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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 07-03-12, 11:37 AM   #1
ChrisIIDX
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Lightweight vs Heavyweight Commuter Bicycles?

A coworker commented that I have an incredibly heavy bicycle, probably over 30 lbs. It's a bit like a tank, with a steel frame, an IGH, drum brakes, fenders, rack, kickstand, etc. It's not unpleasant to ride, I lowered the gearing and it's a nice ride overall. But that conversation got me wondering whether or not my bicycle is absurdly heavy (and maybe if I should go lighter somewhere down the road) and how much of an impact does the weight of your bike have on your commute. Thoughts?

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Old 07-03-12, 11:43 AM   #2
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If you are in Europe, do as the Europeans do . . . go heavy. Actually, 30 pounds is a bit on the light side.
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Old 07-03-12, 11:45 AM   #3
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my fair weather pony is a clean titanium road bike that weighs in at ~17 pounds.

my foul weather beast is an IGH/disc brake hybrid that weighs in at ~27 pounds.


the overall effect on time between the two bikes is probably only 5 minutes or so over the course of my 15 mile one-way commute*, but the lighter road bike is undoubtedly more fun to ride! a lighter bike accelerates a lot faster from all those damn stop lights along my urban commute route.


(*) the time difference between the two bikes is based on more than just the weight difference alone. geometry, aerodynamics, tires, drivetrain efficiency, etc. also play a role in my road bike being noticeably faster than my hybrid.

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Old 07-03-12, 12:13 PM   #4
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Extra weight might play a role in commute speed if you have a lot of red lights and stop signs, or if you have hills. Once you get going on the flat, there's no penalty for weight.

Weight, as on your bike, is beneficial for commuting. You don't need to worry about the bike falling apart (as much). You've probably got good reliability with the IGH in dirt or slush. With fatter tires, you won't notice rough roads (do you see potholes on your route) as much, and you needn't worry about flats as much.
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Old 07-03-12, 12:16 PM   #5
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If you are in Europe, do as the Europeans do . . . go heavy. Actually, 30 pounds is a bit on the light side.
In Amsterdam or Copenhagen, or anywhere it's flat. Those bikes tend to last forever. In the Alps, OTOH, few people ride heavy bikes unless they're e-bikes. Most of the commuting bikes I see tend to be around 20-25 lbs and made from aluminum.
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Old 07-03-12, 12:24 PM   #6
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In Amsterdam or Copenhagen, or anywhere it's flat. Those bikes tend to last forever. In the Alps, OTOH, few people ride heavy bikes unless they're e-bikes. Most of the commuting bikes I see tend to be around 20-25 lbs and made from aluminum.
Send some of that cool Alpine air our way. It's been close to 100F and humid for a week. And no electricity for a few days after the 80 mph winds blew through here Friday night.
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Old 07-03-12, 12:29 PM   #7
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Send some of that cool Alpine air our way. It's been close to 100F and humid for a week. And no electricity for a few days after the 80 mph winds blew through here Friday night.
That's alright Alan, you're already entirely too cool!
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Old 07-03-12, 12:34 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by ChrisIIDX View Post
A coworker commented that I have an incredibly heavy bicycle, probably over 30 lbs. It's a bit like a tank, with a steel frame, an IGH, drum brakes, fenders, rack, kickstand, etc. It's not unpleasant to ride, I lowered the gearing and it's a nice ride overall. But that conversation got me wondering whether or not my bicycle is absurdly heavy (and maybe if I should go lighter somewhere down the road) and how much of an impact does the weight of your bike have on your commute. Thoughts?
If you like riding it and it works for you, don't worry about weight.
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Old 07-03-12, 12:38 PM   #9
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Extra weight will only affect the average commuter when it comes to hills and headwinds. The more stoplights encountered the less time difference should be accounted. Heavier bikes are easier to maintain current speed but harder to accelerate.

Besides, if you hadn't ever worried about bicycle weight before, why start now?

I think that your parade has been rained upon...

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Old 07-03-12, 12:42 PM   #10
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Send some of that cool Alpine air our way. It's been close to 100F and humid for a week. And no electricity for a few days after the 80 mph winds blew through here Friday night.
I would if I could. Yesterday's high was 65F. Today was a bit warmer, around 75F.
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Old 07-03-12, 12:46 PM   #11
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The weight of my bike is a mere pittance against the weight of my a**.
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Old 07-03-12, 12:53 PM   #12
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The weight of my bike is a mere pittance against the weight of my a**.
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Old 07-03-12, 12:57 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by ChrisIIDX View Post
A coworker commented that I have an incredibly heavy bicycle, probably over 30 lbs. It's a bit like a tank, with a steel frame, an IGH, drum brakes, fenders, rack, kickstand, etc. It's not unpleasant to ride, I lowered the gearing and it's a nice ride overall. But that conversation got me wondering whether or not my bicycle is absurdly heavy (and maybe if I should go lighter somewhere down the road) and how much of an impact does the weight of your bike have on your commute. Thoughts?
There's your answer. Quit worrying about weight, and get back to enjoying the ride.
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Old 07-03-12, 01:11 PM   #14
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There's your answer. Quit worrying about weight, and get back to enjoying the ride.
Thanks. And thanks everyone for the input. I'm going to stick with what I've got as it works just fine.
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Old 07-03-12, 01:28 PM   #15
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If you are in Europe, do as the Europeans do . . . go heavy. Actually, 30 pounds is a bit on the light side.
Thanks, I was gonna say, "30 pounds is incredibly heavy?" My bike is 35 pounds before I put on the stuff I'm going to carry, and that's in the summer. In the winter the tires are heavier and I'm carrying at least one extra spare light battery. The weight doesn't bother me any, it just makes me stronger.

I only have one bike.
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Old 07-03-12, 01:34 PM   #16
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My commuter (a vintage stumpjumper comp mtb) weighs in at around 30 lbs once I've loaded it with gear. I sure as heck wouldn't sweat weight on a commuter as long as I was happy with the bike and the parts. Besides fat tires are great for commuting and they aren't light.
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Old 07-03-12, 01:41 PM   #17
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The weight of your bike is not nearly as important as the fit and whether or not you like it set up the way it is.
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Old 07-03-12, 04:33 PM   #18
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4th Floor Walk-up, bringing your bike into your Flat at night .. then it matters

riding into the garage or locking it to a canal side
Iron fence might not, matter.


take a light bike, add racks, panniers, mud guards and a good lock,
and presto the bike is not so light any more.

.. but a lot more useful as a commuter's tool.

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Old 07-03-12, 06:02 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by ChrisIIDX View Post
A coworker commented that I have an incredibly heavy bicycle, probably over 30 lbs. It's a bit like a tank, with a steel frame, an IGH, drum brakes, fenders, rack, kickstand, etc. It's not unpleasant to ride, I lowered the gearing and it's a nice ride overall. But that conversation got me wondering whether or not my bicycle is absurdly heavy (and maybe if I should go lighter somewhere down the road) and how much of an impact does the weight of your bike have on your commute. Thoughts?
A heavy bicycle is harder to haul upstairs and load into/onto vehicles. This may be significant: my back hurts just thinking about trying to load my wife's heavy IGH city bike into a car. I can lift my commuter with plenty of titanium and carbon fiber comfortably with one hand (22-24 pounds on a fish scale with lights, lock, rear rack, seat pack with tools/spare tube, pump, and empty water bottle).

A lighter bicycle will make you faster up the steepest hills in proportion to the total weight lost.

Assuming a 185 pound rider with 15 pounds of luggage (what I get when I weigh my pannier with laptop, papers, work clothes, rain gear, warm/wind resistant clothes, snack food, spare lights...) and a 30 pound bike dropped to a 20 pound bike he'd be 4.5% faster up the steepest hills (ex - go 6.27 MPH not 6 MPH).

On flat ground the difference can be calculated but not measured with certainty due to other variations. The same rider with .4 M Sd and .760 Cd per Grassi and Gibertini's paper on a ~6' tall cyclist riding atop the hoods with .004 Crr pedaling at 200W would see a 0.04% speed increase from 21.30 MPH to 21.39 MPH on flat ground.

A pannier does make a big difference from the aerodynamics - it's like a 20% increase in CdA but makes comuting, much, much more comfortable than with a backpack.

Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 07-04-12 at 12:18 PM.
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Old 07-03-12, 06:04 PM   #20
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I have a road bike I use for long training rides and organized rides and a mtn bike commuter which is very heavy. That is the bike that really makes me stronger and faster when I am on the road bike. Plain and simple!
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Old 07-03-12, 06:50 PM   #21
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Spend an extra $2000 on your ultra-light commuting bike and you'll save at least 2-3 minutes EVERY day! If you make $40/hr, the time savings will pay off in less than 5 years.

No brainer IMO.
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Old 07-03-12, 07:25 PM   #22
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Another perspective: pro cyclists have uber- lightweight bicycles. They also tend to have some sort of mobile support vehicle that offers repairs or even replacement of the whole bike in case of some sort of mechanical issue. I don't have the luxury of the SAG wagon and personal mechanic. I ride what I think will hold up to the abuse my Clyde butt will put it through. Performance may suffer a bit, but form, function, and durability rate higher on my selection criteria than performance on my commuter.

Of course, this is my first bike and if I had it to do over again... I'd still pick longer chain stays to avoid heel strike than light weight.
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Old 07-03-12, 07:56 PM   #23
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I agree with all the posters who say that if your bike works for you, who cares how heavy or light it is? If the gearing is right, the fit is perfect (or at least comfortable), the ride is enjoyable, I wouldn't worry about how light or heavy the bike is. Unless you live in a fifth floor walk-up

I will choose certain bikes over others depending on the situation, though. For example, I prefer using drop bars and some form of foot retention (toe clips, straps, clipless pedals, etc.) when I have to ride more than about 3-5 miles at a time with steep hills. I prefer a bike with swept-back bars and platform pedals if I have to do a lot of "stop-n-go" riding in the middle of downtown.
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Old 07-03-12, 08:15 PM   #24
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There's no too heavy or light enough bike. Does it suit your purposes? Then it's fine.

I prefer a lighter-than-average bike, but I sometimes ride my old English 3-speed. It's about 40 pounds. I just ride it more slowly.
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Old 07-03-12, 08:30 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by ChrisIIDX View Post
A coworker commented that I have an incredibly heavy bicycle, probably over 30 lbs. It's a bit like a tank, with a steel frame, an IGH, drum brakes, fenders, rack, kickstand, etc. It's not unpleasant to ride, I lowered the gearing and it's a nice ride overall. But that conversation got me wondering whether or not my bicycle is absurdly heavy (and maybe if I should go lighter somewhere down the road) and how much of an impact does the weight of your bike have on your commute. Thoughts?
Depends on how much you weigh. Do not think in terms of % weight reduction of the bike or you will be fooling yourself. If you weigh 225 lbs, bike weighs 25 bs, that's a total of 250 lbs. Take the bike down to 15 lbs which is going to be high-end and quite costly, and you have only reduced the weight of BIKE + RIDER by 4%. Mostly you have a placebo effect because the bike will be so much easier to carry up a set of steps. Obviously, it will matter more for a 120 lb rider.

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