how much does bike weight matter with climbing

Triathlon is a highly competitive sport. When it comes to improving your times, there are many ways you can go about it. You can train harder by structuring your training or using a coach, cross-train by hitting the gym and getting strength and conditioning in or get technical advice on your form. 

If you’re looking for an easy, quick fix to shave some time off your race, many people consider upgrading equipment, and many triathletes go down the route of a lighter bike. We are often asked does bike weight actually make that much difference? 

In this article, we’ll discuss if it’s worth buying a lighter bike and, if not, what you need to focus on to get faster.

 

How much does bike weight matter?

A lot of testing has been done regarding bike weight, but it is very challenging as there are a lot of other factors when it comes to the speed of a bike, such as aerodynamics, course, material, stiffness, and rider. 

Some of the best information we came across online was a test done with triathlon bikes where a triathlete took to a 4km hill and repeated it on multiple bikes with a 1lb difference in weight from 15lbs to 18lbs. Over the test, it was found that typically up the climb, the rider only saves 2.5 seconds per 1lb of bike weight. So the difference between a 15lb bike and an 18lb bike was 7.5 seconds over a 4km climb.

Even on a very hilly race, there’s actually very little difference, and even professional triathletes tend not to overthink a couple of pounds of bike weight. The only place it might make a big difference is in a race like the Tour de France, where 7.5 seconds is a huge amount.

Another thing to mention is to remember this study was done on a climb. On a flat, it makes even less difference. If you want to find out more about the study, visit OutsideOnline.com

triathlon bike weight difference

Why doesn’t lighter typically mean faster?

The general issue is that a slightly lighter bike doesn’t make a huge amount of difference. When you think about weight and cycling, you have to look at the overall. Here’s the best way to understand it. 

 

18lbs Bike 

15lbs Bike

Body Weight 

170lbs

170lbs

Clothing

2lbs

2lbs

Bike Weight

18lbs

15lbs

Tools & Spares

1lbs

1lbs

Water & Food

3lbs

3lbs

Total

194lbs

191lbs

So as you can see here, although you might have a lighter bike, typically nothing else weight-wise actually changes. As a percentage, you are only about 1.5% lighter, which doesn’t mean your time will be 1.5% quicker. Knowing this bike could cost thousands more does seem like an expense that isn’t worth it unless you were at the top level and had a lot of spare cash. 

 

How much weight would make a considerable difference?

Triathlon bikes do heavily vary when it comes to their weight. A basic entry-level road or triathlon bike can weigh as much as 32 lbs compared to a professional bike which can weigh as little as 17lbs. If you were to upgrade to close this gap would be dropping 15lbs in weight which would make a noticeable difference.

Of the most considerable differences in riding a lighter bike is climbing. According to the experts from Backbiker, it’s vital to find the balance between weight and strength, allowing you to produce enough power needed and take on rugged, abusive terrain. 

The gains made from a light bike can make a considerable difference that’s noticeable in maximizing training and race day performance.

faster triathlon time trial bike weight

What is going to make you faster on the bike?

So if getting a slightly lighter bike isn’t going to make your bike leg faster, what is? In this next section, let’s discuss our top tips for improving your bike speed. 

Aerodynamics 

If you want to save time and are set on upgrading your bike, then using an aero bike will give you a lot of bang for your buck. Studies have shown that compared to a standard bike, an aero bike can save you 9 minutes on a 100-mile bike ride for the same wattage. If you want to find out more, check out Trek’s blog post on testing.

Bike fit

A very overlooked way to get quicker is to have a bike fit. And for a bike to be fit, it needs adjusting that aims to boost efficiency, comfort, and performance. A bike fit can get you in a more aerodynamic position, help with your pedaling efficiently, reduce injuries, and add a huge amount of comfort, meaning you can stay on the bike for longer periods. 

Some common injuries that result from an ill-fitting bike include cyclist’s palsy, anterior knee pain, and cyclist’s back. So, when you get a new bike, it’s advisable to have a professional technician take a look at your bike. Some things to look out for during a bike fit include:

  • The saddle height, fore and aft position, and saddle tilt
  • Stem length and height
  • Bar width
  • Grip diameter
  • Brake lever adjustments
  • Crank length
  • Shoe, insole, and clean adjustments.

Structured Training

Although interval sessions on the bike and going out for long rides for base miles will improve your fitness, you will get much more out of having some training structure. Hiring a coach who can plan your sessions for you, help give you adequate rest, and reflect on the data to improve your fitness further will go a very long way to making you faster.

The right coach will have a structured training program with a detailed schedule, time frame, and outline of activities. These well-defined goals and training program go a long way to get you going faster.

Bike upgrades

If you want to get faster and are on basic equipment, consider upgrading your bike. One of the best upgrades you can make is upgrading your wheels to a set of carbon fiber wheels with racing tires. On flatter courses, aero wheels are a more appropriate choice that offers greater speed.

Although there are many elements involved in rim choices, consider getting deep-rim wheels that’ll decrease drag, save energy, and increase speed. However, before getting these wheels, ensure that the rear wheel rim depth isn’t deeper than the front wheel. 

Reducing overall weight

Reducing weight can make you faster. There’s no denying that. It will make a difference if you can reduce your weight without taking away your aerodynamic advantages. Looking at your body weight, the weight of your gear, and even considering the amount of water you take for shorter races can make a big difference when all put together.

Keep your bike well maintained 

So often overlooked by many triathletes is keeping your bike in tip-top condition. Keeping on top of all your components, such as chain, cassette, and chainrings makes a huge difference to the performance of your bike. Also, using proper performance bike lube can help reduce rolling resistance. For the best lubes, check out this list on 333fab.com.

triathlete bike weight

Conclusion

So does bike weight matter? Ignoring aerodynamics, if the bike you’re using is very heavy, as much as 30lbs, and you’re upgrading to a bike that is 15lbs, it does matter and will make a noticeable difference. If you upgrade a bike from 18lbs to 15lbs, it will make very little difference. We hope you enjoyed our article and look forward to reading your comments. 

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