Does weight affect cycling? The answer is: Yes.
More weight will definitely impact your performance, and this is why many cyclists seek to have the lightest bikes.
The best riders have an extremely low fat to muscle ratio.
The extremists go so far as to ensure that any gear they’re carrying is the lightest on the market.
This is why most gear, from bikes to sunglasses, prominently display their weight.
Most cyclists are willing to pay extra for lightweight products.
While this is a simple way to reduce weight and improve performance, we have a cheaper solution: lose weight!
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The effort you put out: Does weight affect cycling?
Your choice of terrain affects the impact of less weight on performance.
Flat surfaces and sprinting will not benefit from a weight change.
On the other hand, if you’re going for hills, carrying less weight means better energy conservation.
Feeling confused? Don’t worry. Data analysis software tools will guide you to the potential improvement of your ride at different weights.
Tip: Read our related article Can you ride a bike if you’re overweight? for more information on this topic.
Ratio of your power output to your body weight
AKA power to weight ratio, this is a measure of cycling efficiency.
When the weight decreases and power increases (or remains stable), your biking performance is better because basically you are putting in less effort for the same outcome.
To discover your ratio, just divide your power by weight in kgs.
For instance, a 75kg cyclist who can hold 300 watts has a power to weight ratio of 4.
And a heavier ride of say 90kg cyclist registering 300 watts has a mere P/WR of 3.33.
That 90kg rider has to generate 300 watts of energy to keep up with the 75kg rider generating than 300 watts.
We must point out here that while weight loss is an excellent way to better this ratio (and make your rides more enjoyable), improving power is vital.
Cyclists who lose too much weight without maintaining adequate fitness levels will see their power drop, which is certainly not desirable.
Tip: Read more in-depth info on this topic in the article Will losing weight make me cycle faster?
How much of your body weight is muscle weight?
An important note is that power to weight is based on total body mass.
So whether you are incredibly lean or carrying more fat than desired isn’t part of this equation. Confused? Let’s explain further.
Weight, whatever its composition, is still weight that needs to be carried around.
Having more muscle mass may make you a better sprinter or more powerful overall, but it will still work against you in weight-based circumstances (like the ones above).
Of course, muscle burns more calories, making it easier to keep lean. Better muscle tone will also help your power output and prevent injury.
The more excess weight you carry, the more you need to focus on overall body mass (BMI).
Once you’ve reached a healthy weight, it’s time to better those statistics by focusing on body fat measurements and seeking to tone up.
Your current state of health
The more weight you need to lose, the bigger the impact on your power efficiency. Think of all you have to gain with a healthy BMI.
You’ll notice that you’re not suffering as much shortness of breath, and there’s less pressure on your joints (fewer aches and pains).
You’ll have an improved metabolic process and so much more! You have to start off by reaching a healthy weight for your height.
For cyclists already in good shape, losing extra weight will promote better performance as carrying just a pound less reduces the effort.
Of course, many cyclists can take weight loss too far. Too low a BMI increases injuries and impedes healing.
They will also see a decrease in power and increased fatigue and nutrition deficiency. A low BMI is also known to cause hormonal havoc in female athletes.
Being ultralight may make you much faster, but if you’re injured, malnourished and worn out, you won’t be a much better athlete in the long run.
Conclusion: Just how much does weight affect cycling?
Reducing the pounds through lighter gear and your own weight can help you be quicker and more competitive.
Weigh your gear and search for lighter alternatives if that’s important to you.
And check our list of great bicycles for big and/or tall guys if you are looking for a heavy-duty (light) model!
But we do suggest that you focus on losing a few pounds first if you are overweight.
Losing weight at a slow but steady rate and focusing on improving physical fitness will help you maintain your energy levels while dropping the pounds.
You might want to consider working with a sports nutritionist.