The Quest for Lightness – How lighter parts leads to madness

I’ve been in a bit of a quest to lighten my test bike, a strange, obsessive quest that’s led me down the road of pretty continual upgrades. This all started when SRAM released Force and then followed it up with Red and my already-light bike dropped from about fifteen pounds to just under fifteen, and Mavic’s R-Sys wheels took the bike down to just about 14.5 pounds.


Then the crew at Road magazine ran a story about the Cannondale 2009 SuperSix HM Project bike they were testing that was just 10.1 pounds with an almost complete build of off-the-shelf parts. That’s when the fever really started to set in.

My rule, when it comes to a bike designed to test components, is that I build it and outfit it with my own parts–anything that comes out to test has to compare against the gear I’d really ride. The Cannondale project bike features a frame around 100 grams lighter than mine and some super-fly components that I’d never actually put on a test bike (while the weight savings are significant, tubeless tires aren’t the best choice for a non-racing product editor) and there’s no chance I’m going to trust my seatpost-clamping duties with a carbon clamp like this but some things on the list caught my eye.

That’s when the Project David bike got underway. I created a spreadsheet (that’s a bad sign when it comes to obsessive behavior) and tracked the remaining few parts of my bike that could be lightened without being counterproductive. I’m not going to put a carbon saddle on a test bike (because you can’t feel anything on a carbon-only saddle except “ouch.” A few more upgrades Fizik Antares saddle, Zipp Vuma Quad and 3T stem) brought the weight down to just over the 14 pound mark.

The most recent upgrade comes all the way from Europe in the form of a Schmolke custom seatpost. Built to my specific height and weight (I’m at about 180lbs right now, which is the edge of the weight-limit for many carbon posts) the Schmolke, which I’ll review on its own, weighs a mere 72 grams.

That went on the Project David bike today and the weight dropped from 14.2 pounds down to 13.8, with pedals, 13.2 without. (I ride Crank Brothers Quattro 4Ti pedals, as I’ve never found a design I like better and I know I could get a nice pair of carbon Look pedals and drop weight, but the semi-urban nature of the rides I lead have me clipping in and out a lot.)

Next up is a Schmolke handlebar to replace the Easton bars on the bike, which is just waiting on a moment to take the bike completely apart and then upgrades get really silly. Which I’m rather looking forward to.

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