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  1. #1
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    Diminishing returns...

    Where does diminishing returns start to kick in when purchasing a bicycle? You know the point where the performance increase starts to be of little return for the investment.

    I currently have a 1989 Cannondale road bike, owned since new. It has all Campy Nuovo Record components (even older than the frame) except the cranks which are Veloce. What would I have to spend to get a comparable bike?

    Sorry if this sounds confusing or more likely stupid!!

    Thanks,

    Bill

  2. #2
    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    The first paragraph frames one question, and the second paragraph frames an entirely different question. I think you are implying that they are the same, but they're not.

    As for your first question, it's a matter of opinion, based on what you want and need. My guess is that somewhere, the point of diminishing returns is between $500 and $1000, but just for me. It's elsewhere for other people.

    It would be hard to find an equivalent bike to yours, because yours is well made but modern components function better because of the features and designs.
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  3. #3
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    I see your point. My mind knew what I was asking but it doesn't read like I want. Anyway you answered my question. Thanks.

    Bill

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    I will freely admit that I donít know a lot about Campy equipment but I think the advice about diminishing returns starting at $500 to $1000 is a bit conservative for a road bike. At least for Shimano equipped bikes. The breaking point for Shimano might be 105s. Ultrgra and Dura Ace are lighter but may not be any more dependable. But if you ride a $500 to $1000 bike and then ride a $1500 to $2000 bike you will more than likely notice the difference right away. All you have to do to see the difference is go to a LBS and test ride a few bikes. After about a day you will be able to tell without looking at the price what class bike you are looking at. Not that a strong rider on a $800 bike canít ride better than a weak rider on a $2000 bike but when you get to the hills on a road bike equal riders will notice the difference. IMHO. I have never tried a $5000 or $7000 bike so I donít know how much better they may or may not be.

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    Answering your question in two ways.

    First: Something comparable to your old bike but more modern. One tier below top end components mated to a quality but mass produced frame would be Shimano Ultegra or next step down 105, Campy Record or Chorus. As for frames? Take your pick: Cannondale still make grear frames both carbon and aluminum, or just about any of the big mass produced names; Trek, Specialized, Giant, GT, the list could go on. In aluminum your probably starting at around $1,000+ for such a bike. In carbon probably around $1,700+.

    Second: Deminishing returns probably starts a tier or two lower than this as has already been pointed out by others.

    However, when/if I start shopping for a replacement to my current, worn out, Cannondale, I'll be using a formula more similar to the former and less so the later.

    Any help?
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    I forgot to add that the starting prices I alluded to are based on Shimano equipped bikes and that Campy equipped bikes will come at a serious premium by comparison.
    Birth Certificate, Passport, Marriage License Driver's License and Residency Permit all say I'm a Fred. I guess there's no denying it.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Kimmitt's Avatar
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    Generally speaking, diminishing returns is really closely related to usage. If you're riding once every week or so, that's really different from if you're riding 20 miles a day. A bike that's totally unnecessary for the former could be not quite enough for the latter.

    I figure for a good road bike, if you're spending more than $1500, you probably coulda cut a few corners here and there and come out about as well -- unless you're touring or racing.
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  8. #8
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    Thanks to all. I was thinking in the $1500 to $1800.

    Bill

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    Although I said $500 to $1000, I think the $1500 to $2000 range is also reasonable for points of diminishing returns. As we can agree, it's a matter of what you do, what you need, and what you want. The difference between today's bikes and yesterday's bikes is that the "tail" is longer after the point of diminishing returns. It used to be that you could spend twice that point. Now you can spend ten times that amount.
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    As others have said, it's in different places for different people. One of my riding buddies is a corporate CEO who makes about $1.5 million a year (it's in his firm's annual report), and he absolutely believes he NEEDS two different $4000 bikes. My income's about 1/20 of his, and I'm completely happy with my Rambouillet, bought used for $1000.
    When I turned 55, I was planning to buy a custom Rivendell for my midlife crisis. At the time, they started around $3000, a ton of money for a guy with two kids in college. I did a lot of research, and Rivendell was great about explaining what I'd get for the money over one of their off-the-rack non-custom bikes. At one point Grant Petersen, who owns the company, said you could get 95 percent of the function of a full custom for 50 percent of the cost by buying an Atlantis or Rambouillet. I bought an Atlantis frame and fork ($950 at the time) and built it up mainly with parts I had, and I've never been disappointed (the Rambo came later, after the kids had graduated).

  11. #11
    Senior Member maddyfish's Avatar
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    To replace what you have with new of similar quality, around $1500 or so. My opinion, I notice little difference in bikes once the price goes north of $2500.
    Not too much to say here

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    Well it depends on what "returns" you're thinking about -

    $500 - If you're looking for cheap, fairly reliable, basic transportation, you can buy a hybrid bike for $400-$600 that will get you from point A to point B in relative comfort. Just don't expect to go "fast" as cheap comfort comes from big fat tires.

    $800 - If you're looking for fast reliable basic transportation you can get a road bike for between $700-$900 that will work. Spending more money isn't going to get you a faster bike (in the commuter sense of "fast"). However, there are drawbacks, like most bikes at this point have Sora shifters where you cannot shift from the drops.

    $1400 - For between $1200 and $1500 you can get a road bike that's fast enough for racing and frankly, above this point you get diminishing returns on speed. This is the point at which you're really unlikely to get any speed improvements by buying a faster bike. At this point you also get more race features, like shifters that let you shift from the drops and a solid wheelset.

    $2200 - For between $2000 and $2300 you start to get into the land of full carbon bikes. This is the point of diminishing returns for comfort. In my experience, a $2200 Specialized Roubaix is noticeably more comfortable than anything below that price point (well, in road bike with a skinny tire - there's stuff as comfortable below this with a fat tire, but it's going to be slower). By "comfort" I'm referring to things like - Will my hands feel fine, for feel like crap after riding 40 miles? Will I got over cracks in the road and think "Oh, that was a crack" or will I think "OMG that hurt". :-)

    Above this point we get into things like "stiffness" and "responsiveness". I'm the most familiar with Specialized bikes, so I'll talk about those. The Roubaix is designed for comfort (in a fast road bike) at the low end and becomes more stiff and responsive (while still being the same comfortable ride) at the high end. The Tarmac, though, is designed to be stiff and responsive at the low end, and more comfortable while being even more stiff and responsive at the high end. You might buy a mid-tier Roubaix because you like the more relaxed ride, but want something that has that more responsive feel than at the low end. Or you might buy a midlevel tarmac because you like the snappy racy feel, but you want something that's easier on you when you hit the bumps in the road.

    $5500 - For $5000 to $6000 you get a bike that's extremely responsive, very vibration absorbing, and frankly most dedicated racers won't even be able to tell the difference between these and the more expensive bikes. Above this is the level of severelly diminishing returns, even for people with tons of money and who care about getting up that long hill half a second faster. There are some drawbacks at this level sometimes, though, in that these are seriously designed race bikes for people who win or lose a race based on a 3 second difference over an hour ride. For example, I own a 2007 SWorks Specialized Tarmac SL, and my wrists are more comfortable after a long ride than than were on the lower model (actually, my wrists are usually completely unaffected by my ride) but the additional stiffness of the frame over the lower model makes my body a little achey at the end of a long ride. Also, the handling is very responsive, but it's almost *to* responsive - I've really had to build up back and arm muscles just to keep the bike going in a perfectly straight line, and I can't just slack off and stare at the scenery for a minute because the bike won't keep going straight - the slight changes in my arms will cause it to steer to one side or the other.

    They sell bikes above this price point, but that's the level of "Lance Armstrong sometimes thinks the frame flexes a tiny bit when he goes all out, so we designed something even stiffer". Or "this is the newest coolest latest thing this year, next year you'll be able to get it for a lot less but if you want it right this minute you'll have to pay a ton of money for it".

    Hope this helps!

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by noglider View Post
    Although I said $500 to $1000, I think the $1500 to $2000 range is also reasonable for points of diminishing returns. As we can agree, it's a matter of what you do, what you need, and what you want. The difference between today's bikes and yesterday's bikes is that the "tail" is longer after the point of diminishing returns. It used to be that you could spend twice that point. Now you can spend ten times that amount.
    I remember the "twice" that price for top end. That is about when I got the bike, Tommasini, that the Campy components came off to put on the Cannondale. Back then most bikes were steel. For the price that I paide you basically got good components. Going up in price mainly bought you carved lugs and pantogrph engraved components. Fancy stuff that didn't really get you any performance.

    When I started looking at bikes again recently I noticed the rather large price for many of them. Hence my original question. So it looks like $1500-2000 or so.

    Thanks,

    Bill

  14. #14
    Junior Member JDFLood's Avatar
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    Some good answers already submitted. But being a wise guy, I can't help adding that diminishing returns start at any bike costing more that about $69. That looks like the cheapest bike at Walmart (I just checked)... because any incremental improvement is still going to be smaller than the jump from nothing to a bike. After that it becomes a value judgement, highly influenced by your income and persuasion. I have eight bikes, four are custom. Dura Ace on all but two. Is it worth it? Yes. (I am a tourer, not a racer). I prefer the more ridged crank, smoother shifting of Dura Ace. Yes, I can tell, no, it is not like night and day. I like custom frames because I can have them tuned to my weight / load and have the maximum flex (to absorb bumps and vibration from the road) without allowing any lateral flex which leads to flabby steering. For me the optimum cost / benefit is around $6K or so. So I guess I have to agree with Paul RIvers well thought out comments. JD

  15. #15
    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    Funny but true, I suppose, JDFlood. A relative showed me his Schwinn-branded bike he just got at Target. It was $169, I think. Honestly, I couldn't find fault with it. And in light of what you said, it would be hard to explain to some why I feel they should spend more than that amount.
    You don't read my signature anyway, do you?

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  16. #16
    Senior Member Garfield Cat's Avatar
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    About a year ago, I bought a new frameset and it handles very well. I can tell the difference when climbing on and off the saddle. I can tell the difference in comfort. Its lighter and the handling is more aggressive. But really, I'm not that much faster. Nor will I ever be because I'm running against time. Most of us over age 60 can tell the difference 10 years makes.

    I don't call this diminishing returns. I just like the ride.

  17. #17
    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    So Grant cost himself a sale by being honest.
    You don't read my signature anyway, do you?

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  18. #18
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    I would not go by cost- but on quality.

    Frames are a personal choice but every one seems to want C.F. Nowadays. But a $200 frame or one that costs a lot more?

    Spec of the groupset and Most will agree that 105 would be the minimum- Ultegra better and Dure Ace far too expensive unless you really need it. Wheels and forget most machine built wheels- go hand built and one of the favourites are Ultegra Hubs mated to Mavic Open -Pro rims and a double butted spoke. You can go higher on spec and also lose wheel weight but Ultegra/ Open Pro is a high starting point. Then the anciliaries- and to an extent money spent on a saddle that is comfortable will be worth it and as you will rarely change bars- stems and other items- get as good as you can afford.

    Sound expensive to get a Bike built in this way but looking at "Stock" bikesbuilt to this quality - you can start at around $1,000 and just go upwards. Might have to change a couple of things- like wheels and saddle but talk to the supplier and get what you need at this stage.

    Just depends on what you do want on a bike.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LongT View Post
    I remember the "twice" that price for top end. That is about when I got the bike, Tommasini, that the Campy components came off to put on the Cannondale. Back then most bikes were steel. For the price that I paide you basically got good components. Going up in price mainly bought you carved lugs and pantogrph engraved components. Fancy stuff that didn't really get you any performance.

    When I started looking at bikes again recently I noticed the rather large price for many of them. Hence my original question. So it looks like $1500-2000 or so.

    Thanks,

    Bill
    Ok, I'm just saying - I honestly don't know of any bikes that cost between $1500-$2000, so I am COMPLETELY perplexed with how you could come up with that range.

    I know of lots of bikes that cost $1200-$1500, or $2000-$2500. None in the $1500-$2000 range. It's like how I don't know of any bike lights that cost $75, they're all < $50 or > $100.

  20. #20
    Ovdabak, OR DArthurBrown's Avatar
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    As the OP has already read: Everyone has a different opinion on this. One thing I think can be said as fact is that 2009 equipment will be superior to just about anything made in 1989.

    There is no easy answer to your question. And aside from personal experience or derived belief, no one can say that one particular component is better than another, because no one has ever shifted a Sora shifted until it failed or tested how many revolutions under different load a particular chainring can handle before wearing down. Bicycle companies like to keep us lost, because it makes more expensive things easy to sell. In a sense, we have to believe what they say. There is no way to prove them wrong, except by trying it out.

    So, to that, I can add my one statement. I run a Tiagra grouppo with a 105 rear derailleur. It has always worked flawlessly and reliably. I've never had a single issue. For a serious rider, I would suggest the 105 level, if you have the cash, not because of reliability or weight or any other marketing influence, but because it is as interchangeable and compatible as any other groupset out there. If you ride a lot, you will inevitably need to change things out, switch things around and put them back together again, so I would vote for 105 because it is the cheapest option for being able to do that easily.

    I don't believe in statements regarding "shifting performance", and with only a few exceptions, haven't seen much difference in the frequency of cheaper parts failing. If anything, I see more often a failed expensive part, simply because riders using more expensive stuff tend to ride more. I can notice a difference in the "feel" of a different frame or shifting mechanism. Some "feel" better than others, but its a personal preference as to what better feel is worth, and is therefore a personal preference as to where the "bang for the buck" maxima lies.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaulRivers View Post
    Ok, I'm just saying - I honestly don't know of any bikes that cost between $1500-$2000, so I am COMPLETELY perplexed with how you could come up with that range.

    I know of lots of bikes that cost $1200-$1500, or $2000-$2500. None in the $1500-$2000 range. It's like how I don't know of any bike lights that cost $75, they're all < $50 or > $100.
    I guess that is where the "or so" comes in. Just a general "Oh, somewhere around" type of thing. My LBS sells the Cannondale Six 5 for $1795 by the way. Another has the '10 Trek 2.3 Triple for 1599.99,

    You did have a very good reply to my post. Thanks!

    Bill
    Last edited by LongT; 07-21-09 at 08:45 PM.

  22. #22
    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    I think bike mechanics can speak with a bit of authority when talking about which components are durable and which are not. They see the frequent failure modes, and their sample rates are higher.
    You don't read my signature anyway, do you?

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    I'm a utilitiy cyclists who does his own mechanical work, and has access to a co-op full of used bike parts. For me the point of diminishing returns is 150$, anything higher I probably could have already built it myself cheaper.

  24. #24
    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    Another reason to spend less: your bike could get stolen or ruined. If this happens, the less you've spent, the less you lose.
    You don't read my signature anyway, do you?

    Tom Reingold, noglider@pobox.com
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  25. #25
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    Well I think the law of diminishing returns depends on what your standards are. For me, it has been Shimano 105. 105 has all the functionality of Dura Ace and Ultegra, it is just a bit heavier. Since I do not race up mountains, a bit of extra weight on the bike is not going to hurt me.

    But for people who DO race up mountains, nothing short of Dura Ace will do.

    For people without any sort of desire for performance riding perhaps tiagra would be as much or even more than they might want.

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