#bikeschool: Bike Prices
by Aaron Madrid (#bikeschool student and guest professor)
Not long ago I was given the privilege of hosting a night of #Bikeschool. The second question I asked pertained to a subject that I personally have very strong opinions on, the price of bikes. Upon asking my question, it became clear that many others do as well.
Most of you who follow me on twitter, or have spoken to me in person, know that I am new to the cycling world. For me, the biggest obstacle to overcome was the cost of a nice bike. When I initially began asking around about what bikes to look into, the only responses I would find fell in to two separate categories. The first category of answers all essentially just said; don’t buy from a “big box”. The rest of the answers all said something to the effect of “the brand doesn’t matter; just make sure the bike fits!” Armed with these two pieces of advice I headed out shopping…and was immediately disheartened by what I found. The cheapest bike I could find at one of my two local shops would cost me at least $400 dollars and when I asked for help, I was always pointed to a bike nearly twice that price, which would actually fit me. Eventually I ended up with a bike from a big box, until I saved enough to get a bike I really wanted from my local shop.
As I grew more and more fond of my new hobby, I began to learn more about the various bike companies, their products, and the nature of the industry itself. I could not believe that there were bikes out there that cost more than my car! I thought it would be a good question for #bikeschool. Is the price gap fair between a lower priced bike and a high-end bike? Answers were all over the place, from a simple “no” to some more interesting side discussions about high-end bikes being more like works or art and thus justifying the price. I felt that ever since that night, perhaps that question needed a little further flushing out, and that perhaps others would care to weigh in, in more detail. Personally I feel that if the cost to me accurately reflects the cost to the manufacturer (obviously leaving room for some profit for them, this is capitalist America after all) then that is all that matters. I don’t think anyone expects to be given anything for free. However, as I came to these conclusions, test rode different bikes, and explored the various models I began to wonder just how fair these price gaps were.
I will be the first to admit that I was completely SHOCKED at the difference in ride between my $200 big box bike and my much more expensive Jamis road-bike, purchased from my local bike shop, which I am riding around on today. Before testing out a lot of different bikes, I assumed that the price difference mainly would have to do with quality of construction and components. I never would have guess that even the reasonably small price jump I made would make that much of a difference in just the feel of the bike. Spending more money on the nicer, properly fitting bike changed my entire view on cycling as a whole. I went from forcing myself to ride, just to get in a work out, to never wanting to be off my bike. To this day, there is nothing quite as freeing, enjoyable, and relaxing as getting out on my bike. Then I got to thinking, how many people have lost interest in cycling without realizing what spending more money would get them? How many Lance Armstrong’s, or Heather Nielson’s, or Manx Missile’s have we missed out on, just because they never had the opportunity to feel the difference between that Target bike and a Trek, or Specialized, or Jamis, or any nicer bike. It took one ride of my bike for me to start to dream of climbing mountains and sprinting across the finish. Those dreams might have been there before, but now they somehow felt slightly attainable. Who knows what I could have done if I had been given the opportunity at a younger age.
It is for that reason that I question the price gaps in cycling gear. As a new parent, I never want my child to grow up wondering what if. I especially never want her to miss out on a chance to reach her full potential because of a price tag. Recently there was a post on this very site in which the author posited that we are driven to consumerism out of fear, and in this case I have to agree. No one wants to miss out on something because they didn’t buy the most expensive piece they could buy, even if the most expensive piece is just a little more of a work of art than the less expensive one. Do these companies really care? Are they feeding off of a fear that if you don’t own the name brand bike that you won’t win races or have as much fun?
I can’t buy myself the dream bike I want, let alone anyone else, but I did decide there is still something I can do. I have begun talks with my local bike shop and my old high school to see if I can start a cycling club for students. I am hoping to have the shops donate bikes or at least give a large discount to the club so that more kids get an opportunity to get out and try a new sport, experience quality equipment, and learn to love the bike, like me. I am hoping to get my local club involved and hold some junior events in the area. Eventually we might be able to encourage the district to create official teams and allow for full fledged competition between high schools. It’s just a fledgling idea right now, but I am hoping to get some real interest next year. Maybe the next big thing could come from right here in Lafayette, Indiana.
Weigh in, in the comments section below!
Aaron Madrid is a recent father and convert to the Way of the Bike. A lifetime geek he now spends his time with his family or out riding his bike…occasionaly finding time to read comic books and play video games. You can read his previous guest post on Loving the Bike, “A Self Proclaimed Geek Takes on Cycling”. Also be sure to find him on Twitter (@Aaronthestrong) or at www.GuerrillaGeek.com.