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Touring ultralight on a bicycle makes sense for mixed
terrain touring since lots of climbing is usual. Unlike flat land touring
which is often fully loaded, every pound carried in the alpine environment
comes with a penalty.
Ultralight touring is wholistic. Not only a bike's weight considered,
paring the entire load is essential. The entire load or traveling system
consists of bicycle, rider and gear.
Bicycles are a balance between weight reduction and durability. A mixed
terrain all-rounder bike needs to be durable, but must also be fairly
light. Production touring bikes are often around 27-29 lbs. These bikes
are great for fully loaded touring and with a few modifications can
be used for mixed terrain touring. But they are heavy for ultralight
touring. Today's mountain bikes with suspension also tend to be in this
same weight range.
A bike specifically designed for ultralight mixed terrain touring can
be durable enough yet weight around 21-25 lbs. Much lighter with today's
technology and the bike will not be durable enough. To get within this
weight range one must start with a fairly light frame (3.5-4.5 lbs).
Lightweight wheels under 4 lbs for the set help. So does going tubeless.
But choose tires carefully, there's a big difference in tire weights.
A well considered tire/wheel system can shave a couple pounds off a
Which is a bid deal considering saving rotational weight (spinning on
the outside of a tire/wheel) has about a 2 to 1 advantage over other
Checking each part's weight and exploring options can help find weight
savings in surprising ways. But the biggest savings probably comes from
keeping the bike simple. Don't add a front rack and use the simplest,
lightest rear rack available since the gear carried for ultralight touring
will be minimal anyway.
Perhaps the biggest place to shave weight is from the rider. Of course
this includes clothes and shoes. But body weight is the most important.
Shedding excess body weight not only saves on weight hauled, but also
increases the rider's performance.
With clothing and shoes, its best to choose a system that covers any
likely weather situation with the least amount of items. Layering is
important. Considering item weights is also imperative since there's
a lot of variability.
Consider not using SPD or another clipless pedal system. Not only can
you find substantially lighter platform pedals (with clips or power
straps) but you don't need specialized shoes. You definitely need a
good pair of shoes in case of hiking, so specialized bike shoes would
require carrying 2 pairs.
Ultralight bicycle tourers try to keep their gear load down to around
20 lbs. Of course this takes considerable planning of gear and route.
The Ultralight Backpacker
in New England