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Weight loss secrets of the (cheapskate) stars

Everyone likes a light bike, but nobody likes spending money unnecessarily. Choose carefully and you can shed a couple of pounds — or more — from your bike without breaking the bank.

For many of us, tweaking and upgrading your bike is part of the fun of cycling, and ending up with a lighter bike is a common aim. Very very ight components are expensive, but the good news is that if you're starting out with a typical £1,000 bike, there's plenty of scope for saving weight without spending a fortune.

Wheels

Novatec Jetfly SL wheels.jpg

This is one of the most popular upgrades because the stock wheels on many bikes aren’t great and often weigh between 1,850g and 2,150g. A change of wheels to something lighter and better-built can make a substantial difference to your bike’s feel and overall weight. 

For £364.66, we really like Novatec's Jetfly SL wheels at 1,335g. That's an actual weight, by the way; you can read our review of them for more details.

There are a few other eye-catching deals on worth checking out as we put this latest edition of this guide together. If your bike is running disc brakes it's hard to look beyond Hunt's Aero Light Disc Wheelset at £389 for a claimed 1,488g.

You can spend a lot more than this without saving any more weight; if you're determined to spend big on wheels, get some with aero rims.

Tyres

michelin power tyres9.jpg

Wire-beaded tyres commonly fitted as original equipment on bikes, like the Schwalbe Lugano, Vittoria Zaffiro, Specialized Espoir Sport and Bontrager R1 typically weight 340-370g each in 25mm width, so there's a lot of scope for trimming weight there. In general lighter tyres also roll faster, giving an extra performance boost for your money.

You can pick up a 215g, 25mm Michelin Power Competition for just £27.95, so compared to those original equipment tyres you're saving around 470g. You're also whacking off a big chunk of rolling resistance. The Power Competition has half the rolling resistance of a Schwalbe Lugano, according to bicyclerollingresistance.com. That's 20 fewer watts to do 18mph, which is a difference you can feel.

We used to recommend the Continental Grand Prix 4000s II, but they've just about vanished from retailers, replaced by the Grand Prix 5000. The best price we've found for the 220g, 25mm GP5000 is £38, so the Michelin Power Competition is currently the way to go for budget gram-trimming.

All that said, if all that matters is weight and you’re doing, say, a time trial on very clean roads, then Continental’s smooth-treaded 150g Supersonics at £32.99 are the way to go.

Tubes

conti-tube-supersonic-race28 (1).jpg

Inner tubes are a surprisingly cost-effective place to save weight. That’s because even the lightest tubes are relatively cheap compared to saving weight by replacing a major component like the saddle or your wheels.

Your three best choices are £10 Continental Supersonic tubes at 50g each, 65g Schwalbe Extra Light tubes at a fiver each and 80g Vittoria Ultralite tubes which can be had for £3.69. The Schwalbe tubes are probably the best compromise.

Saddle

pro griffon ti saddle

If Pro Bike Gear seats fit your bum, then the titanium-railed version of the Pro Griffon, currently on offer for just £19.99, is a bargain at a claimed 205g. If you have a bit more spare cash, the 145g San Marco Selle Regale Protek Carbon FX is £70. To go any lighter, you're looking at hefty three figure price tags, like the Selle San Marco Mantra Superleggera that weighs 112g, but costs a wallet-clenching £180.

Saddle manufacturers don't often pay much attention to the weight of women's saddles, but the £50 PRO Turnix Women's Carbon saddle is 197g, significantly lighter than the typical stock women's saddle.

Read more: Buyer's guide to performance saddles.

Seat post

Selcof Delta HM seatpost.jpg

Bargain lightweight seatposts are rare, but they do exist. Selcof's £59.99     Delta HM seatpost remains our go-to recommendation – decently light at a claimed 210g thanks to its carbon monocoque construction.

Alternatives include the £63.99 Fizik Cyrano R3 (215g) or, if you need a size other than 27.2mm or 31.6mm, your best choice at the moment is the good old Thomson Elite, which will set you back about £54 and weighs around 230g in a 330mm length or 201g for the recommended for road 250mm. It's available in wide variety of sizes and in both inline and set back designs.

Handlebar

Zero100-RHM_black.jpg

Saving a substantial amount of weight here is expensive. You have to go carbon fibre to lop more than 100g off the typical 325g and you quickly get into diminishing returns.

At 248g (42cm width), the Deda Zero100 RHM bar is made from high-strength 7075 aluminium alloy and costs around £50. It features a shallow drop and Deda's Rapid Hand Movement bend shape that's claimed to make it easier to shift your position.

Stem

wcs-c260-blatte-stem_1.jpg

You might guess there's not much weight to be saved in a small part like the stem, and you'd be right. A typical £1,000 bike comes with a reasonable forged stem that weighs about 140-150g in a 110mm length. The lightest 110mm stems — such as the £75 Ritchey WCS 260 — are about 110g, so you pay a lot to save a few grams. Worth it if you have to buy a stem to change your position, otherwise, probably not.

In the same area of the bike, FSA polycarbonate headset spacers weigh just 1g each in 5mm thickness and cost £4-£6 for a pack of ten. Bargain!

Nuts and bolts

Purple aluminium bolts.jpg

It's tempting to try and shed a few grams by replacing steel bolts in places like stem clamps with titanium or aluminium bolts. We have just one word of advice: don't.

High-strength aluminium and titanium alloys are great in parts designed around their properties, but you can't just swap materials without changing the design. If you replace the high-strength steel in a bolt with aluminium or titanium, the resulting bolt won't be as strong or durable. If a bolt fails in a handlebar stem, you'll be lucky to get away with a large dentist's bill for tooth repair after the stem lets go of the bar. I'll leave to your imagination the consequences of the failure of a seatposts's saddle clamp bolt.

You can get away with lightweight bolts in a few places, where the load is small and doesn't involve the cyclic changes that cause fatigue: waterbottle bosses; derailleur cable clamp bolts; and headset tension bolts. Otherwise, again: don't do it.

Adding it all up

For fans of tables, here are the cheaper options in the significant components we've mentioned - we've stuck with the Novatec wheels although we could have gone a fair bit cheaper for a small trade off in weight. The total weight loss is just over a kilogram, and could be increased by spending just a few quid more on tubes. For each replacement component we've listed the Hairsine ratio – the grams saved per pound cost. This gives an indication of value for money from the ‘lighten your bike’ perspective.

 

    Stock Weight (g) Replacement Weight (g) Saving (g) Price Hairsine Ratio (g/£)
Wheels Novatec Jetfly SL 2,000 1,335 665 £364.66 1.82
Tyres Michelin Power Competition 25mm 700 230 470 £55.90 8.41
Tubes Schwalbe Extra Light 220 130 90 £10.00 9.00
Saddle Pro Griffon 300 205 95 £19.99 4.75
Seatpost Selcof Delta HM 300 210 90 £60.00 1.50
Bar Deda Zero100 RHM 325 248 77 £49.99 1.54
Spacers FSA polycarbonate 20 4 16 £6.95 2.30
Cage bolts Pro-Bolt aluminium 16 5 11 £3.64 3.02
Totals       1,514 £571.13 2.65

 

Footnote: As many people have pointed out in the comments, you're much better off laying off the pies and riding more. But lots of people (myself included) enjoy messing about with and upgrading their bikes, and spending money is much more fun than discipline and self-denial.

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Road.cc buyer's guides are maintained and updated by John Stevenson. Email John with comments, corrections or queries.

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

59 comments

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Geraldaut [64 posts] 3 years ago
13 likes

What about the motor?

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bibdanmerry [25 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

great piece similar to that Cycling plus did a few years ago but with the welcome addition of the all important Hairsine ratio 

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Simon E [3843 posts] 3 years ago
4 likes

Could you save a 1 KG by spending the £500 on a lighter model?

Some figures I rustled up a couple of years ago using a £/g calculation.

  • inner tubes: Conti Race Light 28 (100-110g) to Michelin Aircomp Ultralight (75g) 8p/g. To Conti Supersonic 5p/g
  • skewers: Shimano (125g) to PX Ti (45g). 22p/g
  • wheels: RS10 (1848g) to RS80 (1590g), 81p/g
  • 10 speed cassettes: 105 to Ultegra 32p/g, to Dura Ace £1.54/g
  • pedals: 105 to Dura Ace £3.18/g
  • shoes: Specialized BG Sport Road to Expert £1.54/g, S-Works 79p/g

Apart from tubes, tyres and skewers most seem overly expensive to me. Diminishing returns.

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stefv [216 posts] 3 years ago
1 like

Remember, for wheels, tyres and tubes, you get a better improvement per kg saved, as the kinetic energy is K = Kcm + Krot , rather than just Kcm.

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wycombewheeler [1371 posts] 3 years ago
6 likes
stefv wrote:

Remember, for wheels, tyres and tubes, you get a better improvement per kg saved, as the kinetic energy is K = Kcm + Krot , rather than just Kcm.

only relevant while accelerating, for cycle couriers in the city centre probably a big thing, for the rest of us, not so much. Once you are cruising at a steady speed rotational weight is irrelevant.

Avatar
peted76 [1572 posts] 3 years ago
3 likes
wycombewheeler wrote:
stefv wrote:

Remember, for wheels, tyres and tubes, you get a better improvement per kg saved, as the kinetic energy is K = Kcm + Krot , rather than just Kcm.

only relevant while accelerating, for cycle couriers in the city centre probably a big thing, for the rest of us, not so much. Once you are cruising at a steady speed rotational weight is irrelevant.

Of course you have to maintain that speed also not just get up to it, so not 'irrelevant' as such... just saying. 

 

Avatar
wycombewheeler [1371 posts] 3 years ago
6 likes
peted76 wrote:
wycombewheeler wrote:
stefv wrote:

Remember, for wheels, tyres and tubes, you get a better improvement per kg saved, as the kinetic energy is K = Kcm + Krot , rather than just Kcm.

only relevant while accelerating, for cycle couriers in the city centre probably a big thing, for the rest of us, not so much. Once you are cruising at a steady speed rotational weight is irrelevant.

Of course you have to maintain that speed also not just get up to it, so not 'irrelevant' as such... just saying. 

 

 

maintaining speed only requires overcoming of friction, you do not need to create momentum again. in fact additional rotating weight can help maintain momentum, as the heavier rotating wheel will have to dissipate more energy somewhere to slow down.

have you never heard of flywheels?

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dafyddp [471 posts] 3 years ago
11 likes

@SimonE rightly mentioned the other bits like shoes and especially pedals (surely part of the bike). The cheapest way to save a kilo though just involves eating a bit less and cycling a bit more.

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BBB [508 posts] 3 years ago
4 likes

Unless you live in the mountains or among big hills ditch the front mech, second chainring, left shifter internals and the cable...smiley

 

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wycombewheeler [1371 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
BBB wrote:

Unless you live in the mountains or among big hills ditch the front mech, second chainring, left shifter internals and the cable...smiley

 

 

ride fixed, no shifters, no mechs, one brake lever. one caliper.  got to be lighter.

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MrB123 [103 posts] 3 years ago
3 likes
BBB wrote:

Unless you live in the mountains or among big hills ditch the front mech, second chainring, left shifter internals and the cable...smiley

 

 

Then again, if you live somewhere flat then you're probably not so bothered about saving a few grams anyway...

Avatar
BBB [508 posts] 3 years ago
1 like
MrB123 wrote:
BBB wrote:

Unless you live in the mountains or among big hills ditch the front mech, second chainring, left shifter internals and the cable...smiley

 

 

Then again, if you live somewhere flat then you're probably not so bothered about saving a few grams anyway...

It's good pont actually, although I don't know many places which would be completely flat.

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Grahamd [1052 posts] 3 years ago
2 likes

Ditch the second water bottle.

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Simon E [3843 posts] 3 years ago
4 likes

All this talk of saving weight off the bike is good for websites hits and for the marketing bods but really it's just a distraction.

The weight of a front mech, a second chainring or your shoes makes f..k all difference in the real world. Unless you take your racing (and nutrition) seriously then spending a wodge to save 500g off your bike is an indulgence, a bit of fun and of no consequence.

If you want to do it that's perfectly fine of course but if you think it's going to help you ride faster when you get to an uphill section then you're living in cloud cuckoo land.

Avatar
BBB [508 posts] 3 years ago
3 likes
Simon E wrote:

All this talk of saving weight off the bike is good for websites hits and for the marketing bods but really it's just a distraction.

The weight of a front mech, a second chainring or your shoes makes f..k all difference in the real world. Unless you take your racing (and nutrition) seriously then spending a wodge to save 500g off your bike is an indulgence, a bit of fun and of no consequence.

If you want to do it that's perfectly fine of course but if you think it's going to help you ride faster when you get to an uphill section then you're living in cloud cuckoo land.

As an owner of a recently built half retro all steel Sun best bike I totally agree especially seeing all the overweight cyclists coming out only when the temperatures rise above 12 C and the sky is clear  1 There's no better therapy for weight-weenie syndrome than riding a lot.

Also I believe that cycling mags and websites should really debunk the idiotic myth of rotating mass ... The science and even wheel/tyre manufacturers are very clear about it. Yes the effect exists but it's so tiny comparing to the mass of the whole system that it makes **** all difference for people who don't fight for the place on a podium.

Lighter or not, a single (narrow-wide) ring is lovely btw. Looks pretty and it's simple to clean;-)

 

Avatar
Jamminatrix [204 posts] 3 years ago
5 likes

Pretty sure the cheapest way to lose the most weight is skip the cake and pie... Drop five pounds off your belly and that's the equivalent of around couple thousand euros to get that kind of weight savings from the bike (assuming you own a mid-level bike already).

wycombewheeler wrote:

maintaining speed only requires overcoming of friction, you do not need to create momentum again. in fact additional rotating weight can help maintain momentum, as the heavier rotating wheel will have to dissipate more energy somewhere to slow down.

have you never heard of flywheels?

Nailed it.

It's amazing how people still think/believe lighter wheels are better for everything, in *every* situation. Just shows how much marketing propaganda has been engrained into people by manufacturers, that lighter is always better. Aero trumps weight when consistent speed is maintained. Why else do pros add few hundred grams to their wheels to run deep section rims?

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muppetteer [95 posts] 3 years ago
1 like
Jamminatrix wrote:

Why else do pros add few hundred grams to their wheels to run deep section rims?

 

I think the pro's bikes are already under the legal UCI weight as standard, thus they opt for heavier components in some places to get them up to race weight. As a consumer you can walk into a decent bike shop and buy something below the 6.8kg weight limit. And for serious cash you can get a bike under 5kg off the shelf. 

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Fish_n_Chips [596 posts] 3 years ago
6 likes

Nice article.  Think I'll drop 10kg by going on a diet first.  Then that carbon post is on my shopping list.

 

yes

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cyclisto [412 posts] 3 years ago
3 likes

Heavy wheels though have some good stuff too. They will not need any trueing even when going off-road or crash and they enhance balance thanks to the gyroscopic effect

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Vejnemojnen [289 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

many people overlook finish kit when trying to shred weight, but it is a mistake imho.

good lightweight alloy bars with a nice curvature (latter is paramount! that is why i love deda zero100 and ritchey wcs classic curve..) : a sub-260grams alloy bar has quite significant flex and compliance as compared to stock 333 gram bars, which can punish the wrists and palms far too much.  1

 

chinese carbon seatpost with 25mm setback: good for regular road-graver riding for riders up to 110 kgs, and they flex quite a bit, and even good at reducing high frequency road vibrations from imperfections of the asphalt.

 

kalloy uno stem from ebay: go figure. looks stealthy with graphics removed, and you can easily adjust the bike fit to your likings due to their range of length and 6-7-17 degree variants.

 

tyres-tubes are very important: a good set of tyres will improve ride quality better than anything else out there.

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DaveE128 [1010 posts] 3 years ago
4 likes

This all reminds me of the paper equivalent of click bait that I seem to recall MBUK ran back in the nineties. Front page headline: how to save half a pound without spending a penny. Answer inside: take a dump before going out for a ride. Strictly I suppose this does require spending a penny.  3

On a more serious note, it's worth bearing in mind the old "light, strong, cheap: choose two." I think this is usually attributed to Keith Bontrager. There are occasionally exceptions but I'd want to see them well proven before I used them.

I'd also remind people who are thinking of Ti skewers that not everyone thinks they are a great idea : Do your research first.

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lushmiester [196 posts] 3 years ago
2 likes

Lest we forget the engine! resently compared myself to another cyclist on a local climb I was burning 84 watts more for the same time. Assuming he/she was not motorised and weather conditions matched, then the best explanation is my wieght. In this scenario less weight cost less money so it's a win win.

And yes I'm over weight so other health benefits arcrue.

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Leviathan [3057 posts] 3 years ago
10 likes

Don't forget to clean your bike, dirt is heavy.

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darrenleroy [336 posts] 3 years ago
2 likes
Simon E wrote:

All this talk of saving weight off the bike is good for websites hits and for the marketing bods but really it's just a distraction.

The weight of a front mech, a second chainring or your shoes makes f..k all difference in the real world. Unless you take your racing (and nutrition) seriously then spending a wodge to save 500g off your bike is an indulgence, a bit of fun and of no consequence.

If you want to do it that's perfectly fine of course but if you think it's going to help you ride faster when you get to an uphill section then you're living in cloud cuckoo land.

 

But it's in our DNA to try to improve our chances of killing our prey through marginal gains in our weaponry.

Avatar
NOC40 [37 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
wycombewheeler wrote:
stefv wrote:

Remember, for wheels, tyres and tubes, you get a better improvement per kg saved, as the kinetic energy is K = Kcm + Krot , rather than just Kcm.

only relevant while accelerating, for cycle couriers in the city centre probably a big thing, for the rest of us, not so much. Once you are cruising at a steady speed rotational weight is irrelevant.

actually Stefv is right. think about how much effort you'd need to accelerate the wheels of the bike if they weren't spinning (here the weight saving is the same as for any other component). now you ALSO have to get them spinning. hence K = Kcm + Krot. rotating weight counts twice

Avatar
cyclesteffer [421 posts] 3 years ago
1 like

Heres a very decent carbon seatpost you could also include. Available in 400mm and a range of sizes. RSP (Raleigh special products) branded. I've been running it for a few weeks and it is lovely. Nice carbon weave and really comfy too. http://www.tredz.co.uk/.RSP-Elite-Carbon-Seatpost_50752.htm?sku=136830&u...

Avatar
BBB [508 posts] 3 years ago
2 likes
NOC40 wrote:
wycombewheeler wrote:
stefv wrote:

Remember, for wheels, tyres and tubes, you get a better improvement per kg saved, as the kinetic energy is K = Kcm + Krot , rather than just Kcm.

only relevant while accelerating, for cycle couriers in the city centre probably a big thing, for the rest of us, not so much. Once you are cruising at a steady speed rotational weight is irrelevant.

actually Stefv is right. think about how much effort you'd need to accelerate the wheels of the bike if they weren't spinning (here the weight saving is the same as for any other component). now you ALSO have to get them spinning. hence K = Kcm + Krot. rotating weight counts twice

Oh dear...

1. Put your bike in a stand or upside down and spin your wheel(s) by hand up to certain speed.

2. Put your mate on a bike and push him quickly until the whole bike with him on board achieves the same speed in the same amount of time as in the previous part of the experiment.

Can you feel the difference in required effort? I'd say it will be of a completely different magnitude of forces.

It's been done to death many times before on forums and by people in the industry. Lighter wheels/tyres make **** all difference in ACTUAL (not perceived) performance comparing to "static" components, even when climbing. The forces are simply too low.

Avatar
joules1975 [608 posts] 3 years ago
2 likes
BBB wrote:
NOC40 wrote:
wycombewheeler wrote:
stefv wrote:

Remember, for wheels, tyres and tubes, you get a better improvement per kg saved, as the kinetic energy is K = Kcm + Krot , rather than just Kcm.

only relevant while accelerating, for cycle couriers in the city centre probably a big thing, for the rest of us, not so much. Once you are cruising at a steady speed rotational weight is irrelevant.

actually Stefv is right. think about how much effort you'd need to accelerate the wheels of the bike if they weren't spinning (here the weight saving is the same as for any other component). now you ALSO have to get them spinning. hence K = Kcm + Krot. rotating weight counts twice

Oh dear...

1. Put your bike in a stand or upside down and spin your wheel(s) by hand up to certain speed.

2. Put your mate on a bike and push him quickly until the whole bike with him on board achieves the same speed in the same amount of time as in the previous part of the experiment.

Can you feel the difference in required effort? I'd say it will be of a completely different magnitude of forces.

It's been done to death many times before on forums and by people in the industry. Lighter wheels/tyres make **** all difference in ACTUAL (not perceived) performance comparing to "static" components, even when climbing. The forces are simply too low.

i think you are both right, but it depends on where you are riding. Plus no-one has mentioned effect of wheel weight on handling.

if you ride somewhere where you get up to speed and they stay there, with no chance of speed at all, rotational weight will have no effect except that initial acceleration. However the more a ride requires change of speed, the more the rotational weight will become noticeable. I'm not saying it's huge, but it is there and it is noticeable -it is why a bike with light wheels feels like it's leaping forward with each pedal stroke. On the road though, aero is more important fore the majority of rides and majority of people.

Where rotational weight is most noticeable is handling. Easy way to test this is to hold a heavy wheel by its axle, spin it, and then try to twist the wheel  left and right. Repeat with lighter wheel, and the difference very noticeable. So if you like throwing your bike down twisty roads, lighter is better.

the best example to explain all the above are 29er mountain bikes. They maintain momentum much better, but are harder to get up to speed and don't do tight corners as well compared to their smaller wheeled mtb cousins.

Avatar
Crashboy [90 posts] 3 years ago
5 likes

Interesting discussions: However I think I'll SAVE the £500 and just a ride a little bit more until either a) I'm fit enough to ride my bike where I want at the speed I want, or b) I lose 1 kg off my lardy bum from the extra effort.

Actually, getting my head around all the science and maths with the rotating mass etc in the thread has probably burned off a few grams of my body fat......marginal gains and all that!

Avatar
Simmo72 [719 posts] 3 years ago
3 likes

Re "nuts and bolts"

That is a strong view point but I can't say I agree.  Plenty of leading manufacturers produce seaposts and stems with titanium bolts, pedals with titanium spindals etc....and i have some of it.  What is this founded on?  I've witnessed an alloy stem break and I've snapped a pair of alloy handlebars.  

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