Does a More Expensive Bike Make a Better Cyclist?


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… 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?

Enjoy Your Ride

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153 Responses to “ Does a More Expensive Bike Make a Better Cyclist? ”

  1. Videoboy Matt on April 21, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    I think the question is not when a more expensive bike make a better cyclist, but when is it worth stepping into the big leagues if at all from a reasonably respectable quality bike. I’ve been riding mountain bikes since the mid 90s, and am an avid racer along with my girlfriend who is sponsored on a regional level team, as well as we help organize local bike shop rides. For most people a $1100-2k bike is really where they need to be to get a good quality bike that won’t break, is decently light, and will have enough engendering/design to have real fun with. I say match the level of the bike with the level of the rider. If you are a enthusiast recreational rider, you will have no qualm about buying a $1100 bike, as you will see the value. Once you start racing, and getting serious about it, you really need to be in the minimum of $1800 range, as you will start to notice a real difference in performance and weight. After $2300, you really are now looking at grams weight difference (unless you are talking about Enduro or Downhill mountain bikes..that’s a whole different animal). Most people will never need a $4k bike. If you ride every day all day, and you feel you need will know when it is time to invest. If you will know when it is time to invest. If you have to ask if it is too most likely is too much.

  2. pdx2wheeler on April 13, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    No, my $30 garage sale bike from the late 80’s, and I typically crush the “competition” in PDX, everyday, year after year, rain or shine. 7000 or so miles, multiple spills, no problem. You can pay more though…

  3. Declan on December 19, 2014 at 8:02 am

    For the avarage rider an average bike is fine

    When you start to race a 2grand bike is entry level, if you’ve put in all the winter training, lost all the weight and eaked the most from your legs the next “easy win” is a mechanical upgrade. OK start with the helmet then the wheels, but eventually you’ll have to upgrade the bike and it’s not more comfortable, its more ridged its lighter and its going to allow you to put all of your power into forward momentum, instrad of twisting the trame of the softer bike before propelling you forward

    the extra 8k will allow you deliver all your energy to the rear tyre. if you spent the winter out on the cold, wet, dark roads trying to gain a few seconds for the summer races and you can afford it then you should. if you’re a city/summer cyclist better not stray too far from the 1k bikes, you don’t need to

  4. sam on July 3, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    Every time I read these threads I crack up. Always remember this…you get what you pay for. Stop kidding yourself. I’m a very experienced rider and I ride everyday (except Sunday) and there is no way I would perform the same with a Wal-Mart bike. Again you get what you pay for.

    • Darryl on July 3, 2014 at 12:52 pm

      There’s a huge difference between a Walmart brand and a decent bike. But the differences between $1,000 and $2,000 are different. There is a point where more money on a bike won’t make you a better cyclist.

  5. Turkylurkey on September 13, 2013 at 10:05 am

    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.

  6. JC on September 3, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    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.

    • Jonathan on December 16, 2014 at 5:03 pm

      Old article/post but this, exactly. I use to own an approximately $10,000 bike. Now I own a $1,500 bike. Frankly, there is nothing wrong with the expensive bike under the right circumstances. It was faster. The problem is that the difference in my speed on the expensive bike vs the less expensive option is not worth the cost. The total system weight of rider + bike on the $10,000 bike was about 3-3.5% lower. It was also likely about 2% or so faster due to aerodynamic wheels. So is being 3% faster (on normal gradients, maybe 2.1% on flat ground and a bit more on steep hills) worth $8,500 more? If I was a multi-millionaire or raced professionally, I would say maybe. Given that I am not a multi-millionaire or a pro, it’s simply not worth the $2400 annual cost (opportunity cost and the bike itself which needs periodic new parts/replacement) to own a $10,000 bike over a $1,500 bike to see a 3% gain in performance. If $2400 a year was pocket change to me or if 3% would seriously affect my career, I would think differently.

      • Darryl (@lovingthebike) on December 17, 2014 at 8:05 am

        Thanks for your input, Jonathan. The cheapest way to lower the weight of rider and bike is for the rider to lose weight. Aero wheels are nice, but not necessary for everyone….I’ve also read that an aero helmet does more than aero wheels, and much cheaper.

  7. Paulevans on July 11, 2011 at 3:02 am

    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.

    • Darryl is Loving the Bike on July 11, 2011 at 11:44 am

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


  8. Ian on February 3, 2011 at 12:02 pm

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

  9. Miss Lynx on December 29, 2010 at 1:32 am

    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…

  10. Daniel on December 24, 2010 at 11:30 am

    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…

  11. conjob on December 13, 2010 at 12:57 am

    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

  12. SilverbackWino on December 12, 2010 at 9:06 am

    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”.

  13. greg on December 11, 2010 at 11:02 am

    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.


  14. Olev on December 9, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    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).


  15. Jeffro on December 9, 2010 at 4:35 pm

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

    Jeff #9825

  16. Chris Nygaard on December 9, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    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.


  17. Darryl on December 9, 2010 at 11:20 am

    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.


  18. Ruth Turner on December 9, 2010 at 10:57 am

    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

  19. Slowvehicle on December 8, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    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.

  20. Slowvehicle on December 8, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    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…

  21. Kowenn on December 8, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    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

  22. Sschroeder on December 8, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    #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. : )

  23. Michael on December 8, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    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.

  24. Ben on December 8, 2010 at 9:38 am

    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

  25. Daniel M on December 8, 2010 at 9:20 am

    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

  26. Andrew on December 7, 2010 at 10:44 pm

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

  27. Andrew on December 7, 2010 at 10:42 pm

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

  28. BykMor on December 7, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    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.

    BykMor, #5113

  29. flaneur brian on December 7, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    …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

  30. mathieu lapointe on December 7, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    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

  31. Brady on December 7, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    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

  32. Brady on December 7, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    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.

  33. JWM on December 7, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    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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