If there is one question that is repeated over and over when offering different bicycles or frame sets for auction, that question would have to be - "How much does it (the bicycle or frame set) weigh?"  It seems as if anyone at all interested in a vintage road bicycle wants first to know how heavy a bicycle or frame set is.

Of course, the question that comes to mind is what is so important about a bicycle's weight, or more importantly, lack of weight?  Simply put and all things being equal, the lighter a bicycle is, the less energy it will require to operate.  Try riding a vintage two wheeled workhorse that tips the scale at over forty pounds and then jump on a nice vintage road bicycle.  The difference if feel will be stunning.

The lighter the bicycle, the faster the acceleration.  The lighter the bicycle, the quicker the handling.  The lighter the bicycle, the more it costs.  These are a few simple and undeniable facts.  So, if you want a really great vintage road bicycle ride, the only way to get it is to go light, right?  Not necessarily!  Heavier does have some advantages.  Inertia, being one of them.

Before getting into a discussion pertaining to vintage light weight bicycle weights, keep foremost in your mind that the bicycle is always the sum of its components, including the frame set itself, and absolutely nothing less.  The lightest frame set on earth, fitted with entry level components will not be exceptionally light when the whole package is placed on a scale.  And the corollary to that statement holds true also.  Top notch, best of the best, components will not turn an entry level frame and fork set into a really light bicycle.  True, the components will help reduce the weight, but in the end the bicycle will still be heavy when compared to a light frame and component grouppo combination.

If you want a really light bicycle be prepared to pay plenty to get it.  And do not expect a vintage road bicycle to even approach the concept of light weight, as defined in today's highly sophisticated carbon fibre everything road bicycle world.  About the lightest bicycle I have been lucky enough to meet was a modern carbon frame work of art fitted with nothing but the best of the best components.  That bicycle weighed about 14 pounds.  Unbelievable!  Though I never had the means to accurately measure my previously owned vintage road bikes, the two lightest in the collection had to have been a sixties something Legnano and an early eighties Vitus 979.  Though I will never be able to prove it, I think that the Legnano might have tipped the scales a just under the twenty pound mark.  No other vintage road bicycle that I have come across so far, big or small, has ever come in under the twenty pound mark.

Of course, I must have missed a great many bicycles in my travels.  Just about every person who has one that they are no longer interested in tells me that their old road bike weighs considerably less than twenty pounds.  Nonsense!  That is, according to the 400+ bicycles I have owned and measured, just wishful thinking.

Today, the lightest bicycle in The Old Shed is a Cambio Rino "2000" that weighs in at just over the 22 pound mark.  The heaviest lightweight bicycle in the collection today is without a doubt, the Sekine SHT270.  That Canadian made gem comes in at a whopping 26 pounds and 9 ounces with a set of lightweight alloy fenders mounted.  When my lightest and heaviest are compared, the difference is a bit over four pounds.

Consider the weights of some entry level bicycles.  Entry level suggests steel frame sets, mostly steel components and 27" wheel sets with steel rims.  Mid level would include bicycles made out of some form of tubing with mostly alloy components fitted and fitted with either 27" or 700c wheels.  To achieve top of the line status, or near to it, a bicycle's frame set would have to be made from some sort of molybdenum steel or aluminum and be fitted with forged drop-outs, front and back.  Once again, the top dog would be fitted with nothing but high end components, which more often than not are much lighter than their entry or mid level counterparts.  Finally, a top Velo dog will always be fitted with 700c wheels and more than likely they will be of sew-up design.

Component quality will have a dramatic impact on the overall bicycle's weight and ride characteristics.  Make no mistake about it, in the vintage road bicycle world, light weight comes at a very high cost.  Unless, of course you are converting to a Single Speed design, which imparts a weight reduction automatically simply because unneeded components are removed, not to be replace.  For example, a Canadian made Peugeot "Sport" in original condition weighs 29lb 15oz.  That same bicycle, stripped of all unnecessary items to allow for Single Speed conversion comes in at approximately 26lb 10oz, a weight reduction amounting to about 3lb 5oz.  And that is the result of removing items not needed, not the weight after hand picking light weight parts.

A Sekine SHC271, as issued and according to my scales weighs 29lb 7oz.  A Sekine brochure of similar vintage suggests that the bicycle weighs approximately 28lb, presenting a one pound seven ounce discrepancy.  The SHT270, Sekine's second from top of the line is reported in the brochure to weigh approximately 23lb but the one that I own comes in at 26lb 9oz., this time offering a considerable difference between actual and advertized weights.  I should add that my SHT270 was weighed with a set of alloy fenders installed.

If there is any kind of rule of thumb when vintage road bicycle weights are the issue, the rule would first have to be divided into three categories based on weight.  The early seventies CCM "Grand Prix" is an example of a 30lb plus bicycle will have ordinary steel pipe frame sets or even really basic steel tubing.  The component grouppo consists of primarily steel parts with very little alloy finding its way onto the machine.  Finally, the thirty plus pounder will almost always be fitted with 27" steel wheels.  Make no mistake about it, most vintage road bicycles that you will find fall into the 30+ pound category.

The middle weight category seems to span the space between twenty five and thirty pounds.  For the most part, these bicycles are close to entry level in the frame set department, however, the frame sets are no longer made of heavy pipe.  Tubing will be present in most bicycles that fall into the 25-30 pound range.  Many of the components installed with be of decent quality and, more often than not, made of aluminum.  In addition to the more sophisticated frame set materials used, the drop outs will usually be of forged design, adding a wee bit of weight but greatly increasing strength.  The wheels, however will still be mostly of the heavier and less sophisticated 27" design.

And then there is the 20lb to 25lb category which will represent pretty good quality bicycles.  Exotic alloy tubing will lead the list of quality characteristics as will brand name forged drop-outs.  And of course, the tubing selected with be double butted, at the very least.  Make no mistake about it, frame sets of this quality are generally quite pricey.  On the other hand, I have stumbled across many top of the liners for less than I would have to pay for a large box of beer.

And last, the under 20lb vintage lightweight road bicycle.  I have had one such bicycle come into my possession - I think.  My methods for weighing bicycles was incredibly crude when I weighed a late sixties Legnano that a friend gave to me.  Based on my measurement methods at the time, the Legnano came in at 19+ pounds.  Exactly how much over the 19lb mark the bicycle was, I do not know but I do know that the bike did not exceed twenty pounds.  I should add that the Legnano was fitted with Campy everything and a set of tubular wheels.  My guess would be that for any vintage road bicycle to come in under the twenty pound mark, it would have to be a combination of a quality frame set, quality components and tubular wheels.

Wheels are big components and weigh lots compared to most other assemblies fitted to an old road bicycle.  And wheel weights are hugely different, depending on quality level and design.  Twenty seven inch wheels weigh more than 700 wheels - generally.  And 700 tubulars are the lightest of all.  So, if you are hoping to lower the weight of any old road bicycle, simply installing a set of sew-up wheels will have a huge impact on actual weight and an even greater impact on ride quality.  But flat tires will become a nightmare.

Two sets of wheels have been prepared for a 1975 CCM "Tour du Canada", one set 27" clinchers and the other 700c sew-ups.  The sew-ups weight 2lb 9oz less than do the clinchers.  That is quite a bit of weight to begin with.  Now consider the fact that it is rolling weight which has a more pronounced impact on ride quality than does static weight.  Put another way, the ride quality of the Tour du Canada is so superior when fitted with sew-ups that any comparison is almost silly to consider.  The difference is really that noticeable.

So, that should put some of the myths of incredibly lightweight vintage road bicycles to rest.  The CCM Massey weighs nearly fifty pounds and its lighter sibling, the CCM "Elan" well over forty.  The CCM racer from the fifties tips the scale at twenty six and a half pounds.  Old road bicycles are not light by today's standards but appear to weight next to nothing when compared to other bicycle styles of the day...