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How to make your bike lighter: 5 ways to shed weight fast

How to make your bike lighter
(Image credit: Andrew Pease)

A lighter bike is a faster bike, right? Well, that's the general consensus among the weight weenie brigade at least, and while there's some truth to the notion, it's not always the case. For starters, going too light can reduce the bike's ride quality which means it will be slower over choppier or abrasive surfaces. Then there are external factors such as the wind or long downhills where the more aerodynamic bike/rider combo wins the race. 

Point a lightweight bike in the direction of a climb, however, and all that negativity quickly falls by the wayside.

In the UK, the hill climb season has become a phenomenon among the fervent locals with participants going to extreme measures to shed as much weight off their bikes as possible. Sawn-off handlebars, 1x drivetrain configurations and titanium bolts are just some of the extreme ways you can turn your bike into a veritable weapon of mass reduction.

The following weight-shedding upgrades will help you ride up grades in less time than before.

1. The cockpit

It may sound like an insignificant saving but swapping your alloy handlebars for the carbon-fibre equivalent can free up as much as 80g. You could go one step further and cut them - a modification I don't recommend if you're going to use the bike as a daily - but the rounded, non-aero, non-integrated bars are easily the lightest options currently on the market. I'd recommend the Fizik Cyrano R1 Bull Carbon bar which tips the scales at a reasonable 200g. 

While it's not rated in our best bar tape guide for obvious reasons, wrap your bars in the 29g Deda Traforato Perforated Bar Tape and you've got one of the lightest (reliable) cockpits in the game. 

2. Tyres and inner tubes

The cheapest upgrade here also brings with it the most significant catch - minimised puncture resistance. That said, for many weight weenies, it's a risk worth taking. Some of the popular options in this regard come from the Continental and Schwalbe stable. Both respective companies make some of the best road bike tyres with options that weigh in at around 205g a tyre in 23c guise - the venerable Grand Prix 4000 ii and Pro One are cases in point. Not only will a lighter tyre shed rotational weight it will also improve the ride quality and feel.

Another quick weight reduction measure is to ditch your standard butyl inner tube for latex inner tubes or go one step further and call upon the thermoplastic elastomer-based Tubolito Tubo. At £30 it might be an appreciably expensive inner tube option but with a total saving of around 80g at both ends - it's an easy win. 

3. Wheels

In an attempt to keep costs to a minimum, manufacturers often spec their entry to mid-level bicycles with more durable components - particularly when it comes to wheelsets. Alloy hoops have become the go-to option in this regard and are typically heavier than carbon fibre but that's not always the case.

Finding the best lightweight wheels requires a bit of research as the lower the weight the higher the price. While many enthusiasts aspire to own a set of 1,100g Lightweight Meilenstein wheels, for the average cyclist, they're too pricey to justify as an upgrade. 

There are other 'heavier' more robust options that are more than up to the task: take CADEX's 42 wheels (1,265g) for example or the 1,248g Roval Alpinist wheelset - both options of which can be used all-year-round, reliably.

That said, when it comes to value, reliability and weight few options can trump Mavic's 1,295g R-Sys SLR alloy wheels.

4. Components and accessories

Another simple weight-saving measure comprises substituting items such your saddle, seat post and pedals for carbon-fibre alternatives. These modifications are also somewhat cheaper than changing your wheels and drivetrain.

If you're going to be spending a lot of time in the saddle and not just targeting hill climbs in particular, there are a raft of semi-lightweight carbon saddle options from Fizik and CADEX. While Fizik's 153g Antares and 166g Arione Versus Evo 00 are two of the best road bike saddles around, it's the 135g CADEX Boost saddle that is turning heads owing to its stellar meld of comfort and weight. 

Another quick win is adding a lightweight seat post (Ultimate USE Evo 3k Carbon post is a personal favourite) and binning unnecessary items such as bottle cages, swapping out all the regular steel screws and bolts for titanium versions, and upgrading to lightweight skewers. 

You can also look at cutting the steerer tube and seatpost - minimal savings yes, but every gram counts.

5. Paint

Most high-end bicycles are manufactured from high-modulus ultra-light carbon fibre and some - such as the Factor O2 VAM - even sport unpainted frames. The majority of bikes, however, are not as feathery as their high-end counterparts and require some surgery - read paint removal - to get them to the same level. 

Removing the paint from your bike can save you a further 100-120g as well as bag you that exclusive, raw carbon-fibre finish.