Week 59 – What’s better … 10 pounds off your body or 1 pound off of your bike?”

People often ponder and it is often debated … “What helps you more … 10 pounds off of your body or 1 pound off of your bike?”   This is particularly significant question as it is often about $1000/pound to make your bike lighter!

200lbs.  vs 160lbs.
4 times … 10 pounds


19.5 vs 15.5
5 times 1 pound
19.5 lbs.
14.5 lbs.


The answer lies in which 10 pounds off of your body and which 1 pound off of your bike we are talking about as ALL LOST POUNDS ARE NOT EQUAL!!!


Riders ideal weight is discussed in terms of Power to weight ratio.  It takes a significant amount of power to move your bodyweight and we all have an ideal.  It is generally accepted that the Best climbers generate 6.7 watts/kg or roughly 3 watts/pound.   A 200 pounds rider must generate 600 sustained watts the duration of the climb.  A 150 pounds rider must generate 450 sustained watts the duration of the same climb to go up the same speed.  So in this example significant weight loss only occurs when a rider reaches the  point at which they can generate enough sustained (power) measured in watts to carry them up at higher speed the duration of a climb.

So a rider who is carrying 40 pounds of excess fat, will not enjoy a more significant boost in performance until they reach the weight range that they have the power to push the weight they are carrying significantly for the duration of the climb.  They will not benefit AS MUCH until they reach a weight that they HAVE THE POWER to PUSH UP THE HILL with intensity the during the entire climb!

So if I can generate 370 sustained watts for 20 minutes … my strategy is to get stronger to generate more watts (i.e above 400 watts for 20 minutes) and get light enough that that is adequate to push me up that hill in 20 minutes!

In terms of altering performance, the first 10 pounds will not necessary be as significant as the last 10 pounds and the closer to your power to weight ration you get the more significant the pounds lost become.  So for an trained athlete or cyclist, those last 10 pounds will typically generate a significant 2.4 minutes improvement on a cat 2 climb.


Your heavier weight road bikes will weight 19 lbs.+

Your intermediate weight road bikes 17 lbs. – 19 lbs.

Your light weight road bikes 15.5 lbs. – 17 lbs

Your Premium Bikes 15 lbs or less

To lighten your bike, you upgrade the equipment.  This cost comes is generally about $1000/pound less in the beginning and more toward the end!

You can purchase lighter frames … $2,500 – $5,000

Lighter wheels $1,200 -$3,000

Lighter drive trains, lighter brake components $1,500 – $2,500

lighter handle bars, lighter stems, lighter seats, lighter pedals, $300 -$600 each

And each of these will significantly decrease the weight of your bike and you will get faster and be faster longer.

But it is more than simply a reduction in weight. Yes these components are lighter … but they give you a better quality ride that can be measured in both comfort and performance.

  1. MANY WHEELS, FRAMES, COMPONENTS ARE Lighter, but often more aerodynamic [70% of our effort is overcoming wind (air) resistance] and stifer so they don’t absorb power into the wheel.. Better brake systems are more responsive and modulate better giving you more control of your bike during deceleration and cornering! You can brake later and accelerate sooner.  Lighter … Yes, but they make you ride better!
  2. WHEEL SETS, FRAME SETS OTHER COMPONENTS ARE stiffer … theyare stiffer and do not flex and absorb force so more of your power is transmitted to propelling you forward. Lighter … Yes, but they make you ride better!
  3. WHEEL SETS are more aerodynamic, perform better in cross winds, stiffer and do not flex, made wider to fit the profile of the tire to be more aerodynamic, have bladed spokes that are lighter and stiffer. Lighter … yes and better because they can make you faster and improve power output with same effort.
  4. FRAMES lighter … yes, but also stiffer bottom brackets that increase power transmission, better materials that make bike stiffer where it is required and lighter where it is not. More aerodynamic.  Frame flexes less not absorbing power you push into pedals, and flexes in places it does not rob power, which makes ride more stable in turns and on rougher roads.  Lighter … Yes, but they make you ride better!
  5. Drive Trains lighter, but also more responsive. Materials go from steel to titanium. Shifting is quicker and more precise, and shifters have ergonomic adjustments to fit your hands! Electronic shifting allows rider to shift under full pedaling power, even while standing.  Using computers, you can adjust shift duration or responsiveness.  Lighter … Yes, but they make you ride better!

Losing 10 pounds off your body becomes more and more significant if it takes you within the range of power you can generate. As you lose weight, you move closer to your abilities to push the power required (measured in watts) for the duration of the climb to maintain higher cadence & higher speed.

Similarly,  the more expensive components tend to be lighter, higher quality and engineered for performance.  They provide you with the most efficiency use of the power you cand generate. As you move toward (up grade to) the elite & much more expensive components.  (wheels, frame, drive train, etc.), these lighter/better components tend often require less power (measurable in watts) to perform better.  They profoundly affect your speed, your cadence, your pedaling efficiency, the ratio of effort put in to effort realized, the power required to go faster, and the intensity to recovery ratio you experience is better.  So as you go from 21 lbs. to 18 lbs., you may feel no appreciable change in performance.  But as you go from 16.5 to 14.5 the improvement is very significant and it will feel like night & day!

Either body weight in intervals of 10 pounds or bike weight in intervals of 1 pound, the net gain improves drastically as you get lighter and your bike gets lighter!  Body weight … because as you get lighter, you are moving toward your power to weight ratio and can go faster with power you generate and Bike weight because as you get closer to 14.5 pounds the components required to make a bike that light are measurably better and engineered to measurably perform better!

These are all pictures of top elite Olymic champions in their own individual sport.

If you put them all on bikes, many would be walking their bikes up most hills!

There are the Purist who will say … “It still comes down to the power of the motor”.  But they should consider this … whether you are a 4 cylinder, a 6 cylinder, a 8 cylinder or a V12 cylinder engine, would you be faster (particularly uphill) in a carbon fiber 3500 lbs. aerodynamic Ferrari or a 7000 lbs. Dodge truck?


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