Bike Weight and Multi-Modal Commuting

Lifting a Bike

With the popularity of European-style commuting bikes on the rise here in the U.S., the average weight of a typical transpo bike is also on the rise. U.S.-style hybrids, mountain bikes, and touring bikes, all commonly used for commuting here, averagely weigh in the 30-35 lb. range (for example, my fully outfitted Surly Long Haul Trucker weighs 32 lbs. with front and rear racks, kickstand, fenders, and lights). On the other hand, many traditional Euro-style city bikes tip the scales at 40-50 lbs. or more. This extra 10-15 lbs. is largely inconsequential for those who have point-to-point commutes over relatively flat terrain, but it can be a real problem for those who take their bike on transit as part of their commute.

Commuters and utility bicyclists are rarely accused of being “weight-weenies”; afterall, a 30+ lb. bike is anything but “light” by today’s standards.

Here’s a case in point. A friend purchased a Dutch city bike to use as her primary commuter. She liked the upright seating position, internal gears and brakes, full chain case, integrated lighting, and overall style of this type of bike. It’s a lovely bike that appeared to be perfect for her intended use. It was a little difficult to hoist onto the train, but she parked the bike in the aisle and all was good—for a while. Eventually, the conductors tired of too many bikes in the aisles (it’s a safety hazard) and they started making everyone place their bikes in the vertical wall racks. As it turns out, the bike is too heavy for her to hoist onto the racks, so now she’s looking at lighter weight alternatives.

Commuters and utility bicyclists are rarely accused of being “weight-weenies”; afterall, a 30+ lb. bike is anything but “light” by today’s standards. But, there are some circumstances where excess weight can be a real hindrance, even to the point that an otherwise perfectly matched bike becomes a mis-match for its intended use. So while we aren’t ready to start counting grams any time soon, it does behoove multi-modal bike commuters to keep an eye on overall weight when outfitting a bike that will be taken on trains and buses.

None of this is a dig at Euro/Dutch-style bikes. They’re wonderfully appointed and make perfect commuter/utility bikes for many people. They’ve been refined over many decades in some of the most bike-friendly countries in the world, and their functionality transfers well to many U.S. cities. They do tend to be heavy though, and since there’s a trend in commuting and transpo circles to show little-to-no regard to weight, it’s not a bad idea to remember that a bike can be so heavy as to severely hinder its functionality in a least some circumstances.

 
© 2011 EcoVelo™