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Opinion: how important is weight for a gravel bike?

Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like :The Dirty Kanza". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

Opinion: how important is weight for a gravel bike?

Old 12-14-18, 07:04 AM
  #26  
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Originally Posted by Spoonrobot View Post
I don't care about overall weight and I don't think one needs to consider weight when deciding to race. Technique and physical fitness are more important for the gravel events down here, weight probably matters more for flatter, smoother dirt/gravel but we don't have much of that on our race courses.

Someone who can ride light and find the smoothest path through the chunk is going to be faster on heavy bike than someone who can't pick a line and rides heavy on a light bike. This is especially true going up-hill.

I'm on my third season of gravel racing and what I want are light wheels with high-engagement freehub, big light tires and round-tube steel. Most often that combination will be around 25 pounds and then I add 1-2 pounds for repair kit and another 2-3 for water.
I think you've got that backwards: weight matters less for flatter and smoother courses. (And matters more for hillier/rougher courses.)
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Old 12-14-18, 10:06 AM
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I have an older voodoo CX bike I turned into my gravel bike.

It started at 21.75lbs including pedals. I broke my light (cheap) seatpost, got a bottle holder, decided I wanted an arch for my rear brake, and added a chain guide for the 1X. It put the bike at approximately 22.5 depending on how much sealant I am using. I kept the 900+ gm steel fork the frame came with.

So it's not particularly light but with the light wheels and 40x42 low gear, it rides light and quick. I wouldn't want it any heavier but I don't notice the weight.

I typically take it on washboards, long climbs, and the local (shale covered) mountain bike trails. I don't race.
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Old 12-14-18, 11:37 AM
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I don't weigh any of my bikes. I build them for durability and comfort, and let the weight be what it is. I was a little more weight-conscious in my racing days, but I can guarantee that a few ounces or pounds were never what kept me off the podium.
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Old 12-14-18, 11:52 AM
  #29  
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Originally Posted by Koyote View Post
I think you've got that backwards: weight matters less for flatter and smoother courses. (And matters more for hillier/rougher courses.)
No, I meant what I typed. On flat, smooth, gravel; rides are like a group ride or road race. Weight matters much more since there is a smaller window for staying in the draft, rejoining the pack if dropped and responding to gaps where short bursts of acceleration are important. A few pounds makes a difference where being dropped can be caused by not being able to close a 2 meter gap while the pack charges along at 28 miles an hour.

Originally Posted by Spoonrobot
Someone who can ride light and find the smoothest path through the chunk is going to be faster on heavy bike than someone who can't pick a line and rides heavy on a light bike. This is especially true going up-hill.
To expand: On chunkier gravel or very hilly gravel weight matters much less than technical ability. It still matters, just much less. Being able to pick a good line, and being able to pick a good line consistently when tired or under stress, can lower the amount of power you have to put out by 15-60% (not a typo) easily. Chunk and hills can instantly spread out the pack due to queuing problem, there are a finite amount of "good lines" for a given section and riders will(eventually) by pure reaction, sort themselves into a queue for the good line and delay themselves and each other. Being able to recognize where the good lines are before hand or having course knowledge allows a good rider to situate themselves ahead of time and save both literal time and effort getting through a section. Having a bike that's X pounds heavier doesn't matter if you're always hitting the smoothest flattest parts of the road. The difference in wattage required to push a heavy bike is outweighed by the wattage required to ride over the roughest surfaces, repeatedly.

Especially where there are ruts or embedded rocks in the road that can be like riding over a speedbump on an already steep incline. The amount of additional power required to boost over a speedbump like obstacle on a 10% gravel grade is considerable, more so if you do it dozens of times a ride.

This is illustrative of the issue: https://janheine.wordpress.com/2016/...ses-confirmed/

https://janheine.files.wordpress.com...q8-1_chart.jpg

What's telling is that early in a gravel race often the pack will be together taking up the whole road. When there are rough sections or hills everyone will charge ahead and try to keep the same pace, there is little room for lateral movement and no one is going to voluntarily drop back to find a better line. Riders will burn all their matches staying in the same relative position as the bounce and clunk over the roughest sections of the road. Soon they will have exhausted themselves and been dropped. As the main group stays together and the numbers lessen, very rough sections are often approached benignly. Riders will sort into a single file line and all hit the same smooth section, often moving significantly left or right and winding around the section. This does not always happen and is indicative of individual rider knowledge forcing group behavior as many riders are happy to ride as if on pavement, taking no consideration for road surface.

Tail-gunning can be a much more effective strategy than it is in a road race. Often finding the good line as the last rider in the pack allows you to save enough energy to move past other riders as they exhaust themselves and eventually integrate into the main pack as the strongest racers survive.

There is also a wrinkle wherein a heavier bike may actually be helpful on certain courses or even just sections of courses. Inertia is always a factor and it's something I think about quite a bit with no conclusion. It's another one of those things where 5 pounds may only be 2.5% of the total system but hey I lost my race by less than 1% so does it matter or not?
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Old 12-14-18, 12:06 PM
  #30  
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Originally Posted by Spoonrobot View Post
No, I meant what I typed. On flat, smooth, gravel; rides are like a group ride or road race. Weight matters much more since there is a smaller window for staying in the draft, rejoining the pack if dropped and responding to gaps where short bursts of acceleration are important. A few pounds makes a difference where being dropped can be caused by not being able to close a 2 meter gap while the pack charges along at 28 miles an hour.


To expand: On chunkier gravel or very hilly gravel weight matters much less than technical ability. It still matters, just much less. Being able to pick a good line, and being able to pick a good line consistently when tired or under stress, can lower the amount of power you have to put out by 15-60% (not a typo) easily. Chunk and hills can instantly spread out the pack due to queuing problem, there are a finite amount of "good lines" for a given section and riders will(eventually) by pure reaction, sort themselves into a queue for the good line and delay themselves and each other. Being able to recognize where the good lines are before hand or having course knowledge allows a good rider to situate themselves ahead of time and save both literal time and effort getting through a section. Having a bike that's X pounds heavier doesn't matter if you're always hitting the smoothest flattest parts of the road. The difference in wattage required to push a heavy bike is outweighed by the wattage required to ride over the roughest surfaces, repeatedly.

Especially where there are ruts or embedded rocks in the road that can be like riding over a speedbump on an already steep incline. The amount of additional power required to boost over a speedbump like obstacle on a 10% gravel grade is considerable, more so if you do it dozens of times a ride.

This is illustrative of the issue: https://janheine.wordpress.com/2016/...ses-confirmed/

https://janheine.files.wordpress.com...q8-1_chart.jpg

What's telling is that early in a gravel race often the pack will be together taking up the whole road. When there are rough sections or hills everyone will charge ahead and try to keep the same pace, there is little room for lateral movement and no one is going to voluntarily drop back to find a better line. Riders will burn all their matches staying in the same relative position as the bounce and clunk over the roughest sections of the road. Soon they will have exhausted themselves and been dropped. As the main group stays together and the numbers lessen, very rough sections are often approached benignly. Riders will sort into a single file line and all hit the same smooth section, often moving significantly left or right and winding around the section. This does not always happen and is indicative of individual rider knowledge forcing group behavior as many riders are happy to ride as if on pavement, taking no consideration for road surface.

Tail-gunning can be a much more effective strategy than it is in a road race. Often finding the good line as the last rider in the pack allows you to save enough energy to move past other riders as they exhaust themselves and eventually integrate into the main pack as the strongest racers survive.

There is also a wrinkle wherein a heavier bike may actually be helpful on certain courses or even just sections of courses. Inertia is always a factor and it's something I think about quite a bit with no conclusion. It's another one of those things where 5 pounds may only be 2.5% of the total system but hey I lost my race by less than 1% so does it matter or not?
I skimmed the above but will not read all of it, because I understand enough about physics to know that you are wrong.

It takes more power to move more mass when fighting inertia and/or gravity; translation: heaver bikes will be slower on climbs. Sure, a heavier bike makes it harder to close a gap, but that's a minimal and solvable problem: don't allow gaps to open. But a heavier bike requires more power on EVERY climb, for the WHOLE climb. And a heavier bike is generally harder to maneuver, which makes it even harder to choose the best line.
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Old 12-14-18, 12:15 PM
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Ok you read the last paragraph which was a little playful speculation on my part. Here's the main point you did not pay attention to:

Originally Posted by Spoonrobot
On chunkier gravel or very hilly gravel weight matters much less than technical ability.
At this point I've done dozens of gravel races/events compromising thousands of miles of varied terrain and I don't have any interest in debating what I've seen, experienced and concluded with a neophyte who has no standing to argue. Good luck, read more and post less.
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Old 12-14-18, 12:24 PM
  #32  
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Originally Posted by Spoonrobot View Post
Ok you read the last paragraph which was a little playful speculation on my part. Here's the main point you did not pay attention to:



At this point I've done dozens of gravel races/events compromising thousands of miles of varied terrain and I don't have any interest in debating what I've seen, experienced and concluded with a neophyte who has no standing to argue. Good luck, read more and post less.
I think you've reached this conclusion with about as much evidence as some of your other conclusions.

By the way, since you seem to have missed it: I'm not arguing with your claim about bike weight vs picking lines through rough terrain. There's nothing to argue over, since terrain is always unique and has not been quantified.

But physics is subject to quantification -- it's why there are "laws" of physics. Science is science.
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Old 12-14-18, 01:38 PM
  #33  
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Koyote, you really should read the whole thing. It's well written and makes good sense.

Spoon isn't arguing about the pros riding and winning on 40lb bikes. He's basically saying a smarter rider on a 21-23 lb bike will finish ahaead of a less advanced rider on 18lbs. How is that even a debate?
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Old 12-14-18, 03:02 PM
  #34  
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Originally Posted by Spoonrobot View Post
Ok you read the last paragraph which was a little playful speculation on my part. Here's the main point you did not pay attention to:



At this point I've done dozens of gravel races/events compromising thousands of miles of varied terrain and I don't have any interest in debating what I've seen, experienced and concluded with a neophyte who has no standing to argue. Good luck, read more and post less.
Ouch.

Since this is a RECREATIONAL gravelbiking forum, perhaps you high level gravel racing technique isnt as applicable as you would like for many(most?) other people's scenarios. I agree that picking your line is extremely important when climbing(or really just always on gravel) and that a good line will leave people less exhausted overall.

Call me a neophyte/rook/pleab/whatever else, but I dont find that I need to have a lighter bike on flat gravel over heavy gravel. My bike already isnt light(25# with pedals and cages), and between the two I havent been riding on flat road and wished for a lighter bike. I have grumbled to myself many times that I want a lighter bike on some climbs(though my weight is really what should drop).
This is all because your situation of pack riding is almost completely non-applicable to how I ride. I ride alone almost all the time on gravel so there is no wheel in front of me to keep up with. When I do races(a couple a year), I am simply not good enough to ride as a pack for the 50-65mi the races last. Very few in the races are able to do that, which is why the finish times vary by a couple hours, so your scenario doesnt apply for most of them either, except for maybe the first 10mi or so before the pack separates itself thru speed and hills.

Again, I dont disagree with anything you said in the example you give. I agree with it and can see how it applies to your elite situation. But what applies there just doesnt apply to many others or many other situations.
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Old 12-14-18, 05:17 PM
  #35  
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I do not think weight matters that much for true gravel riding. Steel/titanium frames and big tires for comfort. No doubt some lighter weight would help in a real gravel race but I bet comfort counts alot to.
My steel gravel bike is 24&1/2#s with pedals and I have a grin on my face when recreational gravel riding.

Last edited by Gconan; 12-14-18 at 05:20 PM.
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Old 12-14-18, 06:01 PM
  #36  
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Ouch.

Since this is a RECREATIONAL gravelbiking forum, perhaps you high level gravel racing technique isnt as applicable as you would like for many(most?) other people's scenarios. I agree that picking your line is extremely important when climbing(or really just always on gravel) and that a good line will leave people less exhausted overall.
It wasn't my intention for that to be an insult, I meant it literally to that poster. If the rebuttal to a explanation based experience riding gravel is "Physics" there really isn't any reason to engage as I assume that poster is just there to argue preconceived notions and not share experience. I always enjoy your posts as do I the several other very knowledgeable posters here, but lately it seems there's more drop-in posters who don't ride gravel increasing the signal-to-noise ratio. Perhaps it's just onset of winter.

My replies were focused on the second question the OP asked so I was assuming that's where the response was centered. But OP asked a few questions and I didn't really address any of the others so apologies for what appears an overly race-centric response. Considerations for riding solo would be completely different than riding in an event but you and others have done a thorough job addressing there's no reason for me to add more.
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Old 12-14-18, 06:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Spoonrobot View Post
lately it seems there's more drop-in posters who don't ride gravel increasing the signal-to-noise ratio.
For sure.
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Old 12-14-18, 09:00 PM
  #38  
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Originally Posted by rosefarts View Post
Koyote, you really should read the whole thing. It's well written and makes good sense.


Spoon isn't arguing about the pros riding and winning on 40lb bikes. He's basically saying a smarter rider on a 21-23 lb bike will finish ahaead of a less advanced rider on 18lbs. How is that even a debate?



I think you should read more carefully; I was never arguing that point. I never argued it because that assertion is unprovable (also not disprovable) since we don't have a definition of "smarter rider." Under the right assumptions (e.g., a "smarter rider" is one who doesn't crash the bike) this argument is correct - but that proves nothing about the role of bike weight.


Originally Posted by Spoonrobot View Post
It wasn't my intention for that to be an insult, I meant it literally to that poster. If the rebuttal to a explanation based experience riding gravel is "Physics" there really isn't any reason to engage as I assume that poster is just there to argue preconceived notions and not share experience. I always enjoy your posts as do I the several other very knowledgeable posters here, but lately it seems there's more drop-in posters who don't ride gravel increasing the signal-to-noise ratio. Perhaps it's just onset of winter.


My replies were focused on the second question the OP asked so I was assuming that's where the response was centered. But OP asked a few questions and I didn't really address any of the others so apologies for what appears an overly race-centric response. Considerations for riding solo would be completely different than riding in an event but you and others have done a thorough job addressing there's no reason for me to add more.

Physics is not a set of "preconceived notions" - it is a set of well-accepted and empirically-verified laws of nature. You might refuse to accept them, but that doesn't change them. The laws of motion, which began to be laid out by Isaac Newton, pretty clearly answer the questions about the role of bike weight on flats vs climbs. These are not speculative, but rather are accepted (i.e., empirically verified) science. The fact that you are not familiar with these laws doesn't change them. Your lack of knowledge does not alter facts.


Citing your vast gravel riding experience (and denigrating mine, about which you know literally nothing - another unsubstantiated claim. Though our relative experience has literally no bearing on the answer to the question) is an example of the logical fallacy of the "appeal to authority" (google it if you are not familiar). It's the equivalent of saying, "I can't make a logical, evidence-based argument, but I know more than you, so I know I'm right." Anyone with a sop****re-level understanding of the scientific method would never accept that kind of haughty cop-out.

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Old 12-17-18, 10:00 AM
  #39  
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Mine weighs about 17lbs, or 16lbs in road format (wheels/tires). It is amazing - how fast it accelerates, how easily it climbs hills, and how refreshed I am after a long ride when I don't have to push a lot of weight up our rolling hills.

But I choose my bike for different goals than 80-90% of all gravel bikes - because on most bikes it doesn't make that much difference. Here is why (I'm generalizing here):
1) Gravel bikes are not designed to accelerate fast. Low BB, longish chain-stays, compliant frame. Generic grave l bikes don't "pop" when I pedal hard.
2) Wheels/tires. With 2.5lbs just in rubber alone, Many gravel bikes have a lot of rotational mass that hurt acceleration.

That said, I did to an experiment once - taking a 18lb gravel and 28lb mountain bike on a 3 hour gravel ride. Both had excellent tires, and were pretty close in time for the first 1.5 hours. But, after the 2 hour mark I was just beat carrying the extra weight up our rolling hills, and my time fell off dramatically. I really struggled on the 28lb bike for the last 30 minutes. So, I know I have better endurance on a lighter bike - even if I'm running a slower endurance pace.


Originally Posted by johngwheeler View Post
Thanks for the answers - sounds like weight-watching is not a major concern for a gravel bike, at least not at the expense of other, more important, qualities such as fit, tires & rider ability (or indeed "ride-ability")!

FYI, here are the weights for some gravel bikes that I like the look of:

Salsa Warbird Carbon: 19.4lbs (54cm)
James Renegade Elite: 18.2lbs (54cm)
Niner RLT 9 RDO 19.5lbs (size unknown)
GT Grade Carbon Ultegra 18.9lbs (51cm), 20.2lbs (56cm)

...so none of the above are exactly overweight! My Trek Crossrip Elite with tools/spares, lights, rack and empty panniers weighs over 30lb....and I ride this nearly every weekday (with some cargo in the panniers), so just about anything will feel a lot lighter :-)

John
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Old 12-17-18, 12:34 PM
  #40  
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Originally Posted by johngwheeler View Post
Title says it all! When you are considering a primarily off-road bike, or a mixed road/off-road machine, how important is overall weight in your decision?

Do you consider light weight to be important for the possibility of gravel-racing, or even joining in with road events & races?

Or is robustness and longevity a more important factor?

Interested in hearing your opinion and thoughts,

John
I'd say it matters just as much as for any other type of bike. It's not everything, but it helps. For a casual group ride, transportation, or just having fun, most anything will be fine. For racing then every advantage will help if you are going for the podium. Everyone arguing over whose gravel is better and whether a skilled rider on a heavy bike will beat an unskilled rider on a light bike is forgetting that in a race, there will be several skilled riders on light bikes. I'm not saying that weight has to be minimized at all costs, but on a race bike then you'd want to look at every feature and accessory on the bike and justify to yourself why you are carrying the weight along and how that item makes you faster than you would be if you didn't have it.

That said, I chose a Warbird. It's light enough and fast enough for me and with its pedigree I really can't blame the bike for holding me back in most any gravel event I enter. It feels like a paved road bike, which is exactly what I wanted and it's the perfect bike that I can ride from my driveway without having to drive somewhere first to go riding. In my part of the country we have "rich man gravel" (LOL) aka dirt roads, so "driving somewhere to go riding" includes my pavement bike.

Last edited by Caliper; 12-17-18 at 12:45 PM.
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Old 12-17-18, 10:09 PM
  #41  
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post

Since this is a RECREATIONAL gravelbiking forum, perhaps you high level gravel racing technique isnt as applicable as you would like for many(most?) other people's scenarios.
interacting with Physics is very APPLICABLE, for ALL.

speak for yourself on what is or isn't applicable. As a recreational rider, I never voted for you to be my voice.
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Old 12-18-18, 06:34 AM
  #42  
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A 60lb gravel bike would suck.
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Old 12-18-18, 08:00 AM
  #43  
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Originally Posted by Kapusta View Post
A 60lb gravel bike would suck.
So would a 30 lb gravel bike.
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Old 12-18-18, 09:26 AM
  #44  
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I should weigh my All City 3m disc. I never really thought it was that heavy until I had to carry it up 9 floors of steps. It's a pig. And I have fairly light wheels on it.
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Old 12-18-18, 09:36 AM
  #45  
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Originally Posted by Caliper View Post
In my part of the country we have "rich man gravel" (LOL) aka dirt roads, so "driving somewhere to go riding" includes my pavement bike.
Ironically, I find our "rich man gravel" to often be in better shaped than our paved roads. I was enjoying some super smooth gravel near Stoney Creek, when my ride quality was rudely interrupted by a segment of that rough patched asphalt that seems so popular around here.
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Old 12-18-18, 10:18 AM
  #46  
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Originally Posted by Garfield Cat View Post
So would a 30 lb gravel bike.
Maybe if you live in the mountains or are racing. In the midwest where things are flatter, I think even a few pounds heavier than 30 would be fine for a recreational bike. That's assuming 30# isn't just the bare bike, but already includes equipment like bottle cages, fenders and maybe a bag to put stuff in. I've got two bikes at 28# and 30# and they are plenty fun to ride, even over long rides. Yes, you know it's not a 20# carbon bike, but it'll still cover most of the bases.
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Old 12-18-18, 10:43 AM
  #47  
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
I should weigh my All City 3m disc. I never really thought it was that heavy until I had to carry it up 9 floors of steps. It's a pig. And I have fairly light wheels on it.
The one time I wished I had a lighter bike was when carrying it up a new trail built next to the collapsed Big Sur bridge.




Other than that, my steel frame, rear rack, Brooks Saddle, two water bottles, seat bag with tools, and assorted other stuff, not to mention my own extra weight, aren't really all that noticeable. Must be the carbon bars, stem and seat post.

My next frame will be made from depleted uranium.
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Old 12-18-18, 02:00 PM
  #48  
gus6464
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Seems like there a lot of Ted Kings on here that can extract every ounce of performance from 18lbs vs 25lbs. I dare anyone here with a CX bike to take out my Slate with 650x47s on a gravel road and tell me it's slower.
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Old 12-18-18, 02:29 PM
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I don't worry too much about weight. And the area where weight counts the most is wheels.
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Old 12-18-18, 02:36 PM
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Seems like there a lot of Ted Kings on here that can extract every ounce of performance from 18lbs vs 25lbs. I dare anyone here with a CX bike to take out my Slate with 650x47s on a gravel road and tell me it's slower.
I was test riding bikes, doing a rolling acceleration.
Took me about 5 hard pedal strokes to get a Specialized sequoia up to speed., took me about 3 hard pedal strokes to do the same on a 16lb Crux.

Undoubtedly the Sequoia would have me feeling better after a 100mile ride (assuming its flat), but I wouldn't want to do a paceline with it.
(and yes, my personal requirement is that I can do a fast paceline as well as gravel)
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