Gravel Bike Weight Reduction

RIDER PROFILE

Name : Ray Garces

Origin : Canada

Information : Height 174cm, Weight 71kg
Morning Glory Cycling Club (High Park Chapter)
Road, Gravel, MTB (XC, Trail, DH)

SPECIFICATIONS

Bike

Frame : 2018 Jamis Renegade Exploit

Shifters & Brake : Shimano 105

Crankset : GRX 46/30

Derailleur : GRX 800

WHEELS

Rims : Light Bicycle WR35 Disc (Flyweight option)

Hubs : Novatec D411SB-CL / D412SB-CL

Spokes : Sapim CX-Ray

Nipples : Sapim Polyax Secure Lock Brass

Valves : Chris King Blue

Tires : Clement MSO X'plor 36mm front
Teravail Cannonball 2 35mm rear

For years I was under the impression that carbon wheels were an unnecessary upgrade.

I'm writing this story for all those club riders that are like me - riding for years and content with their current wheels. The value-minded type that follows the old saying - "if it ain't broke don't fix it". For years I was under the impression that carbon wheels were an unnecessary upgrade and I would yield little difference as compared with less expensive alloy wheels.

My journey to the carbon wheels side started with the purchase of my first gravel bike in 2019. I chose this bike because it could support tires up to 47c, and it was made of steel. Steel is an amazingly durable material with natural damping qualities. Honestly, I really enjoy riding this bike. It feels really nice to ride. It is the bike I bring with me to cottage country where road conditions vary between dirt and roots, gravel and asphalt. So having a bike with the flexibility and confidence to handle varying terrain is key. I was more than just a bit tentative riding my road bike with skinny tires on hilly and twisty gravel roads to make my way to the tarmac without taking a spill.

However, gravel bikes with their larger volume tires, longer wheelbase, and beefier builds will automatically be heavier than most road bikes. They were made like this for a reason - to go almost anywhere you want to ride. A bit of a weight penalty was just something I would have to accept.

But after one full season of riding my gravel bike, I decided I wanted to shed some weight.

How I was going to achieve this was another matter. I could get a gravel bike of another material, but steel had this aura about it that just made me want to ride it. So I zeroed in on the one area that I could reduce the most weight - the wheels.

My journey with Light Bicycle began with a few inquiring emails. They were so darn nice and helpful. I’m a 12-hour time zone difference from their global division, yet someone always responded back in a timely manner. Literally within hours. No email was left open.

After many days scattered between several weeks spent reviewing the options and doing some homework, all during the start of this pandemic, I finally settled on a pair of WR35 (flyweight option) rims with the Novatec D411/412 hubs. My goal was to shed as much weight as I could from my bike, and I stuck with this theme in my wheel build selections. I’m not a big person so I felt I could go with options that made sense for myself and my riding. I wasn’t going to do anything so gnarly that it would require 650b. For the rough technical stuff, I'd opt for my full suspension mountain bike. I have been told that my handling skills would improve big time if I did use my gravel bike, but I’ll decide when I come to that fork in the trail.

Ironically, one of the more difficult choices to make was the colour of the logo and graphics. I noticed that most chose to get their wheels blacked out. I was torn between a pop of colour or something less dramatic. I ended up with the stealth grey as I felt it would work well with this bike.

It took a lot of patience once I hit that order button as I was excited to find out in reality how much weight I would save. To be clear, I had never ridden on carbon rims before. All I knew was that they’d be lighter, and what I had read and been told by others that it would be stiffer than the alloy rims I’ve ridden. That was basically it. I’m actually glad I was totally new to this experience of riding carbon wheels, as I think I would have had biased expectations.

My question now, as I waited for the delivery of my wheels, was will I notice much of a difference riding?

I won't go into the details of the tubeless setup, but it was easy. Opting for no holes, meant no tape required. The tires I had on my alloy wheelset setup I transferred over. So the only difference will be the wheels. These are the Falcon series wheels. And it looks like it was made to go on this bike, I could not have been more pleased with my choice of wheels. My friends have commented on how nice the bike looks. But how does it ride?

It's winter now where I am, but I’ve managed to put on some miles to be able to describe what it’s like to ride. The wheels arrived a few weeks before Christmas. But I’m not going to wait til spring to try them out! The transformation was quite noticeable. First off, they are just a joy to ride on. I immediately noticed how the bike felt much more nimble and quick. The wheels are quiet as I go over little cracks and bumps, even big bumps, in the roads and pathways. I’m actually looking for uneven terrain because I’m inspired to do so, just to see what it’s like.

Is there a difference in ride characteristics over alloy rims? Definitely.

It’s hard to describe exactly, but the ride is that much smoother and more comfortable, yet as I go to stand up on a climb or hunker down for more power on a long stretch of road there are no surprises. It simply does what has been asked by the rider. My goal this year is to ride more and ride longer, maybe do a gravel grinder event. Hopefully when the worst of the pandemic is behind us and we can be social again, then the weight reduction will help me conserve a ton of energy over the course of a long group gravel ride and make the ride that much more enjoyable. And these wheels will most certainly help me get there.

Now, how much weight did I save? I shed over 3 lbs off my bike. I was actually quite surprised. I figured at least 2lbs, but it exceeded that initial estimate. It’s still not as light as my road bike, but it’s a lot closer than before. As I held the WR35 wheel in one hand and my old wheel in the other hand, it’s incredible to feel the difference. It’s not just lighter, but how the weight is distributed in the wheel. I was looking to just save weight, but I got a lot more than just a lighter bike. I know I’m not going to win any sprints, but that’s not what this bike is for. This bike is for going places I couldn’t go on my road bike. I cannot wait for warmer weather so I can go exploring.

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