We have seen some amazing builds over the years from craftsmen like Dangerholm
, who sand and shave their bikes down to their most minimalist, purest forms. Those bikes weigh in below 7kg or even close to 6kg through sheer obsession and meticulous customization. But bike parts keep getting better, and some niche components once limited to the tinkerers are now available to any dreamer or dentist who wants to do things the old-fashioned way: by spending lots of money.
So how light a bike could we build using only stock parts?
We set ourselves the challenge of putting together an imaginary sub-7kg bike. Many bike companies boast about hitting the sub-8kg mark when they release new top-end ultralight hardtails. But why stop there? How light could we go before we would need to start customizing in ways that I, for one, am entirely unqualified for? And most importantly, could we cut that weight while actually making it a bike we'd want to ride? We decided to find out what it would take.
No Frankenbiking – all components must be stock.
For the purpose of this experiment, I didn't "build" my own wheel, mostly to see what the stock options were.
All parts had to be production models, available to the public.
The bike couldn't be too sketchy and had to somewhat balance light weight with decent performance.
All parts have to be at least somewhat intended for mountain bike use.
Any company had to be fairly reputable. While there are some cheap generic carbon options out there, they tend to be lacking in quality control, and that's not what we want.
Any company must have a legitimate website. Information about and access to each part must be readily available. No weird eBay stuff. An attempt to visit the company's website must not take me to a Viagra advertisement. (This happened with a surprisingly well-known company.)
Note: Not all actual weights were available. Some of these use claimed weights, some use actual weights if available, and some are educated guesses. Prices are the same way - in some cases, companies don't list MSRPs, so I went with what seems like average retail pricing from third-party sellers. In other cases, I used MSRPs, and I'm sure you could find better deals for some parts online. Just remember, it's an imaginary bike so it really
Without further ado, here's an example of how one could build a bike under 7 kilograms (15.4 lb).
Frame: Mondraker Podium - 775g - $2899USD
For the frame, the obvious choice was the world's lightest full-production hardtail frame, which weighs in at 775g. The Mondraker Podium has what the Spanish company calls "XC forward geometry," with a 68.5-degree head tube angle and a 444mm reach on the medium frame.Wheels: Berd XC Series Carbon Wheels - 1140g - $1895
The Berd wheels are a little weird, but they're light as hell. While the string-like spokes may be polarizing, they weigh significantly less than traditional steel spokes and are said to be more durable. Since Daniel Sapp approved of the Atomik wheels with Berd spokes last year
, I figured I'd suspend my disbelief and pick these wheels for the job.
The spokes are made of ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene, or UHMWPE, which is said to have nine times the strength-to-weight ratio of steel. They also supposedly provide better vibration damping, which does make sense and which Daniel's review validated.
So yeah, that might be a risk, but you have to take some risks to build a bike under 7kg.Brakes: Trickstuff Piccola - 340g - $1082USD
Trickstuff's Piccola brakes are the lightest on the market, with the front brake weighing in at just 150g with the hose cut at 70cm. I estimated 360g for both brakes with hose. And what's more, they are said to actually work extremely well -- well enough that some EWS racers use them
.Rotors: Ashima Ai2 160mm 6 bolt - 73g each = 146g - $60USD
The entire brake setup on this bike is aesthetically beautiful, with the refined Trickstuffs matched with Ashima rotors so light they're barely there. These do heat up quickly, given the minimal braking surface, but thanks to the low mass, they also cool quickly.Fork: RockShox SID SL Ultimate - 1326g - $799
As for a fork, we went with the lightest XC fork on the market. The RockShox SID SL Ultimate is a 100mm 29" fork with 32mm stanchions. That said, if we wanted to cut even more weight here, there are some great rigid carbon options and even a Lauf suspension fork that weigh in at under a kilogram. Still, we decided to stick along the lines of a traditional XC bike here and go with the telescoping option.Tires: Schwalbe Thunder Burt LiteSkin 2.1 R (425g), Schwalbe Rocket Ron LiteSkin 2.25 F (520g) = 945g - $184USD
For the tires, the goal was to balance XC ability with weight. For a fast-rolling rear tire, the Thunder Burt fits the bill, while keeping the weight very low. On the front, it made sense to choose something a little more confidence-inspiring, and the Rocket Ron inspires just the right amount of trust while still being very much a lightweight XC tire.
Grips: Extralite Hypergrip w/ plug ends - 12g - $19USD
The lighter, faster-rolling but less grippy Thunder Burt.
Some grips have some heft, but these grips are not those grips.Pedals: Crankbrothers Eggbeater 11 - 174g - $450
Another of the world's lightest. The Crankbrothers Eggbeater 11 pedals weigh half what most clips do, with a titanium body and steel spring.Saddle: Syncros Belcarra R SL - 150g - $310USD
Assuming in this fantasy world the bike would actually get ridden, the saddle is no place to skimp. Yes, there are saddles that weigh less than 150g. These come to mind
. That said, I went with something a little more mainstream, but still pretty damn light with the price tag to show for it.Headset: Cane Creek AER Series II - 50g - $100USD
The Cane Creek AER headset is light as AER.Top cap: OneUp EDC Top Cap - 4.2g - $25USD
This is a nifty solution for headset preload, and it shaves about 6 grams off the weight of a traditional star nut in addition to the weight of the top cap and bolt, giving you roughly 15g in leeway to eat 1/5 of a standard donut
before your ride without worrying about weighing yourself down.Seatpost: Schmolke 1k TLO Seatpost - 95g - $475USD
TLO stands for The Lightest One, which is what this is, as far as I can tell. The MTB version is slightly burlier than the road one (thank god), but not by much, weighing in below 100g, which is about the weight of a chihuahua puppy, among other things
.Seatpost clamp: Tune Würger Skyline - 4.5g - $90USD
This seatpost clamp uses no more material than absolutely necessary.Stem: Extralite HyperStem Stealth 80mm - 69g - $208USD
Extralite is a no-bullshit Italian company that does exactly what the name suggests: Make extra light stuff. Based on how many World Cup XC racers run Extralight components, the performance seems decent too.Handlebars: Extralite HyperBar 3 750mm - 98g - $208USD
Another light offering from Extralight.Shifter: Shimano XTR 12-speed - 115g - $136USD
While AXS is all the rage these days, Shimano XTR still wins in the weight-saving department, even with cable and housing factored in.Derailleur: Shimano XTR 12-speed - 240g - $243USD
Most of the weight savings of Shimano vs. SRAM here come from the derailleur, which does not have a battery weighing it down.Derailleur hanger:
SRAM UDH - 26g - $15 USDCassette: Garbaruk 12-speed 10-52 - 335g - $250USD
This cassette, made for Shimano XTR, actually costs less than a 12-speed XTR and weighs a bit less, too.Chain: Shimano XTR 12-speed - 262g - $65USD
Shimano did a nice job on the XTR chain, so no need to look elsewhere.Cable and housing: KCNC Titanium Cable and Fasi Turbo Plus housing - 45g - $100USD
Specialized cables and housing are for the real weight weenies.Cranks: e*Thirteen XCXr Carbon Mountain Crank w/ e*Thirteen 32t UL direct-mount chainring - 385g - $463USD
The e*Thirteen XCXr cranks are the lightest carbon off-road cranks on the market, available for gravel and XC. We'll pair them with the e*Thirteen chainring but look elsewhere for a lighter bottom bracket.Bottom bracket: BBinfinite BSA30 BB - 58g - $175USD
Another opportunity to shave a few grams.Rear axle: Extralite Blacklock - 30g - $82USD
A stock thru-axle weighs upwards of 70g, so this is a nice reduction.Sealant: 90g - $5USD
With narrow tires, 90g seems like an appropriate amount.Rim tape: 15g - $5USD
I'm probably overestimating here, but who knows.Valves: Colorado Composites 44mm Tubeless Valves - 8g - $22
It's a minor touch, but these do save 6-8g over standard brass tubeless valves of the same length. Plus, they're pretty.Rotor bolts: Far and Near Titanium Rotor Bolts - 14g set - $50USD
The bottom line: Weight
Upon adding this up initially, I arrived at a bike that weighed 7.1kg. While that is insanely light and is significantly lighter than most World Cup XC bikes, I decided to go back and make a few tweaks to see if I could arrive at a sub-7kg build.
I made some changes and added things up again, and arrived at 6,952g.
That leaves another 48g for things like grease and cable ferrules.
If I wanted to keep shaving weight, the next step would be to start replacing steel bolts with aluminum and titanium ones, starting at the brake calipers. We're talking marginal gains here.The bottom line: Money
The other piece of this is, of course, the price tag.
The full build comes out to $10,415. My takeaway from this is that hardtails seem to level out at around $10k. That is, yes, you technically could spend more on a bike build (and/or just buy a Levo eMTB and/or get a full suspension bike), but once you pass $10k, your bike really isn't getting lighter. (Though it probably is getting shinier and more worthy of living out the rest of its days in a museum rather than on the trails.)
But hey, if you want to build that bike, all power to you.
If you were to build a featherweight bike, what would you do differently?