There’s an interesting article in the British Medical Journal on bicycle weight and commuting time. In summary, it was found that riding a much heavier bike, over a regular, 27-mile commute, did NOT affect overall commuting time. (The article abstract is reprinted below.)
While the Dutch seem to have discovered this on their own my impression is that Americans still tend to commute on lightweight racing-style bikes. This causes us to pedal with great exertion and wear funny shoes and clothes, with little choice but to shower and change at the office.
That is, the USA is still a country where bicycling is viewed mostly as recreation or exercise — not transportation.
Objective To determine whether the author’s 20.9 lb (9.5 kg) carbon frame bicycle reduced commuting time compared with his 29.75 lb (13.5 kg) steel frame bicycle.
Design Randomised trial.
Setting Sheffield and Chesterfield, United Kingdom, between mid-January 2010 and mid-July 2010.
Participants One consultant in anaesthesia and intensive care.
Main outcome measure Total time to complete the 27 mile (43.5 kilometre) journey from Sheffield to Chesterfield Royal Hospital and back.
Results The total distance travelled on the steel frame bicycle during the study period was 809 miles (1302 km) and on the carbon frame bicycle was 711 miles (1144 km). The difference in the mean journey time between the steel and carbon bicycles was 00:00:32 (hr:min:sec; 95% CI –00:03:34 to 00:02:30; P=0.72).
Conclusions A lighter bicycle did not lead to a detectable difference in commuting time. Cyclists may find it more cost effective to reduce their own weight rather than to purchase a lighter bicycle. [Emphasis added]