#bikeschool: Bike Prices


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.

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11 Responses to “ #bikeschool: Bike Prices ”

  1. Heather Nielson on November 30, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    First of all, I feel incredibly honored that you’d even mention my name and secondly, very well thought out and written!  I have loved getting to know you and watching you ‘pedal’ through your journey as you experience the bike.  I agree that in starting out in a sport, there needs to be a price point for those just trying it out.  I also believe that some bicycles really are worth the price tag.  There is an incredible amount of R&D that goes into producing the top end bikes that most cyclists dont’ even know about and I have been privy to as a bike racer.  The cost is justified in a lot of cases for the bike, but is not necessary for every consumer.  Not every cyclists needs that kind of bike.  I also think, for the same reasons, that bicycles are works of art.  Thanks for your story and I can’t wait to see you be professor again my friend!

    • Aaronthestrong on December 9, 2011 at 8:31 am

      Thanks for reading and commenting Heather! I have really enjoyed getting to know you as well. I can only hope that my daughter has someone like you to look up to as she grows up 🙂 cyclist or not. I especially appreciate the viewpoint you bring to this conversation as a racer! 

  2. PedalmanTO on November 22, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Great post Aaron. Find your boundaries and stay within them. Listen to the feeling you have when you ride each and every bike. Keep the Rubber Side Down brother.

  3. Rikaguilera on November 22, 2011 at 8:43 am

    You make some good points. Yes, bikes can be very expensive. There is a reason for the cost though, and of course sometimes the cost is just over inflated. I often will be reached out to for advice on purchasing a “real” bike by friends, and to give an umbrella answer just does not suit every situation. One thing I do advise is to frequent bike shops. Ask questions, research and decide what kind of rider you will really be. No sense in breaking the bank on the lightest, craziest road race bike if you are going to be using it as a commuter (for example). Another thing i suggest is to look toward used. No matter how expensive some bikes can be, they don’t hold their value, so you can usually find a great deal at about half its orig price, without much searching. Now for me, I have found amazing deals in the form of bikes I have to build. Buy a frame here, brakes there, shifters,… you get the idea. I know that is not for everybody, as not everybody can or wants to take on a bike build, but what a way to get what you want (and truly make it yours) than to play Dr. Frankenstein and create it. And learning how to work on your bike, in the process, is truly rewarding.
    Im glad that you did purchase a bike, and do feel the real sensation of riding that a bike is supposed to give. I would also advise looking toward the cycling community in your area for higher end used bikes to move onto later. Learn how to work (build) a bike, and create your own.
    Your question has me thinking of a challenge now. I think Im going to try and build a “price busting” High end machine. I will try and keep the cost as low as possible, and see if I can create something awesome. I did recently build a full on XC race bike for 800.00 (or so), a SS XC race bike in the 450.00 range,.. think I will try a road race bike this time. With budget in mind of course. Ive built some others that were not very “budget” minded..
    Good question. Thanks for putting it out there, and I hope you are not discouraged by prices of some rigs.
    Keep riding brother,

    Rik Aguilera

    • Aaronthestrong on November 22, 2011 at 9:30 am

      Thanks for the comment and for reading Rik! I appreciate the advice and ideas.

  4. Anonymous on November 22, 2011 at 8:04 am

    Hrm, you had me… you had me… then bang!!! 

    Great post, but unfortunately I think you were given too little info before your first purchase. No Big Box – yes, Right fit also yes, someone in your vicinity is an experienced cyclist with an old bike for sale that will be within your price range and get you started – missing. Hit Kijiji, Graigslist, ebay, etc and find that “starter” rig. You had a starter house right?? All this is good. I kinda fell away at the provide everything for your child. Sounds horrible I know. I do attempt to provide everything feasible for my kids also. I kind of have a try it, love it buy it philosophy with them tho. Even with sports I love eg.. Hockey/Snowboarding/Cycling I start them out with reasonable (not necessarily entry level) equipment and see how they like it. I know as a sports addict I always wanted top-notch for every sport but also understood it was not attainable (kinda sorta understood…. “But Dad”). There will be an interest embedded in your child’s head at some age, My son at 6 months pointed at a football in Walmart and went nuts. After that he freaked every time we switched the channel by a Football game (I don’t really watch Football). He then 3 years later was asked while watching me play tournament Hockey if he wanted to play Hockey. His response, “Daddy plays Hockey, I play Football”. Canada and friends have somewhat altered this since then but He still looks more comfortable with a football than he does on skates.My daughter fell into her sport of current sport of choice by accident. She was doing Dance but found it boring but was awesome. She was playing soccer and found it a little overwhelming but was strong. She wanted to try Gymnastics but had a minor fear of heights. End of soccer season one year the Mom’s were talking and one Mom said her daughter was trying out for the local Cheerleading team. My wife and Daughter went nuts! She tried out and was hooked. 5 years later she is still loving it and wow, lifting friends in the air every week makes for strong shoulders and back.My point, let them find their way and then spend on that sport… Some sports will come close to second mortgages, the average person can’t cover 3 of which. Hope your little one finds the perfect sport for him/her and loves it through the ups and downs!Sorry to write a whole entry as a response… All I am missing is photo’s 😉

    • Aaronthestrong on November 22, 2011 at 9:28 am

      Totally valid in everything you say there my friend. I will say that I went in to a little more detail in my first post on the site about my bike purchasing fiasco that might clarify the reasons I couldn’t (or at least had little luck) going used. You are right though, that I left that part out…that was an additional piece of advice I was offered.

      I think it’s like Ian said in yesterday’s post, I just have a fear of not being able to provide enough for my daughter. When really…providing her a bike, or fun things to do, should be the LEAST of my worries. She has a roof over her head, plenty of food, and a dad that loves her more than anything else in the world (including my bike). Maybe I will get lucky and she will get really into gardening!   

  5. Joel Phillips on November 22, 2011 at 7:06 am

    Fantastic idea Aaron…

    • Aaronthestrong on November 22, 2011 at 9:16 am

      Thanks for reading Joel! I hope it pans out!

  6. Tim Starry on November 22, 2011 at 6:52 am

    Interesting.  But you completely ignore the reason for the difference in costs of bicycles.  Why are the high end bicycles so costly?  Is it because of the narrow pursuit of marketing to weekend warriors and Cat 3 racers.  Can the average rider really afford electronic shifting and carbon everything?  Do they really need that stuff?  Really?

    Where is the moderately priced compromise between the ridiculous racing/ fitness bikes and the mass market Chinese made bike-shaped-objects (BSO)?  They are out there but you have to look.  And if you try to find it at a store with a Specialized or Trek banner in the window, use caution.  They are primarily interested in selling you a $4000 racer you probably don’t need.  And why are they trying to sell that to you?  Better margin and because you’ve convinced yourself you need it.  

    • Aaronthestrong on November 22, 2011 at 9:16 am

      Thanks for the comment Tim.I guess your first question there sums up the point I was driving at. Is electronic shifting and carbon everything really necesarry at all? The whole point was kind of more an observation on the industry and consumerism as a whole. The bottom line is, Lance Armstrong would be Lance Armstrong on my chromolly bike just as much as he would on a carbon fiber bike. My concern is that, that isn’t the message any bike companies are sending. 


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