Bike Weights? How Low Before Reliability is Compromised?

There’s been some recent discussion within our circle of riders about bike weights. How important is a low bike weight to you? When does a bike become too light and the parts too weight weenie that reliability is compromised? What tricks would you consider implementing and which would you stay away from?

Extralite’s 17.26 lbs hardtail RC1 Custom

Coming from the 29er side, I start thinking compromises to reliability are being made for weight loss when I see a hardtail under 23ish lbs for XC/trail riding or a full suspension under 25 lbs. I don’t know what those weights would translate to for 26″ bikes. (I don’t think reducing gears or riding without suspension is a compromise to reliability. Rather, I think of it as a legitimate way to reduce the weight of your bike.) Of course your opinion on what a minimum weight might be different from me, but in general the aforementioned 29er weights is where the line is drawn for me. I am, after all, a clydesdale so I need to know that my components will last when I exert my MASSIVE amounts of force my body is so accustomed to delivering to my components. 😉

I, for one, have entertained running a 140mm rear rotor for my hydraulic brakes but I’m not quite ready to drop that weight for the loss in braking power. Or how about a common racer practice of screwing on only three rotor bolts per rotor instead of the 6 provided? Over two rotors on a bike, you actually end up going from 12 rotor bolts to just 6 or half of what you normally would run. But is this something you would do to reduce the weight of your bike? What about reliability?

3 bolts per rotor: too much weight weenie-ism or totally reliable?

Where do you draw your line when it comes to weight weenie-ism? Are there any particular components that you would absolutely not put on your bike because it reduces reliability (carbon handlebars, maybe?) or performance for the sake of weight? What about certain tricks that you would or would not do to go lighter on the bike?

25 Replies to “Bike Weights? How Low Before Reliability is Compromised?”

  1. I like to remove every fourth spoke to save weight. Do I really need all 32?

    Seriously though, running a tiny rotor in the back is fine. I run a small rotor in the back of my DH Race bike with no ill effects, and I’m well into the clydesdale category. I’m more than happy to shave weight where it doesn’t really need to be (lighteight seat and post, tubeless tires, light shifters and brake levers) but I’ll go for the strongest parts where I know they’ll take the abuse (cranks, wheels, handlebars, pedals.)

  2. Oh yeah, another good one is to remove the star nut and bolt from your fork after you get your stem clamped on. There is no need for it to be there once you get everything adjusted. You just have to hope you never need to adjust it on the trail!

  3. To me it’s amazing how much money/energy/time people spend on shaving that blinky bike another half a pound when they could easily shave five from themselves.

    I have a heavy, 32lbs hard tail Motobecane 29er. I could probably make it much lighter just switching wheels to something just a bit higher than basics.

    But I can tell you – there is no chance it would make even half of the effect I achieved by loosing 10 lbs during last 4 months I’m riding it. And I have still plenty of fat to loos – so there still will be no investments in my bike unless I’m skinny 170 lbs rider with no fat / plain muscles.

  4. I like to remove the frame of the bike, that usually saves me about 4-6lbs. Then then remove the fat boy that’s riding it, me. That usually saves me about 187lbs.

    On a serious note, I’ve become a weight sausage, not so much a weenie, since I’m not woo’d by the latest light stuff, but I like my bikes to be under 30lbs.

    I know that forks are the biggest offender in weight. Lower end forks are the cause of a chunky bike, but then again, I’m not willing to spend up to $500 for a new SID…

  5. I consider myself a Weight Wennie… But I really think of myself as Cheap, First! I personally would love to have a 20lbs XC bike but it all comes down to money. As far as reliability of light weight parts I’m pretty sure if you can break a cheap heavy part you can break an expensive light weight part. A lot of Weight Wennies break lightweight road parts on their mountain bikes, well it was not designed for those forces.
    After many years, I’ve found the most cost effective way to save weight and money, is to get the lightest tires for the conditions in your area, tubes (run a size smaller), good light weight seat post, stem, and finally get rid of the gel seat cover.
    As far as exotic materials I used to be a firm believer in Ti, but if just cost too much so I was only albe to get a Ti seatpost, never a complete frame. Recently. I got a Carbon Road Frame and loved the ride so now Carbon is my new miracle material.

  6. A bunch of my friends run carbon handlebars on their beefy trail bikes. All of the big manufacturers (FSA, Easton, etc) do enough testing to the point where you don’t really have to worry about parts failing. Just check for fatigue periodically. This goes for everything not just carbon.

  7. My KHS Team Alite’s weakest links are the rims. The manufacturer suggested rider weight limit is 175 lbs. I’m currently at 161, but I do worry about the abuse that the trail can dish out. I don’t worry about my carbon fiber handlebars, seatpost and stem since they are from reputable manufacturers, I think that once you start to install carbon parts from an unknown source, that may be a little unnerving.

  8. I would agree w/a lot of the statements mentioned above. I am also a Clyde trying to run a lighter bike. My lightest bike is 26-27lbs and CAN be lighter if I invested in a lighter tubeless wheelset. So far, I run this bike through the normal abuse of recreational riding and occasional racing. My components have held up well and required low maintenance.

    As far as the previous suggestions above:

    Jeremy – without compromising the safety of your ride, instead of using less screws on the rotors, perhaps you can invest on Ti screws. There was a site that I had contacted in the past that made Ti bolts for just about anything/any components. They also make bolts for cranksets.

    Also switching to a 140mm rear rotor shouldn’t hurt the braking performance as majority of the stopping power would come from the front brakes. Give it a shot!

    Tomasz – we all want to shave weight from ourselves…that’s probably the hardest thing 🙂

    Khoa – I agree, man I’d love to have a 20lb XC bike. But as far as components, I’d opt for the higher end. They are listed to be on the expensive side but if you are patient you can find these on eBay and other sources for half of the retail price.

    IMO they are well worth it. I’ve yet to pay full price on my XOs, XTR and others… On my XO rear derailleur, I was rear ended and the cage was bent. I had my LBS bend it back; it’s as good as new.

    Carbon is still at an early stage but we are seeing more products out there. The bars have been around and I haven’t heard of any issues. The Carbon stem is not yet a “full carbon”. It’s typically a carbon lacing. Then there is the Carbon Cranks. I wanted one of these as well…but LBS have steered away from it. Even Race Face prolonged the release of their new Next Carbon crankset :(. Weight and price difference wasn’t too far apart from the XTR crankset. If I ever steer away from Intense, I want the Ibis Mojo Carbon frame… oh, I’m not sure if its Magura, but they are starting to make carbon legs for XC forks.

  9. If you’re a hardcore xc racer, then doing things like removing some rotor bolts may makes sense. For everyone else, it is completely pointless.

  10. I say, lose some body weight before losing some bike weight. I know I could ride like the wind if I were to be 20-30lbs lighter…at that point, having a few extra lbs on the bike wouldn’t matter.

  11. I would have to agree – losing body fat should be the first thing that someone should focus on before worrying about a few ounces here and there.
    (Still working on that area myself)

    So far the only thing I did to save weight was upgrade –

    Handlebars – Easton Monkey lite composite bars

    Pedals – Crank brothers Egg beater SL

    Seat post – Thomson Masterpiece series. (I also found out where my seat position is ideal and then made it even lighter by cutting off a bit of the seat post that was inside the seat tube.)

    I removed my tubes and bought the Stans no tube system. This alone took off a little more than a 1/2 pound.
    (Plus I don’t need to worry about getting flats as often.)

    Right now I am looking into some different lighter wheel sets. The set I have right now is pretty heavy. (Mavic 317 disk with Deore LX hubs) This includes tires as well.

  12. Saving weight…Hmmmmmm. Let’s see….. Chop your seatpost down to the minimum insertion mark(do you really use all 410mm?). Cut your steer tube to the exact length needed(do you really need ALL of those spacers??), Carbon headset spacers if you do. If running tubes, use 26×1.75’s instead of 2.1’s. Kevlar bead tires, Ritchey foam grips with a spray adhesive instead of HEAVY lock-on grips, Remove all of those HEAVY, uneccessary, noisy derailleurs. Power Cordz cables w/ Nokon housing (this is a bit $$ pricey $$). Alloy chain ring bolts, Hollow pin chain (cut as short as possible). Cut brake/derailleur cables as short as possible and solder the ends instead of using HEAVY crimp-on cable tips. 32 hole wheels instead of 36 hole. 11-32 cassette instead of 12-34 (shoot… drop 8 of those gears and run a single alloy 18 tooth cog!). Convert to a 2X9, 1×9 or even single speed! AND the number one way to drop weight……………..have your buddy challenge you to a 8 week weight loss challenge where the ‘loser’ has to wear a BRIGHT RED moo-moo in front of his entire family and a large group of friends, publicly humiliating himself in the process while pulling two of his kids in a trailer!

  13. I do remember reading an article back in the 80’s as a kid in Bicycling Mag, showing these two guys drilling holes into their frame to save weight…

  14. Interesting, I have an older copy of MBA in my office. It features the Extralight in R.Cunningham’s Happy Trails. Sergio Riva (founder/owner) of Extralite talks about his 16.5 lbs RC-1, the frame weighs 2.6 lbs…crazy!!!

  15. Vince,

    We can make it interesting…let’s do it for pinks…or in this case, bikes.

    We put up our bikes as our ante. So for example, if you lose, I get to keep your Single Speed. If I lose, you get to keep my single speed.


  16. Wheels are another great place to lose the weight but consider
    reliability and maintenance.

    My Mavic 321 rims allow me to be a bit more care free and not
    have the worry about walking out of the bush.( Pacific North West riding / Vancouver)

    My discs have added weight but I still remember the death grip cantilevers
    on a wet day with next to zero breaking.


  17. I’m looking to get a mountain bike and am thinking I will get a used 29er or the frame for one. I want to get the most reliable rims on the market though. I don’t care about weight, I care about not having to replace them very often. What’s you guys opinion on the most reliable 29er rims?

  18. reliable 29er rims? Depends on your size. If you’re a light weight, you should be fine with most any rim. If you’re heavier, then a couple of stronger rims would be the no tube stans flows, halo freedom disc.
    If you’re a big clyde (240+?) then I hear great things about the kris holm 36 hole rims.

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