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Why are Modern Bikes So Expensive?

Old 04-04-24, 08:51 AM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
Design and development costs today are far higher. More specialist engineers, wind tunnels etc.
Asian labour is cheaper, but there is lot more involved in producing monocoque cf layups vs bonded carbon tube. If they were manufactured in the US today then they would be even more expensive.

$8k today still buys you a bike technically well in advance of what was on the market back then.
This strikes me as the important bit: what did $8000 U.S. (today's money) buy one back then (e.g. the Trek 5900 above) vs. what $8000 (today's money) buys today. Just for giggles, I looked at the Trek Emonda SLR7, which can be had for around $8000: all up weight (size 56) 15.66 lbs; Ultegra Di2 drivetrain w/Ultegra hydraulic discs; carbon wheelset, bars; modern carbon construction (not lug/tube); aero research/design. Whether or not such a bicycle is worth it to a given buyer, or even desirable, there can be absolutely no doubt that the money in question buys 'more/more advanced' today.
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Old 04-04-24, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Jughed
That $4700 top of the line Trek in todays dollars = 8k.
Todays top of the line Trek = 13k+/-.

The Look and Pinarello have an even bigger delta... way out pacing standard inflation.

And you could probably say that the CF manufacturing process back then was more expensive - new design and development, probably less automated... the Trek was probably hand made in the USA,, the Pinarello hand made in Italy... Look bikes hand crafted in France... not anymore.
Yes Trek probably made in China or Taiwan and not the same quality. The only brands that are truely made in Italy are Daccordi, De Rosa, Rossin, CBT, Faggin, Ciocc, Bottecchia, Vetta, Willier and some others. Look is now made in Tunisia except for the professional racing teams where they are made in France.
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Old 04-04-24, 09:09 AM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
$8k today still buys you a bike technically well in advance of what was on the market back then.
Back in Post #8 I pointed out that this factor makes this whole thread kind of pointless. But here we are at 15 pages and counting.
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Old 04-04-24, 09:18 AM
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Originally Posted by smd4
And the bikes on the market "back then" were "technically well in advance of what was on the market" from the 1940s. So what's you point?
My point is that top tier bikes are likely to get more and more expensive in order to help cover escalating design and development costs. Demand also plays a big part in this. If nobody was willing to pay $13k for a bike then they wouldnít exist. Of course the profit margin on those few $13k models is maximised, but the development costs are spread across the whole product range where margins are not so great. Unless you believe the bike industry is amazingly profitable.
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Old 04-04-24, 09:24 AM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
My point is that top tier bikes are likely to get more and more expensive in order to help cover escalating design and development costs.
So top tier bike "design and development costs" didn't escalate at all between 1940 and 1980? It's only a recent development? Interesting.
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Old 04-04-24, 09:29 AM
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Originally Posted by georges1
Yes Trek probably made in China or Taiwan and not the same quality. The only brands that are truely made in Italy are Daccordi, De Rosa, Rossin, CBT, Faggin, Ciocc, Bottecchia, Vetta, Willier and some others. Look is now made in Tunisia except for the professional racing teams where they are made in France.
The quality and performance of legit high-end carbon bikes produced today is way beyond those of 20 years ago. Lower Asian labour costs doesnít equate to lower quality in this case. The top tier Asian factories are high tech and employ highly skilled labour that would actually be hard to replicate in the US at a price level that would be acceptable.
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Old 04-04-24, 09:35 AM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
The quality and performance of legit high-end carbon bikes produced today is way beyond those of 20 years ago. Lower Asian labour costs doesnít equate to lower quality in this case. The top tier Asian factories are high tech and employ highly skilled labour that would actually be hard to replicate in the US at a price level that would be acceptable.
Didn't you write this same thing 30 years ago? No?

You could have.
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Old 04-04-24, 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
The quality and performance of legit high-end carbon bikes produced today is way beyond those of 20 years ago. Lower Asian labour costs doesnít equate to lower quality in this case. The top tier Asian factories are high tech and employ highly skilled labour that would actually be hard to replicate in the US at a price level that would be acceptable.
I would agree that carbon frames are lighter but not sure what I would say anything else. Those old carbon bike were built like tanks. Performance? Quality?
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Old 04-04-24, 09:40 AM
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Originally Posted by smd4
So top tier bike "design and development costs" didn't escalate at all between 1940 and 1980? It's only a recent development? Interesting.
Oh, you think technology development is linear right?

I donít actually know the history of bicycle development between 1940 and 1980 but I doubt it involved very much in terms of new technology and production processes. As an engineer, most of the major development appears to have occurred over the last 2 decades. Isnít that why retro-grouches complain about all the non-standard proprietary parts we see today?
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Old 04-04-24, 09:44 AM
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Originally Posted by vespasianus
I would agree that carbon frames are lighter but not sure what I would say anything else. Those old carbon bike were built like tanks. Performance? Quality?
My first steel bike was also built like a tank (Royal Enfield) but thatís not really what I want from a performance bike. Having said that, modern carbon mountain bikes can take a serious beating without being excessively heavy.
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Old 04-04-24, 09:59 AM
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Originally Posted by georges1
Yes Trek probably made in China or Taiwan and not the same quality.
Why does being made in China or Taiwan automatically equal lower quality? If the same materials are used, under the same quality control standards, by humans with equal skills, wouldn't the quality be the same? Just because the workers in those countries are paid less than US workers doesn't necessarily mean they are less skilled at their job.
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Old 04-04-24, 10:00 AM
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Originally Posted by vespasianus
I have been looking a lot at the Iron Man Kona as that is a race that has had the same basic bike route (with some exceptions) over 40 years. Bikes of course have evolved significantly and a full aero Tri-bike - as raced by the vast majority of the top 10 finishers are vastly more aero and more advanced than any "road" bike, even a specialized ICI TT bike.

Times over that period have increased at the MOST by 5.1 seconds per mile. And again, we are comparing the old fashioned skinny tubed steel bike - which they started with - to the most modern AERO bike you can make now. Surprisingly, the whole race times are not that much different either - so it has not lead people to be "fresher" and able to "run" faster - at least not by a lot!

I would argue and firmly believe that for most everyone riding, all the changes on road bikes over the last 20 years have had a modest impact upon speed at best. Just ride what you like and be happy.

If you want to spend 15K on a bike, do it and be happy. If you don't, you can get a bike just as good, for much less and be just as fast and I would argue, just as happy!
I have some insight in this and agree with you. I've never done Kona but I did 2 other Ironmans as well as maybe 100 other tri's in late 90's through early 2000's.

I had a very aero bike for the time. A Felt B2 with Hed 3 spoke wheels front and back. One piece Vision bars. 650c baby. The bike was fast, it also wasn't that heavy, maybe 19lbs. I raced on that bike for a while until I decided to get more into road racing instead.

There was a 1/2IM I entered to impress a girl 2 years after I was done with tri's. The only training I'd done was racing Cat 3 in Colorado for a season. At that point the only bike I had was traditional road bike. It had round aluminum tubes, nothing aero about it. I put clip on aero bars on and borrowed an almost antique disc wheel from a friend. Once I doggypaddled out of the lake, I clocked one of the fastest bike times of the day and certainly the best of my life.

I got the big picture aero things, the itty bitty details only matter for shaving seconds, not making a giant difference. Look at the wind tunnel tests. Body position, Disc wheel, shaved legs, and snug clothing. The rest is really splitting hairs for pro's or mostly marketing for amateurs. A 2 minute difference to the average "finisher" over a 6+ hour ride simply doesn't matter. The middle aged orthopedic surgeon training for an Ironman is quite happy to buy that bike, so why not?

I would definitely caution against using triathletes as a measure of anything. They are an incredibly inconsistent group. You've got swimmers, or runners, with every intention of making up their bike time on the other events. You've got windbreakers flapping in the breeze. You've got people ****ting in the woods because they don't race enough to have a "race day belly" plan. You've got broken bikes. Borrowed bikes. No maintenance bikes. It's just such a wild group that I'd be hesitant to make any conclusions about them.
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Old 04-04-24, 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted by smd4
So top tier bike "design and development costs" didn't escalate at all between 1940 and 1980? It's only a recent development? Interesting.
During the time period mentioned, there were hardly any costs associated with designing and developing bicycles. Basic materials were manufactured and developed by a handful of steel manufacturers and were distributed to all the builders in bulk. Lugs were also purchased off the shelf by multiple manufacturers, and even today, fans of classic and vintage bikes can identify the lug models and their manufacturers. Builders during this time relied on standard, low-tech techniques that were widely available and commonly practiced by garage boutique builders, as well as bulk manufacturers like Raleigh. There were minimal advancements in components, and progress was slow, save for the odd titanium bolt or two and a few extra gears. Individual builders had almost no development costs, and bikes were virtually indistinguishable from one another for decades. Even the highly regarded 753 frames, which required builders to be certified to purchase them, were not that difficult to work with. The minimal standard was not much of a hurdle, and any moderately experienced metal worker could quickly achieve the quality needed. there are many examples of mass-produced 753 frames. The only challenge for the builder was the logistics required to coordinate the certification process.
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Old 04-04-24, 10:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Eric F
Why does being made in China or Taiwan automatically equal lower quality? If the same materials are used, under the same quality control standards, by humans with equal skills, wouldn't the quality be the same? Just because the workers in those countries are paid less than US workers doesn't necessarily mean they are less skilled at their job.
It's a racist conclusion.

They make products for a price point. So if you contract to sell top of the line and immaculately quality controlled goods, that's what you get. If you contract for a certain (acceptable) degree of variation at a lower price, that's what you get. If you contract for look alike products with no real relation to the real deal with no quality control, that is what you get.

Some (most?) the highest quality and most strictly controlled products in the world are made there. So are the worst. The company selling the product has to decide how good or bad they want their stuff to be and what reduction in quality is it worth having a lower price.

It's got nothing to do with the origin of manufacture.
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Old 04-04-24, 10:23 AM
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The general trend is the "high end" in most consumer goods prices has outstripped inflation. Whether that is because of the costs of developing an innovation for those marginal gains or due to price gouging, I am not sure whether either side of that argument will be convincing the other. This applies to almost all sectors: cars, watches, A&V equipment and sporting goods.

For instance, the Bugatti Veyron was sold as a new car for millions of dollars each, but massive losses were still incurred on each vehicle produced. This may not apply to the cycling industry, but the takeaway is that exorbitant selling prices do not necessarily translate to profits.

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Old 04-04-24, 10:43 AM
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Originally Posted by georges1
Yes Trek probably made in China or Taiwan and not the same quality. The only brands that are truely made in Italy are Daccordi, De Rosa, Rossin, CBT, Faggin, Ciocc, Bottecchia, Vetta, Willier and some others. Look is now made in Tunisia except for the professional racing teams where they are made in France.
Isn't it just the pinnacle of irony that we nostalgically reminisce about the supposed glory days of Western-made goods during the 70s and 80s? I mean, come on, those decades were practically a masterclass in shoddy craftsmanship, rampant labor issues, and a dearth of genuine innovation. It's like a twisted paradox where we're supposed to believe that subpar quality and stagnation were somehow the hallmarks of excellence. Oh, but let's criticize the Asian manufacturers for their poor quality with no evidence or facts to support the argument.
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Old 04-04-24, 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Atlas Shrugged
The general trend is the "high end" in most consumer goods prices has outstripped inflation. Whether that is because of the costs of developing an innovation for those marginal gains or due to price gouging, I am not sure whether either side of that argument will be convincing the other. This applies to almost all sectors: cars, watches, A&V equipment and sporting goods.

For instance, the Bugatti Veyron was sold as a new car for millions of dollars each, but massive losses were still incurred on each vehicle produced. This may not apply to the cycling industry, but the takeaway is that exorbitant selling prices do not necessarily translate to profits.
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Old 04-04-24, 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Atlas Shrugged
Isn't it just the pinnacle of irony that we nostalgically reminisce about the supposed glory days of Western-made goods during the 70s and 80s? I mean, come on, those decades were practically a masterclass in shoddy craftsmanship, rampant labor issues, and a dearth of genuine innovation. It's like a twisted paradox where we're supposed to believe that subpar quality and stagnation were somehow the hallmarks of excellence. Oh, but let's criticize the Asian manufacturers for their poor quality with no evidence or facts to support the argument.
Yeah, in a lot of cases, the 70s was marked by complacence, and the 80s were when the effects of that complacence hit those industries.
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Old 04-04-24, 01:31 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
My first steel bike was also built like a tank (Royal Enfield) but that’s not really what I want from a performance bike. Having said that, modern carbon mountain bikes can take a serious beating without being excessively heavy.
Carbon mountain bikes have become heavy as crap. My Ripley frame is over 3kg and the entire bike is 30lbs. I love that bike though - weight is pretty much irrelevant for a bikes performance.

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Old 04-04-24, 01:35 PM
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Originally Posted by rosefarts
I have some insight in this and agree with you. I've never done Kona but I did 2 other Ironmans as well as maybe 100 other tri's in late 90's through early 2000's.

I had a very aero bike for the time. A Felt B2 with Hed 3 spoke wheels front and back. One piece Vision bars. 650c baby. The bike was fast, it also wasn't that heavy, maybe 19lbs. I raced on that bike for a while until I decided to get more into road racing instead.

There was a 1/2IM I entered to impress a girl 2 years after I was done with tri's. The only training I'd done was racing Cat 3 in Colorado for a season. At that point the only bike I had was traditional road bike. It had round aluminum tubes, nothing aero about it. I put clip on aero bars on and borrowed an almost antique disc wheel from a friend. Once I doggypaddled out of the lake, I clocked one of the fastest bike times of the day and certainly the best of my life.

I got the big picture aero things, the itty bitty details only matter for shaving seconds, not making a giant difference. Look at the wind tunnel tests. Body position, Disc wheel, shaved legs, and snug clothing. The rest is really splitting hairs for pro's or mostly marketing for amateurs. A 2 minute difference to the average "finisher" over a 6+ hour ride simply doesn't matter. The middle aged orthopedic surgeon training for an Ironman is quite happy to buy that bike, so why not?

I would definitely caution against using triathletes as a measure of anything. They are an incredibly inconsistent group. You've got swimmers, or runners, with every intention of making up their bike time on the other events. You've got windbreakers flapping in the breeze. You've got people ****ting in the woods because they don't race enough to have a "race day belly" plan. You've got broken bikes. Borrowed bikes. No maintenance bikes. It's just such a wild group that I'd be hesitant to make any conclusions about them.
Not using triathletes as a measure of anything. Only look at one race. One race. Iron Man Kona. That is the key. They have used the same road course since the beginning. Not many races can say that over a 30-40 year period. And there is no drafting allowed and no input from the "team". From very un-aero to the most aero bikes, for only the fastest people (top 10), the time improvement is about 5 seconds per mile. That is performance.
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Old 04-04-24, 02:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Atlas Shrugged
Isn't it just the pinnacle of irony that we nostalgically reminisce about the supposed glory days of Western-made goods during the 70s and 80s? I mean, come on, those decades were practically a masterclass in shoddy craftsmanship, rampant labor issues, and a dearth of genuine innovation. It's like a twisted paradox where we're supposed to believe that subpar quality and stagnation were somehow the hallmarks of excellence. Oh, but let's criticize the Asian manufacturers for their poor quality with no evidence or facts to support the argument.
Yep, nothing says' "quality" like a Chevy Vega! The '70s and '80s were when the US auto industry lost its market dominance and the US consumer electronics industry pretty much vanished. And acting as if steel bike frames built by Europeans are somehow superior to those built in Asia (then or now) is nutso. Steel frame building has been a mature (=technologically almost stagnant) industry for my entire lifetime -- pretty much anyone, with a little training, can build a good steel frame. And there is plenty of great cf fabrication going on in Asia.

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Old 04-04-24, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Koyote
Yep, nothing says' "quality" like a Chevy Vega! The '70s and '80s were when the US auto industry lost its market dominance and the US consumer electronics industry pretty much vanished. And acting as if steel bike frames built by Europeans are somehow superior to those built in Asia (then or now) is nutso. Steel frame building has been a mature (=technologically almost stagnant) industry for my entire lifetime -- pretty much anyone, with a little training, can build a good steel frame. And there is plenty of great cf fabrication going on in Asia.
44 years ago, I was working at Cornell. The President of the university visited China and agreed to an "Academic Exchange" - scholars from Cornell would go to China and vice versa. The prof I worked for, who was Chinese, was one of the few in the Sciences to accept any of the Chinese post-docs. For the most part, they had absolutely no concept of Molecular Biology, and the technology they were used to was about 30 years out of date. And they were the best China could send at that time.

44 years later, while Biotech in China is not ahead of us, it is not far behind. A number of companies that provide services for the Biotech industry in the US have labs in China to do the work, and they do good work. Yes, it's cheaper because of standard of living and cost of living differences, but it is absolutely not second rate work by any means.
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Old 04-04-24, 03:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Koyote
Yep, nothing says' "quality" like a Chevy Vega! The '70s and '80s were when the US auto industry lost its market dominance and the US consumer electronics industry pretty much vanished. And acting as if steel bike frames built by Europeans are somehow superior to those built in Asia (then or now) is nutso. Steel frame building has been a mature (=technologically almost stagnant) industry for my entire lifetime -- pretty much anyone, with a little training, can build a good steel frame. And there is plenty of great cf fabrication going on in Asia.
Many people who worked in bike shops or were involved in the bicycle industry during that time can confirm the quality of that era. Any reputable shop needed the renowned Campagnolo Tool kit to properly prepare a frame for its customers. This involved chasing all threads, facing headsets and bottom brackets, and aligning dropouts. It was uncommon not to align a top-tier Italian or British brand by cold setting it to get it within an acceptable specification. Paint quality was no great shakes either.

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Old 04-04-24, 03:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Atlas Shrugged
Many people who worked in bike shops or were involved in the bicycle industry during that time can confirm the quality of that era. Any reputable shop needed the renowned Campagnolo Tool kit to properly prepare a frame for its customers. This involved chasing all threads, facing headsets and bottom brackets, and aligning dropouts. It was uncommon not to align a top-tier Italian or British brand by cold setting it to get it within an acceptable specification. Paint quality was no great shakes either.
It's almost like the past wasn't as rosy as we remember. Who'da thunk it?
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Old 04-04-24, 03:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Atlas Shrugged
During the time period mentioned, there were hardly any costs associated with designing and developing bicycles. Basic materials were manufactured and developed by a handful of steel manufacturers and were distributed to all the builders in bulk. Lugs were also purchased off the shelf by multiple manufacturers, and even today, fans of classic and vintage bikes can identify the lug models and their manufacturers. Builders during this time relied on standard, low-tech techniques that were widely available and commonly practiced by garage boutique builders, as well as bulk manufacturers like Raleigh. There were minimal advancements in components, and progress was slow, save for the odd titanium bolt or two and a few extra gears. Individual builders had almost no development costs, and bikes were virtually indistinguishable from one another for decades. Even the highly regarded 753 frames, which required builders to be certified to purchase them, were not that difficult to work with. The minimal standard was not much of a hurdle, and any moderately experienced metal worker could quickly achieve the quality needed. there are many examples of mass-produced 753 frames. The only challenge for the builder was the logistics required to coordinate the certification process.
It was a wonderful time, in other words. Thank heaven for slow progress. Humans weren't built for this ****...

TOTL bicycles at reasonable prices were a solved problem before The Beatles came around. The problem has been un-solved since.

No biggie however, in the larger scheme of things. Ride what you like.
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