Cyclists are often told that certain bikes and bike parts are better precisely because they are lighter. But the misinformed beginner tends to understand that differently because, even though lighter bikes can be faster, they are not always the better choice.
Lighter mountain bikes are faster but that doesn’t always make them better. That’s because there is more to cycling than just the weight of your bike. Also, lighter mountain bikes only make a small difference in steep climbs but their speed advantage thins out on flat courses.
After all, the weight difference tends to be minimal in the greater scheme of things. So, if you want to know why bike weight doesn’t make a ton of difference, read on to find out more about why lighter mountain bikes are not always better.
Are Lighter Mountain Bikes Faster?
Lighter mountain bikes are faster because it is easier to push something light up a steep road in comparison to a heavier bike, but still, the maximum speed will not be improved by much. On uphill sections and sprints is where lighter mountain bikes truly shine and will have a massive advantage.
When it comes to bikes, weight has become a big issue among different cyclists as some go after the more expensive bikes that are made of carbon and composite materials that allow mountain bikes to stay light and durable at the same time.
And when you go and buy different bike parts, the salesperson will always try to convince you to buy the lighter and more expensive parts.
In a way, yes, lighter mountain bikes are indeed faster than heavier ones because this is simple physics. When all things are constant or equal, it is easier to push a lighter bike than a heavier one.
And this becomes more prominent when it comes to off-road and trail biking because of how uneven the terrain is. Studies found that a lighter bike saves a few more seconds when going uphill compared to a heavier bike.
This is simple physics in play here as the laws of physics will always tell you that a lighter object will move faster than a heavier object when a constant amount of force is applied to them. However, lighter doesn’t always mean better especially when it comes to mountain bikes.
When it comes to trail cycling, the weight you end up shaving off of your bike when you buy lighter materials tends to be immaterial in the greater scheme of things. That’s because the speed advantage of a lighter bike isn’t too much in comparison to a heavier bike especially when you consider the weight of the person and the gear he is carrying.
And by giving up weight, you will also end up sacrificing factors like stability and durability.
That said, while bike weight does indeed matter when it comes to speed, it isn’t always better to go for a lighter bike when you know that a superior yet heavier mountain bike is available.
Instead of focusing on bike weight, it is better to focus on how the added weight makes the bike perform better because performance and stability are more important factors when it comes to trail cycling.
What Is Considered Light for a Mountain Bike?
Anything that’s under 28 pounds is actually already light for a mountain bike. When you are now talking about a mountain bike that weighs under 20 pounds, that is already extremely light for a mountain bike when you consider that mountain bikes are supposed to be heavier and more rugged than other bikes.
Mountain bikes are usually heavier than most other bikes for a good reason, they need to be tough. That has led to the average mountain bike weighing somewhere between 28 to 34 pounds. Anything more than 34 pounds is already considered heavy but there are still some advantages to using a heavier bike.
Considering that most mountain bikes actually weigh over 28 pounds, this means that mountain bikes are indeed heavy bikes in comparison to other bikes.
Mountain bikes that are somewhere between 20 to 27 pounds may be considered “light” in the mountain bike world but they are already marginally heavier than road bikes, which are usually under 20 pounds on average.
So, even though light mountain bikes are not considered totally light, you will understand that they are still light for trail cyclists because mountain bikes are supposed to be made with rugged and durable materials due to how trail cycling is much more demanding than road cycling.
Trail cycling requires the mountain bike to be made of heavier and sturdier materials because of how rugged and uneven the terrain is.
This means that the tires need to be heavier, thicker, and much more capable of handling rough terrain. As such, when it comes to mountain bikes, it is much more important for you to focus more on safety and stability rather than on speed because trail cycling is much more dangerous and demanding than road cycling, which focuses more on speed.
Why Are Mountain Bikes Getting Heavier?
Mountain bikes are getting heavier every year due to how performance plays a good role in trail cycling. Riding a mountain bike isn’t always about speed because performance, durability, and stability are the more important factors in play. This means that bigger tires and sturdier frames add more to the overall performance of a mountain bike.
You have to look at mountain bikes as bikes that are entirely different compared to road bikes because these bikes are supposed to be made and designed for the tougher and more rugged conditions of off-road trails and mountains.
In that regard, mountain bikes are getting heavier and heavier because manufacturers and trail cyclists alike are now putting more emphasis on the safety and performance of their mountain bikes.
You need to be able to have larger and heavier tires that are capable of giving you a stable ride through rough and uneven roads. Meanwhile, wider handlebars and an overall heavier and larger frame on the bike will only make the bike much safer and more stable for the cyclist.
As such, it is easy to understand why mountain bikes are supposed to be heavier than most other bikes and why weight doesn’t really matter a lot in the overall scheme of things in trail cycling.
At the end of the article, we can easily say that weight is not as important for mountain bikes as it is on road bikes so lighter mountain bikes aren’t much better than heavier ones because lighter components don’t have the same durability as heavier components made from tougher materials.
You should spend your budget on a mountain bike with better suspensions and tougher components rather than on a lighter bike that is not able to handle the more technical trails.
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I started mountain biking many years ago to improve my overall health state. After my first ride, I fell in love with the sport. Now I spend dozens of hours a week researching and training to compete in local XC and Enduro events.