Different attempts to save weight on the hill climb bike – with varying degrees of success and cost.
1. Cutting off fabric from saddle
This was motivated mainly because my Tune saddle looked a bit frayed. An expensive saddle – but the fabric was coming away. Rather than glue it back down, I thought the excess fabric needed cutting off. The hope was it would look neater and save weight into the bargain.
The result – Total weight saved – 0 grams. Psychological advantage – incalculable.
2. Cutting the end off cables
My local bike maintenance shop Reg Taylor are very good, but they aren’t used to catering for the weight weenie hill climbers. The cables always come back with nice long bits of spare cable and neat cable tidies at the end. I kept looking at these for a couple of weeks, but I knew they were doomed – it’s just something asking to be cut. I got great joy getting out the cable cutters and snipping off free weight. Zero cost, no power lost, possibly even a fractional aero gain.
- Weight saving 1 gram – Just 1g down, 5,999 grams to go. Wow, this isn’t going to be quite as easy as I hoped. All that metal for a measly 1 gram!
I got a National Champions skinsuit by Impsport. I made the mistake of getting the cheaper version. When I put it on, it was less skinsuit more inflatable parachute. I had it sent to a tailor (Alex Laycock) to make it more suited to a stick thin hill climber, rather than your average ‘I ate all the pies’ Joe. But, even then the arms were too long and these end cuffs – although they look quite good – stuck out in the wind quite a bit. It didn’t look very aero or very smart. Eventually I got out the scissors and cut these offending bits off – a shame really. The motivation was to make it look better, but as an added bonus the operation saved a whole 11 grams.
Marginal gains from clothes could be a potentially dangerous avenue to start going down. It’s one thing to start drilling holes in your saddle, it’s another to start cutting holes in a skinsuit… I’m sure there would be a CTT Regulation too about this too.
Saddle – Tune saddle
The Tune saddle at 83 grams is definitely less than your average saddle. But, perhaps not the best. It has quite a bit of flex (which makes it comfortable, but I’m worried about power loss from a flexy saddle.
This AX Lightness Sprint saddle is a mere 69 grams. But, do I want to pay £270 for 14 gram weight saving? – not really. I’d rather make my skinsuit shorts a little shorter.
I had a look at the remaining hill climbs and realised I won’t be using the big chain ring at all (I hardly ever use outer chain ring – unless the climb goes downhill – and then I’m usually on TT bike anyway). So it’s time to take it off. Free weight saving. It may be Dura Ace but, it looks heavy. Why carry up an extra 100 grams when you can get away with out it?
The big temptation is take take off the front dérailleur too – it doesn’t do anything with only one chainring. But – and this is a big but – Do you want to take the 5-10 % risk of your chain falling off for the sake of another 100 grams? Even the keenest weight weenie knows that saving 100 grams isn’t much use, if you don’t have a chain to pedal. It can happen, and usually when you least want it to.
I hear that they are making chainrings for MTBs with bigger sprockets or something to stop chains jumping off.
Chopping off the end of handlebars
I’ve never done this before. I’ve never been able to work up the courage to buy an expensive set of handlebars just to be able to cut off the drops. But, this year, I’ve taken the plunge and bought some Zipp Sl handlebars. Straight away I got out the hacksaw and cut them off. The problem with buying such a lightweight handlebar is that when you cut off the drops, you only save a measly 50 grams. Still it’s 50 grams of weight saving, and perhaps it will be a better position for pulling on the handlebars.
I’ve just slightly worried I cut off too much.. You can always cut off more, but sticking stuff back on isn’t going to work.
Shortening the chain
12 grams from an Ultegra chain
With taking off the outer chain ring, I realised I could shorten the chain – saving weight and improving chain tension. Unfortunately, in my zeal to save weight, I took out five links and it became too short. I couldn’t use it because the rear dérailleur would have groaned in the biggest sprocket. I had to put some links back in. But, using a multi-tool chain splitter I managed to damage the chain. After using once up Leith Hill, I had to throw away and start again with a new chain. I think it has about 2 links less than usual, weight saving 12 grams.
Cost – more than it should have done. Moral of the story – never do bike maintenance yourself!
Vittoria Crono Time Trial tubular
– 700*22 – claimed – 165 gram. I have one on front. At moment I have Veloflex sprinter on rear. (225 grams). But, will switch to Chrono for both nearer the national. That will be an extra 60 grams. (Mind you when I weighed it, it came in at 185grams, that is with glue on.)
Until 2012, I used Continental Competition in hill climbs, just because they were what I used for time trials. Continental Competition at 240 grams are a good workhorse, but not designed for hill climbs. I was throwing away 180 grams of rotational weight because I was riding nice thick puncture proof tubulars. On the positive side, I never punctured in a race or warming up.
Zipp 202 Rear - 604 grams total: (rear Zipp – I got for £750). Expensive, but a good solid wheel, lightweight and strong.
Lightweight wheel with Tune hub and AX lightness wheels – weight of wheel 345 grams (without tub). This wheel is really light, you can pick up with your little finger. This really makes a difference. Sometimes you test equipment and you can’t tell the difference, but replace a training wheel with a light wheel wand you will fly!
Why Do People Say Weight off Your Wheels Counts Double?
I think the reason is to do with acceleration and the fact the top of your wheel travels twice as fast as your bicycle (Don’t quite understand this, obviously I didn’t pay any attention in GCSE Physics). To accelerate, the energy taken to push the wheel is greater than for the bike. Once you have maintained a constant speed, then the weight of your bike and wheels count for the same. But, if you slow down and then accelerate, the energy to move the mass of your wheels is greater than for the bike.
If you can try and maintain constant speed and effort that is better. But for a twisting climb of varying gradients then the effort to move your wheels will be proportionately greater.
Even if I don’t understand the science, when you put on a 363 gram wheel you do notice the difference climbing.
Weight saving tips you might not want to try at home
Jim Henderson told me he spent one hill climb season weighing up whether he should risk riding with 4 chainring bolts rather than the more traditional five. He knew he could probably get away with 4, but in the end – he played it safe.
I once got an AX lightness stem (26.9) and didn’t realise it was old size. This meant I had to get a standard handlebar, but I’d run out of money for AX lightness handlebar, so I got some other model which was 27.0 – resulting combination tended to slip. Not good – sold both on ebay later!
Never forget, lighter bike is not necessarily faster. Rigidity and power can make more difference.