My old Cannondale weighs around 21 pounds (aluminum and upgraded with new wheels). My Trek, about 19 pounds (cf) and my Venge, 16 (cf – after $1,000 in upgrades – and I still have $600 to go which will drop it down to the upper 15 pound range). I’ll cop to getting into the weight game a little bit because it’s fun (if expensive) and I do ride in the mountains at least once a year, but is the money spent necessary? In terms of happy cycling, it’s worth every penny. In terms of performance, the weight game is pretty much a waste unless you’re talking about some serious poundage. For instance, after training for two months (a bit over 1,200 miles) on the set of wheels that came with my Venge, I upgraded to a set almost a full pound lighter. I absolutely felt the difference. Did the upgrade make me faster? Marginally, if at all but my bike looks really awesome.
First, the weight game will largely depend on the size of your wallet, let’s just get that cleared up right away. There are few cheap tricks to making a bike lighter but mostly they’re ridiculously expensive… The simple thing to do, if you want a light bike, is go to a Trek store and buy and Emonda, the nicest one you can afford ($1,650-$15,750) and call it good. You will have the lightest production bike sold in whatever price-point you choose. It’s that simple and a whole lot cheaper (and easier) than buying a heavy bike and trying to upgrade the weight out of it. The low-end Emonda weighs 19-1/2 pounds and the top of the line weighs 10-1/2. You can get the SL 8 for $4,520 (roughly what I will have into my Venge when I’m done) and end up with a bike 1/2 pound lighter (15.5 pounds) – and with a better group set.
With that out of the way, does it matter?
Yes and no. Nine pounds will make a difference no matter what the cyclist weighs, there’s no doubt about that but there’s a price to riding lightweight equipment: Durability. On the other hand, and let’s use me as the example, a recreational cyclist husband and father of two small children, who makes a decent living, taking into account the terrain that I ride on (mainly flat with no “rated” climbs within a 100 mile radius) and I can think of no scenario in which I would need a ten pound bike. Now, a 16 pound bike? That fits my situation a lot better, both monetarily and terrain wise. I can make up any disadvantages with “want to” at that point. In fact, I think the lightest bike on our Tuesday night club ride (the ride that draws all of the high-priced carbon) is 14 pounds, an S-Works Tarmac. Most are around 15-18 pounds.
The title of this post is What Does a Road Bike Weigh though and before we get into this there are a few things that we should get straight. First, weight matters most in the mountains. Second, “want to” will trump a fifteen pound bike six days a week and twice on Sunday. Legend has it that Peter Sagan once won a race on his sister’s bike. So when you hear people tell you “It’s not the bike, it’s the engine”, they’re not kidding. Finally, unless you’re in the mountains, aero trumps weight.
That said, here’s the approximate breakdown by cost/class:
Big-box road bike ($200-$400), twist-grip shifters, steel frame or maybe aluminum frame: 25-30+ pounds. If you have serious road cycling plans, these are to be avoided at all costs. I know, you think $200 is a lot to spend on a bike but if you want to ride with the big dogs, $200 is a lot of money for a pair of shorts. On the other hand, if this is the best you can do, have at it. Just know those twist shifters alone will put you at an exceptional disadvantage… And to upgrade away from them later, you’ll have to change the crank, the rear derailleur, the cassette, the front derailleur, the wheels (probably) and the shifters. Total cost? More than you would pay for a decent entry-level bike.
Entry Level ($600-$900), integrated brake/shifters (Shimano Sora or Claris), aluminum frame, carbon fork: 20-23 pounds.
Mid Grade Entry Level ($900-$1500), integrated brake/shifters, aluminum frame, carbon fork, leisure components (Shim. Tiagra or 105): 19-22 pounds.
Entry Level Race Ready ($1500-$2500), entry level racing components (Shimano 105, SRAM Rival) aluminum or carbon fiber frame, carbon fork: 17.5-19 pounds.
Race Ready mid range ($2500-$4000), entry level racing or 2nd tier racing components (Shim. 105 or Ultegra, SRAM Force, Campagnolo Chorus), carbon fiber frame and fork: 16-18.5 pounds.
High End Race ($4000-$7000), 2nd and Top Tier Components (Ultegra, Dura Ace, SRAM Red, Campagnolo Record), carbon fiber frame and fork, aluminum or carbon wheels depending on price point: 14-17 pounds
Dream Bikes: ($6000-$20000) Top Tier and Electronic Shifting (Ui2, Di2, SRAM Red, Campagnolo Super Record) carbon fiber frame and fork, carbon fiber wheels: 10-15 pounds
Weights are approximations and do not including pedals and cages. Frame sizes do effect weight. Classes and Components are an estimation, the combinations available on the market are too broad to properly classify. The basis for group set types is here. Bikes shown are property of Specialized and Trek bikes, they are used as examples only and are not meant to be a full representation of all available – I stuck with what I know, love and ride myself.
There is a simple rule for buying a bike that works no matter how much or how little a person makes: Buy the best bike you can afford and don’t test ride anything out of your price-range… Best not to know what you’re missing.