Why Weight Matters

Weight matters. Especially if you plan to tour on your bike. To state the obvious - less weight means less pedalling effort. I'm yet to meet a bikepacker / bicycle tourer who likes to expend more energy to pedal at the end of the day. Yet, there is more to lightweight touring than just less effort.

Before I get into the reasons to prefer lightweight touring, let me be frank - I'm not trying to convert you. If you prefer to tour a laden bike, more power to you. There's no right or wrong way to tour and lightweight is not inherently superior.

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let us stumble on it. There are a lot of reasons to keep weight down on your bicycle and less effort is just one of the reasons to do it.

I am religiously convinced - which means without evidence - that little weight reduces the number of mechanical problems, decreases energy requirements and fatigue and increases average speed, distance and enjoyment of cycling. It probably decreases off-bike comfort, but it is not me who will point out the disadvantages. ~ Ultralight bicycle touring

Lightweight touring also means a higher average speed, more energy to explore, and more fun to cycle especially on twisty mountain roads. I can think of three important reasons to keep the weight low on your bike -

First, a lightweight bicycle is less prone to wear and tear. More weight on your bike means more stress on your drivetrain, brakes, wheels, tyres and bearings. Anything that moves is under more stress. More stress means more breakdowns and frequent replacement. Frequent component replacements are no fun for the wallet and breaking down in the middle of a tour is even less fun. So why put the bike through unnecessary stress when there's an option to stay light?

Second, an overloaded bicycle is also slow. To go slow is intrinsic to bicycle touring, yet an overloaded rig just doesn't have the option of going fast. This means you can't scoot through an ugly town or push hard to reach someplace when the weather turns nasty.

Finally, a loaded bicycle also makes a bicycle more ponderous and difficult to handle. Side-winds drag you along, descents are scary, braking distances go through the roof, handling takes a hit and twisty roads that are best enjoyed on two wheels are no longer fun.

But before we get into my tricks and tips for keeping weight down a word to the wise. Lightweight touring / bikepacking is extremely addictive. Just like a drug addict, you will be constantly looking for a hit (or in this case, a way to minimise your load). So with that warning, let's delve into techniques to minimise load, next.