We have a Skype meeting every day with the Pinkbike tech editors from around the globe. It normally starts off amicably, then descends into a battle about geometry, bike weight, gearboxes, and who would win racing scenarios even though we are all past it– basically arguing who would be the fastest loser over a lame course.
A recent weight battle during one of our meetings got me thinking about how important weight really is. Mountain bikers, and especially PB readers and commenters are very performance focused, but unfortunately, there are few things on a bike that can genuinely be proven
to be better in one way or another, one of the few solid metrics we can fight over is weight. In fact, it is the only one: geometry, suspension setup, tire choice and all of the other variables are dependent upon opinion, riding style, trail choice, speed over fun or vice versa.
So, as I was being laughed at for riding a 36lb steel bike with downhill casing tires up road climbs, I realized that it seemed normal to me to ride a bike between 33-38lbs: downhill bikes or enduro/trail bikes built with droppers, big cassettes and my usual choice of DH rubber. Looking at my last few test bikes they have weighed in at 34.13lbs / 32.8lbs / 37.1lbs / 35.6lbs / 31.1lbs. The three bikes under 35.6lbs were not shod with downhill tires and would have gained a few more ounces if I changed their shoes.
XC riders are looking to save every gram, but Nino Schurter has won every major race over the last two years without
the lightest bike on the circuit. Some downhill racers are even adding lead to their bikes to go faster, admittedly no race winners have been seen doing this, but these guys aren't doing it for attention.
After spending hours and hours riding eMTB's over the last year, I found it is like training in the gym, and it's free to boot; if you ride a 20lb hardtail as your only bike, it will feel normal on every ride. If you ride a 30lb full suspension bike for a few weeks, when you go back to your 20lb-er it will feel lighter and you will be able to move it around more easily. The same applies when going from a 50lb eMTB back to a coil sprung, heavy-tire shod, Pinion-driven, 37lb German tank, it feels light and 'flick-able,' and damn, I hate that F-word. The first time you ride the 50lb-er though, it feels horrible, after a few sessions strength increases and more importantly timing changes. I don't feel any discernible disadvantage riding the eMTB and can still endo around corners, ride technical sections and bunny hop - picking it up and over fences or fallen trees still sucks, though.
So to me, weight is never a deciding factor, unless it is when changing to something heavier and stronger. I also find that any time I have ever chosen a bike part to save weight, I usually break it, if somebody tells me how amazing their new lightweight component is, I will probably break it. Maybe I just need to ride better, or less, or on smoother trails. My safety limit for a bike seems to be over 33lbs.
Lastly, I ain't racing up any hills, or against any riders that haven't been stuffing croissants and espressos into their faces with me in a café pre-ride. My focus and enjoyment when riding comes from the feeling and performance riding technical and downhill trails.