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How to reduce weight and cost-effective upgrades for gravel bikes

If you want to "lighten up your ride" on a gravel bike with a heavy body weight, the best way is to lighten the body weight. We have compiled a list of ways to lighten the weight of your gravel bike and cost-effective upgrades.

Modified at: 2023.11.16Posted at: 2022.9.9

Do gravel bikes need to be lightweight in the first place?

In road biking, where the premise is to ride as fast and as far as possible on paved roads with as little energy as possible, it is said that “lightness is justice”.

On the other hand, gravel bikes focus on being able to ride over rough roads as well as paved roads. In this sense, lightness is important, but “drivability” is also very important.

While road bikes on paved roads are not likely to fall off unless they are used in extreme conditions such as races, falling off is a common occurrence on gravel roads. If the bike is too lightweight and fragile, parts will be damaged in a crash and the bike’s drivability will be compromised.

With heavier gravel bikes, it is tempting to reduce the weight to make the ride a little lighter, but if the bike’s sturdiness is compromised by extreme weight reduction, it can break or fail.

In this sense, it can be said that “the balance between weight reduction and sturdiness is important” for gravel bikes.

Costly but highly effective method

Upgrade to lightweight wheels

When it comes to weight reduction on a sport bike, the first thing to consider is replacing the wheels.

Wheels and tires together account for about 30% of the overall weight of a gravel bike, so reducing the weight here will have a significant impact on the overall weight.

Most complete gravel bike models come with wheels weighing 2.5 to 3 kg front and rear, but lightweight wheels can weigh as little as 1,700 g front and rear for entry-level bikes, and less than 1,500 g for some higher-grade models.

Depending on how heavy the standard-equipment wheels are, the cost for a weight reduction of 300 to 500 g is about $500 to $1,000. Although this is an expensive upgrade, it is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce weight, since it would cost a lot to try to reduce the weight by 500g with other parts.

If you want to reduce weight even more, you can take this opportunity to go tubeless (not tubeless ready) to save even more weight for the tube and sealant.

Replacing the crankset

The crankset is one of the heaviest components on a gravel bike. The crankset that comes with a complete bike can weigh up to 1.2 kg together with the BB, but by replacing it with a Shimano 105 crankset or similar, the weight can be reduced to the 800 g range, which means a maximum weight reduction of about 300 g is possible.

The cost of the crankset and BB together is about $200, making it a rather expensive upgrade, but the advantage of a better crankset is that it will be stiffer and have more propulsive force, resulting in a better ride.

Low-cost method with modest effect.

Replace lightweight tires

If you can’t spend much on weight reduction, but want to make your car run better, then the classic upgrade is tires. If so, a classic upgrade is tires.

Gravel bikes are equipped with thicker gravel tires, so you can save about 200 grams of weight by using road tires or lightweight gravel tires.

The cost of tire upgrades varies greatly depending on which tires you choose, but they are popular because they are not that expensive, generally around $100-$150 front to back, but the effect is immediate.

Go with lightweight pedals.

Depending on what kind of pedals you have on your gravel bike, a standard set of pedals should weigh around 300-400g.

For flat pedals, upgrading to higher grade pedals will save about 100g, and for binding pedals, a higher grade Shimano or LOOK pedal will save about 80g.

Upgrading to a higher grade rotor

Disc brakes on gravel bikes require rotors, and depending on the model and size, rotors can be as much as 100g lighter front to back.

The most effective way is to upgrade to a higher grade rotor in a smaller size, which costs about 10,000 to 20,000 yen for the front and rear, and can reduce the weight by up to 100g.

Change to a single front gear

Front single", which is to use a single front gear instead of double, can reduce weight by 200 to 300g by eliminating three parts: the front derailleur, one chainring, and shift cable.

In terms of cost, since you only need to purchase a narrow wide chainring, you can achieve a cost-effective weight reduction for about $100 at the most.

However, by going to a single front, your gear choices will be limited, so you will want at least 11 speeds in the rear if possible, and at least 10 speeds in the rear.

Parts that do not contribute much to weight reduction

Finally, let’s pick up parts that do not contribute much to weight reduction in terms of upgrades.

  1. sprocket
  2. chain
  3. stem
  4. seat post
  5. STI lever
  6. derailleur

However, if you want to reduce the weight by several hundred grams, the total cost will be several hundred dollars, so it is easier and quicker to simply replace the wheels.

It does not mean that there is no point in lightening the weight, but if you want to “reduce weight” or “lighten the ride,” then these parts can be put off.

Gravel Bike Lightweighting Guide

This is a lightweighting guide for gravel bikes, which have a higher body weight than road bikes, to make them lighter and ride more like road bikes.

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