I've started cycling recently and am clocking decent mileage now. The only problem is, the bike is very old and weighs just shy of 20 kg. It's a heavy one! It also has Kenda Kinetics tyres, I think they are made mainly for off road so not the fastest.

My main goal with cycling is to cycle 40 miles to a target destination I have. So far I have gotten to the point where doing 20-22 miles is pretty doable for me now. My best is 33.5 miles, after doing that one I was really lacking energy towards the end. I live in a place where "High" is in the name, it's full of hills and coming back to those hills after doing that kind of mileage is killer, especially on my 20 kg bike, towards the end I was feeling like the 40 mile is not possible, but I had the same feeling when first doing my 20 mile runs.

It sucks as I wanna keep training to get myself to the 40 mile mark and I think I can get there eventually, but probably not this summer.

However, what I want to understand is whether it's worth me buying a new bike or not. Will I notice enough of a difference, given that I can now do 20 miles with ease on my heavy bike? Or do you think I should just suck it up and try to reach my goal with my heavy bike. Am I just being an unreasonable amateur blaming the heavy bike?

My route: Generally, a lot of my route is on the road, but some parts of the route are off road for several miles, with lots of twigs, tree branches, stones, other tree crap all over the floor, you can hear them crunching as the tyres go over them and at points the rear tyre or front tyre slips sometimes, as there is so much crap on the floor that it's hard for them to grip. I'm not sure whether it's worth getting another bike, as I would ideally get a road bike but I don't think it can handle the route, my downhill bike has good chunky tyres for it but the weight is killer.

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    How well-maintained is your current bike? This makes a difference. How well does it fit you? Have you come across the idea of cyclocross bikes (similar to a road frame but with room for bigger grippier tyres)? You've got a very rugged tyre, that's making you work harder, but you're slipping a little as well so you may not want to go fully slick. Some off-road tyres have a smooth band around the centre, so when you're going in a straight line you're not deforming the tread so much. They may help more than a lighter bike, but we don't know just how heavy your current bike is... – Chris H Aug 10 at 21:20
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    ... actually, what is your current bike? You may be wasting effort on suspension as well. Lots of questions I know – Chris H Aug 10 at 21:21
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    And what do you weigh? If you weigh under 100kg then an additional 20kg is significant, but if you weigh closer to 150kg then it's fairly insignificant. – Daniel R Hicks Aug 10 at 22:38
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    Downhill bikes are intentionally heavy-built. A climbing bike is much lighter - so if you only ever ride down a hill (and shuttle up or take a chairlift) then a downhill bike is good. – Criggie Aug 10 at 23:17
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    You're getting a real workout pedaling that bike up hill. If you have a friend or family member with a cyclocross or mountain bike, you could consider borrowing their bike and giving it a try. Or have them ride with you and trade bikes at the half way point. Depending on the duration of your ride, you should also consider getting some electrolytes and possibly some calories. – DSway Aug 10 at 23:33

IMHO, it's not the weight that is hurting you the most. While weight makes a difference and a lighter bike would be much better, it's too common in cycling world for people to use weight as a proxy quality and performance. Any twit with scales can measure it. That said, there is no doubt more suitable bike would make longer trips faster, and a better quality bike even more so, but only you can decide if the cost is worth it.

Weight only affects hills and acceleration. For a long ride mostly on the road we can practically ignore the effects of acceleration.

On the hills, lets say you shaved 10kg off the bike, your total weight is now 75kg instead of 85kg. From this calculator, a 100M climb over 10km will take 38 minutes on the lighter bike vs 40 minutes on the heavier bike. Using these rough numbers, the calculator comes up with figures that are close enough to help you decide "Is it worth it"

However, resistance and power loss from a bike such as this are a big factor that cannot be ignored. New tires that are a hybrid might be more suitable—a bit of lost time in the forest for faster riding on the rest of the trip might be a trade off. Something like Schwalbe Hurricane would be a goods starting point. The shock and fork should be tightened as much as possible, since I doubt they have lockout. Your position on the bike, getting more aerodynamic would make a big difference—bar ends could help with this.

While the perfect bike for you sounds like a gravel bike, there is no need to head down the path of very expensive to get a significant improvement in performance. A hard tail 29" MTB running something like the Hurricanes would be ideal and handle the forest section with ease. A drop bar bike running 35mm tires would be good if you are a skilled rider and happy to take the wins on the road for some drawbacks in forest sections.

Before buying, ask around and see if someone you know has a bike they may be prepared to lend you for a couple of rides—you might be surprised who has an old bike in need of an outing...

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  • Yes, this is right. I have two bikes - a 28" road bike and 26" fully suspended bike with drop bars (roads are just terrible where I live). I swapped old cheapo tires on the road bike for a pair of new Continentals and whoa the bike was suddenly blazing fast. Then I put fat slick tires on the full' and pumped them rock hard - and to my surprise I got very similar times on my usual rides (30-80 km), with one bike weighing twice as much as the other one. There is definitely much more to a bike than its weight, in my case comfort seems to be an important factor, too. – Pavel Aug 13 at 5:51
  • So in your example, if I lose half the bike weight, it would only be 2 mins quicker? I guess it assumes that I would have the energy to keep going for that long at a constant pace as well. I would think that a lighter bike would allow me to continue at a constant pace for longer, right? – KillerKode Aug 13 at 10:02
  • That is up the hill. Down the other side, the heavier bike will go faster (although because of drag increases with square of speed, you wont get all the time back. – mattnz Aug 13 at 19:39

I would recommend you wait for one reason Covid. In most parts of the world bikes are in limited supply. Prices even on used bikes are 50% to 75% higher than comparable bikes a year ago. I think you may wind up overpaying and settling. By settling I mean selecting a bike because it is available. Maybe not the best fit, or the correct type(road, gravel, hybrid) but available. If you can convince yourself that riding an older heavy bike is conditioning you for longer rides, similar to people who run with a backpack or ankle weights. One of the downsides of inexpensive heavy bike is the riders get discouraged and loose the drive to push through discomfort. You seem to have gotten past that. Perhaps instead of setting a mileage goal set a time/distance goal on some rides. That way you won't be mentally locked in the distance mindset.

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  • Wholeheartedly agreed. I'm one of the people that caused it and suffer from this situation. I literally bought the last frame that wasn't "setting", settled for a fork that was supposed to be sent back to the manufacturer for repainting, etc. So far, I only overpaid a little, gee, lucky me. – Mołot Aug 12 at 10:24

Add 5-8kg to your bike*, go for a ride.

Take it off, ride again.

Expect the difference in buying a lighter bike to be at least as good.

*Try to add mass uniformly, so as not to affect balance.

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    This answer is technically correct, but it assumes that you are changing nothing else about the bike. As observed elsewhere, if the OP goes from a 20kg bike to a 10kg bike, everything is changing about the bike from the frame, to the wheels and tires, to the overall quality, and very likely the riding position as well. – Weiwen Ng Aug 12 at 16:53
  • Fair points. Updated answer a little. – Lamar Latrell Aug 12 at 22:49

Unless the trails are quite rough, front suspension is probably making you work harder even there. They'd have to be properly technical MTB trails for rear suspension to speed you up. And on the road suspension is always going to hold you back (if you can lock it, it's only a weight penalty).

Some slightly relevant tests I've done recently by riding the same trails on different bikes/tyres may shed some light:

On fairly smooth dirt and packed fine gravel my tourer (with 28 and 32 mm slick tyres) is faster than my 29er hardtail. I have to dodge a few things but can keep the speed up, and sometimes have to stand up on the pedals On loose coarse gravel (a farm track with some ruts and holes but far from technical) the tourer beats the MTB with knobbly tyres like the OP's but changing the MTB tyres to WTB Nano 2.1s made that quickest (suspension unlocked). Both bikes weigh about the same, and the coarse gravel is slightly uphill. The difference in any case is marginal, at least in fairly dry conditions.

On the road, my tourer and my hybrid (MTB-like riding position, though narrower, a little heavier than either with its accessories) are both faster than the MTB. The hybrid has slightly grippy commuting tyres.

It depends on how rough the trail is, and the ratio of trail to road, but it sounds like a bike optimised for road but capable of some dirt would be much easier. That could be called a gravel bike, cyclo-cross bike, or adventure road bike with drop bars, but a light hybrid would also work. Tyres with just enough grip that you're safe and can keep moving forwards should be optimal. I'd expect these to have an almost smooth centreline but tread towards the shoulders for more grip cornering and on soft surfaces. A little slipping in occasional muddy patches is tolerable but requires more handling skills, so with practice your choice of tyres may change - or indeed with the seasons

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I think the question of "worth" depends largely on what you plan to do after you achieve your 40-mile goal. Is that as far as you ever want to go, and all subsequent rides will be shorter? Or will you set a new goal of going farther, faster, and/or higher?

It all depends on how serious you are about riding. 20kg is a really heavy bike, and you will feel absolutely liberated and inspired when you ride a 10kg bike. But if you are a casual rider doing casual rides with limited (or no) goals, then your heavy bike is probably all you need. If you are going to be a serious rider doing more serious rides, then I would definitely invest in a better bike more in the 10kg range, of which there are many.

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  • Good point, I don't know really. I will carry on cycling and may get a target to go even further. Do 10kg mountain bikes exist? – KillerKode Aug 13 at 9:56
  • @KillerKode Yes, 10kg mountain bikes exist. Sub-10kg mountain bikes exist, if you can afford them. But I was thinking a gravel bike is probably the best fit for you. 10-11kg is pretty standard for a gravel bike, and you should be able to find plenty of them. – Mohair Aug 13 at 14:43

The damper and tyres are constantly draining on your energy, and the heavyness kills you uphill. Your bike is just murderous imo. ;)

You only need this downhill stuff with big tyres and damped frame to go downhill on rough tracks, fast. I wouldn´t give a damn about my downhill speed, you have many miles on the road to catch up. Plus you can leave your integral helmet and protectors at home.

Uphill on bad tracks, you don´t need the big tyres, and 10% less weight (you+bike) is a blessing if you go uphill on- or offroad.

If you don´t want to buy one of those fancy new "gravel bikes", I´d get any old touring bike, take off the mud protectors, get a normal road front tyre, and a slightly larger one in the back, so you retain traction on a few bad spots uphill.

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    FTR, modern full-suspension MTBs can actually be pedalled quite efficiently, even the enduro ones that are mostly optimised for downhill. Older ones or actual downhill bikes, not so much, and the OP's old downhill bike – yeah, that definitely looks very hard to pedal. – leftaroundabout Aug 11 at 23:37
  • @leftaroundabout If a saddle with an 80kg cyclist goes up and down 5mm on the suspension every second, that uses about four Watts. $E=mgh$ And then there's the rolling resistance. – Karl Oct 7 at 20:55

If you are lacking energy, what you need is more energy.

From reading the comments, you say you are doing 33.5 miles over a four hour period and not eating. Most people would want to eat something in that time if they were sitting on the sofa.

You must eat. (I assume you are hydrating)

Taking on something every 60-90 minutes should see you to your target without too much trouble. You can buy specialist energy bars, but you don't have to - jam sandwiches were good enough for Graeme Obree - I favour something that is both sweet and savoury such as honey roast nuts or peanut butter and honey sandwiches. Either way you probably want something that will provide a kick of short term energy, and more gradual release long term energy.

As per other answers, there are gains to be had from modifying your bike or getting a new one - whether they are worth it depends on how much money you have, how much more cycling you plan to do and how important your goal is to you. But these gains will not see you through a 4-5 hour ride without eating. And, I think, if you eat, you can probably do your 40 mile trip on your current bike on your next ride.

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In terms of making a ride of about 40 miles one big thing to consider is are you constantly pedaling at an "optimal" speed. From the below article an optimal cadence is 60-90rpm. This can be maintained even on hills by changing gears appropriately.

A bike computer with a cadence sensor will help with keeping an even cadence.

reference: https://blog.wahoofitness.com/cycling-cadence-what-is-it-how-to-improve-yours/

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