Why are bikes so damn expensive? I need a new bike. It’s been since 2006 since I bought a frame/bike and if you didn’t notice things have changed. Apparently, there is 11 speed now, this Goldilocks sized tire, and lighter material. Problem is Homie can’t afford $6,500 (on the low end) for a bike that fits my needs and riding style. I wrote about this before, but a bike builder noticed a bad trend happening and made a significant change.
So, once again, time for a review and for the industry to take a step back and look hard in the mirror. Now, I love a Ferrari, Lambo, Pagani, Bugatti, and MacLaren but, you nor I, are probably driving one, uh, I’m going to say, definitely not. The car industry doesn’t build every car to the quality, price, or quantity that those cars present, they can’t or they would sell 10 of them per year. VW loses a million dollars on every Veyron they build. Does Giant? Or Specialized? Car manufacturers that you and I shop at build trucks, vans, Accords and Camrys for those who live day to day and know we won’t be able to buy a new car every year. Some of us have kids whom one day we hope to put into higher level education and a house which one day will have a toilet that breaks and floods the bathroom from a teenager. We are the middle, the regular buying public, Generation America. We buy goods that are built to last and products that handle abuse. We still buy alloy frames, alloy rims, and alloy bars. We buy cable actuated drive trains because it is time tested and easy to fix on the trail. We buy tubes. We buy what works. We buy what we can afford. The bikes are better than ever, just like cars, and this is why I drive a VW, instead of a Mercedes AMG C63 like I really want - affordability and quality – somewhere in the middle.
The recent XTR electric drivetrain, how bad ass and cool as shit it is, is just not practical. Full zoot super light, wicked strong carbon (fill in the blank) is bitchen, but Alberto Contador is probably wondering what force it took to break his frame. I dig the ENVE rims, how evil they look, and I do agree they are probably lighter than snot, but at that cost, I’m good! Thanks, Bro. I just have a very hard time justifying $2,000 on freaking wheels. This also applies to the new XTR drivetrain as well as the XX1. Drivetrains alone cost more than entire bikes did 10 years ago. Since when did we all become so rich, or have we become overwhelmed in debt? When I see the sign “GE Finance” at a bike store, I have to stop and think, “I’m financing a bike?” Ink Shops don’t finance tattoos, and no one is financing a wheelchair at my store (a manual wheelchair can top out at $5,000 too), and a crap load of people buy them cash. I guess our line of credit isn’t high enough anymore for an entire bike, most likely just the frame. So what happened? When did we start demanding for more than we need?
Santa Cruz was the first bike manufacturer to recognize that prices are reaching unobtainable levels, and released a lower level carbon at a weight penalty to bring the price down about $1,500 overall. That’s a start, and a smart business move. Now, make them out of alloy and the price will come down to where we would consider a new bike every two years, which should drive sales. Make it enticing that we can upgrade more often than my car. I applaud SC for doing what they are doing; it’s right, and fiscally responsible.
Interbike 2014 will be inter-esting, to say the least. Each manufacturer has to out-tech the other and be the first to do something cool, and this usually comes at the expense of the buyer. Electric shifting, electric suspension, double high modulous nano carbon, plasma, xenon, whatever. Doesn’t matter, will be obsolete in 2 years anyway. An $8,000 bike is not a bike anymore, it’s a losing investment. A used Bentley is just that, used, and it holds little value after the warranty runs out because it’s so damn expensive to maintain and repair. Buy it for what it IS, rather to enjoy. I wonder how many manufacturers will be following Santa Cruz’s lead and looking at what is right for the buyer rather than putting the highest cost (zoot!) product on the market and tell them it is what it is. Trickle down technology is very common in any industry, but it happens way too slow in ours. Just remember how much Shimano DuraAce Di2 was it came out, now it’s fairly affordable. Aren’t you glad you waited, because not only is it refined, but a whole heck of lot cheaper on the Ultegra gruppo.
James Huang at Cycling News wrote an article in 2011 about the high costs of bicycles and apparently, no one listened, so here we are 3 years later and still the same situation. Sure, there are many in the sport who can afford the high end bikes, but this does not mean everyone can, and those who can’t get stuck with shit components at the price point we can afford, then spend another $2K getting the bike up to our standards. Personally, I would like to see manufacturers offer on redesigned alloy frames good level components with technology that is available today: 10-11 speed, mid-level drive train (XT/X9), choice of 1x or 2x, powerful disc brakes, quality fork and shock, and quality hubs on decent rims (better off replacing a rim than whole wheel). The rest is something of a personal tweakage such as saddle, grips, bar width, etc. At what weight penalty does this cost? 2lbs? 3? To save $3,000 I’ll gladly take the hit and just get a little stronger. And I don’t need XX1 or XTR (although how juicy is the Shimano flagship stuff?!).
As a note, I don’t hate carbon, some of my favorite friends are carbon such as the Giant XTC Advance SL 27.5 - a sweet rig that is fast and nimble, but ridiculously priced for a 1×11 hard tail. Sadly, I’ll never be able to own one. It just pushes the price to the stratosphere because it’s still such a new building material. With new advances in manufacturing and recycling, we should see a significant drop in prices in the future, so give props to companies such as Siemens, partnerships with BMW and Boeing, and bicycle companies such as Trek and Specialized who are just starting to figure out ways to recycle carbon fiber to lower initial costs. This will one day make people wonder why you paid $7,000 for a bike. So go out and ride the shit out of what you can afford, and use the extra cash for your next road trip. – M.U.M.B.’er