Crazy Expensive Bikes/Parts

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I haven’t really been paying attention to how much bikes and parts cost. I don’t go to the manufactures website and see what the price for their top end road or MTB bikes sell for. Last year, I remembering going into a Trek Concept Store in San Diego and ended taking photos of the price tags because it amazed me, but I didn’t really spend enough time in there to understand how stupid expensive that nearly everything is now.

Trudi just got a email from BMC, seeing if she wants to get a bike. It listed the retail costs of the BMC line. There is a TT bike that costs nearly $12000. So, I went to the Specialized website and saw that is about the same price for their new Shiv TT Di2 bike. $11000 for the high end Tarmac. The Epic MTB is a more reasonable $10500 with Sram or XTR parts.

These numbers are insane. I can’t really understand it. Then I started looking at individual parts. And it’s even more stupid. Hydraulic brakes can cost nearly $400 a wheel. Seats that top $200. And that isn’t an expensive one. Carbon railed seats over $300. What happened to the $30 seat. I’ve have to work 3 jobs if I had to buy a new seat everytime I ruined one. They break by nearly just looking at them now. I used to ride the same saddle season after season.

I might not ever advise anyone to ever to go out and purchase a new MTB bike. If I hit the wrong race with that new bike, I could take it’s $10000 retail value bike down to less the $2000 in just a couple hours. I did that once in Brazil.

I was riding for Specialized and took a brand new race bike to a Cactus Cup in Sao Paulo one February. It rained the whole day before and the course was solid clay. It was a 3 mile loop and took close to 45 minutes for each of 3 laps. There wasn’t a part on that bike, well, maybe the tires, that didn’t need to be replaced. I carried the bike so much on my shoulder, cyclo-x style, that all the paint on the left side of my bike was gone and it was down to bare aluminum.

I thought that the price of carbon wheels was getting kind of out of control. But if you look around, you can get a pretty light set of good wheels for less than $1000. That seems like a deal compared to hydraulic brakes. The same with the electronic Di2 shifting. I thought it was insanely priced. Now it doesn’t seem so nuts, considering how well it works.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this. I guess I want to stress that in most circumstances, bike racing doesn’t come down to what equipment you have. For sure, your equipment has to work properly, but don’t get caught up in riding an UCI weight limit bike of 6.8 kg (a little under 15 lbs.) I’ve never had a road bike close to that weight. Todd Wells’ cross bike nearly weighs less than my road bike and my road bike is pretty stupid light.

For road racing, I’d sink my extra $$$’s in wheels and tires. For MTB and cross, tires are the most the most important piece of equipment on your bike. Other than that, get by with what you can. If you have the means to be riding a $12000 bike, go for it. There is nothing like it. But, if you don’t have the means, don’t let it stress you out too badly. It’s mostly the engine that gets you to the finish line first.

Here on eBay, you can get Dave Zabriskie’s old TT bike for a modest $5500. Of course, you’re going to have to drop another $3000 on fast wheels.

32 thoughts on “Crazy Expensive Bikes/Parts

  1. Spice

    Imagine trying to sell that stuff. 10 years ago a high end bike cost aprox. $5000, now it’s over $10,000. Who can afford it?

    The industry is slowly killing itself.

  2. KU

    Inflation accounts for a huge portion of that price increase from ten years ago. Everything is more expensive, not just bikes. Dura Ace and cutting edge technology will always cost absurd amounts of money.

  3. TripleChainring

    It’s about time you tuned into our level, Steve. We don’t have bike manufacturers sending us tires and new frames and wheels every time we need something. Most of us don’t win $1500 at races either. Nevertheless we do enjoy your blog!

  4. ray

    The sport has really made it tough for new people to try it. Its a major investment for most people especially in this economy.
    How can a junior even approach it when most bikes are only going to fit them one year?
    Carbon bikes are really tough for some to justify. How can $3000-5000 of investment turn into $ 0 in an instant? A Cat4/5 criterium.

  5. Doug Punches

    When Dura-Ace STI shifters were introduced, they retailed for $650; which is the cost of an STI equipped entry-level road bike today. In the late 80’s early 90’s, I sold Huffy Triton road bikes which retailed for $10-$12.5K and weighed well over 20 lbs. Now I ride a sub-16lb. (less pedals) Specialized Roubaix Pro w/ Sram Red, which retailed for under $5K. High-end technology has trickled-down to less expensive bikes. Now-a-day, you can buy a full-carbon road bike for under $2,000. That was unheard of 20-years ago.

  6. Parker

    In my opinion, this is part of the reason why some of the biggest fields now days are the Masters races. Who can afford it anymore? It doesn’t make sense to me when tires for your bike cost more than tires for your car and a new bike costs same as a quality used car or down payment on a house.

  7. tilford97 Post author

    Triple-I’m not sure out where “our” level is. If you’re taking about equipment, when I show up at most races, I’m riding a good bike, but that is it, nothing special. At Berryman, the last two years, I’ve been riding a 1998 YBB Titanium frame that I won Master’s Worlds on. With Shimano XTR wheels that are at least 10 years old. This year I was on my Eriksen titanium frame. Just because I wasn’t up to speed on the cost of high end equipment doesn’t mean I can’t complain about it.

    I do race over 80 races a year and go through a ton of equipment. And I am very fortunate that I don’t have to pay for most of the equipment I destroy.

    But this “inflation” of prices effects all of us. The sport is expensive enough because of the travel, entries, etc. that doubling the prices of high end bicycles at the shops can’t be good for the local and regional riders.

    It seems that the trickle down effect is only happening by the manufactures sponsoring the Pro Tour level teams. That is something else that needs to be addressed.

  8. Jim

    I am lucky enough to be able to get stuff wholesale and even the cost there staggers me. I have no idea have people can afford to pay retail. BTW, I am talking about everyday stuff not the stuff that Steve mentions. That is simply beyond any consideration for me (and I love bikes).
    However, when I looked at the list of equipment used at Ironman, I could see who is spending the money. YOW!!

  9. chad

    So true Steve! I need a new road bike because mine is 6 years old and the frame got bent in a crash. My friend who is sponsored offered to sell me his bike from last year for half price of hole sale. He only wants $4000 for it. $4000, no way I can pay that kind of $ for a bike. The car my wife and I drive was $4000. And they call me middle class.

  10. Jim

    Somebody has to pay for all that marketing.

    You can get a caad whatever for pretty much nothing; the wheels, as you mentioned, are going to cost.

  11. JD

    I had my last sponsored bike stolen this year, so I bought one of those Chinese carbon frames. I got frame, fork, headset, seatpost, and carbon bars off of eBay for $440.

    This gives you some idea of what the markup is on the big name frames. My bike isn’t the lightest (17 lbs w/10s Ultegra and Powertap), but the whole thing was like $1200 (new, except for wheels) and it’s damned stiff.

  12. old and slow

    The other side of this is that the maintanence paradigm has gotten to be just like owning a car. My LBS gets $130 for their “middle of the road” tuneup package.

    The last new technical refinement that I could afford to deploy across all my road bikes was Look Pedals. Brifters are in such demand for working used parts nowadays that I still don’t go there. So naturally I am grateful that the time trial bike market has kept bar end shifters in production.

    Basically if you draw the line at eight speed you will get about 3x the mileage for your money. I’m buying used parts all the time, I filled up a car at VeloSwap on Saturday but whenever I come across nine and ten speed stuff I try to sell them ASAP.

  13. Tommasini53

    Those $5,000 plus prices are not so much driven by inflation of the past couple decades. A bike that sold for $1,000 in 1982 would sell for $2,335 today just looking only at inflation (

    The leap to the stratospheric pricing of $5k plus is all that research, development, marketing, and don’t forget the “diamonds effect” of selling new products.

    I agree with the postings above…you can put together a very good bike if you don’t buy the latest and lightest. But stamping out TT bikes for sanctioned events would save us some $$.

  14. Cavvycav

    I say buy used MTB. Go big on the road frame and road wheels. Then cheap as possible on cross. Some of those Titanium road frames are really looking good these days. I love the carbon ride and all but heaven forbid it gets dropped or crashed. Yelp, ti is my next road frame. Tough and built to last at the grassroots level here in the USA. I’m sick of how disposable and consumer driven carbon is.

  15. china

    Yep bikes are crazy expensive now. Just go to ebay and buy 4 frames for 300 rather than one top end for $$$$s. You are going to crash so don’t fall for the marketing. They are all from china anyway. There is no need for a 300 dollar saddle.

    The equation is not what is top end i is what is the most durable vs what it costs. I mostly downgrade on everything. It is not about the bike.

  16. Rad Renner

    My first “racing” bike was a used Peugeot that I bought for $75. Sure it was heavy, but so was everyone else’s bike, relatively speaking. Nowadays I race on an alloy frame I purchased in 2006, kinda heavy compared to the sub 15 lb. bikes, but I’ve only got about a grand into, not counting the wheels of course. Nice, light wheels. Like Steve said, spend your money on wheels.

    And can people just stop ragging on Steve on his own f-ing blog? Steve’s a decent guy, he washes kittens for crissakes, so just be nice or STFU.

  17. Old and Slow

    In terms of people who have been getting their bikes and parts from sponsors without interruption for the last thirty years, there’s Steve Tilford, Ned Overend and maybe one and a half more in all of North America.

    Under those circumstances I think it’s pretty cool that he even appreciates this aspect myself?

    So I have a crush on a first generation Schwinn Paramount OS Steve, slap some sense into me if you ever rode one of those?

  18. tilford97 Post author

    I have a Schwinn Paramount in my basement. My original Wheaties/Schwinn bicycle. I’ve been meaning to put some pedals on, pump up the tires and see how it rides. I think it would seem strange compared to what I ride now.

    And, I don’t mind people raggin’ on me here. Everyone has their own perspective on each and every subject.

    It’s totally cool to leave your opinion here. I am a big boy and can hopefully take it.

  19. H Luce

    I saw Jeannie Golay race her first race, some sort of criterium in Jacksonville FL, on a beater bike, a ten-speed spray-painted black. I think she got it for $10. She lapped the field three times that day, won the race by a lap, riding against riders with bikes costing $2000 – that was in 1984 or 1985. John Lieswyn’s first race bike had his book bag on it, it was the bike he rode to school on. He won races on that bike against riders riding expensive bikes.

  20. Old and Slow

    You might want to take a real good look at those tires first?

    It would be a shame to waste that form you seem to be coming into on a goofy experiment?

    The weird thing is that when the casing is intact those 15 year old bike tires can wear just like iron. I threw a very used and very old Continental wire bead 28C on the rear wheel of my commuter back in June that I thought had maybe 300 miles left to it max. It’s outlasted two $60 rear tires on my weekend bike since then. I imagine that you lose something in hard cornering but I don’t care to find out exactly what it is.

    That 7400-7402 Dura Ace stuff on your Schwinn is becoming very popular and for good reason too. There’s maybe one tenth as much of it out there as Super Record for one thing.

  21. Scott Dickson

    It seems like many riders are overly image-conscious. A high priced bike does little to help any rider attain success in racing. As long as the drive-train is clean and runs smooth, and the wheels are light and tight it is ultimately going to come down to the motor and the mind. Over the last 40 years there has been minimal improvement to the mechanical efficiency of the racing bicycle. The biggest changes to racing have been in aerodynamics on TT bikes with positioning ,disc wheels, and skinsuits. Let’s try to ignore the advances in the pharmaceutical sciences.

  22. aki

    I had parallel similar thoughts a bit back, but it had to do more with the fact that you could get perfectly adequate bikes for much less than top level prices. I had this fantasy/idea that a solid Cat 3 or Cat 2 team could race on what amounted to be $1000-1200 bikes, adjusted for fit (bars, stems, saddles, pedals, possibly crank lengths) and with some kind of good wheel/tire setup.

    I understand that the wheels/tires would cost more than the “bike”, but still, the foundation would be different/unique and the racer’s results somewhat similar. I know I use some pretty sweet aero carbon tubular wheels and I get spanked consistently by stronger riders on non-aero box alum clinchers. It’s about the engine, and no one wants us to remember that.

    As a “kid” (15-25 or so) I used to use the bike/car ratio to measure “seriousness”. If the bike > car, then the racer was serious. I had a $1250 (wholesale prices) bike on a $250 (for tax purposes – I paid $1) car. Later in life, with a real job and less racing, the ratio reversed, with the bike = 1/10 car. Right now, with a different bike, different car, it’s about bike = 1/5 car.

    Unless I suddenly become stupid wealthy, I’ll never buy a $10k bike (in 2011 dollars). Maybe for when I race in M65+ Nationals I’ll be spending $10k on a bike (and think it’s a deal), but right now, no.

  23. beav

    Dickson hit the nail on the head.

    This same issue really struck me when I picked up VeloNews a few weeks back and one of the leadoff photo spreads was of the 11-12 Juniors lined up for the start at Nationals. Almost every kid had deep dish carbon wheels, carbon frames, built out with mostly Dura Ace, one or two “slumming” with Ultegra, and the kid who won had a bike built with full on 11-speed Super Record. Probably close to $10k. Ridiculous. At 11 or 12 years old, I can guaran-damn-tee that the kid who had the skills to win could have still won on a $1,000 bike. With junior gearing restrictions and as young as they are, the advantages of aero/weight are virtually nil at the speeds they are riding.

    If the parents who have this kind of cash to throw around really cared about developing the sport they would be buying their kid a nice aluminum (or better yet, steel) bike built out with 105/Rival at best, and then buy 5-10 of the exact same bike for their kid’s friends in the neighborhood and get them into junior racing.

    Looking at the tiny number of kids entering junior races now, it seems to be a fraction of what it was 25 years ago when I was a mediocre at best junior. There seem to be far more masters racers and far fewer juniors, which does not bode well for the future development of the sport. Kids on $10k bikes hardly makes it seem like a welcoming and attainable sport for parents of prospective junior racers, but more like an elitist pursuit of the well heeled, like polo or golf at the exclusive country club.

  24. dirty_juheesus!

    Blame USAC. The federation promotes consumption. None of their equipment regulations encourage participation. None.

    Advertising costs are the biggest price driver. Until the product rots on the shelf, the prices will keep going up.

  25. Heck on Wheels

    I think the biggest advantage afforded to people with the money are those deep dish carbon wheels. I didn’t really give it much attention till about 8 years ago. Up until then I had always ridden the standard 32 spoke box rim setup, then I got to ride a bicycle for a week with a set of zipp 404’s. WOW…I can say at the very least you can average 1mph faster on that type of wheelset. My main beef with it is the performance and money gap in between carbon and aluminum. It’s like you go from $150 rims to $700 for a rim. These number are not exact, but you get my point.

  26. Heck On Wheels

    My biggest beef is with wheel prices. No doubt a set of Zipp404’s give you an advantage over anything aluminum. It’s like you go from $600 to $3000 and there is nothing inbetween so to speak.


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