Worth the Weight

Last year I rode a 16.8 pound bike up Mount Washington. For a 58cm frame, that’s not bad. Actually, that’s pretty damn good. For me anyway, it’s the lightest bike I’ve ever taken up, well, anything.

And you know how that turned out? Pretty not good.

Chris, how could you turn in your worst Mt. Washington time ever on the lightest bike you’ve ever ridden up the mountain?

Because I wasn’t fit, that’s why. And my lack of fitness was further amplified by not only the heat that day, but my lack of preparation for the heat. In the end, my systems are not happy when it’s super hot out. But that’s all corollary to the bigger issue of fitness. I could bitch about temperature all day long.

Now, I wasn’t fit, because my yearly training plan had a huge whole blown in it from the very beginning. That was my doctors’ doing, not mine, but in the end it left me out of racing for several months early in the year when it mattered the most. And when you’re a periodization (Friel) subscriber like I am, that’s sometimes the way it goes. The year builds upon itself, and if you miss two months, you can’t truly start over until next year.

Drifting back to the point I’m trying to make. I can be very meticulous about trimming bike weight for races. I would just do it, just because. But I’ve had a lot of time to think about this. And I only do it now when and where it could truly make a difference.

Last year I omitted front derailleur, chainrings, brakes, housing, anything from my Mt. Wash setup, but for what. What did that do for me in the end if I simply didn’t have the engine to do anything with it?

Nothing.

And for you, the gram chaser, in an endless pursuit of the lightest this-or-that, carbon this-or-that, titanium this-or-that – what is that really getting you. Is it getting you anything tangible? Is it getting you race results? If all you want is the sense of aesthetics, or some other personal satisfaction, then by all means, dive right in and indulge. But from where I sit, having gone through last year, I’m done with the pursuit of the lightest bike, at least as far as Mt. Wash goes. For now.

I have 15 minutes to knock off my PR on that mountain to make 1:20. When I get much, much closer to the edge of making that goal or not making it, then pulling out all the stops is going to make more sense to me. But that gap right now will be bridged by fitness. Not a matter of grams.

Crank the Kanc, that is a different story. The singlespeed category is a very small and competitive group. The playing field is much closer to level here. Weight could very well factor in the difference between podium or no podium. And here it makes sense. I pull out all the stops.

The next time you get spun up over how much something weighs, ask yourself why it matters.

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