biggest differance will probably be in the wheels and tyres.

You can’t save all that much in frame weight, a Reynold 531 frame does not weigh all that much more than a carbon fiber frame, perhaps there’s as much as 1and a half pounds differance, it is very surprising when you actually pick up two frames with no components attatched.

The biggest differances come from the stiffness and springiness of the frame, and also the weight distribution, as light aluminium and carbon fibre farmes tend to be very light at the back end, and when this is combined with their stiffness, can make for a faster accelerating machine, or for less enrgy to be wasted in flexing the frame when mountain climbing.

The really lightweight machines used to be time triallist machines, with 16 spoke wheels, ultra short wheelbases, and titamium sprockets etc.
These things were too fragile to be used in the rough and tumble of a bunch race, where you usually don’t get the chance to see and avoid poor features in road surfaces.
Times have changed in time trialling and now aerodynamics matters more, they still have the silly short wheelbases though which is why the riders have so much trouble getting around tight bends, and the disc wheels and ultra stiff farmes also add to the problem.

The typical Tour De France or any proffesional rider’s machine thends to have a more relaxed geometry, the fram angles at the front are usually less steep than the rear frame angles, this makes for a machine that is more stable to ride and less twitchy over longer rides and hence less mentally tiring.

Geometry is what really makes the differance, but try getting that across to a largely cycle racing illiterate public, which is pretty much what the US is.

This is not an insult, but things like this are not easy to explain to a population that does not really have a cycle racing culture like Europe has, most folk in the US watching Lance Armstrong in the US can readily understand weight, and will understand what a mountain is, but things like handling, flex and geometry are not too good to put into the 30 second tv news slot.

As a former bicycle courier, you’ll have to forgive me for thinking that this is rather amusing. Saving effort whilst accelerating is the whole point!

I used to have a bike with narrow street tires, and it got flats at least once a week. Those heavy knobbies go months and years between flats. I’ll take the extra workout and the greatly decreased aggravation for $100, Alex. However, I’m strictly a recreational rider, and having fun is key for me.

I own several bikes, a hard tail mountain bike, a full suspension mountain bike, and a road bike.
The hardtail was my first bike, I rode it everywhere, trails, mountains, and would mount a pair of slicks for long road rides.
Then I decided to get a road bike. My first ride on the road bike was amazing. The way the bike rides comped to a mountain bike is just amazing. Turning the pedals is like turning a flywheel, and the bike just takes off. A sheer joy to ride.
Way, way, different than a mountain bike even a mountain bike with skinny tires. Fast very fast, and fun. Lighter by aobut 10 pounds, different gears and different geometry. All of these factor into it.
Evil Captor Where the hell were you riding? I go an average of 500 miles between flats on my road bike. I can live with that.