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A few months ago I increased my bike usage significantly, and I am now riding about 100km to work weekly. I would like to upgrade my biking experience by buying a new one. I ride on both rough paths and the road, so I think the a gravel bike would be appropriate.

When looking at the different bikes sold in my area I saw many different prices. The main differences that I noticed between the lower end gravel bikes and the higher end gravel bikes were the material used. The higher end ones used material which was lighter. However, since I am biking to work, I bring with myself clothing and a laptop (and water for the ride).

Is there any point in opting to the higher end lighter bikes if I will be carrying a lot of weight anyways?


100km weekly divides into 70km once a week (one way) to the distant office, 10km round trip 3 times a week to the near office, and 1 day work from home.

By 70km one-way I mean that I bike 70km to the office and then take the train back. I could take the train both ways, but where is the fun in that?

Terrain example:

gravel road

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  • 3
    What exactly do you mean by “rough paths”? And does “100 km weekly” mean 10 km each direction daily, or 50 km when you do opt for the bike? On how steep terrain? Aug 8 at 10:25
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    I would not use a bike to get to 70 km distant office. It can be done from time to time, but every week? But if you are already doing it, you know better if it is good for.you. A goood bike will surely be handy for that.
    – Vladimir F
    Aug 8 at 17:21
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    I'd think that the better bikes also come with better equipment which is more enjoyable to use and sometimes lasts longer (e.g. with sealed bearings on wheels). Aug 8 at 19:13
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    Outside of racing, where every second counts, I don't see the benefit of ultralight gear. Factors like price, comfort and low maintenance are all 10 times more important for everyday use, imo.
    – MaxD
    Aug 8 at 20:58
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    @VladimirF: Riding 2x70km takes about 5 hours in total. Leave home at 6:00, arrive at work at 8:30, start work at 8:45. Assuming OP works 8h and takes a half hour lunch break he’ll leave at 17:15 and get home around 19:45. Granted, that doesn’t leave you any energy or free time to do stuff, but plenty of people work so much that they don’t have any of that either. And at least OP will have done his weekly long endurance training.
    – Michael
    Aug 9 at 7:39

15 Answers 15

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Per your comment you are currently riding a very cheap bike. Upgrading to a more decent bike will bring a lot of benefits, not just lower weight.

Weight is most important when going uphill or when accelerating (or when carrying the bike). Most of your power/energy will be spent on overcoming gravity. If you can decrease your overall weight by 5% your uphill speed will increase by roughly the same amount. It doesn’t really matter if this weight loss comes from your bike, your own body (assuming your power output stays the same i.e. you only lose fat) or your luggage.

On flat terrain when traveling at a constant speed weight is not really important.

High end gravel and road bikes will not just be lighter than the entry level models, they are usually also more aerodynamic, have internal cable routing, electronic shifting, more aerodynamic wheelsets, 1x12 shifting, better comfort etc. etc. However, a ~1500€ entry level road or gravel bike will already be quite nice with reliable, high quality components.

Regarding luggage: A lightweight rear rack (e.g. Tubus Fly) is only ~300g. Depending on your choice of panniers (if any) it can be lighter than many backpacks and much more comfortable. Though panniers do increase drag and can put more load on the rear wheel.

I used to commute to work daily. I usually left the laptop in the office. I rode with panniers every one or two weeks to bring new clothes and take the old ones home to wash them. This way I could go for proper training rides after work without being weighted down.

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    I don't know what OPs budget constraints are but most people would not consider 1500€ as entry level but rather ponder where on the scale from say 500€ for a new bike to 1500€ for high end they should make a purchase.
    – quarague
    Aug 9 at 8:05
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    There is an anecdote of a Tour de France cyclist who would take the water bottle off his bike and into his back pocket at the start of every climb, claiming it was easier to climb with a lighter bike.
    – gerrit
    Aug 9 at 9:11
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    @gerrit: Maybe it’s just because a light bike feels different when getting out of the saddle, pulling it left and right.
    – Michael
    Aug 9 at 10:02
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    What about accelerating on flat ground? When riding on bike-unfriendly North American city streets, I frequently have to and start for traffic, and sometimes have to accelerate quickly to avoid a dangerous situation. Other than rolling weight in the wheels, is this the same situation as riding uphill? That is, "weight is weight" and it doesn't matter where it's located? Or are there some other physics involved? Aug 9 at 13:47
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    @shadowtalker: Yes, to get up to a certain speed you need E=mv²/2 kinetic energy. To get up a hill you need E=mgh potential energy. So for both there is a linear relationship to mass. The only thing where mass distribution could make a difference is when it comes to real world rolling resistance. Apparently on rougher surfaces part of the rolling resistance is caused by the tiny up and down movement (i.e. vibrations). Hence why lower tire pressure can actually reduce rolling resistance in some circumstances. Having mass as cushioned as possible (i.e in the rider, on a backpack) could help.
    – Michael
    Aug 9 at 17:13
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I also commute, and my standard carry does not require anything more than jersey pockets. That's ideal.

However there are days where I need to move a laptop. On days with a road bike, that means a backpack. The main downsides is a hot and sweaty back. A small/medium backpack does not interfere with your aerodynamics much at all.

Weight saved is weight saved, if it's off the bike or the rider or the load. If you can afford a fancy bike (and have somewhere secure for it at work) then why not treat yourself? If your work bike parking is vulnerable, perhaps stay with the current bike, and perhaps consider a nice bike for the weekend instead.

Try and leave clean clothes at work, where you can hopefully shower and change before work. Clean clothes can be worn for several days, you don't need to pack a change every day.

You probably have to move some stuff no matter what, there's really no way to minimise that significantly. So look at the bike and how you can carry items of your dimensions. Clothes pack and squish well, but laptops not-so-much.

I'd suggest a bike with either a rear rack for a pannier, or if you want to minimise aero drag then a tail-bag may be suitable, if it's large enough for laptop+padding. A third option is a frame bag, but they're rarely good for laptops.


However weight is not that big a deal when it comes to flat riding. If your routes involve climbs more than 30 seconds, weight does become more significant but for a flat trip then the quality and aerodynamics are more important than the total weight.

A 10 km commute route is about far enough that padded shorts will become beneficial - this might be worth considering.

ANSWER Spend what you can afford on your bike, and enjoy it. There will always be something better for a few dollars more. Pick a budget and get the best bike you can for your amount. Personally, aluminium would be fine for most people, and cheaper so you can get better spec components for the same cost over a carbon-fibre bike.

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    "On days with a road bike, that means a backpack. The main downsides is a hot and sweaty back." That's why I recently had a pannier mounted to my 9 years old cross bike. And a basket mounted to it. I feel like reduced heat due to not wearing the backpack on my back anymore really compensates for the additional weight. But then it's more important to me to not be sweating like a mule upon arrival than getting there fast.
    – Tim
    Aug 9 at 10:36
  • @Tim fair enough - but the aero effect of a pannier is noticeable. I remember a group ride where one guy had a pannier, and when a gust of wind came up he'd always slow a bit. Fine for pootling around town but on longer commutes its a definite advantage to stay aero.
    – Criggie
    Aug 9 at 19:28
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    This is also the reason why messenger bags exist.
    – ojs
    Aug 10 at 8:36
  • @ojs good point - I'm sure they work for some people, but for me they always slide down around the hip and then dangle in front of me. Perhaps they succeed for people who push them back into place a lot ?
    – Criggie
    Aug 10 at 10:47
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    I'd second the "leave clean clothes at work" option. If you're only changing once you've had a chance to cool off, then are wearing the clothes for 8 or less hours a day before taking them off again, they're not even getting a full day's wear each day. Really the key here is whether you have a place to lay them out or hang them after the day's wear, so they air out instead of soaking in the day's sweat and oils.
    – Doktor J
    Aug 11 at 16:36
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I'd recommend not carrying a backpack. It covers your entire back, meaning you'll always inevitably get very sweaty on your back. Instead, my recommendation is a small messenger bag and if you want to carry more stuff than fits into a small and light messenger bag, attach the stuff to the bike using panniers.

About lighter weight: there are two ways to reduce weight, one is by genuine improvement in technology and other is by making the product weaker. Your goal is to avoid the second kind, but the trouble is that it's very hard to estimate what is durable and what is not. Also different materials have different characteristics. Steel is a very good and durable all-around material but usually not the lightestweight option. Aluminum suffers from three problems: (1) aluminum requires larger diameter tubes to be durable but some dimensions in a bike like steerer tube diameter are fixed to standardized values that are optimal for steel, (2) aluminum in frames is generally uneconomical to repair because after welding you need a heat treat and that requires stripping the paint, removing all components, re-painting and reattaching all components, (3) aluminum tends to have worse fatigue characteristics than steel so for really long term use for heavy riders, the components will fatigue crack eventually. Carbon fiber solves the fatigue problem but tends to be damaged in invisible manners by crashing, and then can suddenly fail "just riding along" after being damaged, so you are uncertain about the state of your carbon fiber components after a crash.

Why do you want to "upgrade"? A kilogram or two away from the bike won't make the cyclist much faster if the total system weight is 85 kg. I'd say as a rule a kilogram eliminated makes you 0.3% faster in varying terrain. In 10 years at 4000km/year at 23 km/h, that's 5 hours saved total. I'd say you have to work not 5 hours but perhaps nearly 100 hours to get enough salary to pay for a high-end lightweight bike.

I'd consider looking at opportunities to store your laptop at work. It eliminates more than a kilogram, and best of all may be completely free. If you sometimes work remotely, explain to your manager that biking to work puts the equipment at risk so that's why you'd like to have two laptops, one at work, second at home, neither transported by bike. I'm sure they'll understand the benefits.

If you really are into reducing weight, you could always eliminate a kickstand if you have a bike rack at work where the U lock can hold the bicycle upright, and also if you are allowed to do so, store the U lock at work by leaving it locked in the bike rack without carrying it with you every time you bike to work. Those eliminate between 1-2kg, for free. I don't bother with these because to me weight is not of such a concern that I would sacrifice utility by being impossible to stop at a grocery store where I can lock the bike and store it upright using the kickstand.

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  • Thank you for your answer. Regarding your points: - backpack vs. messenger bag vs. panniers: I am not sure the difference between a backpack and a messenger bag, but I am worried that panniers would require a metal from to hold them that would add to the weight. - If I am understanding your answer correctly, you are saying that saving weight is not that important. I would like to get a new bike since my old one is in the ~$200 level. However, I see that I should not choose my new bike based mainly on the weight.
    – finks
    Aug 8 at 9:33
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    My Hebie Wingee combined rack/mudguard carries 16kg load, weighs about half kilogram. That's about 3% of the weight carrying capacity in weight. If your bike is $200 bike, then I understand the desire to upgrade. My advice would be to look for durable and useful equipment rather than low weight. For example, some steel frame bicycle could offer a very long lifetime.
    – juhist
    Aug 8 at 9:40
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    @finks I've learned that moving the backpack from my back to the pannier really reduced my exhaustion level from overheating, generally making the commute more enjoyable and even faster at times. Even though the new pannier & basket probably added 1 or 2 kg of mass.
    – Tim
    Aug 9 at 10:39
5

I generally agree with Criggie's answer.

More expensive bikes are not just lighter (if they are in fact lighter). They generally have components with better engineering, better tires, nicer saddles, etc. They can be improvements in a lot of little ways, although perhaps some of those improvements are not important to you.

There are lots of ways to approach the load-carrying problem. I've used a pannier and a backpack. Currently I prefer the backpack, but I shower at work, so I don't mind getting a sweaty back. I have duplicates of some stuff that I leave at work (shoes, power brick for my laptop, etc), and carry other stuff (change of clothes, laptop, lunch). Your commuting-bike budget should include non-bike stuff that supports your "commuting ecosystem."

A gravel bike does sound like a good choice for you.

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    I second using a gravel bike + a sporty backpack to ride to work. A shower is a must, bout would be with bikepacking bags or paniers anyway.
    – Vladimir F
    Aug 8 at 17:15
  • Backpack only if it’s a light load, like a change of clothes. A 2kg rigid laptop is quite uncomfortable in a road bike position.
    – Michael
    Aug 9 at 7:46
  • @VladimirF If you can adjust your clothing down to the required minimum for the current temperature, a shower becomes optional. The thinner your clothing, the less sweat your body produces, and when sweat production is less than what evaporates, you're basically reaching your destination perfectly dry. Doesn't work in summer, though. Aug 9 at 9:53
  • @cmaster-reinstatemonica You must surely be joking. I commute in a lycra jersey + lycra shorts. When it gets colder I firstly add thin hand and leg warmers without adding layers, then an ultrathin jacket. I must shower even when I go much slower than normal.
    – Vladimir F
    Aug 10 at 6:33
  • @VladimirF Weird. I simply use cotton, and never had need for a shower when temperatures were below 15°C. In winter, the outer layers became a bit damp from condensate, but that's about it. Aug 10 at 7:23
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One of the most important highlights of a higher-end bike is the fun factor. Optimizing for practicality is nice, sure, but in the end, you only live once and a sporty bike is simply thrilling to ride. Especially on a higher-end gravel bike, you can enjoy those off-road segments much more.

Regarding weight, a carbon bike will be noticeably lighter than an aluminum frame (bar some uber-lightweight aluminum frames that are outside the scope of this discussion). From a purely practical/physics viewpoint, the weight loss is probably not worth it. However, the fun factor comes into play again. If you think riding a sexy modern carbon gravel bike is awesome, then go for it! A 70km ride is well past utilitarian commuting level. Amortize the upgrade cost over the number of rides you expect to do with this bike; I suspect the per-ride cost is fairly low.

Weight is also not exclusive. Just because you are carrying a laptop doesn't mean that you are ineligible from riding a lighter bike or something. Think of the bike upgrade as nullifying the laptop's weight ;)

Personal anecdote: I commute 9km per day 4 days a week on a ~$1500CAD road bike. Excessive? Extremely! But hey, it's fun, and I have the bike anyways for longer weekend rides. It's like waking up and getting to drive a Ferrari at race speed, and then again in the afternoon.

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Higher end commuters can improve on other things than weight. In my opinion, commuters are better off improving on those other things.

Don't get a carbon fibre frame for commuting. Carbon fibre frames optimise for weight. Per your photo, your route is partly on unsealed roads, and commuting probably means you're cycling in (almost) all weather and in the dark. Whether carbon frames are preferable in general can be debated, but they're certainly more expensive. For commuting, that extra money is better spent on all those things that commuter (or touring) bikes have but road bikes (or most mountain-bikes) don't. My subjective incomplete list in no particular order:

  • A good, hub generator powered pair of lights.
  • A good internally geared hub that will perform well in all weather (if it fits in your budget, I recommend Rohloff).
  • A belt drive as an alternative to a chain (requires internally geared hub and special frame).
  • Good brakes that perform well in the rain.
  • Well-built wheels suitable for unsealed roads and under load.
  • Good fenders/mudguards that actually stop the mud from flying onto your clothes.
  • A strong, durable rack.
  • Waterproof panniers.
  • A good kickstand.
  • A good lock (in low-risk areas, a frame-attached lock may suffice).
  • Probably more…

All of those will add weight to your bike, but you're not racing, you want to get to work in a safe and comfortable manner. I think you will be happier to focus your budget on such components than on reducing weight.

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    I’d say a 70km commute is pretty much a race, or at least a spirited ride.
    – MaplePanda
    Aug 9 at 20:13
  • I fully agree with the recommendation for a Rohlhoff for those who can afford them. Optimizing for reliability, one might also think about a belt rather than a chain. Aug 9 at 23:04
  • @CharlesDuffy True. I've added that to the list.
    – gerrit
    Aug 10 at 7:03
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    @MaplePanda Depends. At 10 km, cycling is probably faster than public transportation and possibly faster than driving, depending on traffic. At 70 km, cycling is most likely the slowest alternative even at Tour de France speeds. So the choice to commute 70 km by bike means one can't really be in a hurry anyway.
    – gerrit
    Aug 10 at 7:05
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    2x 18650 powered headlamps/bike lights will last longer and require less energy and load on the person than any bike-generated power. Throw them in a USB charger (TP4056, for instance) and they'll always be ready to go.
    – J.Hirsch
    Aug 10 at 15:01
2

Any weight you save is weight you save, period. If you’re always or almost always going to be cycling with a backpack, then the correct line of thinking is: ‘I’m almost always going to have excess weight in gear, so I should look to reduce weight elsewhere.’. Whether it makes the most sense to spend extra for an ultra-light bike or not is up to you, but that is one effective way to reduce weight. However, unless you’re cycling competitively, a few grams of difference is not likely to be enough to matter. As an example, with the utility bike I’m currently using for commuting, I intentionally purchased a slightly heavier frame pump because it was exceptionally more durably made than the lighter models and the dozen or so grams of extra mass aren‘t enough to matter given how I ride.

The bigger impact from purchasing a more expensive bike is going to be the quality of the components. The bearings and drivetrain will almost always be higher quality, which is huge for how the bike rides (the aforementioned utility bike actually has a higher gear ratio in it’s lowest gear than my previous bike did, but the combination of the better drivetrain and much nicer wheels mean that I actually have a perceptually easier time going uphill on it), and in general most of the components will be more durable, which is also really significant, especially if the bike is your primary transportation.

The bigger issue with the backpack is, as others have pointed out, how it impacts aerodynamics and how it will usually mean you have a sweaty back when you arrive. You can get special backpacks to improve this, but either panniers, or a rear rack (which you can lash the backpack to instead of your back) are probably a better choice.

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    This is probably really just your feel. Bearings and more expensive derailleurs won't really speed you up too much in any given gear. Yes, you will get nicer shifting, smaller steps, less weight. But the actual drivetrain and bearing losses won't change dramatically. Even upgrades to ceramic bearings come with very questionable gains. I am well able to keep up with others on an 8-speed Claris bike if we make a similar effort (and some time trials).
    – Vladimir F
    Aug 9 at 6:43
  • The better bearings could strongly change the durability and needs of servicing, but the watts will be very similar in any decent product.
    – Vladimir F
    Aug 9 at 6:45
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    @VladimirF I never said improved components would speed things up, and I did make a point to in my anecdotal example to say ‘perceptually easier’ to try and indicate it was subjective. The big impact for me was that the bearings are noticeably smoother, the internal hub has no loss of traction while shifting like my old bike did, and the belt drive runs much more smoothly than the chaining on my old bike. Overall, much nicer to ride and nothing that feels like it’s between you and the road, but not super noticeable to me other than on hills. Aug 9 at 11:40
  • OK, but changing to a belt drive and an internal gear hub is not just a change from lower to higher quality, it is a change to a completely different class of drivetrain or even a different class of bike. It changes everything. And belt drivetrains and IGHs also come in various levels so you would have to compare between them. With bearings - unless the old were worn, you would really have to measure. Normally, the losses are very small even with quite basic ones.
    – Vladimir F
    Aug 9 at 11:59
2

My experience commuting to work on a mix of tarmac (macadam, blacktop) and dirt track and badly damaged tarmac was that I was slower on my moderate-price (butted steel frame racer) on the good surfaces than a friend on his high end carbon racer... but once the surface got less than smooth I was far faster. A steel frame will take that sort of punishment, he was seriously worried about damaging his carbon frame. As comparison... I lost 2-3 mph on smooth surfaces, he lost 10-15mph on the rough.

Personally, I'd go with a moderate to high end steel frame... it takes more maltreatment in its stride and tends to fail more gracefully. Aluminium fatigues and breaks, carbon can just fracture. You're going to be subjecting the frame to a lot of shock on gravel tracks. The saving on a 'cheaper' frame in money will allow you to get better parts which will go some way to offsetting the steel frame weight.

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10 km is a bit of a no-man's-land distance... too long to be feasible for a Dutch-style lazy commute with no shower, but too short to be a proper tour and have a real training effect at slow speed.

Assuming you have the opportunity to shower, I'd prefer a light bike and backpack for that. This is not so much about saved energy due to weight – more about making it more fun and self-encouraging to take it sporty, than with any bike that you'd mount a pannier on. A heavy bike just feels a bit sluggish, in a way a backpack doesn't. In that sense, the benefits of a light bike are not defeated by wearing a backpack. They would rather be defeated by putting your load in panniers.

And load on the bike, or heaviness of the bike itself, especially without suspension, makes any roughness in the path much more unpleasant than if it's on your body. Wide tyres can compensate, but at an efficiency penalty on-road.

The 70 km would be, for me, quite a different story. On that distance, a backpack with laptop gets rather annoying IMO – not just because of the sweaty back, but also because of the weight on shoulders&back. I would only do this on leisure rides with lots of opportunity for breaks.
Apparently, you seem to have been doing this ok with a backpack as well, but indeed I would say in this case the lighter bike doesn't buy you as much. Moving the weight to the bike (or leaving it entirely at the far-office) might significantly improve the comfort though.

Some options I'd consider:

  • Only get a really light road bike for the 10 km commute, and use whatever bike currently works for you for the slower 70 km.
  • Get a decent gravel bike. Use it with backpack for the 10 km, but panniers for the 70 km.
  • Get a cross-country hardtail mountainbike. That's a bit heavier and less efficient, but actually feels rather more sporty than a touring-oriented drop-bar bike, and also opens up more in the way of properly rough off-road shortcuts.
    In that case, I'd try to find a way to mount the laptop inside or on the side of the frame at least for the 70 km. This central position minimises the effect on the bike's handling. It also puts the mass more to the front, where it is sprung by the suspension fork.
    (Though generally speaking, the laptop will always be more subject to shocks when mounted on the bike, than when it's in your backpack.)
1
  • As for the laptop, maybe it fits in a frame pack? NB: I've never tried.
    – gerrit
    Aug 9 at 9:30
1

I'd recommend looking at a Deuter backpack if you want to avoid a pannier system. The Deuter's have a 'stand-off' frame with mesh back that helps by lifting the pack off your body and allowing some air movement. If you go to the website, select "Mesh back system" to see what's available.

I have 2 Deuter's: 1) Race EX Air (17L) for summer use and 2) Futura 22.5 (22.5L) for fall or when I need to carry extra. The Race EX Air holds a change of clothes and a very minimal lunch bag. The larger Futura 22.5 was picked as I have a very short torso for a man (it's a woman's bag).

They aren't cheap but look around and you might find one on Craigslist or eBay. Ride of choice is my Cervelo R5.


enter image description here

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  • Looks like these bags have an external frame, similar to tramping/hiking bags of the past. Googling returned this photo of a larger pack, which is indicative of your suggestion ?
    – Criggie
    Aug 8 at 20:39
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    We prefer not to make product recommendation on the site. Many brands make backpacks with standoff frames, its not a problem uniquely solved by just one brand.
    – mattnz
    Aug 8 at 21:38
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    Don’t get a backpack with wire frame and mesh. The wire frame is curved and takes up a lot of volume and puts the center of gravity of the backpack far away from your back. In a road bike position this creates a tendency for the backpack to slide down sideways and also makes it sway left and right when getting out of the saddle. It’s also bad if you want to transport a flat and rigid object like a laptop. I have the Deuter Giga Bike which seems to be the best possible solution for carrying a large-ish load on the back while riding. Still uncomfortable and I prefer panniers.
    – Michael
    Aug 9 at 7:55
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    Many other makes also do backpacks with air gaps, but @Michael makes a good point about curvature and centre of gravity. I've been known to do 90km after work with my cheap commuting backpack (no pannier rack fitted at the moment). You'll get sweaty riding long distances anyway so the comfort of carrying the load is more important.
    – Chris H
    Aug 9 at 8:53
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    @Criggie I'm not sure that pack is quite what the answer suggested deutergb.co.uk/products/bike/race-exp-air doesn't have foam behind the mesh against your back. Those mesh-over-foam strips aren't much better than just foam
    – Chris H
    Aug 9 at 8:56
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No, its not. Its defeated by carrying stuff you do not need to carry, but if you have to carry it, you have to carry it. You get the same advantage going to a high end bike regardless of if you have a back pack or not.

The next question is what other stuff do I carry, that I do not need to, that defeats the purpose of buying a high end bike. The biggest culprit (of which I am guilty) is the rider is not at 'racing weight'. The second biggest is arriving at the destination with water in still your drink bottle (guilty).

1

Yes, a lighter bike is always lighter than a heavier bike, no matter how much the rider or the equipment add to that.

Will it be noticeable for you? Hard to tell. If you are a small person then maybe the calculation will be (random numbers...):

  • Bike (9kg) + Rider&Equipment (60kg) = 69kg
  • Bike (15kg) + Rider&Equipment (60kg) = 75kg

That's a 8% total weight difference, roundabout. Without going at it scientifically, I sure think you will notice it. Certainly in a direct A:B comparison. Now if you weigh 100kg including equipment, those numbers will be quite different (with a delta of roughly 5%), so it might not be so clear-cut.

The other thing that's nice about a significantly more expensive bike is that all the components should be better. This means they will (hopefully) break less, be easier to maintain, work better - the brakes will have better grip, you'll have less trouble with the chain skipping, such things.

The final argument speaking for a more expensive bike is that if you know that you have a bike which is as good as your budget allows, you will likely ride around with a constant big smile on your face. If you get the cheapest klunker, you will be annoyed that you didn't splurge each time something breaks down. As you intend to use that bike a lot, this psychological element should not be ignored.

TLDR: For a bike that you intend to use constantly, I'd make the budget as high as you can without it hurting, and then shop around in that price range.

1

So the question was "Is there any point in opting to the higher end lighter bikes if I will be carrying a lot of weight anyways?"

I would say no.

For the type of riding that is described I think it is far more important to worry about robustness and comfort.

70km on gravel roads. Being bounced around on a lightweight race bike with skinny tyres might be tolerable in a race situation for the extra speed. But in a commuter situation it will get old very quickly.

Ditto the use of lightweight and possibly fragile componentry. Riding on the dirt punishes components just as hard as it does riders. Everything will wear out quicker and spending ages doing maintenance or being stranded when something fails because it saved a few grams ... again not much fun.

So if it was me, my money would go on a frame capable of taking bigger tyres, 45C's at least and they must be tubeless, renown high quality wheelset, BB, hubs, headset and possibly some form of suspension (either built in or from someone like RedShift). I'd also budget for a decent saddle and I would prioritise getting a rack [1].

All of that would be higher the list before actually worrying too much about weight.

Good luck with plans whatever you go with :-)

[1] Aside from backpacks giving a sweaty back, if there's a laptop in there the extra weight will make it really hard to find a saddle that is going to be comfy for distance.

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    This is not bad, but a couple of points; first, new road bikes no longer have "skinny" tires; the smallest you'll find is a 25, and commuter or touring bikes are 32-38. Second the question was about gravel bikes; those already come with 38(+) tires; 45s are probably overkill for the described use-case, as is suspension. Finally, you seem to be describing building a bike from components, which is more work and pricier than finding a decent pre-assembled bike.
    – DavidW
    Aug 10 at 17:19
  • We are not talking about weight as in “should I use this 1400g wheel set or this 1500 gram one”. We are talking ~9kg gravel bike (as @DavidW mentioned) vs 13-14-15kg commuting setup.
    – MaplePanda
    Aug 10 at 19:52
  • @DavidW - 1) Clearance is the important bit of the equation. Better mud clearance and can always fit narrower tyres. 2) Suspension - things like Specialized's Future Shock, Canyon's VCS seatpost, Lauf and Fox AX Forks, RedShift Stems and Posts or various other forms of suspension are seen as worthwhile additional weight by a large number of people who ride "Gravel" bikes. 3) Building a bike from components - if in the fortunate position of being able to to consider a high end bike why not get something build something that matches the exact requirements?
    – shufflingb
    Aug 11 at 0:29
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I don't think that leaving an expensive bicycle parked on a regular schedule at a train station is a good idea. It is better to sweat a little bit on few more kilograms than worry all the time whether you'll find again your bicycle when you go home. If you happen to travel through the Netherlands have a look at the bicycle parks in the train stations. Some of the bicycles look like wrecks, but they are actually used. Sometimes people leave permanently a second bicycle at the train station just for the train station-office leg of the commute, those are the ones that really look ugly and poorly maintained, but it's done on purpose.

For everyday use, for the bicycle that you might leave for a while in places like the front of the supermarket, the post office, the council office and so on the best type of bicycle is simple, rugged, not so nice looking and with a good chain (which would defeat the weight saving anyway).

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    The OP said that they ride the bike one way and take it on the train on the way back. Not that they leave the bike at the train station. For a 70 km ride one needs a different bike than those that people tend to leave unattended and unlocked at the supermarket...
    – Vladimir F
    Aug 10 at 14:10
  • @VladimirF You are right, I read too quickly, but I'll leave the post because it might be still a different viewpoint useful if the user has to leave the bicycle parked outside the office for many hours.
    – FluidCode
    Aug 10 at 14:16
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I've been commuting to work, for a total weekly distance of 120 km. I found te main benefit of lighter bikes mostly when carrying it. The difference between a bike comfortable to carry and one tiring was somewhere about 10 kg.

I have to carry my bike down and upstairs to my flat. What is more, since I have a bike that is easy to carry I chose a nearly flat route to work that included a path with stairs up an escarpment (40 m height). A short walk up stairs was making me less sweaty than riding an ascent.

This is a very narrow use case for a light bike. However it is one where bike mass is actually immediately noticeable. The advantages of a light bike in this context is indifferent on whether one has to carry a backpack or not.

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    But surely it makes it easier if the weight of the pack is on your back, instead of adding to the weight of your bike, no? I got stuck once, because of a path closure, having to carry my bike - with 2 panniers laden with my shopping from the market - up several flights of stairs to a road passing above. That was rather less than fun.
    – DavidW
    Aug 10 at 17:24

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