Saturday, April 16, 2011

Weight-loss Secret

Back in the 90s, there were a few trends that came and went in the mountain bike industry.  Anodized parts, CNC machining and suspension forks flooded the market.

Another trend, due in part to the sudden availability of those lightweight machined parts, was something of an arms race in weight reduction.  High-performance mountain bikes in the 1980s routinely weighed in at 30 pounds or more.  Suddenly, in the mid-90s, people started looking for increased mountain bike performance through cutting the weight of the machine.

In some instances, very light weights were achieved, but at a cost.  The term "stupid-light" became well-known and reflected the fact that many of the extremely lightweight parts and frames were underbuilt, in relation to the stresses incurred in off-road bicycling.  Many racing frames, pedals and cranks,  had rider weight limits, and very short, restrictive warranties.

One day, a customer came into the shop, with a Cannondale bike, and wanted me to disassemble it.  Then, he wanted me to have it bead-blasted to remove the paint.

"What color are you going to repaint it?" I asked.

"I'm leaving it raw," he replied.  "I am trying to build it up as light as possible, and I want to remove the weight of the paint."

Well, that was the dumbest thing I'd ever heard.  But, the customer is always right, as long as the check clears.  So, I pulled the bike apart, and took it over to Blast-Tech.  Before I did, though, I weighed the frame, so that I could show the owner how silly this whole thing was.

Imagine my surprise when I got the stripped aluminum frame back in the shop, and re-weighed it.  The frame was a quarter pound lighter!  That was a weight loss that you would pay hundreds of dollars for, by going to a higher-priced, lighter model.  All it cost this fellow was $50.00 for the paint removal.

A quarter-pound of paint, on a medium-sized frame!  That's one way to make your welds look smooth.



  1. They used to leave airplanes in shiny aluminum to save weight. American Airlines had some numbers on that many years ago. I forget what they were but they were substantial.

  2. American STILL leaves their airplanes in shiny aluminum where they have a choice. When it comes to bike frames, a quarter pound is more paint than is strictly necessary...


As always, sorry about the word verification. It's a necessary evil, unfortunately.