Best Bang for Your Buck: Weight-Saving Upgrades
We all know a weight weenie. We all hate that weight weenie. But, to their credit there's some great benefits from dropping a little weight on the bike. You'll probably climb a little faster the bike will feel more playful on the downs. Weight saving never hurt — except the wallet. Saving weight on the bike can get really pricey really fast. So, we are setting out to find some of the best bang for your buck weight saving upgrades. *Quick disclaimer here — I am calculating the cost per gram assuming you purchased the new part at full retail and didn't sell or trade in the old part.*
To start, I have my new Rocky Mountain Instinct BC edition. It's 155mm travel 29er made to party. While it's pretty light for what it is, the thing could stand to lose a few pounds — or grams (we are cyclist after all.) Without pedals the C90 comes in at 31.35lbs. in an XL frame. I am going to see how light we can get it, without compromising the bike's intentions.
Lets start with the obvious and cheap stuff.
TUBELESS // $.05 per gram
The stock wheels come tubeless ready, but they aren't set up that way out of the box. Pre-tubeless the wheels and tires weigh in at 2156g front and 2242g rear without a cassette and brake rotors. Removing the tubes drops the weight by 244g/wheel for a total of 488g. You have to add in the weight of sealant and stems. We put 60g of Stan's in each wheel with a 6g stem for a total of 132g. Thats makes the total weight savings by simply going tubeless 356g. Thats the cheapest weight reduction you'll find anywhere. Each 2oz. bottle of Stans costs $3 and a pair of stems will run you $16. So for a total of $19 plus tax you can save 356g. $19/356g = $.05/gram. No Brainer.
COCKPIT // $3.67 per gram
This is one of the least cost effective weight savings. The benefit of going to a carbon handlebar is more than just weight savings however. They tend to minimize vibration and give a more comfortable ride. But, I am talking weight savings here. I went full weight weenie with this upgrade. The stock bars and stem came in at 448g. The Enve carbon bars and stem weigh 328g. So for a savings of 120g you'll pay about $440 ($175 for the bars and $265 for the stem.) If you want to drop a little weight and get the benefit of the carbon handlebars, skip the carbon stem and just match your bars to an alloy stem. You'll save about 50g and a whole lot of cash.
WHEELS // $10.81 per gram
Like most of the other upgrades on this list, there are benefits beyond weight reduction. Carbon wheels make a huge difference in ride quality, but how much weight savings do they actually provide? I swapped out the stock wheels for a set of HiFi carbon wheels as a last ditch effort to get the bike under 30lbs. My stock Stan's Flow wheel set weighed in at 1,834g vs the 1,686g HiFi carbon wheels. The total weight reduction would be 148g. At $1,600 that costs $10.81/gram. Carbon wheels might not be the most cost effective way to drop weight on the bike, but the performance benefits can be worth the cost. If you're looking for a wheel upgrade that won't break the bank, a high-end alloy wheel set could be a great option.
CRANKS // $3.13 per gram
Cranks are another easy way to save some weight on the bike, but are they cost effective? We swapped our cranks for the Race Face Next R cranks to save some weight while keeping the crankset durable and strong to match the bike's intentions. Race face makes lighter cranks but they fall a little more on the XC side of the spectrum so we decided to pass on those. The stock cranks weighed 632g and the upgraded crankset came in at 502g. That makes a total of 130g for $408. The crankset upgrade cost is $3.13 per gram.
TOTAL WEIGHT SAVINGS // $2.42 per gram
In total I spent $2,467 to save 1,016g. That's pretty steep at $2.42 per gram.
So here is where my math falls apart a little bit. My bike started at 14,224g and ended at 13,208g. A difference of 1,016g. If you are an observant person you'll see that the weight savings above only add up to 754g. There are a few things I didn't document along the way that will contribute to the missing 262g. I swapped saddles, grips, trimmed long cables, swapped a GX cassette for an XO1 and switched to a center lock brake mount vs a traditional 6 bolt. And, here's the kicker... I used different scales to measure the complete bikes vs the individual parts. So what I'm saying is, take this with a grain of salt because your mileage may vary.
IS IT WORTH IT?
Yes and no. In terms of a total weight reduction I'm going to bet that $2,467 for 2.2lbs isn't worth it to most folks. If you look at the upgrades as a whole, the performance benefits in combination with the weight savings start to make that hefty price tag a little more reasonable. After the upgrades my wheels are stiffer and lighter, my hubs engage quicker, my bars absorb more trail chatter, my crankset transfers more power to the wheels and I no longer run the risk of puncturing a tube.
If you have deep pockets, by all means go for carbon everything. If your budget looks more like a college student's, maybe just go tubeless and call it good.
Of course there are other ways to drop weight on a bike. We didn't include some of them because would change the intentions of the bike — things like running XC tires, ditching the dropper post, switching to narrower rims with less spokes, running smaller brake rotors and lightweight brakes, etc... There's also the cheapest option of all — losing rider weight. That one is hard because...donuts.