How to lighten a Mountain Bike – in progress…

by Brian Mullin on November 27, 2007

I was just thinking the other day that I have not created a post that goes into a rough breakdown and synopsis of how to lighten up an entire bike from A-Z. I have really done it in a more piecemeal breakdown with posts here and there that go into certain components of a bike, but nothing covering the entire bike.

Some basic needs to be a weight weenie:

1) a decent hanging scale to measure heavy frames and finished bikes, currently only the Ultimate Alpine Scale meets those needs, Park Tools in going to release one in December so there will finally be some competition. Yes, their are some fish scales out there you could use but they are not as accurate nor as useful, order a Ultimate Alpine Scale Digital Hanging Scale aka the UBS Hanging Scale from my store.

2) a tabletop scale, aka a kitchen scale, my faves are the My Weigh companies scales,
here is a breakdown of their scales by accuracy (the best dollar per accuracy is the My Weigh i2500):
+/- .1g accuracy: i2600 and i5500
+/- .5g accuracy: i2500 and i5000
+/- 1-2g accuracy: 3001 and 7001

Yes I sell the My Weigh scales, but I did a lot of testing and researching before I became a dealer, I only sell stuff I truly believe in. Refer to my scale shootout for further information.

Now I know that people gripe about having to spend extra cash on a scale, but you will have a scale for multiple uses, the most important is weighing bike stuff. You spend hundreds if not thousands on bike parts and around another $100 for 2 scales isn’t asking for much!


This is one portion of the build that obviously must be done first. Pick a good light frame from the start and it will get you a long way into having a light bike. This is also a highly personal thing so go out and ride every bike you can (ride your friends) until you find something you truly like. Frames are very much like a good pair of shoes, just cause your friends like there’s doesn’t mean they will suit you. Test, test and test some more. Sometimes of course you just have to go off of reviews from magazines, web sites, friends and stores. Always take it all with a grain of salt. I went for my Ibis Mojo without a test ride and it turned out to be a pretty perfect ride. No recommendation here from me since its to much of a gray area. Ok, I like the Ibis Mojo so I can recommend it! If you ride hard get a tougher bike, if you ride light you can get a more XC oriented bike, etc. Nowadays we have XC race, XC, XC All-Mountain, All-Mountain, Freeride and Downhill. So take into account your riding style, your riding environment and your body type (large, small, tall, skinny, etc) and along with your demo rides and any other information you have come up with your bike list. Hopefully you can then narrow it down to one of the lighter ones, but don’t make it the end all, we have other places to save weight to give yourself the bike that would work and fit the best for you.

A great place to start from is to get a real super deluxe tricked out bike build from the manufacturer that makes your chosen frame. The price per component is much more cost beneficial since the bike manufacturer gets huge price breaks since they are an OEM. You can then tweak some of the parts with your LBS that you buy your bike build from. Work with them since they are hopefully one of your closest allies. You might not be able to get everything done that you want with this approach but its the cheapest way to go and it should get you pretty close to you final target.

This is one of the major places to save weight on a bike and its also the cheapest. A lot of what type and size of tire you want depends on your riding style/type and your riding terrain. There are trails that are hardpacked, others that are rocky, others that are wet with muddy conditions and some are a mixture of them. So you really need to focus in on your typical terrain that you will be riding in. The width of the tire also comes into play with your terrain. The type of riding you do is another aspect of the tire choice. Will you be doing racing, XC trail riding, All Mountain riding, aggressive riding or a combination of them. Not as important but still something to think about is your riding style. Are you a big person who rides hard, do you just plain ride hard and tough, do you ride with a light touch or are you just a typical trail rider.

I also suggest going tubeless. Its a great place to save weight, not have pinch flats and lets you run lower tire pressure. Refer to my article on The tubeless tire world for further information. In regards to tubeless tires the UST tire is very heavy (about 30-35% heavier) compared to it’s normal brother so it doesn’t have much place on a weight weenie build. Some tire manufacturers are also making tubeless ready tires which don’t have the extra weight of the typical UST tire but still let you run tubeless.

I am not going to pick or recommend tire brands here since it’s to personal of a choice. I am going to use a couple of tires brands that I am familiar with as examples for reference.

If you ride hardpack trails, mellow trails or ones that aren’t overtly rocky you can get skinnier tires with shallower tread. This is the lightest type of tires. Weights are in the 400-600 gram range. Examples are the Schwalbe Racing Ralph and the Conti Speed King. Widths generally are 1.9, 2.1 and maybe 2.25-2.3. Usually these are the tires of choice for racers.

If you ride rocky trails you are going to need a beefier and bigger tire with a deeper tread. Weights are in the 500-700 gram range. If you ride hard, are a big rider then you will also want this type of tire. Examples are the Maxxis Advantage, the Conti Vertical Pro, the Kenda Nevegal, the Schwalbe Albert and Schwalbe Nobby Nick. Widths generally are 2.1, 2.25, 2.3 ,2.35 and maybe 2.4. In Colorado with its mostly dry rocky conditions I ride the Schwalbe Albert which are 2.25 and weigh around 680 grams. I have the extra tough sidewall version since I need the extra protection.

I still recommend going tubeless but if you wish to use tubes try to get the lightest ones possible for your tires width. Most of the tire manufacturers sell lightweight tubes and there are also tube specific companies. Weights are in the 90-120 grams range versus 200 grams for the typical tube. Examples are the Forte LunarLight and UltraLight tubes.

This is a great place to save weight but it can be a bit expensive. Prices for this vary all over the place depending on what hubs you use. Rims and spokes are all about the same price.

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