Seen it. Heard it. So many times. People commenting on why are some bikes so expensive, they’re just bikes!
This was most evident when I saw a post on Facebook so many months ago (before the pandemic hit) wherein a motorcycle rider collided with a cyclist on Marilaque Hiway. The carbon fiber bike was broken in half at the top tube. Then it was discovered that the frame was worth a few hundred thousand Philippine pesos.
There were people laughing, there were those who were sad, a few were sympathetic to the plight of both the cyclist and the motorcycle rider who now feels the burden of paying a hefty bill. Then there were those who were saying that why is the bike so expensive, it’s JUST A BIKE?!
I even saw one comment who said that the motorcycle should just pay 5,000 Pesos and the cyclist would be able to buy a new bike. He even recommended a shop/model.
Expensive is a Matter of Perspective
First of all, I want to say that how expensive something is would depend on your perspective, priority, and how deep your pockets are of course.
A good example is the iPhone. It is several times more expensive than the average smartphone. Why is the iPhone 11 Pro priced at almost 70,000 Pesos if there are smartphones that can provide call, text, and Facebook app for less than 5,000 Pesos?
Why is a Louis Vuitton bag priced at 80,000 Pesos if I can get one from Bench at a fraction of the cost?
Do you see where I’m getting here? In the Capitalist world, almost every industry has an entry-level, a mid-level, and a top-level product available. They are targeted based on the different income levels of people and what their needs are.
A student who needs a laptop to do online classes doesn’t need a laptop computer with an i7 processor, 16Gig RAM, and 1TB SSD hard drive. That student can go with an entry-level laptop that would fit the specific requirements while not breaking the bank. An architect on the other hand who uses AutoCad may need those specs which means investing in a high-end laptop makes sense.
Then there are those who prefer high-end products because it is their passion. A computer gamer might want to buy the most expensive PCs and gaming consoles. The same can be said with us cyclists.
Why can a Bike be Expensive?
So much research, testing, and building goes into developing bikes. From materials to technologies, companies like Shimano spend a lot of their money on research and development that aim to improve the performance of their products.
So the first in this category of why are bikes expensive is technology. Bikes, depending on the build and type, can have the following:
- Fork (with or without suspension)
- Wheels (which is made up of the tyre, tube, spokes, hubs, and rim)
- Brake system
- Shifting system
More or less these are what composes a bike. I may have missed some items but basically, these items form a cohesive machine that is powered by a human body to cover great distances. To achieve that in the most efficient manner, each of these parts is carefully researched, tested, and engineered.
A simple example of this is gear shifting technology. Decades ago, in order to switch gears on a road bike, the rider would have to take his or her hand off the handlebar, reach for a lever located on the frame, and manually adjust that to the desired gear.
Today, a road bike uses an STI system which is an integrated brake and shifting lever located at the handlebar of the bike. With a quick flick of the finger to the side, the rider can easily change gears.
This technology took a lot of time, money, and resources to develop.
Materials play a huge role in the cost of a bike, especially on the frame. You have steel, alloy, carbon fiber, and even titanium used in creating bike frames and other parts.
Carbon fiber has become very popular in the past couple of years due to its durability and weight. However, it comes at a cost. Quite literally. Carbon fiber parts can be several times more expensive than others.
Another factor in bike pricing is the manufacturing process itself. Models in the lower end of the spectrum make use of mass production manufacturing techniques which is good but does not provide the extra care and quality as compared to hand-made techniques used in high-end bikes.
In frames for example; low-end bikes tend to have very noticeable welds. They aren’t very smooth. Compare that to mid-level and high-level bike frames which have very smooth welds. This can affect the performance and quality of the frame.
Like in any other product in our Capitalist world, bikes can be expensive or cheap. Just because it is something that you don’t have any passion or care about, it doesn’t mean it should be cheap. It is a matter of perspective, passion, and of course, your wallet.