Loca Bikes

Light city bike - does weight really matter, and if it does, what can you do to get rid of it?

The topic of bike weight is very broad and quite controversial. Some people are in favor of fighting with every gram and believe that this will boost their performance, while others don’t really care about this value at all. Will less weight really make us faster?

Bike weight and our speed

Replacing, e.g., the pedals with ones that are 50 g lighter will, of course, make us go faster. However, these are very marginal differences, and there’s no chance we’re going to feel such a change.

The gain from a slight slimming down of a bike decreases even more if we ride on flat terrain and not, e.g., in the mountains, because it's when we climb, due to gravity, that weight matters the most. To sum up, the difference of a few dozen or even a few hundred grams will give practically no benefit whatsoever to 90% of cyclists.

A more substantial change, for example, from 15 kg to 10 kg, will undoubtedly be noticeable. The bike will become more agile, easier to ride, and will accelerate better. Riding uphill will also become much more enjoyable.

 

King Arthur - city single speed bike by Loca Bikes
King Arthur - city single speed bike by Loca Bikes

 

A light city bike - like what?

Is low weight a feature we should really desire? And how can we even understand this notion?

We've already concluded that minimal differences in weight can be overlooked. Especially if our two wheels are already at a fairly acceptable weight, however, bottom shelf bikes (especially city ones) and those that remember World War II can weigh up to 20 kg. A lightweight ladies' city bike is still a rarity.

Technology has long since come on, and, nowadays, we can go well below these values by using better, modern materials.

 

Light city bike with gear hub
Light city bike with gear hub

 

The city bikes from Loca Bikes are built on frames made of triple butted aluminum and weigh in at about 11-13 kg. Compared to an, e.g., 18 kg machine, the difference is considerable - both when you are riding it and when you’re carrying it up to the 4th floor of an apartment block.

Another material worth recommending is steel. Good quality tubes from companies such as Reynolds or Columbus are not only exceptionally light but also durable. Another prime advantage of steel is its excellent vibration damping. For a city bike, it works perfectly.

A titanium frame is a fantastic option. Frames made of this metal can outperform steel in terms of durability and comfort, and weigh even less. A titanium bike can simply be a bike for life. Unfortunately, this material is costly, among other things, due to the difficulty of machining it.

 

 

Carbon, on the other hand, will have both excellent rigidity and vibration damping. This material, in comparison to metals, is, unfortunately, less resistant to side impacts, which happen in the city more often than on the road. Price is another drawback.

Does low bike weight = quality?

Apart from the effect weight has on the bike's behavior while riding, it’s also fair to assume that a bike lighter by several kilograms will probably have been built using better parts.

So this is some kind of indicator that we can use when choosing our two wheels. For example, the lowest groupset from Shimano - Claris - weighs approx. 3 kg. The Dura-Ace set for professional racing weighs as much as a kilogram less.

 

Przerzutki rowerowe
Shimano Claris

 

We can start to see the trend that the better the equipment, the lighter it is. Of course, a 210 g derailleur can be much more technically capable than one weighing 200 g. But, again, with more substantial differences - understanding that weight = quality makes the most sense, and this value can serve as some kind of indicator.

So, a light city bike is most likely to be fitted out with better quality components that will ensure quiet, trouble-free operation for longer periods, more comfort and more speed, and thus more fun to ride.

 

Przerzutki rowerowe
Shimano Dura-Ace

 

A light city bike - how to slim down our two wheels

How can we get rid of our bike's weight in the most cost-effective way and improve its other properties?

Replace the suspension fork with a rigid one

Suspension forks on city bikes are usually cheap, weigh a ton and break quickly. They also absorb a lot of pedaling energy that could go into powering the bike. So it's really not worth it.

A poor quality suspension fork weighs over 2 kg. A rigid fork for around 50€ easily allows us to go down to a weight of approx. 1 kg, or even a bit below. A bigger investment in carbon and from 2 kg we’ll settle at 500 g.

A 1.5 kg difference - and just on the fork alone! We will feel a change like that for sure. We can make up for the loss of suspension with comfortable grips or a double layer of bar tape, a suspension seatpost (this is exactly what we can do for your Loca Bikes bike), and slightly thicker tires.

 

Light city bike - Black Classic by Loca Bikes
Light city bike - Black Classic by Loca Bikes

 

Seatpost, stem and other bike components

Manufacturers often save on these components and use cheap Chinese parts. The seatpost, stem, and handlebars are easy to replace.

With a single component, the weight difference won't be that big. But, every little helps, and it will quickly become obvious that by continuing to buy reasonably priced parts, that are a bit better in quality, we will be able to shave off quite a few grams.

Apart from the weight, better parts will likely have additional better properties. A good quality crankset, for example, will be stiffer and will ensure more efficient power transfer. On our part, we recommend the Miche Pistard 2.0 available here. External bearings and high-quality aluminum will definitely boost your performance.

It’s also a good idea to get rid of the typical couch that usually serves as a saddle for city bikes and install something more sporty, taking into consideration, of course, the position we’ll be riding in. We can make changes like this for relatively little money and they will allow us to save a few hundred grams.

Wheels on a light city bike

Wheels are one of the parts that have the most influence on the ride. Also, besides the frame, they weigh the most and manufacturers like to save money on them.

Another thing is that a wheel is a rotating mass, and that affects our acceleration much more than our body or frame weight. As a result of this, we will feel a loss of weight in the wheels more than, for example, a lighter saddle. What can we substitute in them to make us ride better?

 

Light single speed city bike
Light single speed city bike

 

A light city bike means good tires

First of all, with a relatively small investment, we can often cut quite a few grams.

Secondly, after all, they’re the point of contact between the bike and the ground, so they have a significant influence on how our machine behaves, and with lighter, better-quality tires, we can get more grip and less rolling resistance.

The latter has a colossal effect on our ride. The difference between a cheap tire for 10€ and a tire for 30€ can be felt as soon as we move off.


 

Opona rowerowa
Continental Gatorskin

 

Basically, we have two basic types of tires - wire and Kevlar (folding). The former retain their shape thanks to the wire in the tire bead.

The latter (and this is what we definitely recommend) are much lighter thanks to Kevlar fibers that are used instead of the metal wire, and they can be rolled up compact, which is very important if we want to take a spare tire on our bike trip. The minus is the slightly higher price.

A change of wheels


A more drastic move would be to replace the entire wheelset. Remember not to pay more for them than the rest of the bike; it simply won't be profitable.

With really terrible wheels that weigh e.g. 3 kg, going down a kilogram won’t hurt our wallet too much, and the difference will certainly be noticeable.

If we have a really light ladies' city bike, battling with another 100 g when you already have decent wheels weighing e.g. 2 kg will be rather pointless, and the costs will be completely disproportionate to the actual benefits gained.

 

Lekki rower miejski męski Loca Bikes
Schwalbe G-One tires on Loca Bikes bike

 

Is it worth slimming down a city bike?

It all depends on what kind of bike we have. How much does it weigh and what is the quality of the components? What are our needs, and how much money are we able to spend on it?

Let's start with this scenario: we already have a light city bike - a well-thought-out design that weighs e.g. 11 kg. Sure, we can keep shaving the pounds off it, but at this stage, most of the better parts will simply be very expensive.

We could pay e.g. 120€, for a carbon handlebar to save an additional 100 g. But will we feel the big difference when riding? Definitely not. Will our wallet feel it? Well, that's a question we have to ask ourselves.


 

Ostre koło Loca Bikes
Time aero seatpost

 

Damage resistance and bike weight

A super light city bike will certainly be faster to some extent, but in our opinion, one of the basic features of a city bike is its reliability.

That's why at Loca Bikes, we really like single speed bikes and planetary hubs a lot. Below a certain weight, it really doesn't pay to go down any further because instead of enjoying the ride, we’ll either keep having to fix something or worry about damaging our expensive carbon parts. Let's remember that most cities don't really have beautiful tarmac everywhere.

Other technical details

When everyone is so hung up on the weight of the bike, they often forget about another important issue - its stiffness. A very light frame won’t do us any good if half our energy goes into bending it from side to side with every pedal stroke.

But remember, we don't want a bike that's too rigid for the city. A frame that flexes in the right places will give us additional damping and will increase the comfort of the ride. A lightweight ladies' city bike should put comfort first.

Aerodynamics is equally important. A more streamlined bike or simply an aerodynamic position, in terms of performance, will do for us more than reducing the weight by a few grams.

 

City bike with belt drive
City bike with belt drive

 

Slimming down the bike - when is the juice worth a squeeze?

What if our bike weighs e.g. 17 kg? If we've decided that it isn't utter scrap metal and we like the frame so much that we want to invest in it instead of just buying a new bike, then absolutely!

If this is the kind of situation we’re already in then our two-wheeler probably has quite a lot of poor quality parts on it that we can replace with much lighter ones at a relatively low cost.

By replacing the suspension with a rigid fork, installing new tires, we'll probably have lost 2 kg of weight already. Do the same with several other parts, and maybe another kilogram will vanish. These will be the kind of changes that we'll feel for sure. Most notably, as well as a loss in weight, we'll have all the pluses of good quality components.

It's worth bringing a heavy bike down to a sensible weight. But, bearing in mind, if our components are already relatively lightweight, it's better to focus on other areas where there's room for improvement.

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About Me

Loca Bikes is a Wrocław bicycle manufacturer. Since 2016, we have built several hundred personalized bikes, and we can safely say that we know quite a bit about it. As part of the blog, we want to share this knowledge and infect you with our passion for bikes. You will find numerous tips here, as well as articles on cycling culture and history.

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