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Climbing Speed Case Study for Everest Challenge Stage Race

Air resistance is minimal for a steep climb, because speeds are very low. Therefore, there is a near-linear relationship between weight and rate of ascent (there are mechanical losses and some friction from tires, air, etc, but these losses are relatively small).

For the example, let’s assume a rider equipped as follows:

Rider: 176 pounds
Clothing and shoes: 4 pounds
Bike: 15 pounds
Water: 4 pounds
Helmet: 1 pound
TOTAL: 200 pounds

For this configuration, a 1% reduction in total weight means that 2 pounds must be dropped. It should result in nearly a 1% reduction in ascent time, assuming a steep ascent and quality gear.

Taking the Everest Challenge as an example, let’s assume 10 hours of climbing over 2 days out of a 14 hour race (there are somewhat flat intermediate sections after all).

10 hours = 36,000 seconds (3600 seconds per hour X 10)
1% savings = 360 seconds = 6 minutes

While 6 minutes might not seem like a lot for a 10-hour climb, it is common to see leading competitors clustered within a few minutes of each other. In other words, saving 2 pounds might mean 1st place or 5th place!

But what if the rider can drop 5 pounds of body fat, and 5 pounds of equipment weight by using a lighter bike, wheels, shoes, etc? That’s 10 pounds, and it means a full half hour saved. A half hour could mean 10 or 20 places! In short, weight does matter a great deal.

Total Weight
Weight Reduction
(pounds, %)
Potential Time Reduction
200 0, 0% 00:00  
198 2, 1% 06:00 Difference between light wheels and average ones
196 4, 2% 12:00 Difference between average bike and light one
194 6, 3% 18:00  
192 8, 4% 24:00  
190 10, 5% 30:00  
184 16, 8% 48:00  
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