Monday, March 10, 2008

Don't believe everything you read...why published weights don't matter.

This is one of my favorite topics. It annoys me to the core how much emphasis people will put so much "weight" (sorry, I had to) into companies' claims of their bikes' total weight. "Yeah, but this bike weighs x.xx lbs and this bike weighs x.xx lbs more..." blah, blah, blah... There's an excellent example in one of the latest stories at

The "New Arrivals" feature is one of my favorites that they run; as they receive some of the newest gear sooner than many other publications and it lets me know what to expect to see tests on in the near future. For example - I believe they've released the first comprehensive test of Sram Red. This time, they're highlighting three top-end road bikes that have just rolled into their stable: the Jamis Xenith SL, Serotta HSG Carbon, and Isaac Sonic. All somewhat obscure bikes that you're not likely to see in the bike shop on the corner or hear long discourses on at the next Saturday club ride. But the story provided some very interesting information; buried in the specifications list about each bike, that I think slipped by most people. The weights of the complete bikes, the weights of the frames, and the other details of the bikes' builds. "Not exactly rocket surgery there, Matt."

Right, but here's what you're missing: The total weight of the bike has recently become less about the frame and more about what parts are hung on that frame. The first read of this article for the average reader would lead them to believe that the Jamis, at 13.16 lbs (5.98 kg) is the clear leader in the weight game between these three and that the Isaac at 15.05 lbs (6.83 kg) is a very distant second with the Serotta a close third at a comparably hefty 15.89 lbs (7.21 kg). However a closer look reveals that the secret is in the builds. No, there's not a big difference between the support kits (handlebars, stems, seatposts, etc...) and the component groups are not as disparaging in weight (Sram Red, Campagnolo Record, and Sram Force respectively) as are the complete bikes. So, what's left...WHEELS!

I've long said that the first place to look when you see a vast difference in weight between two high quality bikes with similar builds is the wheels. That super-light bike is going to have tubular wheels on it 9 times out of 10. And, in this case it is true: The Jamis is fitted with Zipp 404 tubular wheels, which at 1252 grams are 230 grams lighter than the Zipp CSC wheels found on the Serotta and 330 grams lighter than the Campagnolo Neutron wheels on the Isaac. Put the Zipp 404 wheels on all three bikes and look what happens:

- Jamis Xenith SL: 13.16 lbs (5.98 kg)

- Isaac Sonic: 14.52 lbs (6.60 kg)

- Serotta HSG Carbon: 15.13 lbs (6.88 kg)

A much more telling and fair comparison. Then, look at the frame weights: Jamis: sub-900g; Isaac: 990 g; Serotta: over 3 lbs at 1500g. So, if the Jamis and the Isaac were built identically to each other; their weights would be within about 90 grams or about .2 lbs of each other while the Serotta would weigh almost 1 lb more. The Jamis and Isaac are a lot closer than they looked at first glance, huh? While the Serotta makes my full-steel Waterford R-33 look like a lightweight (my 59cm Waterford frame is .2 lbs lighter than the smaller Serotta frame).

So, don't take all those published weights at face value. Anymore, just about any top-end frame can be made into a Superlight. Even my Waterford could be nearly 15 lbs with the right parts. Which leads me to one of my other favorite topics: Steel just isn't heavy anymore!

Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

  1. I got my oldie bike, previously about 20 or 21 pounds to a nice 17 just by changing the wheels and upgrading my crankset. I believe I can ride this for one or two more seasons. :)

    The bike ishere



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