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When seconds matter in a competition, reducing bike weight can give you an edge.
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Ten-speed racing bikes, similar to those used by professional riders at every level of competition, are marvels of modern technology. Using high-tech manufacturing techniques and modern materials, bicycles have never been lighter without sacrificing stiffness and efficiency. A lighter bike can shave seconds off a rider's time, which can mean the difference between winning and losing a race.
Bicycle weights have been primarily reduced over the past few decades using stronger, lighter materials. A frame made from a stronger material can be made with thinner walls, which reduces the overall weight. Additionally, new materials like carbon fiber and an increase in availability for aluminum gives manufacturers lightweight alternatives to traditional steel. These advancements also apply to the derailleurs, wheels and other components, resulting in a significantly lighter bicycle.
The push for lighter and lighter bicycles incited many professional cyclists to take to their bicycle components with hand drills. By removing excess metal to reduce weight, some riders were compromising the rigidity and safety of their bicycles in the name of a competitive advantage. This practice inspired the International Cycling Union or UCI, the governing body for all professional cycling races, to place a minimum weight on competition bicycles to prevent cyclists from driving down bicycle weight to a dangerous, unsafe level. This weight minimum of 6.8kg or 14.99lbs is still enforced today, despite the ability to manufacture safe bicycles below this weight. Some bicycles readily available to consumers have even reduced their weight to below 13 pounds.
Importance of Weight
Assistant professor for the department of exercise and sport science at the University of Utah James C. Martin, Ph.D., conducted a study on the relationship between bicycle weight and overall speed. A 160-pound cyclist pushing out 250 watts of power was placed on a 7-percent grade over 5 kilometers. This standard of measurement allowed him to track the impact of extra bicycle weight. Increasing the weight of the bicycle by 5 pounds from the UCI standard added a mere five seconds to the rider's 19:21 climb, indicating that the main factor for speed lies with the rider, wind resistance and the contact patch. The 1963 Tour de France peloton, equipped with steel bicycles, had an average speed of 37.092 kilometers per hour, less than 3 kilometers per hour slower than the average speeds of the last few years.
Choosing a Lightweight 10-Speed Bike
When you're purchasing a 10-speed bike, choosing whether to invest in a lightweight model depends on your intended use for the bicycle. If you plan to compete, you'll want to get a bike that weighs at least as much as the 6.8 kg weight minimum. For casual riders, it's fine to buy a bike that weighs less, although the minimal effect of weight on your performance means your comfort should take priority with the purchase of a new bicycle.