Road Bike Weight and Performance: Why Decrease Weight for Marginal Gain?

Ok, let us start with a wee bit of engineering on the matter of weight, which for many cyclists is like starting a conversation on politics or religion.

For years, the orthodox position on weight has been something along the lines of “Lighter bikes result in significant performance gains.” Recent engineering work by others on aerodynamics and tire choices have begun to dethrone light weight as the ultimate goal for a bicycle, but weight still reigns supreme in many minds.

The problem with this belief is that it’s largely based on marketing and assumption.

The impact of weight on performance is an easy calculation, no mysteries at all. It’s simply the calculation of the rider’s power, the total weight he’s moving, the slope he’s climbing (if any) and various minor factors like temperature, tire type, etc. While most people ask “what does the bike weigh?,” the important question is “what is the combined weight of the bike and rider— and what percentage of that can I save?”

The percentage change in that total determines the rough percentage of performance change. If for example, you weigh 175 lbs and you ride an 18 lb bike but are considering a 15 lb bike to improve your performance, here’s the simple formula that will tell you about how much you’ll gain with that weight savings:

  • The total weight of you and your 18lb bike is 193 lbs
  • You will save 3 lbs with the 15lb bike, so your total weight will now be 190lbs.
  • The 3 lb savings is 1.6 % of the total bike and rider weight, which is about the amount of performance improvement you’ll experience at a constant power output.

This is not considering tire type, inflation, road type, temperature or other variables. All other variables will influence this percentage gain.

This is the fundamental problem with expecting significant performance gains by saving a few pounds of weight. 

So here’s the table showing the results for 2 miles on the flats and climbing a 4% grade.  
However, the one thing that can really make you feel  faster is light weight wheels. They’re usually $2000 or more, but can save you a pound over most stock wheels. We already know about what the pound will actually save, but they do give a pleasantly snappy sensation and acceleration thanks to lower inertia. We offer some nice lightweight wheels on select bikes for this reason. Other weight saving schemes are mainly for bling; or in the case of Pros, wringing every last millisecond off their times when money is on the line.

The Performance Argument for a Strategic Increase in Weight

So if lighter is not that much better, why might you want to go counter to intuition and ride a heavier bike? It’s simple— if the additional mass acts as a vibration damper, most cyclists would take the trade off of a tiny decrease in speed for big gains in comfort and control.

This is precisely the choice Renovo owners make. With the entire frame acting to damp vibration, comfort and control are enhanced.

Weight and Frame Durability

It is important to note that the only way to reduce frame weight is to make it with less material, which of course makes it more fragile. Renovo’s frames are not designed for pro riders, so  durability is more important than the lightest possible weight, which means they will weigh approximately a water bottle more than a comparable carbon frame. Moreover, if a Renovo is dented it’s a cosmetic issue, easily and inexpensively repaired. A Renovo will still be strong and just as handsome for your granddaughter to ride after you’re gone…

So Why Ride a Renovo Hardwood Bicycle?

When considering the significant gains in performance and durability offered by a bit of extra frame weight, the choice seems clear to opt for the frame which presents a more comfortable and controlled ride with the benefit of greater durability. Renovo riders have been saying it for years.

"The Renovo is by far the best bike I have ever owned. I like my Trek and Colnago but the ride quality of the Renovo beats those bikes hands down." -SA, California

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