Some XC riders – like other bike riders – obsess about bike weight and will spend big bucks to get a slightly lighter bike. Their belief is that it will make them a better rider and that they will go faster.
So, how much do mountain bikes weigh and how much does it matter? Read on to find the answers to these two common questions.
Steel, Aluminum or Exotic materials dictates weight
The short answer to ‘how much does a mountain bike weigh’ is ‘it depends on what it is made from’. Choice of frame and wheel material is the main determinant of a mountain bike’s weight.
Anything 35 lbs up will definitely be a steel frame. That might sound heavy but a thick steel frame is very strong indeed and these kinds of mountain bikes are pretty much indestructible (though not much fun to carry). So at the heavy end you get strength (even on folding steel mountain bikes). Yes those extra pounds might make a slight difference going up hill, but not so much on the flat and downhill you have no problems – quite the reverse. Steel-based mountain bikes tend to be very much more affordable than some other types.
As you move down to around 30lbs or slightly below, you will see more aluminum mountain bikes and some slightly more exotic alloy wheels.
Going down below 25 lbs and you are dealing with exotic and often expensive bikes based on alloys or carbon fiber. Now, remember you are not doing day after day of road racing on the Tour de France, where losing a few bike pounds does make a difference.
If this is all about your need for speed, it ain’t just about bike weight. Read on to find out why
Why mountain bike weight is not crucial
If you really want to shave 5 pounds off to go faster (or make hill ascents easier) then most of us would do better to take that off of ourselves, than the bike (and it will cost us less too). Mountain biking in the end is good old Newtonian physics, with some biology thrown in. It’s about power, mass and momentum. Let’s break that down.
The amount of power you have comes from you – not the bike. The bike is simply there to transfer your pedalling power into momentum. So, the fitter you are (including lung efficiency and leg strength) the more power you should be able to produce over time. Good gears and good tyres will make that power transfer more efficient. So will your riding style. So, you can get a big performance hike just getting better yourself and trash riders on $2,000 carbon fibre bikes with your $200 yard sale WalMart steel bike. If you do the work on yourself.
The amount of mass is a combination of the bike and of you. Now, let’s assume you are an average American male. You are around 200 lbs. Even a heavier mountain bike is around 35 lbs. That’s not even 20% of the total mass.
Yes, the numbers go up if (for example) you are a slender American female mountain bike rider but as a rule of thumb, that will be still less than 25%. Of course, losing some bike pounds will help up to a point, but losing some pounds yourself will help just as much, if not more. Getting really fit and burning off that excess body fat is one way to do that.
Mountain Bike Weight
Finally, we have momentum. Now, we are in the realms of technique and experience as well as raw power and weight. There is a reason why some Formula One racing drivers are faster than others, even in similar cars. It is because they are better drivers. The same is true for Mountain biking.
So, work on your technique and body mass first before spending thousands of dollars!