Weight a Minute....
June, 2008
Can you trust the manufacturer's custom bicycle weight claims?

I don't read a lot of bicycle magazines, but when I do, I see advertisements for bicycles that weigh 17 and 16 pounds all the time. As you may know, we have a full service repair shop at R+E Cycles, and we repair any brand of bicycle. Quite often a bicycle model will come in for repair that I have seen advertised in a magazine as an ultra-lightweight bike. I've been lifting bikes since I could walk, and started to notice the 'heft' in some of these supposed 'ultra-light' bikes.

Last summer I lifted one that I'd just seen advertised at 17 pounds, and it just didn't feel that light. I put it on the digital scale that we use to weigh our bicycles, and low and behold, it weighed 21.3 pounds! It was a $5,000 carbon fiber racing bike that weighed considerably more than our $2,800 steel Sport bike. I was perplexed, but soon forgot about it.....until Seattle Bike Expo. Something happened there that just made me say "wait a minute......".

We built and assembled an S3 steel tandem that ended up weighing 26.8 pounds with pedals and water bottle cages and put it on display at Seattle Bike Expo. In the world of tandems, any verified weight under 35 is considered light. On Saturday, the first day of the show, our bike got a lot of attention. One guy told me that another tandem manufacturer (we'll call them brand X) had a similar tandem on display that only weighed 24 pounds. Again, I was perplexed because I didn't see how that was possible, so in the back of my mind I assumed he'd just misunderstood the other salesperson.

An hour or so later, I had another customer who said he had decided to buy one of these 24 pound tandems from brand X. I questioned this customer, and he knew the model, parts, weights, etc... "That was it" I thought, "I've got to see this 24 pound tandem!"On Sunday, I stopped off at the shop and picked up our digital scale to keep in my pocket, and then headed down town for the final day of the Expo.

2013 Update!

One of the manufacturers that I subtly refer to in this article is no longer publishing weights. I just checked their website, and the disclaimer below pops up when I 'moused over' weight.

Another company's online weight disclaimer

Kudos for coming clean, and we whole heartedly agree with most of your advice. There are many factors to consider when buying a bike, but we feel the most important factor was left out of your advice. The most important thing to remember is...

Don't buy a bike buy a whole shop!

When the show slowed down a little bit, I ventured off to check this thing out. When I arrived at the brand X booth, I said "I heard that you guys have a 24 pound steel tandem over here that I just have to see".The salesperson, noticing my Rodriguez T-shirt, said, "Well, it's really more like 26 pounds right now" as he pointed to a very nice looking tandem. Look at that I thought, it's already gained 2 pounds and it's not even lunch time. I looked down at the cranks and noticed there were no pedals on the tandem, so I jokingly asked"Wow, there's no pedals on it? How do you ride it?" "OK so pedals add a pound,and the bike rides at 27 pounds" he answered. I reached out and tried to lift the tandem,but it was strapped down. I said to him "Man, I just have to lift a steel tandem that's this light, will you undo the straps for me?" As he grudgingly knelt down to undo the straps, I pulled the digital scale from my pocket and said "but I have to lift it.....with this".

Now, the look on his face kind of told me that this tandem wasn't going to weigh in at 26 pounds, but even I was shocked at the final weight. As I lifted the bike with the scale the digits started fluttering like a digital scale will, and the Brand X sales person kind of backed away as a couple of onlookers gathered behind me. "Ooohhh"I said, "that doesn't look like 26 pounds". "What does it say?" He asked. "32.2 pounds" I answered, as the scale locked in its final weight. "You can't really build a steel tandem under 30 pounds" came the reply. (I thought this was an odd reply for someone who just told me this bike weighed 26 pounds.) "We've got a 27 pounder over in our booth with pedals and bottle cages" I told him. "It weighs 27 on that scale?!" Said both Brand X sales people as they pointed their fingers at my digital scale. "You come on by the booth, and we'll weigh it together" I said as I headed back to our booth.

Believe it or not, he did come by the booth about an hour later. I whipped out the scale, and we weighed it together like I promised we would. As the scale locked in at 26.8 pounds I jokingly said "I guess I was wrong about the 27 pounds, it only weighs 26.8". He stood and looked over the tandem for a while and said "that's amazing".

It's all fun and games when a fishermen exaggerates to his buddies the size of the fish he caught, just like nobody gets hurt when someone exaggerates to their friends how light their new bike is. Those exaggerations are called something else when advertised to the public, and this is one local company who's tired of competing with those 'exaggerations' unabated. Be careful you guys when you quote those weights, 'cause I've got my digital scale, and I'm not afraid to use it. I like making light weight bikes, and we build some of the lightest bikes around, but I'm never going to recommend that someone sacrifice a comfortable ride, or a good fit in order to make their bike lighter weight. I would also encourage all of these companies not to sacrifice the truth to try and sell a bike, and if they do, I'll be therewith my digital scale.

If you want light weight, a comfortable high-performance ride, affordable price, and the quality that comes with a hand-crafted bike made right here in Seattle, then I hope that you'll give us a chance to show you our new S3 frames. Call today to make an appointment to see one, we know you'll love it.

Thanks for reading
- Dan