10% of your body weight. For me, in-season anyway, that would be around 14 1/2, 15lbs. Totally reasonable to imagine a road bike in that weight range, right? Personally, I had never thought of bike weight as something relative to rider weight; I had never considered what percentage of body weight a bicycle should be. This past October, though, our customer Doug arrived with a folio of hand-written charts, diagrams, lists, and scribblings and took a survey around the shop. He asked each one of us to tell him what we weigh, and then what our lightest bike weighs. Sure enough, across the board, none of us had answered with a bike that was significantly higher than 10% of our body weight. OK. Good. He then said that that's what he'd like to attempt to achieve with his new build. So you know those scenes in early 90's sitcoms where something absurd or unexpected happens or is said and time freezes, a record screeches to a sharp halt, and everyone has that knowing look of apprehension and goofy unease? Well, when Doug told us of his wish, our shop must've looked like a scene from that. We knew that this was going to be a challenge. Very difficult, if even possible at all, you see, because Doug weighs under 130 lbs. To say that this has been a work in progress, or a long time coming, would be an understatement.
So first things first, we had to decide on a frame. The Tarmac would've been the obvious choice, but coming from a Serotta Ottrott, the geometry wasn't going to work in this situation. The Roubaix was almost exactly what we were looking for, regarding fit numbers, and to our surprise - at least at the S-Works level - there wasn't really any sort of weight penalty for ending up on the Roubaix. Perfect. Problem solved. We put a 52cm S-Works Roubaix frame on order. Which brings us to the component group. Generally, a good attitude to take is that all of the high-end stuff - Shimano's Dura-Ace, SRAM Red, and that Supah Rekkid or whatever from that other brand we don't see much of - is all relatively the same in regard to how well it performs and how light it is. Of course, we all have our preferences, but truly, when it comes to the best stuff, we generally like to acknowledge that it's all pretty awesome. This however, as I'm sure you've gathered, is not exactly a customer with your typical needs. We knew going into it that our quest was going to be a game of milligrams, and more specificly, a game of shaving milligrams wherever we can. SRAM Red 22 allowed us to do that. Everything comes in just a touch lighter than Dura-Ace. Armed with this knowledge, Doug stretched himself out to take a short little spin on my (much too big for him) Focus Izalco, equipped with Red, to get a feel for the group. He liked it, and so it was ordered.
Would you believe me if I told you that we took a razor blade to some of the tabs on the inside of the SRAM Red 22 hoods? Believe it. Game of milligrams, remember? Wheels next. So, there is a whole world out there of esoteric boutique shallow-profile carbon tubulars, created seemingly only with weight in mind. Immediately, these were ruled out. Impossibly expensive, impossibly elusive, and completely impractical for your everyday cyclist, these wheels may be eye candy, but Doug actually wants to ride his bike, ya dig? We needed to look in a slightly more functional direction. Thankfully, there is a bit of a Venn diagram going on, and there does exist a small selection of wheels that are A) sub-1300g and B) versatile enough to be used as everyday wheels. The best choice of that shallow pool were Mavic's R-SYS SLR wheels.
Anecdotally, I can tell you that the R-SYS SLR wheels are incredible. I raced on them for a season, thanks to the generosity of Mavic, who was supporting the team that I was on at the time. They were many things at once, most notably incredibly light - they were my wheel of choice for any race featuring a long and challenging climb. They were also ridiculously stiff and responsive, and would've fared just fine in a crit. They cornered as perfectly as one could hope. A lot of this is due to their super-innovative spoke technology, employing the use of those drinking-straw looking hollow carbon spokes, giving the wheels a sort of wagon-wheel look. Naturally, the rear wheel's driveside is spared from this treatment, as a poorly adjusted rear derailleur shifting into carbon spokes would not necessarily result in funtime happiness. Instead, it is outfitted with more traditional Mavic spokes.
So from there, it's mostly finishing touches. S-Works carbon crankset with SRAM X-Glide chainrings to link up nicely with the Yaw front derailleur, which is, by the way, 100% living up to the hype. Doug is going to be perched on a carbon-railed Romin saddle, because performance and comfort are absolutely not mutually exclusive.
Here's where I could go on about changing out small bits of hardware for lighter versions of the same thing, but really, I don't want to bore you too much with that - We'll save that information for Doug, maybe the only person I've ever seen get so excited about charts and graphs and milligrams and marginal gains. To be completely honest, his enthusiasm for this process has been contagious: Never really one to care about the weight of my bikes (so long as they're in the general neighborhood of "light"), I found myself getting really into his quest for the magic number of 10%. We're still a few parts away from completion - his pedals, for instance, are with him - but it looks like we're on target, amazingly, and it's been one hell of a trip.