How to make your bike ride lighter and faster without spending a fortune on carbon fibre wheels or expensive upgrades with diminishing return.
Lighten up this season. Send your mountain bike on the latest trendy diet and see how much lighter, sleeker, faster and just plain nice it will ride.
Even the best mountain bikes can benefit from losing a few grams here and there. We’re not talking major kilogram drops but as many experienced mountain bikers will tell you, there is a tipping point where any bike can cross the line over from hefty into zippy.
Before we get on to the stuff-that-is-light, a quick word about something you can do to improve the efficiency of your mountain bike: tyre pressure and suspension setup.
Too many people jump to the conclusion of pumping their tyres up harder and/or running minimal sag on their suspension to make their bike more efficient. It doesn’t work off-road. Contrary to this, we’d recommend experimenting with lower pressure in your tyres and also increased rebound damping in your fork and rear shock. The idea being to improve traction via your tyre pressures and improved pedal power via slower suspension extension. Try it, it’s free.
Best value weight saving items
On a mountain bike the best pence-per-gram weight savings are achieved by, in order: cassette, chainset, handlebars, wheels and saddle.
Don’t bother with new shifters, dropper posts, rear mechs, stems or even disc brakes. The gram savings just aren’t there to be had without spending silly money.
Suspension forks can offer some weight saving but only if you’re upgrading from a budget OEM (especially coil-sprung) fork to a decent aftermarket air fork, but a new fork is a very costly purchase.
When bike builders order disc brakes, the hoses come in preset lengths — they’re almost always going to be too long, so trim them and clean your bars. Neither SRAM nor Shimano disc brakes should need re-bleeding after this (famous last words); pull off the lever housing where the cable joins, unscrew the hose, snip it to fit, screw on a fresh barb, olive and rejoin. Your dropper post can also have its cabling trimmed and bled too. Chances are you can ditch a load from your bike, too: old light mounts, the spoke protector ‘pie dish’ from behind your cassette, indicator windows from your shifter pods, reflectors, that old Garmin mount etc etc.
Lock-on grips are easy, but push-on grips weigh less and do a great job at dampening trail buzz. Some riders swear by grips like the classic Renthal push-ons. Don’t glue them just yet, just clean the bar really, really well and ease them on. Maybe use some alcohol (isopropyl!) to make things easier. Or use the ziptie trick (above pic).
It might seem daft adding extra weight to your bike, but keeping heavy mud off your body and frame will keep the bike light in muddy conditions. The most important step is to fit one of the best mountain bike mudguards between the fork crown and the brace, and block the mud at its first entry point.
Remove chain device
This advice is not for everyone. Some folk seem to drop chains all the time. But it’s certainly worth trying a ride or two without a chain device. Narrow-wide chainrings are so good these days (especially SRAM rings). As well as the weight saving, you’ll enjoy less mud-collecting and possibly a quieter, more efficient drivetrain.
Cut your steerer
A fork steerer that’s too long weighs you down. If you’re comfortable with your riding position, hack it off. Measure how much steerer you need, and perhaps allow room for one spacer, in case you want to fit a different stem at a later date. Then measure again! Remove the brake calliper, take the fork out, get it into a guide and then saw off the end with a hacksaw.
Whether you’re going to go the whole enduro hog and carry your kit without a backpack or you’re just interesting in removing excess weight from your carried-kit, you should definitely stop pondering about it and just do it. For all but the most epic or remote rides a modest compact kit is all you’ll need. Save weight, ride faster, ride further.
In the filthiest of times past we’ve experienced ending up with almost 2kg of muck plastered all over our bikes. Yes, we weighed it. Even if your bike never quite gets that bad, weight saving is just another reason why you should clean your mountain bike to the best of your abilities after each and every time you ride it.
Spending money on cassettes is hard. This is because you know you are effective spending your hard earned cash on something that will wear out. Yet the fiscal fact remains that investing in higher tier cassettes results in some of the best value weight-saving you can do on a mountain bike. On a performance note, taking weight from your rear wheel will also only help your rear suspension’s response too. If you don’t fancy splashing the cash on XTR or XO1 cassettes, then you may wish to consider simply scaling down the size of your drivetrain; go for a smaller range cassette and pair it with a smaller chainring. NB: a smaller chainring can affect your rear suspension’s anti-squat (ie. it might make it feel a tad firmer under pedalling).
AKA composite flat pedals. You can read what we think are the best mountain bike flat pedals, but for weight saving gains you need to concentrate on the plastic ones. Not only are plastic pedals usually significantly lighter than their metal counterparts, they can also shrug off impacts better because they tend to glance-off rather than hook-on to rocks and roots. And the added opportunity for adding a splash of colour to your bike is a bonus. Just make sure you get some that have proper metal pins and not just molded lumps in the pedal body that blunt and break all too easily.