Did I get your attention with that headline? It was inspired by an article I read in the most recent issue of Bicycle Quarterly, a fantastic, niche magazine published by Jan Heine.
In this issue, Jan tested a titanium bike against a steel randonneur bike. It was a real world test: two guys racing each other up the same hill, one on the ti bike, one on the steel. They swapped out the bikes several times. Both were evenly matched in terms of strength, endurance and weight.
The weight of a steel bike is always of interest. This steel bike was 9.6 lbs heavier than the ti bike, but it climbed as well. It sounds implausible, but as Jan explained, when the weight of the riders was taken into account, the steel bike plus rider was only 5% heavier than the ti bike plus rider, but the steel bike “planed”, helping the rider generate the extra power needed to overcome the weight difference.
Fans of Jan’s bike testing will know there is an advantage to a bike that “planes”. This is a bike that is in synch with the rider and flexes in a way that “gives back” some of the rider’s energy to the drivetrain.
Just for fun, I backed through Jan’s math to calculate that he weighs about 175 lbs. I used my own 100 lb. weight in his calculations and found that the difference in weight plus rider for me is about 8%. Ah, we smaller riders have a rougher road to ride, do we not? A bike that planes is a must!
The important point is that weight is not a big deal. Choice of tires and construction of the frame is though.
Take the road less traveled — not only on your bike, but in your reading as well.