Bike Costs

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I was over at Big RIng Cycles, in Golden, CO, a couple days ago and talking to the owner, Scott, about bike costs and equipment.  He said that he sold a 23K road bike a few months back.  He said that it had a SRM on it, but the rest was just “regular” parts.

I was blown away.  I couldn’t add up the individual parts to get up to any number close to that.  We talked about high end mountain bikes and he said that it is really hard to get over $10,000 on the most tricked out mtb bike.  He said that he thought the manufactures and customers both realized that a 10K mtb bike could become a 3K mtb bike with one bad 2 hour ride or race.  So, there is a maximum that most people would spend, which makes sense.

But, the whole thing doesn’t make much sense really.  There are some really great bikes out there for less than 10% the cost of his $23,000 sale.  You’ll probably have to get some stuff 2nd hand, but that is part of the sport.  You’re not going to get 1000 gram carbon wheels, but you’ll get a bike that is much better than anything you could ride even 5 years ago.

I pretty much hate that the bike and components manufactures are changing everything so quickly nowadays.  How many different types of bottom brackets are there?  Shimano kept their freehub standard 8 speed through 10 speed.  Now the new 11 speed wheelset won’t work with 10 speed cogs.  I have a full garage full of 10 speed wheels that won’t work with my 11 speed shifters.

I like the practice of using my old road wheels for cross in the winter.  But with the choices of 10 or 11 speed, plus disc or rim braking, you pretty much have to have wheels dedicated specifically to cross, doubling up the equipment, thus the costs.

The new and the greatest equipment is a very attractive part of the sport for most cyclists.  It is for me, for sure.  I like the mechanical aspect of the sport.  I’d hate to just have to have a pair of running shoes and that was it for equipment.  Most hard core cyclists are somewhat equipment geeks.  But, there is a limit.

I feel so bad when I’m at a local criterium and there is a pile up in the Cat 4 race, or junior event.  Those guys are usually all buying their stuff.  And it is super easy to ruin $1000 worth of equipment in even a harmless crash.

It is getting ridiculous.   I have no problem with guys riding the newest and greatest stuff.  But, if you don’t have the means, don’t worry about it.  You can get a very good, competitive race bike pretty affordable still.  And it isn’t the bike that makes the rider.


This is what got me thinking about this.  Over at Steep and Cheap, each shift lever, left and right, for $409 each, regularly $590.  I'd never consider paying $1200 for a pair of hydraulic shifters and calipers.  It's just nuts.

This is what got me thinking about this. Over at Steep and Cheap, each shift lever, left and right, for $409 each, regularly $590. I’d never consider paying $1200 for a pair of hydraulic shifters and calipers. It’s just nuts.


43 thoughts on “Bike Costs

  1. OGS

    I agree, and it’s not so much the price that gets me angry – the fact that there is a wider price range is fine, one can get a great bike for $2-3K, or one can spend $20K for marginal gains – but what bothers me more is your second half of the rant, about compatibility, and the fact that there is less and less mechanical “do it yourself” tinkering with the bike parts, swapping parts, fixing them yourself, etc.
    To me, this is an angle that makes cycling a great sport – you can pretty much fix anything and reconfigure your bike, all by yourself with just a few basic tools.
    But now with compatibility issues (how many bottom bracket standards are there), divergence of gearing options, electronic shifting, disk/rim brake, integrated seat posts etc. – it all creates barriers for “tinkering” and I think it’s bad overall since we may get new riders who have no idea how their bikes work, or how to adjust or fix anything.

  2. John McNulty

    You make excellent points in your article. Living in southern California, we have a steady stream of criteriums and very few road races. I made the decision in 2011 to find a good crit. bike so I ended up buying a end-of-the-year reduced price 2011 Cervelo S2 with Rival components for about $2400. That way, if I ever crashed it and it was a total loss then it wasn’t going to break the bank. Well, It turned out to be a great bike and after almost 30,000 miles, maybe 100 races, and a few crashes later it is still going strong. Even with its low price, I can’t think that there is a bike out there that I could have paid double or triple the price over what I paid for my S2 that would have been a better “race” bike.

  3. channel_zero

    If the manufacturers aren’t churning out new non-compatible stuff, then how are they supposed to stay in business?

    For me, cycling is cheaper than it has ever been thanks to the sheer numbers of people getting into, and then leaving the sport when they discover how badly the industry lied to them, or they just love being fashionable and churn through equipment accordingly.

    Also, since some go back to years when fillet brazed, lugged, steel was the only it helps to do a sanity check on how much inflation has impacted prices.

    1980: USD$4,000 is 2014: 11,525

    IMO, good equipment has come down considerably, especially if one strategically uses carbon and electronic gadgets.

  4. Bryan

    Why pay full price for bike gear. There is plenty of cheaper, and functioning, older equipment on ebay. I had my old Bob Jackson frame repaired and repainted about 4 years ago, and refit it to 9 speed STI. All parts bought on ebay. All of almost brand new. And it saved me probably thousands of dollars.

  5. Jason Anderson

    Prices are definitely way out of line. What’s worse is that so many people buy into the marketing thinking that all those expensive bikes and equipment will make them a better/faster racer. Once you pass the $3k mark, gains are marginal at best-except for time trial/tri bikes where aero wheels can break the bank.

    On the road I ride an older steel Bianchi with Campy 10spd ergo and still whoop all those guys on the expensive, high-tech stuff. I am currently working on a budget TT/tri bike. My goal is to keep the complete bike under $2k-including wheels and accessories. As of now I am on track for about $1,500! I would have had it done sooner and hoped to go after the 40k tt record but a bad crash in early spring crushed that plan.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love looking at all the new bikes/gadgets, and can appreciate what they can do for you, but it seems more than ever that people are trying to rely on equipment instead of relying on their bodies for results.

  6. channel_zero

    we may get new riders who have no idea how their bikes work, or how to adjust or fix anything.

    #1 From an engineering perspective, many of the modern features are just not possible without building closed systems. Anyone from Steve’s era or earlier remember the lack of gearing despite having a 5-speed block.

    #2 The industry (Shimano really) is trying to leverage these complicated, very precise, systems into maintenance revenue! This does not favor an LBS. The industry is going vertical with the bike brand more or less owning their own shops. So, it does not bother industry chiefs one bit that a consumer will not be able to work on their own bike. They see the inability to maintain your own equipment as incremental revenue.

  7. JB

    Steve, do you want to get rid of any 10-speed, disc, mtn bike (29) wheelsets?

    (I’m guessing your mtn bike is still 10-speed though…)

  8. channel_zero

    Anyone from Steve’s era or earlier remember the lack of gearing despite having a 5-speed block.

    Meaning, you could work on those bikes quite easily. But, feature-wise it is easy to say today’s gear ranges, shifting experience are far superior.

  9. Wildcat

    I race a ’94 GT Edge and I have always greatly enjoyed kicking the asses of guys with much nicer bikes than mine.

  10. Wildcat

    Furthermore, I think there’s something to be said about learning to race using down tube shifters. Not so much toe clips. I could never go back to racing in toe clips. But I think juniors should have to race with down tube shifters. For that matter, I also think everybody should be required to learn how to drive using a manual transmission.

  11. jed schneider

    In 2004 the top of the line Cannondale with full DA and Ksyrium SL wheels was priced at less than $4,000 retail. That same year, Scott put their full carbon bike on the scale, a pound lighter than the Cannondale for $8,000, and they flew off the shelves. All the other manufacturers got the message, put out a carbon bike, and in 2005 you could by and $8,000 bike from any major company. Its just gotten more insane since then. But, someone has to pay for the doping programs on the pro tour.

  12. Levi

    It’s sickening what’s happened in the tech part of the sport. $23,000 for a bike that didn’t even have all the state of the art stuff. What kinda drugs do you have to be on to do that sort of thing?

    It’s golf.

    And who golfs? Rich, white, entitled douche bags that all pretty much suck and are way too old to improve, but love to compete (out purchase each other). Wait….I just described master’s bike racing.

  13. Frozen in Wisco

    I guess they wouldn’t make that stuff if there was not a market.
    Wish list:
    10 speed shifter w/out the cable coming out of the side of the head.
    A 120cm rear wheel for my 1971 Gitane “Tour de France”. That track wheel I’m using works but 3 speed modded freewheel is a bit challenging on some of these hills around here.

  14. Gordo

    Steve, At some point time moves on. The fact that Shimano kept a standard on their wheels that covered a span of over 25 years to cover all the speed upgrades is amazing. As a Shimano sponsored guy you should be supporting the innovation Shimano comes up with.
    It is a bummer if you want to go to 11 speed but are reluctant like a racer friend of mine and bought new carbon wheels a few years ago. However, my complaining friend also got the wheels at a great deal, duh wonder why?
    I am sure you can always keep running 10 speed as that is plenty of speeds or clean house and donate all the old wheels to the local racers who are still running 10 speed and crashing stuff out. Just saying. Gordo

  15. Double J

    Prices are not out of line as we, the consumer as a whole, continue to pay for it. If it were out of line then folks wouldn’t pay, the industry would have to adjust, and a fair balance would be struck. But the consumer keeps plunking the dollars down for the latest and greatest so we will continue to pay what is the going rate. Don’t like it, don’t buy; sadly thats how it works…

  16. Bolas Azules

    Watching racing today, with so many different types of components, combinations, sizing differences…. how does a rider get a wheel change? I’m serious. Is there anything like ‘neutral support?’

  17. Levi

    ……and that’s just it. The sport used to look a lot different, with regular guys and blue collar dudes with work ethic and talent. Sort of the same type of crowd we used to see at professional sports games. You know, baseball, football, that sort of sport.

    But now the billionaires are kicking out the millionaires. The only people that can afford to go to pro sports games more than once or twice a year are the 1%ers. The games, the stadiums (see luxury sweets) and the fans reflect that. It used to be a beer and a frank and not miss a single pitch. Now it’s fucking sushi and champagne and “oh who’s playing again”? Its become a status thing for the super rich to sit at the game and take fucking selfies so they can speed load it directly to dousche book, and let everyone know where they are and what they’re doing. Oh the self importance of it all. Who fucking cares???? Go watch the game and have a life experience, or better yet, stay home and spend time with the kids….. outside… the world.

    OK Sorry, I got off track there.

    Back to bikes. It used to be that you could go bike racing on next to nothing for cash and that wasn’t even that long ago. Bike gypsies were routinely spotted at races and in most cases on podiums. Now in most local scenes, it’s just the ultra rich, who don’t get enough buzz from golf, the tri geeks that can’t swim, and a few really good old racers hanging on because they’re still good and still know how to win, work on bikes and score shwag.

    The rest have, as you said, stopped paying and moved on. The funny thing is, once you’re a few months removed from it or a year, you can’t believe how out of wack your thinking was. Stop racing, keep riding, enjoy life, save TONS of money, see your family, work on relationships and get off the phone…..

    Rant done.

  18. Ted L

    What is amazing to me is a lot of these 10k+ road bikes don’t even come with a power meter. That is insane. Back in the old days you would buy a complete bike from a manufacturer because it was a better deal price wise than piecing one together yourself. Nowadays if you buy a complete bike from some of th a manufacturers it actually costs more than the sum of all the parts at full retail prices.

  19. Dan Hughes

    Sweet! Red 22 lever and caliper for $26 over QBP cost. I hope is ready, willing, and able to help sponsor the next road/cross/mountain bike race or team that comes down the pike.

  20. timm

    I replaced my aging fsr mtn bike this summer. I was nearly priced out of a bike. Industry folks tell me they can’t build a bike for less than $3500, the frame costs $1700, the fork is $700, and that doesn’t leave much for the rest of the bike. They could build it, but I wouldn’t want to ride it, he says. I say, I’ve been riding it for 25 years. What did we do before, 34mm stanchions and thru axels? We rode, rode the crap out of those 7, 8, 9 spd bikes.
    I buy the $500 computer. Every 5-10 years, I just get the $500 computer. It’s good enough. But, there’s not really an equivalent in the mtn bike world. People wouldn’t stand for it if a trail or all-mtn computer cost $3,500. I’ll buy a $2,000-2,500 bike, reluctantly. But I will not buy a bike because someone tells me I should be grateful for the technology.
    I bought an aluminum Santa Cruz bike (5010). It has a threaded bb and deore. I paid $2500. Does it ride better than the 11 year old fsr? It has a clutch derailleur and an inch more travel; it’s not night and day. But it was getting harder and harder to rebuild that fsr bike.
    Bike Industry: build me a 2-2.5k mtn bike that’s not a giant, specialized, or trek. It doesn’t have to be the shit. You get the point.

  21. cheap oh

    Given the cost I’m shocked bike heads don’t eat cat food

    After decades of premium parts I bought an 11 speed 105 kit this fall from England for $4 hundy and free shipping on a drunken whim. The stuff is the best working kit I’ve ever owned. Way nicer than the red it replaced. Light years ahead as far as how it works – shifting, braking etc. Everything else is junk. Made my ten year old extralight rolls like a champ. 11 speed compatibility solved by a mavic wheel. We all have a pile of them

    Bought a slx kit, everything but the brakes from the same place for $220 and it was the same deal. Ordered another to pump up a used niner mcr I found on the list

    No reason to spend ridiculous cash unless you’re a hedge fund tri geek who can’t swim, or roll a rock garden for that matter. You’re lucky with the shimano connection, if you spent your hard earned shekels on stuff it’d be a different story

  22. Ron

    Go to a local MTB race and look at how many $5k+ Spesh Epics are there! Unreal to me that people are dropping that kind of cash on a “bicycle”.

  23. Bill K

    If you want to see crazy, watch a local masters race. $3000 wheelsets are the norm. I get some guff when I line up with 32 hole wheels built with NOS Wolber rims, from the 80’s.
    If I crunch them, I can rebuild them in an hour of two.

  24. OGS

    how did a post about mech stuff and price of bikes got to doping?
    Is there some freudian game of association going on?

  25. OGS

    that’s a little ridiculous. The reason that blue color types are not typically associated with cycling has nothing to do with price of the top-end bikes. You can race on $2,000 bike today and win. My club has many of those guys – cops, firemen, construction workers, postal delivery guys – not exactly “billionaires” – in fact those guys tend to ride top of the line stuff, Cannondale Evos and Cervelos with carbon wheels. But we do have even more white collar guys – engineers and scientists, CEOs, accountants, lawyers etc.

    No, I think blue/white collar separation exists even in “cheap” sports like marathons/road racing/track and field, for example – which involves suffering, dedication and being skinny – as opposed to sports that you can participate in (or spectate while drinking beer), and being overweight – like baseball, or anything internal-combustion-engine related.

  26. OGS

    not necessarily. Definitely on high end bikes, but plenty of low-end bikes can be purchased, stripped off the components, and frames/handlebars/wheels sold quickly with components ending up cheaper than buying the gruppo by itself.

  27. Everyone who reads this blog

    I can’t believe it, but Troll Levi actually wrote something that makes sense. What drug did you take to make you see the light?

  28. JoeV

    Classic. The comments turn into “Eat the Rich” and “I crush guys on $10k carbon bikes every day.”

    You suck and the few guys on $10k bikes are laughing at you as you “crush” them.

  29. Jim

    Just trying to understand here… If you’re rich, white, but don’t play golf then you’re NOT a douche bag? Or is it if you’re rich, play golf, but not a douche bag then you’re not white? But if you’re not rich, white, play golf then you can’t be a douche bag?

  30. Jim

    Really? I’ve raced many times on both carbon wheels and your standard 32 hole rims. Never once had anyone make a comment either way. Perhaps I just don’t notice them just as I don’t judge others based on the type of equipment they choose to ride.

  31. mark - Bici Italia Cycling Tours

    Spot on Cheap Oh. The sport is only as expensive and out-of-reach as one makes it. If you are not fast enough to get stuff free, dont work, and still feel like you have to have $10K +bikes, then yes the sport is crazy expensive for you. If you don’t mind rolling on a 2 lb heavier bike with 105 or ultegra and no power meter, then the sport isn’t really that expensive. In 20+ years of racing and/or just out training, I’ve never been passed by someone that magically could go so much faster because they got on a 2lb lighter bike that cost twice as much. never. It always brings out a chuckle when I here someway say that “so-and-so ex pro blew by us on the climb. Wish I could afford those same wheels”. I see 2lb lighter bikes that cost twice as much all day long and they all seem to be going by me the other way. focus on the fitness and not the equipment.

  32. eric b

    shimano’s new MTB stuff (XTR-M9000) is 11-speed but the 11s cassette fits on a 10s hub.

    i think it’s not fair to say that shiimano is really trying to shove a new standard down peoples’ throats. shimano went to 11s road after sram and campy had already done so, and due to the width of their hubs there was not enough space on the free hub to make existing 10s hubs work (unless, like mavic, those hubs had been designed with extra spacing).

    because MTB wheels use a larger inner (big) cog, shimano was able to dish the cassette and not have any interference between 40T cog and spokes. this was not possible for road cogs (21-28T). bummer.

    sram’s 11s MTB solution requires one to purchase a whole new free hub.

    let’s not forget that sometimes consumers demand “progress”, and the manufacturers oblige.

    i made the (painful) switch over to 11s this year–but not with any illusions of improved performance. it was forced upon me with a few bike crashes and a few required gear swaps, then realizing i needed to make things match up across bikes for ease in swapping parts in and out in race scenarios.

    anyway…the manufacturers aren’t ALL evil, the new stuff is really nice, top-end MTBs really DO cost >$10k now (every brand seems to have one), new road bikes don’t cost $23k unless someone is getting ripped off, etc.

  33. eric b

    “Wish list:
    10 speed shifter w/out the cable coming out of the side of the head.”

    shimano 7900, anyone?

  34. nancy

    There is neutral support from SRAM or Mavic and that’s why there is team car behind with full bikes. Sram have tarmac with zipp wheel, I guess you can get the same gears as them.

    If you want to have results, better using equipment that won’t failed and tires that keep airs on rough pavement. And you won’t have to worry about it or st least, you can ride to the parking lot.

  35. OGS

    I was talking more from the overall idea of what cycling means to all of us perspective, rather than engineering or manufacturer perspective.
    But even engineering – is there really a good engineering reason for integrated seatposts? Or so many bottom bracket “standards”?

    from LBS perspective, they would love to live in the world where we cyclists would bring in bikes for any routine maintenance – including changing a tube, replacing a chain, adjusting derailleur limit screws, replacing cables, re-wrapping tape you name it.

    But if we go this route (and many riders do treat their bikes the way they deal with cars – just bring to a mechanic whenever something goes wrong), I think we will miss out on an important aspect of cycling – the “mechanical tinkering” side. There is an old guy, in his 70ies, who lives nearby who doesn’t even ride bikes all that much, but is always in his garage building a new bike, adjusting this or that. I don’t think you need to be a bike racer or even a bike rider to appreciate the simplicity, elegance and beauty of bike’s mechanical design.

    By making bike parts too expensive and incompatible and complicated we begin to lose some of this elegance and make the design too complex for joe-schmoe to figure out. This is primary reason I am philosophically against some recent developments – like electronic shifting, disk brakes on road bikes, internal routed cables, integrated brakes, handlebars and integrated seat posts, or developments that are not backwards compatible – like new bottom bracket standards, 11-speed etc. Maybe I am just getting old and grouchy. I do like GPS and power meters, so I am not all against technology, but those are add-ons that do not interfere with basic mechanics (if your power tap and garmin battery dies, you can still ride just as well). I don’t like carbon rim wheels, carbon handlebars (even though I am currently using one), aero helmets, tubeless wheels (on road bikes), bottom-bracket mounted rear brakes, frames with little or no clearance (some cannot even accept 25mm tires!) – I mean for regular rides, not some TT, triathlons or high-end racing.

  36. Wildcat

    Sometimes every day isn’t sufficient for me. I like to crush people multiple times daily. I tend to go hang out in front of the bike shop waiting for someone to exit on their $10k bike so I can crush them over and over as I go around the block and blow by them at full sprint speed. If they have good hearing they’ll hear me yell “you wasted your money” each time as I fly by on my 20 year old $1k bike.

  37. Luke

    Hey Steve: those piles of 10 speed wheels you have can be run with an 11 speed cassette minus a cog and the derailleur and shifters set accordingly (you’ll just have an extra click at one end). Will shift perfectly! Many wheels that are not officially compatible can be modified by taking some material off them as well.


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