Go Back  Bike Forums > Bike Forums > Road Cycling
Reload this Page >

Climbing -- Does Bike Weight Really Matter?

Notices
Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Climbing -- Does Bike Weight Really Matter?

Old 05-02-24, 12:04 PM
  #1  
climber has-been
Thread Starter
 
terrymorse's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Palo Alto, CA
Posts: 7,426

Bikes: Scott Addict R1, Felt Z1

Liked 3,967 Times in 1,952 Posts
Climbing -- Does Bike Weight Really Matter?

The Guardian weighs in on whether or not bike weight matters when climbing:

"[T]here is a closely reasoned argument reiterating the important fact that ability to climb hills depends far more on the gear of a machine than on its weight. This is perfectly true. The difference between a 25 lb machine and a 35 lb machine is after all but a small fraction of the total weight of the machine and rider combined, which total weight is a measure of the work to be done against gravity in hill-climbing, and the high-geared featherweight will be a far inferior hill climber to the full-roadster cycle geared several inches lower."

The Guardian published this on May 1st, 1899. Settling this argument once and for all.
__________________
Ride, Rest, Repeat. ROUVY: terrymorse


terrymorse is offline  
Likes For terrymorse:
Old 05-02-24, 12:46 PM
  #2  
Over the hill
 
urbanknight's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 24,425

Bikes: Giant Defy, Giant Revolt

Liked 1,264 Times in 718 Posts
I stopped stressing over the weight of my bike when I realized that I was carrying a whole extra bike around my waistline anyway.
__________________
It's like riding a bicycle
urbanknight is offline  
Likes For urbanknight:
Old 05-02-24, 01:19 PM
  #3  
Senior Member
 
Maelochs's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 15,866

Bikes: 2015 Workswell 066, 2017 Workswell 093, 2014 Dawes Sheila, 1983 Cannondale 500, 1984 Raleigh Olympian, 2007 Cannondale Rize 4, 2017 Fuji Sportif 1 LE

Liked 3,846 Times in 2,014 Posts
Define "matter."
Maelochs is online now  
Likes For Maelochs:
Old 05-02-24, 01:21 PM
  #4  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2017
Posts: 8,354
Liked 11,661 Times in 4,976 Posts
Originally Posted by terrymorse
The Guardian weighs in on whether or not bike weight matters when climbing:

"[T]here is a closely reasoned argument reiterating the important fact that ability to climb hills depends far more on the gear of a machine than on its weight. This is perfectly true. The difference between a 25 lb machine and a 35 lb machine is after all but a small fraction of the total weight of the machine and rider combined, which total weight is a measure of the work to be done against gravity in hill-climbing, and the high-geared featherweight will be a far inferior hill climber to the full-roadster cycle geared several inches lower."

The Guardian published this on May 1st, 1899. Settling this argument once and for all.
I once rode a big hill climbing event in Pittsburgh called The Dirty Dozen. The steepest climb, on Canton Avenue, maxes out at a 37% grade -- the steepest street in the US. As I was flailing my skinny self up the hill on a cf-framed race bike with a 34-32 low gear, I looked to my left and saw a guy pass me on some kind of steel Surly touring bike, complete with a rear rack and fenders, spinning up on the smallest ring of his triple crankset and with his chain over a pretty large cog on the cassette. In addition to being on a heavy bike, the rider himself was rather heavy.

So yeah, gearing matters.
Koyote is offline  
Old 05-02-24, 01:32 PM
  #5  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 8,601
Liked 2,620 Times in 1,551 Posts
Originally Posted by terrymorse
The Guardian weighs in on whether or not bike weight matters when climbing:

"[T]here is a closely reasoned argument reiterating the important fact that ability to climb hills depends far more on the gear of a machine than on its weight. This is perfectly true. The difference between a 25 lb machine and a 35 lb machine is after all but a small fraction of the total weight of the machine and rider combined, which total weight is a measure of the work to be done against gravity in hill-climbing, and the high-geared featherweight will be a far inferior hill climber to the full-roadster cycle geared several inches lower."

The Guardian published this on May 1st, 1899. Settling this argument once and for all.
I would say the quoted statement is true. As for myself, I'll still be a slow climber, even with a featherweight bike and MTB gearing.
seypat is online now  
Old 05-02-24, 02:22 PM
  #6  
Perceptual Dullard
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 2,520
Liked 1,280 Times in 546 Posts
Originally Posted by Koyote
The steepest climb, on Canton Avenue, maxes out at a 37% grade -- the steepest street in the US.
https://www.dangerousroads.org/north...n-america.html
RChung is offline  
Old 05-02-24, 02:27 PM
  #7  
Perceptual Dullard
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 2,520
Liked 1,280 Times in 546 Posts
Originally Posted by terrymorse
The Guardian weighs in on whether or not bike weight matters when climbing:

"[T]here is a closely reasoned argument reiterating the important fact that ability to climb hills depends far more on the gear of a machine than on its weight. This is perfectly true. The difference between a 25 lb machine and a 35 lb machine is after all but a small fraction of the total weight of the machine and rider combined, which total weight is a measure of the work to be done against gravity in hill-climbing, and the high-geared featherweight will be a far inferior hill climber to the full-roadster cycle geared several inches lower."

The Guardian published this on May 1st, 1899. Settling this argument once and for all.

RChung is offline  
Old 05-02-24, 02:55 PM
  #8  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2017
Posts: 8,354
Liked 11,661 Times in 4,976 Posts
I paraphrased from the Wikipedia page which, which says (in full): steepest officially recorded public street in the United States.

I suspect the “officially recorded”” and “public street“ language is the source of some dispute…
Koyote is offline  
Likes For Koyote:
Old 05-02-24, 03:18 PM
  #9  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2014
Location: Westchester, NY
Posts: 565

Bikes: Scott Foil RC, Specialized Aethos

Liked 192 Times in 123 Posts
Originally Posted by terrymorse
The Guardian weighs in on whether or not bike weight matters when climbing:

"[T]here is a closely reasoned argument reiterating the important fact that ability to climb hills depends far more on the gear of a machine than on its weight. This is perfectly true. The difference between a 25 lb machine and a 35 lb machine is after all but a small fraction of the total weight of the machine and rider combined, which total weight is a measure of the work to be done against gravity in hill-climbing, and the high-geared featherweight will be a far inferior hill climber to the full-roadster cycle geared several inches lower."

The Guardian published this on May 1st, 1899. Settling this argument once and for all.
Yes and no. I own an Aethos and with pedals, cages, mounts, and sensors it weighs 14.62lbs. People see the bike and ask to pick it up and always their first impression is wow that's light, granted this isn't a SWORKS or even a RED/Dura Ace build. My point is while I agree appropriate gearing and climbing skills matter more, I think the Aethos or really any bike that is really specialized for one end of the spectrum provides confidence and a feeling of lightness that helps your conquer climbs. I think the issue now a days is that climbing where you need a dedicated climbing bike is pretty niche nowadays especially when we have all around aero disc bikes in the 15lb range. This is all to say extra weigh doesn't help but again like you said from the beginning having the right gearing is more important
Jrasero is offline  
Old 05-02-24, 04:38 PM
  #10  
Perceptual Dullard
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 2,520
Liked 1,280 Times in 546 Posts
Originally Posted by terrymorse
The Guardian published this on May 1st, 1899. Settling this argument once and for all.
An eighth of a millenium.
RChung is offline  
Likes For RChung:
Old 05-02-24, 04:45 PM
  #11  
Senior Member
 
79pmooney's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2014
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 13,123

Bikes: (2) ti TiCycles, 2007 w/ triple and 2011 fixed, 1979 Peter Mooney, ~1983 Trek 420 now fixed and ~1973 Raleigh Carlton Competition gravel grinder

Liked 4,141 Times in 2,670 Posts
Yeah, gears matter. But ... I rode the Mt Washington hill climb years ago. Geared the bike with a 28 1X and 13-21 FW, 12% lower than anyone with the then nearly "standard" 42-28 and Campy NR rear derailleur. I also left my WB and cage behind because that pound represented jacking up all four of a 2 ton car's wheels 12". On top of me riding myself and bike up that mountain.
79pmooney is online now  
Likes For 79pmooney:
Old 05-02-24, 05:54 PM
  #12  
OM boy
 
cyclezen's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Goleta CA
Posts: 4,550

Bikes: a bunch

Liked 768 Times in 505 Posts
Originally Posted by terrymorse
The Guardian weighs in on whether or not bike weight matters when climbing:

"[T]here is a closely reasoned argument reiterating the important fact that ability to climb hills depends far more on the gear of a machine than on its weight. This is perfectly true. The difference between a 25 lb machine and a 35 lb machine is after all but a small fraction of the total weight of the machine and rider combined, which total weight is a measure of the work to be done against gravity in hill-climbing, and the high-geared featherweight will be a far inferior hill climber to the full-roadster cycle geared several inches lower."

The Guardian published this on May 1st, 1899. Settling this argument once and for all.
LOL! You set this fire in the chicken coop just to watch all the hens run around ! Silly !
'Give a lever long enough, and one can move the earth' all well and good, except there is real world stuff.
The more mass you have to move, the more work you have to do... fundamental to it all.
Gearing is just your lever
In today's real world, we have to assume (ensure) we have a lever for all the situations, mass and work needed.
Be it me or Alberto Contador, we can move less mass easier, than more mass. Gearing is not in a world of it's own, it's all relative to the rider and what they are challenged to do. Alberto's gearing choices will certainly differ from mine. As will the result... Would I try to climb a 1 mile 9% slope with a 90 inch gear? Dont; think I would get very far - 30 yards? LOL!
So be it a 25 lb roadie or 35 lb Opa Fiets, the optimum gear depends on the rider's abilities. Assuming we know our optimum gearing for any situation, our own mass being the same with either bike,
a LIGHTER bike (given other equal bike characteristics, like power transfer, 'fit', etc) will always be easier and faster to complete. If we don't use a gear within the best capabilities of our human machine, that's on us for misjudgment.
Proper gearing? Of course Great/highest power transfer? Sure Lightest Weight? Always !
Funny ! 1899, but not April 1...
Ride On
Yuri

Last edited by cyclezen; 05-02-24 at 05:57 PM.
cyclezen is offline  
Likes For cyclezen:
Old 05-02-24, 06:41 PM
  #13  
Senior Member
 
PeteHski's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2021
Posts: 9,354
Liked 5,492 Times in 3,389 Posts
Gearing is definitely more important than weight for climbing steep slopes. My mountain bike weighs around 12.5 kg, but I can climb steeper slopes on it than I can on my 7.8 kg road bike. Simply because it has a much lower gear range.

Roglic vs Thomas on last year’s Giro mountain TT was also a good demonstration of how lower gearing can be a major advantage on the steeps - even when dropping a chain 😂

More weight obviously requires more power to climb at the same speed. I typically climb at 3-4 W/kg, so for every kg of mass I add to my bike I need 3-4W more power to maintain my power/weight ratio. My bike is around 7.8 kg, so at the UCI minimum weight I would be saving 4W at the most. It’s not a big deal really.
PeteHski is online now  
Likes For PeteHski:
Old 05-02-24, 07:01 PM
  #14  
Perceptual Dullard
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 2,520
Liked 1,280 Times in 546 Posts
Lower gearing allows for lower maximum crank torque and lower minimum speed (before falling over), and thus lower power. Lower gearing isn't so much to make you climb faster, it's to allow you to climb slower. Like PeteHski, I can climb steeper hills on my 12kg MTB than my 8kg road bike.
RChung is offline  
Likes For RChung:
Old 05-02-24, 07:11 PM
  #15  
Should Be More Popular
 
datlas's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Malvern, PA (20 miles West of Philly)
Posts: 43,445

Bikes: 1986 Alpine (steel road bike), 2009 Ti Habenero, 2013 Specialized Roubaix

Liked 9,385 Times in 4,335 Posts
Bike weight matters much less than most people think.
__________________
Originally Posted by rjones28
Addiction is all about class.
datlas is online now  
Old 05-02-24, 07:35 PM
  #16  
ignominious poltroon
 
Polaris OBark's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2022
Posts: 4,307
Liked 3,685 Times in 1,925 Posts
Originally Posted by Maelochs
Define "matter."
Particles with non-zero mass.
Polaris OBark is offline  
Old 05-02-24, 07:59 PM
  #17  
Senior Member
 
Sierra_rider's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2023
Location: NorCal
Posts: 688

Bikes: Santa Cruz Blur 4 TR, Canyon Endurace cf sl, Canyon Ultimate cf slx, Canyon Strive enduro, Canyon Grizl sl8

Liked 1,250 Times in 469 Posts
Weight isn't everything to me, but it definitely is a consideration. The bulk of my riding time is spent climbing (I average 112' elevation per mile,) so my main road bike is a fairly lightweight disc-brake climbing bike with some "aero optimizations." It has a 1:1 low gear, so I have the gearing covered as well.

My mountain bikes all have low gearing, climbing limitations are set on grip or balance, rather than gearing.
Sierra_rider is offline  
Old 05-03-24, 03:06 AM
  #18  
Senior Member
 
PeteHski's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2021
Posts: 9,354
Liked 5,492 Times in 3,389 Posts
Originally Posted by datlas
Bike weight matters much less than most people think.
Yeah, weight would matter a lot more if you had to carry your bike up hills rather than ride it. A 10% gradient is an approx 6 deg slope angle, so only about 10% of your bike weight (sin 6 deg = 0.1) is actually being resisted by gravity against that slope. The other 90% of bike weight only contributes to rolling resistance. If we are talking about 1 or even 2 kg it’s not a huge difference. Bike weight is also only about 10% of the total rider + bike weight.
PeteHski is online now  
Old 05-03-24, 05:19 AM
  #19  
cowboy, steel horse, etc
 
LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: The hot spot.
Posts: 45,619

Bikes: everywhere

Liked 8,211 Times in 4,373 Posts
Originally Posted by terrymorse

The Guardian published this on May 1st, 1899.
Well yeah, gearing is pretty much everything when you've only got one gear
LesterOfPuppets is online now  
Likes For LesterOfPuppets:
Old 05-03-24, 05:23 AM
  #20  
cowboy, steel horse, etc
 
LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: The hot spot.
Posts: 45,619

Bikes: everywhere

Liked 8,211 Times in 4,373 Posts
Originally Posted by Sierra_rider
My mountain bikes all have low gearing, climbing limitations are set on grip or balance, rather than gearing.
Climbing smooth trails on my 23lb hardtail is faster but climbing chunky stuff on my 30lb full suspension is faster.
LesterOfPuppets is online now  
Old 05-03-24, 05:59 AM
  #21  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Northern NY...Brownville
Posts: 2,621

Bikes: Specialized Aethos, Specialized Diverge Comp E5

Liked 488 Times in 290 Posts
To a degree yes but not as much as fitness, gearing and preparation
Kai Winters is offline  
Old 05-03-24, 06:41 AM
  #22  
Junior Member
 
2muchroad's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2024
Posts: 96
Liked 14 Times in 10 Posts
Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets
Climbing smooth trails on my 23lb hardtail is faster but climbing chunky stuff on my 30lb full suspension is faster.
Interesting point about the surface your're riding on. I find it easier to climb uneven or irregular concrete on a MTB, but as soon as it gets smooth there is nothing better than sitting on a road bike. Literally feels like you're rolling on a cloud.
2muchroad is offline  
Old 05-03-24, 08:37 AM
  #23  
Senior Member
 
bruce19's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Lebanon (Liberty Hill), CT
Posts: 8,697

Bikes: CAAD 12, MASI Gran Criterium S, Colnago World Cup CX & Guru steel

Liked 1,393 Times in 811 Posts
From all the GCN and other "scientific" studies I've seen, my conclusion is that it matters in terms of time up a given climb. But, much depends on who you are. And, for most of us, not much at all. FWIW, my GURU Photon weighs 16 lbs as ridden. My lightest bike. My Canyon Aeroad CF SL weighs 18 lbs as ridden. When I go for a ride it's always the Canyon I grab.. My times are pretty much no different.
bruce19 is offline  
Old 05-03-24, 09:32 AM
  #24  
Senior Member
 
PeteHski's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2021
Posts: 9,354
Liked 5,492 Times in 3,389 Posts
Originally Posted by bruce19
From all the GCN and other "scientific" studies I've seen, my conclusion is that it matters in terms of time up a given climb. But, much depends on who you are. And, for most of us, not much at all. FWIW, my GURU Photon weighs 16 lbs as ridden. My lightest bike. My Canyon Aeroad CF SL weighs 18 lbs as ridden. When I go for a ride it's always the Canyon I grab.. My times are pretty much no different.
No “scientific” study is required to calculate the effect of a change in bike weight on a slope for a given power output. Just plug your numbers into Bike Calculator or one of the more comprehensive apps like Best Bike Splits.
PeteHski is online now  
Old 05-03-24, 10:43 AM
  #25  
I'm good to go!
 
Iride01's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2017
Location: Mississippi
Posts: 15,589

Bikes: Tarmac Disc Comp Di2 - 2020

Liked 5,108 Times in 3,514 Posts
Less weight just like more aero shows it's benefits better over the time of a long ride and not just comparing the results of one climb, or a short ride with several climbs.
Iride01 is online now  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service - Your Privacy Choices -

Copyright © 2024 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.