The second most common question I’ve been asked, since getting my bike, has been ‘Why is that teeny bike so heavy!?’ At 24 pounds and change, yes, my bicycle is a little heavy for it’s size, and it’s also fatter in some weird places compared to a ‘normal’ bike. It’s best to think of my bike as a ‘hybrid’ (half road, half mountain) since it’s tires are a little fatter than a road bike, but not as knobby as a mountain. When you look at an ‘adult’ bike, it’s about 40 to 50 pounds, which always made we wonder why people think mine’s heavy. Half the size, half the weight, and yes, at 25 pounds, you don’t enjoy lugging it up three flights of stairs every day, but there it is. But what does the weight really matter?
To the normal, casual, bicyclist, the weight matters in one respect only: How hard is it to get my bike across/up/down something I can’t ride? Personally, I think this question explains why BMX became so popular. Haven’t you ever looked at a short flight of stairs and, as you got off you bike to haul it down, thought “That would have been faster to ride.” Even for professionals, the lightest bike doesn’t give you much of an advantage, since the basic bicycle idea is the most efficient man-powered vehicle out there.
Even if it’s just the placebo effect, lighter=better, there is some benefit to a lighter bike, and those 40+ pound steel wonders aren’t the norm for ‘professional’ bicyclists (of which I am not). The pros have bikes of 15 to 17 lbs, although I’ve heard that at 15, the steering is a bit touchy. As for people who like to bike and are slightly fanatic about it, 19lbs is common. So why is it, if you look up bicycles on Amazon, you see they average 40lbs? Because those lightweight ones are road bikes, built for speed. The rest of us, who just enjoy a bit of a ride, we don’t care as much about lap time, speed, etc etc.
At 24 pounds, my bike is heavier than a racing bike, but a lot lighter than a mountain bike or (help me) a Schwinn beach cruiser which is now 43lbs, but when I was 11, was … well, a lot more. The lightest hybrid I’ve found out there is the ‘perfect’ 19lbs. With the help of the bicycle weight index, you can determine that the average is not actually the 40lbs Amazon purports, but somewhere closer to 30. I was using Amazon, since they tend to true-up the weight so you know how much you get ganked for shipping, but even so, my bike is less than that.
So why do people ask me why my bike is so heavy?
Mostly it’s because it’s supposed to be carried. And if you’re going to pick up a bike and carry it, it should be light. And 24lbs isn’t light. I lug my bike up and down three flights of stairs a day (I work and live on the third floor, go figure), so I do often wish it weighed less. The other reason people think my bike is heavy is it’s shaped funny. Conventional bicycle geometry is about the dimensions and angles of the bike frame, as well as the forks.
On a conventional bike (see above) you get the straight bar across the top. Most modern bikes actually have a bit of a downslope on that top-bar, which was a marriage between the low step-through of a lady bike (skirts, y’know) and the ball-crunching men’s bike. You’d think the men would like to spare their boys, but the bike with the low step-through is actually weaker, physically, than the other sort, and requires more effort to pedal. On my Dahon, there’s no triangle to provide internal support. There’s no top tube, just the one low tube. So naturally the shape of the bike couldn’t just be circular tubes, as it had to spread the weight out differently. Physics alone couldn’t defeat this peril, however, and the Dahon has to be made out of lightweight, but not the lightest weight, material out there.
So yes, my bike is heavy for it’s size. But that’s because of science.
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving”