Racing bicycles are designed to minimize weight and air resistance. This Tour de France competitor is wearing tight-fitting clothes and an aerodynamic helmet to further reduce air resistance.
Racing bicycles are the lightest bicycles made and are available in forms designed either for racing on paved roads or on specially built tracks. Road-racing bicycles vary in weight depending on the materials used, but they generally weigh about 8 kg (18 lb); track-racing bicycles, which are stripped of brakes, gears, and other expendable parts, may weigh as little as 6 kg (13 lb).
Racing bicycles are optimized to minimize weight, reduce air resistance and friction with the ground, and provide greater control than other types of bicycles allow. They are constructed using lightweight metal alloys and other materials. Components such as brake levers and chain rings are perforated to reduce weight whenever the extra material can be safely removed without affecting the structural integrity of the component. A short wheelbase and small fork rakes produce a harsh ride but increase responsiveness and maneuverability. Gear ratios are narrowly spaced and higher than average to give maximum speed and power; 16 to 18 speeds is most common. Racing handlebars are usually narrow for minimum weight and wind resistance and dropped for maximum control and to allow numerous hand positions. In certain track events or road time trials, the handlebars may also include an aerobar on which the rider may rest the forearms while maintaining an aerodynamic crouch (aerobars are normally not allowed in mass-start races). Wheels have very narrow, light alloy rims and high-pressure tires to minimize friction and maximize responsive handling. Wheels may have light-gauge (thin) spokes or may be of a special aerodynamic design to minimize wind resistance and turbulence. The saddle is usually as narrow as possible to minimize weight and interference with pedaling.