When I went online to find out how much the Back Roads bikes weighed that I rode in France, I got all kinds of excuses: well, it depends on the transmission, well it depends on the brakes, well it depends on the pedals, the seat…Back Roads knows exactly how much those bikes weigh, they’re just not telling because they know it will prejudice prospective customers who all want a bike that weighs 19 lbs (that’s the cut-off point where carbon fiber bikes enter the equation).
I’ve since met numerous people – and bike store clerks - who all claim their bikes weigh 19 lbs. But I don’t believe them unless I see it on a scale.
And it’s not just road bikes where you’ll find this. I was told for example, that my Brompton Lucille weighed 24 lbs when I bought her. That’s weighty (actually light for a folder), but just to be sure, I took a scale downstairs the other day and put us both on it. That’s the best way to find out.
It took some daring to commit to this, because quite frankly I didn’t want to know either of our weights, but I consoled myself with the knowledge that if push came to shove, I could always lose weight; Lucille on the other hand, is a more of a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of gal. Me? Oh please. That’s not happening. Lucille? 29lbs of joy - GAH! Even I was shocked at that! With 16” wheels, no WONDER I pant up Fiend’s Hill on this bike!
I knew Janet weighed 24lbs when I bought her because in the interest of full disclosure, she was put on a scale in the store. But that’s 5lbs less than Lucille, which to me makes a world of difference. And there are compensating factors: bigger tires, (and better gear ratio), a much smoother ride, sensitive hydraulic brakes; she corners like a dream, she burns up hills and though it doesn’t matter to anyone but me, she’s pretty.
L tells me her carbon fiber bike is 19lbs and I believe her, because L has no agenda.
So why are we (and bike manufacturers) so obsessed with weight? Part of it has to do with bike culture in the US - as opposed to places like The Netherlands, where bikes are a well-accepted form of transportation, and the emphasis on racing is more balanced. Especially since Lance Armstrong, everyone wants to be a (non-doping) Tour de France Champion. And the less their bike weighs the better they’ll look riding it, even if they only ride on the weekends.
If what you are looking for is comfort (and you don’t have to lift your bike much), weight should not be an issue at all.
But even with that, weight doesn’t tell the whole story. My friend, P, just replaced an ancient cruising bike with a snazzy carbon fiber machine that slices through the air and that I hoisted myself with 2 fingers. That bike is 19lbs tops. But Janet and I have been in training; we lapped them both on Fiend’s Hill – twice. (Don’t ask me to play P at tennis – I would get totally trounced.) So it all depends on what you’re going for.
With bikes - with any technology really - the search for the ultimate machine can become a Holy Grail, a search that can easily take on more meaning than the goal itself. That’s great for the manufacturers who want you to keep shopping. But only you know what will work best for your life.