Manufacturer’s claimed weight versus reality

When I started racing in the early ’80s everyone confidently claimed that their bike weighed 21 lbs, and I’m confident that they all were more in the 23 lbs range, or at least all of my racing bikes were. 21 lbs just sounded like what a racing bike should weigh. And then there was the day in 1990 when everyone who worked at The High Wheeler Bicycle Shop gathered around to witness the shop’s first Ritchey P-23 mountain bike get hung on the shop’s fish scale — somehow a bike that was supposed to weigh 23 lbs came out at over 25 lbs.

We all know that the “manufactured claimed weight” is often not the real weight. That’s why the Weight Weenie Listings has columns for “claimed” vs. “real” weights — they are often quite different.

741 gram Guru Photon at Interbike

741 gram Guru Photon at Interbike 2009

I decided to write this blog because in the past month we’ve heard from two of our great customers that their custom Guru Photon frames were significantly heavier than they thought they would be. At the last Interbike there was quite a buzz in the weight weenie community about the Guru Photon frame, and I even posted a photo on this blog of a sexy Photon frame on a scale at 741 grams. The frame was a 54cm, and it included the integrated seat mast and rear derailleur hanger. On Guru’s Photon web page they describe the Photon frame as “tipping the scales under 750 grams for a 54 cm”. This didn’t seem like an outrageous claim — they had two pre-production frames at Interbike, one frame was in a glass case hanging on a scale, and one frame was floating, almost literally, around the booth so onlookers and journalists could fondle and admire it. Some companies refused to let me weigh their pre-production frames, for fear of reality not matching up with their marketing machine’s claimed weight, but the Guru representatives were more than happy to let me put the frame on a scale and blog about it.

Guru Photon real weight

Reality -- 894 grams

So let’s jump to reality 6 months later. This friend of mine, who wished to keep his name out of our blog, is as gram conscious as them come, and he ordered his custom Guru Photon frame from a Denver Guru dealer almost immediately after Interbike. He’s working on a project bike so to him every gram is sacred. He opted for the non-integrated seat mast, choosing instead to use a traditional and very light seat post, in an attempt to make the project bike lighter. He designed the frame geometry to be as compact as possible, so that the seat tube, seat stays and head tube would be as short as possible. It’s hard to say what “size” the frame is, but I’d call it a compact 56 based on the top tube and head tube lengths he sent me. He was told that the frame would be under 700 grams due mostly to the fact that he opted out of the integrated seat mast. Imagine his dismay when he unpacked the frame, stuck it on his scale, and saw this — 894 grams. 894 grams is a light frame — don’t get me wrong. But my 58cm Cervelo R3-SL is an honest 845 grams, and it’s larger and less expensive, too.  MSRP on the Guru Photon is $4,900 and MSRP on the R3-SL is $3,995.

Then about two weeks after this friend sent me photos of his Photon on a scale, we received a call from a great CyclingTechnology.com customer who was also greatly disappointed with reality upon receiving his Photon frame. His small (54cm) Guru Photon frame, also sans integrated seat mast, came in about 100 grams heavier than he was told it would. These are bike geeks who are willing to spend $907 on a 65 gram AX-Lightness stem as opposed to $69 for a 115 gram Ritchey stem from ExcelSports.com (far better deal). And if you’re willing to spend an extra $800 on a crazy light stem to save 50 grams, you’re spending $16 for each saved gram. At this “grams-per-dollar” rate, saving 100 grams is worth $1,600, and saving 200 grams (894 gram Guru frame compared to the customer’s expected 690 grams) is worth $3,200.

Now Guru is not the only company that suffers from this problem — Ritchey back in 1990 did the same thing with the P-23. It seems that most major companies, like Trek, Specialized and even Cervelo, don’t publish frame weights, and you have to go look at independent reviews to fine out reality. So were these customer naive in believing they would get sub 700 gram frames? Or does Guru need to revise it’s “claimed weight” to match reality?