Does weight matter? Are you a complete idiot?

February 17, 2015 § 63 Comments

I saw this VeloNews load of crap when it came out about six months ago, and ignored it because, obviously, it was written by a triathlete.

“What do you have against triathletes, Wanky?”

Nothing. Some of the people who I might otherwise consider friends are triathletes. But the bottom line is that when you’re looking for bike racing advice, triathletes are complete, hopeless, and utter morons. The only thing worse is seeking bike racing advice from a blog on the Internet. Nonetheless, what triathletes do has nothing in common with bike racing. They get on a bicycle and pedal it hard. Hardest pedaler gets there first. Brain not required.

So when I saw that Jim Gourley is “demystifying the science of triathlon” I kept on going. First, last time I checked, there is no section in Science for “Triathlonology.” Nor I have ever heard of a “triathlonologist.” What I have seen, and seen plenty of, are tri-dorks.

Unfortunately, someone brought this corpse of an article back from the dead and posted it on Facebag, where a handful of actual cyclists noted their approval. Oh, brother.

To sum it up, Gourley wants you to believe that bike weight doesn’t really matter. He proves this by taking out his calculator and plugging in some numbers, assuming identical rider weight and an identical steady grade. Air resistance, we’re told, isn’t factored in. That’s so we can have a model that is as far from reality as those triathlon outfits are from attractive.

What he “discovers” in his windless lab where everyone rides along at the same power output is that a one-pound weight advantage only gives you a 2.5 second advantage in his fantasy lab setting. And who doesn’t race in a laboratory?

Unfortunately, if you read this correctly, you need to go screaming out to your nearest bike shop and get the lightest bike you can find. Why? Because 2.5 seconds in a hilly road race — or any bike race — is a crushing, dominating victory. Unlike triathlon, where 2.5 seconds on the bike is easily wiped out in the run, if you put 2.5 seconds on someone at the end of a bike race you have made them your bitch and they will have to spend the whole fucking morning on Monday looking at stupid pictures of you with your arms raised on Facebag.

But there’s more. Gourley the Triathlonologist says that a 3-lb. difference will give you a 7.5-second advantage when racing in his laboratory. This is not just a beatdown, it’s being skinned alive. And here’s the good part: For about a thousand bucks you can shave 1.5 pounds off your bike with a light pair of full carbon tubulars that are full carbon and made out of carbon.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “The last time I was in a lab someone bent me over and put on a latex glove.”

Exactly. The only people who race in labs are, apparently, triathlonologists as they’re working on the latest research project that will hopefully get them a Nobel Prize in Triathlonology.

The rest of us contend in road races that are on roads with actual wind, and we compete against people who don’t weigh exactly what we do in events that don’t require a steady power output. This means several things:

  1. The weight advantage of a light bike is increased when you’re racing someone who is in the wind while you’re sheltered. The guy pounding it on the front of the climb, even if he isn’t saddled with a heavier bike (which he often is), is taking the brunt of the wind. When you’re sucking wheel three bikes back riding a rig that’s 3-pounds lighter than his, Gourley’s “7.5 second advantage,” or rather the savings in watts, becomes even more significant.
  2. The weight advantage of a light bike is increased when you’re racing uphill against someone who’s fatter than you are. On the flip side, if you’re the porker, a lighter bike diminishes your chub disadvantage to the tweezly twig-men who are driving the pace, especially if you’re combining a light bike with massive wheelsuckery.
  3. Different riders have different power profiles. Tri-dorks tend to dominate in the “Duhhhhh” power band, which requires mindless mashing at a steady state. Hilly road races, however, are surge-fests. Intense 2-3 minute bursts on the climb shake out the wankers. The leaders take a rest and the pace drops dramatically. Then they kick it again. These continual surges thin the herd and put a premium on your ability to go fast on a climb, slow down, then go fast again. In this context, bike weight in general and wheel weight in particular is huge when you’re on a hard climb because you have to get the damned thing up to speed over and over and over, unlike the tri-dork who wraps it up to 27 mph and holds it there until his teeth rot out. In other words, every last gram matters when it comes to acceleration.

The other problem with extrapolations from the science of triathlon to the witch craftery of bike racing is that disparities caused by weight don’t make themselves felt in a linear fashion throughout the race such that, at the end, the lighter wanker is 2.5 seconds ahead.

What actually happens in a hilly bike race is that the 10 or 15-watt differential enjoyed by the guy on the carbon bike made of full carbon makes itself felt early on, and it results in you getting your ass shellacked on the climb. Once unhitched, you spiral off the back and are left to battle with the wind — no shelter from the peloton — by yourself. The “2.5 second” differential turns into minutes by the end of the race, with you dejectedly struggling through the finish zone and embarrassed onlookers try to make you feel good by ignoring you or saying “Good job,” in mousy, quiet voices.

How many times have you been in a race where the difference between hanging on and getting kicked out the back has been a mere one or two pedal strokes? Suddenly those “7.5” seconds look like what they are: A huge differential that can decide the entire race. And of course when you’ve got great form, are already tiny, are riding smart, and have the lightest rig, you’re truly stacking the deck.

Weight matters when the road tilts up. Every single gram. And if you’re listening to a triathlonologist for bike racing advice, well, you deserve what you get.



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§ 63 Responses to Does weight matter? Are you a complete idiot?

  • DangerStu says:

    Basically I’m screwed…

    • fsethd says:

      This is a common theme of mine.

    • pvannuys says:

      Every once in a while you’re worth $2.99.
      Not only are tri-geeks poor bicycle critics, they’re poor bicyclists. As an advocate for bicyclists’ rights I’m continually appalled by their behavior on the street– unbelievably, they’re even more egregious than wanna’be racers.

  • Edwin says:

    Fuggink love science!

  • Weight Weenie says:

    Excellent real bike racing analysis Wanky!
    As I always like to say, “Train heavy, Race light!”

  • Matt Smith says:

    First, let’s go swimming.

    • fsethd says:

      Exactly. When you swim, then bike, then run, you aren’t bike racing. You’re triathloning. And for VN to post triathlon bike weight considerations as if they had anything to do with road racing is maroonic.

      Now as to your “let’s go swim” challenge: How about we just agree that I will drown and you will win?

  • Schincat says:

    Jack of three trades, masters of none=triathlete.

    • fsethd says:

      Yes, but for me the question is whether it’s better to suck at three sports or to just suck at one?

  • BigBug says:

    Assuming everybody swims and runs at the same speed, weight matters again all of a sudden.

  • Sr Geezer Johan says:

    Tri-Dork is best served on the rivet, cooked and shelled.

  • Tom Paterson says:

    I love these anal-hesays where in the first few words they disprove their own sillygasms, by proposing an ocean that obviously can’t hold water, to coin a phrase. “I’m a lowly underpaid tech- something or other, I can’t afford a $10 or even a $7 thousand-dollar bike, therefore weight doesn’t matter”.

    Well, I know that’s wrong, because way way long ago in a czechnical disputsion forearm that might still exist, someone who could hold a direction over successive evenings finally proved, by applying Science and Mathematics (I don’t joke about Science. Or Mathematics. They have People) that a one-pound (lb., or 453.59237g; don’t mix your units!) difference in bike weight is only ever-ever going to make at least one second’s difference in an math-maginary flat 40k ITT or maybe it’s as much as three (seconds), or maybe 12-15 seconds or so if all you truly unworthies wanted to get persnickety with the numb-bers and make me threaten to leave, I really mean it this time.

    Which, of course, as we all know because it’s so obvious and everything, is far less important that Ten Thousand Dollars, any day.
    And there you have it, the conclusion: “Good bikes cost too much, and your body is the problem, anyhow and and and…”

  • Tamar T. says:

    Thank you! What an idiot, and those who believe this shit are morons! he says, “[t]ake 3 pounds off your bike, pedal at a constant rate of 200 watts,” Who the heck pedals at a constant rate? The reason rotational weight is so important is acceleration. That said, if the idiots who believe this want to ride heavy bikes, they can go for it.

  • Michelle Landes says:

    You had me at chub disadvantage and wheelsuckery😂 one thing I know did triathAlons for 10 years never made one freind! Became a roadie and have found a family😍

  • dan martin says:

    Triathlonologist….Sounds like a interesting career path

  • Hani Freudenberger says:

    seems like the reason why I suck at road racing is because my bike is too heavy 🙂

  • Jim Bangs says:

    Most of the time I have no idea what the hell you are talking about (maybe because I ride steel bikes and it affects my thought process!!) but even I get that you don’t compare different genre’s of a sport. This would be like using your downhill skis in a slalom race and it would not make any difference…..sure, see how that works.

  • Mark Klein says:

    Good arguments and I don’t disagree, but wow, such hostility towards us “tri-dorks” 😉 What past trauma did you experience with triathletes to make you feel such anger? I just like riding my tt bike, as do many of us “utter morons” with “no brains required.” If you focus some of this passionate enthusiasm into your racing, I bet you’ll go even faster. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help give you a corrective relational experience with the triathlon community 😉

    • fsethd says:

      Thanks, Mark! Just making fun of tri-dorks, same as I make fun of bike racing dorks. Love me some tri-dork! And have been schooled by them often. In particular, there’s one who shows up on the Donut Ride occasionally and shreds the roadies.

    • Winemaker says:

      Oh gawd, you must be kidding, Mark…..puhleeeeeze….

  • Tom says:

    IIRC, you previously abandoned power meters & Garmins, in favor of Merckxian training — so I am a wee bit surprised to find you extolling the virtues of shaving a mere pound or so off bike weight!
    Is the penduilum swinging the other way? 😉

  • Dan K says:

    See also: Stravathlete

  • Bill Stone says:

    The fastest guy always wins and will beat everyone even if required to ride an industrial tricycle; this is the way of things.

    But still, what you got against permitting tri athletes in man bras to ‘discuss the controversy’. Next you are going to making fun of the notion that a couple or more so called racers in So Cal have been known to use Hammer products, or something besides what sponsors your Team.

  • 900aero says:

    Science of triathlon vs witchcraft of bike racing…….this post is verging so dangerously close to containing actual truths about actual things that I’m concerned for you dude. I think there is a hidden issue here somewhere…..did you buy a TT bike by accident on the weekend? Have you started yogging?

  • channel_zero says:

    Consults bible for Holy Hand Grenade instruction

    Except Wanky, in hilly events, people generally finish in clusters if USAC would not pull them. Of those people in small groups of destroyed never-gonnas coming in behind the 1-3 are bikes of varying weight.

    Pulls pin on Holy Hand Grenade

    No power, no podium.

    Lobs grenade into crowded room and runs away

    A great way to increase participation would be to sort fields by bike weight. More sub-groups == More winning!


    • fsethd says:

      Most of the hilly road races this year have finished with a break, a small group, and then single bits of shrapnelized riders.

  • 900aero says:

    Ok, this is more serious that I had imagined. Stationary stationery desks can be tricky. Especially the spelling. I’m guessing that you’re paying for this with actual, carbon bitcoins? And of course, the desks are titanium craft desks by Pegarotti.

    This is a slippery slope but we’re here for you man. Even the triathletes. Have you considered asking the forum for advice? They are experts in this area. Most importantly though: are piloga chicks hot?

  • To answer your questions; Yes and the verdict is still out! Anyone wants to dispute those two answers, all I can say is “blah, blah, blah…..I CANT HEAR YOUUUUUUU.”

    Seem to me that the easiest way to “lighten the ride” is to have the pilot loss a few pounds. That is unless everyone is already at the olympic equivalent of having a BMI of ~21?………… You are? Well then start spending that hard earned money!!!!

  • 900aero says:

    Too late, its already a thread on Slowtwitch.

  • Jah Slim says:

    Which makes Betsy an Armstrongologist.

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