Does a More Expensive Bike Make a Better Cyclist?

08
Oct
2010

You’re out riding, and you see a guy (or girl) on a pimped out $6,000 road bike….what’s the first thing that goes through your head?  Probably a few different things (and feel free to let me know what those things are with a comment below), but one possible thought is “man, this person must be a really good cyclist to have a bike like that”.

Possibly….but it could also just mean that he or she has a lot of money available to sink into a bike.

Okay, so lets flip it and put a really good cyclist on a cheap no-name road bike….what happens?  A lot of discomfort, perhaps….but I’m thinking that they’re still going to kick my butt as long as it’s in good working condition.

There is no doubt that buying a good quality bike is worth the money and will alleviate a lifetime of unnecessary repairs and grief.  But once you buy a good quality bike, what is the increased performance/amount spent graph look like?

I debate this question quite often.  Maybe I use it as a way to justify the thought of me walking into a bike shop and dropping a few thousand on a bike, so that I can upgrade to a new one.  Maybe it really would help with my performance.  It’s a tough call.  I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts on this one.

What I do know, is that Canadians are buying less bikes, but ones of better quality.  Momentum Magazine has listed that:

Companies that supply bicycles to independent Canadian bike shops have reported an increase in overall sales for 2009, but a decrease in the number of bikes sold. Combined with a 23 per cent spike in the average price of bikes that were sold to retailers, the Bicycle Trade Association of Canada (BTAC) says this indicates a trend towards consumers buying higher quality bikes in the independent bike shop sector.

It looks like Canadians have got the first part right, and realize that it makes good sense to buy quality…..now where are the studies showing me performance vs price?

Okay, Alleycat Racers, it’s your turn to voice your opinion.  Please leave a comment with your name and race number…but before you click the ‘Yehuda Moon’ image to go to the next checkpoint, let us know what you think. Does a more expensive bike make a better cyclist?


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  • Turkylurkey

    I have never owned a super expensive bike but I do disagree with those who think you need an expensive bike to be fast, comfortable, and/or a serious cyclist. I do think it is very important to have a well maintained bike that has geometry appropriate to its purpose, fits well, and that has reliable components.
    I also think it depends on the rider, if you are mechanically inclined and enjoy working on your bikes then you can get a garage sale/craigslist former gem of a bike for under a $100.00 put some time and another $50-$100 into it and have a very reliable and fast ride that you love because you know that the bike is beautiful on the inside! With its new bearings freshly greased and well adjusted, derailleurs and brakes operating smoothly with its new cables you will be ready prove that you don’t need to spend thousands to be fast.

  • JC

    If I get off my 1,400 Giant Defy 1 and into a 12,000 Cannondale Super 6 Evo Di1 I will probably feel it lighter hence I might be a tad faster, but that’s about it. My legs and lungs will not change so no, a more expensive bike does not make you a better cyclist.

  • Paulevans

    A better bike will be more comfortable and ride easier than a less expensive one.  Seems like it would be obvious that a rider would perform better with a better ride.  As i have gotten older I have upgraded my bicycles and find them easier to ride and more fun.

    • http://lovingthebike.com Darryl is Loving the Bike

      It’s an interesting debate and I would like to thank you for joining in.  I appreciate your comments.

      Darryl

  • Ian

    Never mind the bike, where can I get the T-shirt?

  • http://misslynx.livejournal.com/ Miss Lynx

    I certainly don’t think so – but then, I may be biased, since I have been riding regularly for the past two and half years on a $200 Canadian Tire SuperCycle (which I actually got on sale for $139, for the record). And really, it’s been pretty good. Not perfect, no, and I do expect I’ll move up to something a little better sometime in the coming year, once finances allow. But despite being a cheap bike from a big-box store, it’s been a sturdy little workhorse, and gotten me all around the city on a regular basis. And has never needed any serious repairs other than the one time I was in an accident – just the occasional tuneup.

    Now, there are a lot of things I don’t do that others here might – I don’t race or do cross-country touring or anything like that. I’m just your basic urban bike commuter. But some people in the comments seem to be convinced that even that requires a $1000 bike, and it’s just not true.

    That said, I don’t think all cheap bikes are necessarily going to be as sturdy and reliable as mine turned out to be. The mechanic at my local bike shop said that Canadian Tire bikes are highly variable in quality and the particular model I got was one of the better ones. And I did look at user reviews on their web site before buying it, and noted that everyone who’d posted one seemed to be happy with it. So I certainly don’t think all bikes, expensive or inexpensive, are created equal – anyone looking at buying a bike needs to do a bit of homework. But I do think it’s OK to buy within your price range – it’s just that if your price range is low, you may need to do a bit more digging through reviews to find something that’s cheap enough but still decent.

    My main concern with all the you-really-need-an-expensive-bike stuff I see constantly is that, as ScottPost posted earlier, it can put people off cycling completely. I know that if I’d been convinced I needed a $1000 bike to be able to start cycling, I’d never have gotten one at all, because there was no way I could afford that at the time – hell, I can’t really even afford that now, so when I do move up from this one, it won’t be to one quite that high. And the ironic thing is that a lot of the same people I see, various local cycling sites in my city, that you just have to have a high-end bike or there’s no point in riding, are the same people who in other threads keep asking what it will take to get people out of cars and buses and onto bikes in larger numbers. I don’t claim to have any definitive answer to that, but maybe we could start by NOT constantly giving people the message that they can’t afford to make the switch…

  • http://www.danielcarruthers.com Daniel

    I agree, the bike does complete the image. Have you ever turned up to a race and felt intimidated by the amount of high-end bikes sitting around? But it is always the legs that have the final say…

  • conjob

    i am currently in nepal, riding a bike that cost me $35. i am still the same kind of cyclist that i am when i’m home in the u.s., riding one of my four other (more expensive) bikes.

    conjob #5853

  • SilverbackWino

    Yes! It motivates me to ride more and become a better rider. When I see it hanging in the garage I think to myself “Time to ride”.

  • http://bicyclery.wordpress.com greg

    No. The subjective quality of being a better cyclist and the very fact that having more money could make someone better than someone else is really problematic. There are at least as many types of people riding bikes as there are types of bikes. I have met plenty of roadies who wont go out for a ride unless they are in full spandex and its a sunny day. (I really like passing them on my fixie) I have also known plenty of people to tour on old huffies that I wouldn’t want to work on let alone ride. If anything I would say having a less good bike and still being able get where you want in the time you want to get there makes you better cyclist.

    To me the best bikes are old steel frames resurrected with a good set of wheels and the rest is just personal preference.

    2755

  • Olev

    There’s an optimum bling level for every cyclist. Average riders need a slightly better than average bike to be the best they can be… whereas pro cyclists or olympians need the absolute best bike and parts/equipment available to them to eke out the last little advantage of a few hundredths of a second (or less).

    #6386

  • Jeffro

    In a word, no. I always maintain that time riding helps more than time earning the money for a more costly bike.

    Jeff #9825

  • Chris Nygaard

    Expensive bikes are not always good, and cheap bikes are not always bad. If buying new, there is a sweet spot at about $750-$1250 for a quality bike which will handle daily/regular use. There are things people will want to upgrade in time, but these are usually the parts which wear out, or the rider discovers they want to change after riding it for a while. Used bikes are nothing to turn your nose up at either. I have riden used or recycled bikes as my commuter bike which cost me $200, that I rode 30K miles or more with very few additional costs.

    7316

  • http://www.lovingthebike.com Darryl

    Huge thanks to all the Alleycat Racers for leaving your comments behind as you dropped by the site for your checkpoint. I know you guys were in a hurry to finish up and be the first to report your findings, so I appreciate you taking the time to let me know your thoughts.

    Well done.

    Darryl

  • Ruth Turner

    Yes! Once you’ve spent a month’s salary on a new bike, you will feel obliged to go out and ride it. And the more miles you ride, the better you’ll get! And you’ll definitely be having fun.

    Anyway, even if your speed doesn’t get better, and your skill doesn’t improve, you’ll still feel like a cycling god, because you’ll be on your new bike.

    Ruth Turner #6691

  • Slowvehicle

    No. A more expansive bike will not make you make better traffic choices, or choose better routes, or make better situational decisions…and it is even doubtful whether it will make you faster.

  • Slowvehicle

    No. “Faster” is not “better”…a new bike will not make you handle traffic better, or prepare for the unforeseen better, or make you choose better routes…

  • Kowenn

    A good bike won’t make a bad rider better, but it helps a good rider shave 0.01 seconds off a lap. My boss races and the sponsors buy her a new expensive bike every year.

    kowenn #3784

  • Sschroeder

    #3731 – No, but better cyclists appreciate more expensive bikes. Inexperienced cyclists may not realize the difference at first, but they’ll keep riding a quality bike. And I’m tired of people telling me “the bike at Walmart is just as good as the one at the bike shop, it’s just cheaper”. These same people buy the cheap bike, ride it a few times, can’t get comfortable, then decide they “just don’t like biking”. More people should agree with my humble, but highly accurate opinions. : )

  • Michael

    Michael, 8774

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an expensive bike, but there are a lot of things that can be done before buying an expensive bike. Like if you’re overweight, you should put the time/energy/resources into losing the weight first and worry about a nicer bike later. Things like that will help you get better race times more than the bike anyway.

  • Ben

    A more expensive bike only makes you a better rider in the way a newer car make you a more careful driver. You want to take care of the bike and use it’s full potential as opposed to buying a beater bike you can abuse without caring.

    Ben #9356

  • Daniel M

    A more expensive bike will definitely go longer before needing repair than a cheap bike. For someone who is new to biking or doesn’t do their own repairs, this could certainly make them more likely to ride more consistently.

    On the other hand, those with mechanical skills can take a garage-sale bike and either fix it up or limp it along nearly indefinitely. Desire is what matters most.

    I fall somewhere in between the two camps.

    Daniel, #592

  • Andrew

    The bike may give you an edge, but it’s always the rider.. and perhaps a good mechanic.
    Andrew #3481

  • Andrew

    Better bike may give an edge, but it’s always the rider.. and a good mechanic doesn’t hurt.
    Andrew #3481

  • BykMor

    Ok, seriously for this one… I think it’s hard to do any serious cycling, be that mountain, road, cyclomuting, touring, etc, without spending close to $1000 (these days). Beyond that, bigger differences come from the motor.

    Cheers,
    BykMor, #5113

  • http://balancedview.wordpress.com flaneur brian

    …no! But a better bike makes a less expansive cyclist.

    Get one that suits both your purpose and your budget and you’ll really use it.

    Flaneur Brian #2966

  • mathieu lapointe

    Racer #5121

    No way. I know a really fast guy (for exemple 600k in less then 24h) that would be faster for sure with an less expensive but more reliable bike

  • Brady

    No way. It may make you faster (the speed benefit decreases exponentially as costs increase exponentially), but it won’t make you a better cyclist. #823

  • Brady

    No way. It may make you faster (the speed benefit decreases exponentially as costs increase exponentially), but it won’t make you a better cyclist.

  • JWM

    Better bike helps, but it doesn’t have to be more expensive. Get something solid, comfortable. It doesn’t have to be $2000 and up.

    #9921 / JWM

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