Technical FAQ: Weight distribution, compatibility, and more

Lennard Zinn addresses reader questions about weight distribution on a bike, mixing cogsets, and more

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

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Weight distribution on a road bike

Dear Lennard,
Decided to do a little research into weight distribution. Doesn’t seem to be much out there. Found lightly to unsupported answers between 55/45 percent (rear/front) to 70/30 percent. Will two scales be an accurate way to ascertain this? Would love to hear what you have to say about it.
— Scott

Dear Scott,
I think the reason there is not much out there is because people say things about it but rarely actually measure it. I’m convinced that anybody who says the weight distribution on a road bike should be 55 percent on the rear wheel and 45 percent on the front (or 50/50, or anything in the realm below 60 percent on the rear wheel) never actually measured it. Either that, or they were built a lot differently than anybody I’ve ever measured; one would have to have a very big, heavy head, among other things. (I’m not talking aero bars, just standard drop bars.)

It’s actually quite easy to measure, and you only need one scale and a block of wood or book of the same thickness as the scale. Put the scale under one wheel and the block or book under the other. Read off the scale reading. Put the scale under the other wheel; same with the block or book. Record this scale reading as well.

Divide the rear reading by the sum of the front and rear readings to get the percentage on the rear wheel. Subtract this from 100 to get the front percentage, or perform the same calculation with the front wheel.

Don’t be surprised if it comes out 70/30.

While it may seem that having as close to even weight distribution over the wheels is a noble goal, it is not worth sacrificing the fit and handling characteristics that you would have to in order to achieve it. Making the chainstays so long, the saddle position so far forward, the stem so long, the top tube so short, the head angle so steep and fork rake so short to achieve 55/45 or so weight distribution, which would also result in a lot of overlap of the foot with the front tire, would actually not lead to good bike handling.

Bike handling works fine with two-thirds or so of the weight on the rear wheel; don’t try to get more toward 50/50 or 55/45. Think about it: you know when the weight on the front gets up around 50 percent, and you don’t like it. Think of an aero bike with a short top tube, long aero bar, super-steep seat angle, and forward saddle position; you instinctively know that’s not what you’d want to ride a tight criterium course on. Or think of when you slam on your brakes on a steep downhill for a sharp corner and your weight shifts way forward; it doesn’t feel good, and you try very hard to push your butt way back on the seat— and behind the seat, even — before you get to the corner.
― Lennard

Compatibility questions

Dear Lennard,
I’ve seen several of your posts about using a 9-speed MTB rear derailleur with a 10-speed Shimano mechanical group to enable use of an 11-32 cassette. Will this work with all 9-speed MTB rear derailleurs or are there particular models to use?
— Stuart

Dear Stuart,
Any Shimano 9-speed mountain-bike (or road bike) rear derailleur works with any Shimano 10-speed road shifter.
― Lennard

Dear Lennard,
I’ve heard a lot about there being compatibility between the major brands 11-speed cassettes. I was wondering whether you had found anything similar and [if I] could run a Campy groupset with a Shimano/SRAM cassette, or vice versa?
— Ted

Dear Ted,
Yes, you can, and I’ve been beating the drum about it for well over a year now.

I have 11-speed cogsets from SRAM, Shimano, and Campagnolo spread randomly around my road and cyclocross bikes, which also vary between SRAM, Shimano, and Campagnolo, and the cogsets all shift well on any of the drivetrains without even requiring readjustment of the derailleur after a wheel change.
― Lennard

Feedback on preventing cleat slippage on the shoe

Dear Lennard,
For years, I had the same problem as the letter writer, but with Sidi Genius shoes and Shimano road cleats (size 51 shoes coupled with your 190mm cranks). I permanently solved the problem by cutting out little shims to fit between the cleats and the shoes, out of flat rubber grippers that usually come two for a dollar at any grocery store (the ones for getting lids off of jars). Just put the cleat on the gripper, use a Sharpie to outline the three holes and the outside, and cut out with scissors and then install under the cleat. I’ve never had a problem since. Way simpler than glue and sandpaper. The rubber is very thin, so it doesn’t need longer screws — and it provides more than enough “stick” to keep the cleats from moving.
— John S.

Feedback on cyclocross tubular gluing

Dear Lennard,
This post about gluing ’cross tires came just after I watched an excellent video on the topic posted by a likely friend of yours, Michael Robson.

There is a bit of promotion in there with the Butter Red Tape, but [it’s] an effective video nonetheless. You may want to consider posting it along with your column.
— John M.

Dear John,
Here it is! Yes, Michael is a good friend, and he does have a good gluing video that I’m linking to just in time for last-minute glue jobs before cyclocross nationals. Thanks, Michael!
― Lennard

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