Should I buy that new piece of ultralight gear, or just go to the bathroom first?

The average human poop event weighs between 7.3 and 9.3 ounces, according to an Iranian study of 100 male and female subjects. I only looked this up because I think no one should buy a $7,000 carbon-fiber bicycle, since the only people who arguably “need” a bicycle that expensive already get them for free and pedal them in races like the Tour de France.

If your full-time job is something other than “professional cyclist,” I think you should save the money you’d like to spend on the newest ultralight bike frame, get something cheaper, and just take a dump before you go on your ride.

Going light makes sense up to a point, and the race to make everything lighter and faster has given us several great advances most of us wouldn’t want to live without, but in many respects, we’ve arrived at a place of severely diminishing returns for increased, sometimes astronomical, prices.

Consider this: If you weigh 180 pounds and you have 15 percent bodyfat, you are carting around 27 pounds of fat. Lose 9 pounds of fat and you’re down to 171 pounds and 10.5 percent bodyfat. You can imagine the possibilities if you start eating only egg whites, boiled chicken breasts, rice and vitamins like a bodybuilder and can cut your bodyfat down to 4 percent. Maybe you could take the entire seat off your bike, too, and just cut a little slice in a tennis ball and put it over the seat post. That’d be light. But, if you aren’t down to 4 percent bodyfat, don’t even bother. Are your fingernails trimmed?

For around $10,000, you can own a Scott Addict LTD triathlon bike. It is the one of the lightest bicycles ever built, and the frame weighs in at only 1.74 pounds! An online retailer says “You actually have to add weight to the frame just to make it race-legal, which means you’ll be hard pressed to find a faster climbing, more efficient or better handling machine. The Addict LTD is Scott’s ultimate achievement of form, function and style with every detail carefully considered and weighed.” It is actually the ultimate achievement for a weekend warrior executive who wants to own, to paraphrase my friend Maynard, “a bicycle-shaped trophy.”

The Surly Pacer, a bike with a 6.5-pound steel frame, is nearly one-ninth the cost at $1175. You can buy four of them and still have enough money left over to buy three 50-inch flat-screen TVs to watch the Tour de France on.

Arc’Teryx makes a rock climbing harness called the S240, which only weighs 8.7 ounces. It’s $100, and here’s what a reviewer on a retail web site said: “This harness is super light, but I was skeptical when I ordered it that it would be comfortable and that I might only use it for redpoint attempts where weight is important.”

Yes, and when not getting psyched up for said redpoint attempts and going as light as possible, the guy can wear his clunky old Black Diamond Momentum AL harness, which weighs in at an obese 14.3 ounces and costs $50. Better take your shirt off and send that thing in a Speedo if weight is that important. Might even have to take that beanie off. Better yet, just free solo the route, and you won’t be hauling that 3 to 4 pounds of rope up with you.

Of course, there are places and times where going light makes a lot of sense, such as thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, where folks have been known to cut off clothing labels and cut edges off maps. Ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain, as the saying goes, and every extra ounce is multiplied over the millions of steps on the 2,650-mile hike. Do ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain over the course of a 70-mile bicycle race? Yes, but no one’s come out with a $5,000 ultralight backpack and $5,000 ultralight sleeping bag. Plus, thru-hiking the PCT is a six-month event. The PCT is where the “Why don’t you just take a dump before you leave?” theory won’t work, because the average PCT thru-hiker will have more than 250 bowel movements on their expedition.

But, most colonic, or colon hydrotherapy, advocates will tell you that the average human has 2 to 10 pounds of uneliminated waste hanging out in their lower intestine. So, before you head out on the PCT, schedule yourself a couple colonics, or that ultralight beer can stove and titanium cookset will be all for naught.

Also, your appendix weighs about 4.5 ounces.


9 replies on “Should I buy that new piece of ultralight gear, or just go to the bathroom first?

  • Cupcake

    this is one of the most brilliant articles i have ever read. you can’t imagine how many conversations i have had relating to this. you took all my incoherent ramblings and made sense of it. everyone needs to see this. thanks

  • Gourmet (PCT'12)

    I hiked the PCT this year, and and can say that:
    -Stuff costs money; Cutting weight means taking less stuff, which means spending less money on doodads which you don’t need.
    -Training is more important than weight. Period. After a month on the trail, I cared less about my pack weight, and more about how much I was eating- and pooping.

    The fastest PCT thru-hiker this year was “Insane Dwayne,” who carried a 40-lb base pack weight and did 40-mile days.
    Your weekend warrior executive “needs” that light bike to make up for lost training.

    Hike your own hike- “Insane Dwayne” had his speed matched by “Mouse”, whose pack weighed a paltry 5lbs. The two of them had a great time hiking long days together, despite their very different styles.

  • Andy

    Thank goodness I have already had my appendix out! I generally agree with you, but on the ounces equal pounds front, I think that you can be smart with where ad how you drop weight. Getting a super light boot-binding-ski setup will really make a difference for backcountry skiing. Also, who doesn’t drop off a few poo-pounds before a race? That is one men’s room where there will be two free urinals and a line going out the door.

  • Brian

    Great article! I agree with what you are saying 100%…. The obsession with bike weight has gotten out of hand. One minor correction….. The Surly Pacer frame weighs 4.5 pounds. The 6.5 pound weight listed in the article is the weight of the frame and fork combined, with the fork having an uncut steerer. I test rode one the other day and it was one of the smoothest and solid feeling bikes I have ever ridden. As I rode it, the weight was the last thing that I was thinking about…… The great ride quality was about all I was thinking about!

  • tinker

    Over half of a human’s body weight is water. Before a big climb I elect to dehydrate myself to shed those needless pounds.

  • Forrest

    I bought a carbon road bike when I was constipated. Now that that’s fixed, I can still poop before I ride it.

    Actually there’s a lot I love about the bike other than its weight. The thing handles like you wouldn’t believe. It’s a road bike, so I can’t ride it just anywhere, but I pedaled it to the highest pavement on Rainier and Baker, and over 9 (?) mountain passes. Enjoyed the handling on the way back down.

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