Cyclists, including me, frequently get obsessed with weight. The theory seems to be that shedding weight will be the silver bullet to faster cycling. Certainly I’m going to be pretty focussed on my weight as the everesting approaches, when it’s likely to be very significant.
Certainly loss of weight will rarely be anything but beneficial, providing it is done in a safe and healthy way and does not hurt the power:weight ratio through muscle loss. However, bear in mind that weight loss by itself will only really help when accelerating and climbing – and even then will probably help less than you might think.
Losing weight from the bike is fine but is likely to be fairly expensive and will follow a law of diminishing returns as successive weight losses get more and more expensive.
The usual starting point is the wheels as many new bikes are kept below important price points by the use of lower quality wheels. Better, lighter, wheels, tubes and tyres are particularly good because losing weight from around the rim is especially beneficial when accelerating. One of the best moves I ever made on the bike-weight front was to go to a carbon saddle (literally just a sheet of carbon, no padding or covering). That cost me about £12 including postage from China (via Ebay) and saved me about 200g – but I’d be the first to acknowledge how lucky I am that it fits me really well and is surprisingly comfortable.
Losing weight from yourself is probably going to be easier and much cheaper. Don’t forget that for an 8kg bike ridden by a 72kg rider, the bike only accounts for 10% of the combined weight. Losing weight from the rider should also have added benefits to health – and improve the look in lycra. Remember, lose fat and not muscle.
Three other things to bear in mind, other than core rider and bike weight, in terms of going faster or further: aero, baggage and maintenance.
Most of the time, air resistance is the cyclist’s biggest enemy. Thinking about your aerodynamic positioning costs nothing, nor does avoiding baggy, flapping, shirts or jackets. You can take this further with things like aero helmets and skinsuits – but then we are back to the cost issue.
Think about what you really need to carry. Don’t carry more than is necessary in terms of, for example, water and kit. Remember that just one full 750ml bottle of water weighs more than 750g – well over a pound and a half in old money. To put that into context, it’s a lot more than the difference in weight between 105 and Dura Ace groupsets – and that upgrade could cost more than £1,200!
Thirdly, but by no means least importantly, keep the bike well maintained with appropriately pumped tyres and oiled running gear – safer and faster!
Oh – and don’t forget that training harder/better usually works too!