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The World's Lightest Bike
article & images by Nick Salazar
Sep 15, 2010  hits 1,267,824

Specs
  • Spin Custom Frame, THM custom fork
  • Ax Lightness brake calipers
  • B-T-P downtube shifters
  • Mythic Crankset
  • Ax Lightness custom rims
  • Dash prototype hubs
  • Basically ... custom everything!
Fairwheel Bikes has set a new world record of just 2.7kg

In 2008, a German named Gunter Mai stunned the cycling world by building the lightest road bike ever made. The initial build of his light bike tipped the scales at just under 3.2 kg, and he eventually tuned it down even more to roughly 2.8kg. And it was no mere show bike; Mai reportedly logged over 20,000km on the machine in its first couple years. But he shocked the cycling commumity again when, early this year, he suddenly parted out the entire bike and sold each piece individually, scattered to the four winds.

But some of the key parts made it into the hands of a Colorado rider who wanted to reincarnate the anorexic beast, and he sent off the custom Spin frame, THM fork, the stem/handlebars, and a few more parts to Jason Woznick of Fairwheel Bikes in Tuscon, Arizona. There, Woznick set to work sourcing the lightest parts available to finish off the build. Almost every part on the bike is completely custom, and cannot be purchased off the shelf anywhere, for any price.

Holding the machine is truly breathtaking. There's nothing to it. Even picking up another object of similar weight isn't quite illustrative, because, for example, a gallon of milk is very dense (and also two pounds heavier). Picking up a six-pound bike is different -- it simply feels like nothing is there.

An (expensive) exercise in (gram) frugality

A chunky alloy stem will weigh more than the stem, handlebar, bar tape, brake levers, cable housing, downtube shifters, and cables on this svelte machine.

As we were shooting the bike, a bystander walked by and asked how much such a machine would cost. The simple answer is that it's not an item that can be purchased. You can't just grab some parts from your local bike shop and hope to achieve a world record bike. This machine required the efforts of several industry leaders, including, for example, a one-off fork made by THM, who already make the lightest production fork. Woznick estimates that, with enough cash, you might be able to get the various component makers to recreate their efforts, but probably not for less than around $45,000. "I imagine that if you call up THM and ask them to make you a special fork, they're going to ask you for five or six thousand dollars," Woznick guesses. "Run that across the whole bike, and you're talking about a lot of money."

Some of the parts aren't really available even if you have the cash to swing around. "The carbon in those Ax rims, for example, isn't readily available. They got a very small amount of it from some Formula One guys, and it's a grade of carbon that you can't actually purchase anywhere."

What might be possible ...

This prototype Dash rear hub is actually scheduled to see production some time in 2011.

The point of this bike is obviously not to produce a machine for the masses. But by pushing the limits, manufacturers up their game. They learn new techniques and new possibilities, and some of that technology eventually trickles down to a production level. For example, the prototype Dash hubs on the bike, both front and rear, are going into production in 2011. The rear hub, at an astounding 84 grams, will be beefed up very slightly, and should run at around 99 grams. The front hub, a 30 gram wonder, should remain the same.

And that's why we care about this machine here at TriRig. Of course this isn't a tri bike, and you're not likely to see anything resembling it at your local dealer. But the point is that it's pushing the limits in a way that's very good for our sector of the market. Aero parts are too often produced without regard to how much they're going to weigh. After all, aero trumps weight, right? But why should that mean that weight doesn't matter? Despite the aero arms race, we're glad to see other aspects of bike construction being examined.

Check the gallery below for pics of the world-record-breaking light bike, as well as another Fairwheel project, a very trick 3-speed fixed gear Parlee bike.

  • In all its minimal glory, the 2.7kg Spin Custom Light Bike.
  • The front end has a set of AX Lightness Orion calipers, and a set of B-T-P downtube shifters which weigh a scant 9g for the pair.
  • Upgraded from its previous iteration under Mai, the bike now features a 10-speed drivetrain with a SRAM RED modified rear derailleur at just over 100g.
  • Fairwheel used a modified Record front derailleur.
  • Crank duties go to a prototype Mythic crank, not available at your local dealer.
  • These Aerolite pedals were an extra lightweight one-off version from the manufacturer, and then drilled out for extra weight savings.
  • We thought it interesting to juxtapose this insanely light bike with some heavyweight machinery.
  • The bike is probably lighter than the laptop you're using to look at this very image.
  • The 30g Dash front hub.
  • The rear hub is a mad 84g, but production versions will be just a little over that.
  • The saddle and seatpost are one bonded carbon unit that weigh less than 80g complete.
  • The Spin used a freaky style of carbon that we'd never seen before.  Even Jason from Fairwheel doesn't know what it is.
  • One of Fairwheel's other projects was a very special Parlee aero frame, turned into a three-speed fixed gear with an internal rear hub.
  • The bike's paint job is a reveal - white paint, scratched away to reveal the black carbon underneath.
  • Fairwheel's custom top cap.
  • The bike just looks sick.
  • After the show, everything gets locked up in Fairwheel's booth.

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