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Why are Modern Bikes So Expensive?

Old 03-21-24, 10:23 AM
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Originally Posted by genejockey
I did find it interesting that one of the first CF bikes was so heavy. There was absolutely no improvement in weight over the mid-to-upper end of steel bikes. 21 1/2 pounds for $3000. Compare that with the Schwinn Circuit (one bike I know from the same era) - it was 21 lbs, and cost $799.
In 2003-2005, my top-level CF bike (Time VX) was not noticeably lighter than the aluminum bikes I used for crit racing - same wheels and components. The difference was probably less than 1/2lb. That said, there were lighter CF frames than the Time VX in that era.

EDIT: FWIW, my most recent road bike (CF, rim brake, high-end spec) weighs ~2lbs less than my bikes from 2003-2005.
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Old 03-21-24, 10:34 AM
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1992

2.44 lbs - still considered fairly light ( I believe ? )
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Old 03-21-24, 10:40 AM
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Originally Posted by genejockey
Hold on, there, bub! I make no claims about what things SHOULD cost. I make observations about what they DO cost and what you get for that money. Buy a gallon of milk in 1989 or today, you get the same product, so prices are directly comparable. Buy a new mid-to-upper level bike of today and you get a MUCH better product than a mid-to-upper level bike of 1989. So, does it make sense to compare THOSE prices without noting the difference?
The milk you drink is the same milk that ancient peasants have been drinking for tens of thousands of years. It's not a technologically advancing manufactured product. What a dumb comparison.

You dodged responding before so let me ask you again. A modern cell phone has a faster CPU than a supercomputer from decades ago. By your logic, should a modern cell phone cost tens of thousands dollars?
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Old 03-21-24, 11:18 AM
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...it figures that, besides not being able to take full advantage of the miracles of a carbon fiber wonder bike, I would also be lactose intolerant.
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Old 03-21-24, 11:49 AM
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Originally Posted by NumbersGuy
The fact is that those were at the cutting edge of technology at their time and it took just as much R&D to get to that point and to manufacture.
Based on my experience working for decades in high tech engineering R&D, that statement in bold is almost certainly untrue. I would bet good money that the R&D resources at a leading bike manufacturer are way more expensive than they were 30 years ago, both in labour (engineers) and equipment.
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Old 03-21-24, 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
Based on my experience working for decades in high tech engineering R&D, that statement in bold is almost certainly untrue. I would bet good money that the R&D resources at a leading bike manufacturer are way more expensive than they were 30 years ago, both in labour (engineers) and equipment.
Sure, probably very little to no R&D done here. No computers used, just good ol' back of the envelope calculations, I bet. No engineers, of course, just some teenage mechanics from the lawn mower/Murray shop down the street.

Kestel 4000, 1989.
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Old 03-21-24, 12:10 PM
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Originally Posted by smd4
I have a book that says in the 1970s, women were welding up Paramounts.
I'd pay good money to see that movie: "Wanda and Lucille."
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Old 03-21-24, 12:17 PM
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Originally Posted by smd4
Sure, probably very little to no R&D done here. No computers used, just good ol' back of the envelope calculations, I bet. No engineers, of course, just some teenage mechanics from the lawn mower/Murray shop down the street.

Kestel 4000, 1989.
I can't tell if you're being facetious, or not.
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Old 03-21-24, 12:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Eric F
I can't tell if you're being facetious, or not.
Facetious. Pete seems to think that the R&D and engineering back in the day just wasn't as costly and time consuming then as it is today.

Adjusted for inflation, of course it was. NumbersGuy is correct:

Originally Posted by NumbersGuy
it took just as much R&D to get to that point and to manufacture.
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Old 03-21-24, 12:31 PM
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Originally Posted by smd4
Facetious. Pete seems to think that the R&D and engineering back in the day just wasn't as costly and time consuming then as it is today.

Adjusted for inflation, of course it was. NumbersGuy is correct:
"Little to no R&D" is not what Pete said. Based on my knowledge of Pete's background, I tend to think he has some valuable experience to make the statement he did. Do you have experience with a relevant R&D process, or are you just guessing?
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Old 03-21-24, 12:35 PM
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Originally Posted by smd4
Facetious. Pete seems to think that the R&D and engineering back in the day just wasn't as costly and time consuming then as it is today.

Adjusted for inflation, of course it was. NumbersGuy is correct:
Yep, glad someone understood my point. Everything has increased in cost at something generally near the overall inflation numbers, yet the argument that bicycle R&D and manufacturing is somehow enormously higher and justifies the price increases is ridiculous.
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Old 03-21-24, 12:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Yan
The milk you drink is the same milk that ancient peasants have been drinking for tens of thousands of years. It's not a technologically advancing manufactured product. What a dumb comparison.
The question was "Why are modern bikes so expensive?" To overlook the improvement in every measurable aspect and simply compare prices is ludicrous.

And, actually, the milk you buy now will have been pasteurized, so it's far less likely to kill you than the milk that ancient peasants drank.

You dodged responding before so let me ask you again. A modern cell phone has a faster CPU than a supercomputer from decades ago. By your logic, should a modern cell phone cost tens of thousands dollars?
I didn't dodge responding. I pointed out that you set up a straw man argument, because I never said anything about what things SHOULD cost. I'm under no obligation to buy into your false premise.

What I DID do was to point out that what we mean by "a cell phone" in 2024 is RADICALLY different from what we meant by "a cell phone" in 1989, and that EVEN SO, phones are MUCH cheaper in nominal dollars and INCREDIBLY cheaper in inflation adjusted dollars.
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Old 03-21-24, 12:41 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
Based on my experience working for decades in high tech engineering R&D, that statement in bold is almost certainly untrue. I would bet good money that the R&D resources at a leading bike manufacturer are way more expensive than they were 30 years ago, both in labour (engineers) and equipment.
Back in Usenet days - in 1997, maybe - BIke Forums' own bulgie wrote a post regarding the state of bicycle engineering in the pre-modern era where he said, approximately (I'll try to dig up the original quote):

"Manufacturers removed material until the death rate became prohibitive, and then added a little back."
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Old 03-21-24, 12:42 PM
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Originally Posted by NumbersGuy
Yep, glad someone understood my point. Everything has increased in cost at something generally near the overall inflation numbers, yet the argument that bicycle R&D and manufacturing is somehow enormously higher and justifies the price increases is ridiculous.
Again, are prices that much higher, when adjusted for inflation? Here, you can't compare 1989 Halo bikes with 2024 Halo bikes, because that's only a small sliver of the bicycle market.
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Old 03-21-24, 12:46 PM
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Originally Posted by smd4
Facetious. Pete seems to think that the R&D and engineering back in the day just wasn't as costly and time consuming then as it is today.

Adjusted for inflation, of course it was. NumbersGuy is correct:
Hard to know how much R&D went into Kestrel's bike, but most of the bikes back then were made of steel tubing sourced from a handful of manufacturers, who did their own R&D, and spread the cost of it across all their customers, as opposed to each company doing its own R&D.
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Old 03-21-24, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by NumbersGuy
Yep, glad someone understood my point. Everything has increased in cost at something generally near the overall inflation numbers, yet the argument that bicycle R&D and manufacturing is somehow enormously higher and justifies the price increases is ridiculous.
I believe you are mistaken about the current developments in top-tier bicycle manufacturing. If we look at the top-tier bikes from the era of steel tube and lugged construction, we can see that they remained virtually identical for decades. They employed the same materials and construction techniques across various bike models. Despite the hype around the introduction of 753, which required builders to be certified, the actual materials and techniques were not significantly different, and there wasn't much R&D needed from the manufacturers. Even small mom-and-pop builders could achieve the certification. For decades, there was effectively no R&D or additional tooling costs.

Moreover, I believe that R&D costs are primarily incurred by top-tier products, which then trickle down to lower-end bicycles in the current landcape.
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Old 03-21-24, 12:57 PM
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I took an engineering class in carbon fiber back in the early '80s, because I wanted to make carbon frames. One thing that quickly became obvious is that if you wanted to make a carbon frame that was as strong as a steel frame in every possible loading condition, it was going to weigh about the same as a steel frame. The professor told us as much, and made us write a computer program to test how different layups would respond to loadings. I regret that I let a professor discourage me from working on carbon bike frames back then, although I probably didn't have the money to make a good try. It wasn't that long ago that I finally recycled the punch card deck with my program on it, it was about 3" thick. I wish I had it read into a more usable digital form before getting rid of it.

My impression is that fiber has gotten a lot stronger since that time, or at least the carbon that normal people could get their hands on back then. There is still some optimization going on to make for decent weight savings, but bike designers have had many decades of practice since then.
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Old 03-21-24, 12:58 PM
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Originally Posted by genejockey
Again, are prices that much higher, when adjusted for inflation? Here, you can't compare 1989 Halo bikes with 2024 Halo bikes, because that's only a small sliver of the bicycle market.
Originally Posted by genejockey
Hard to know how much R&D went into Kestrel's bike, but most of the bikes back then were made of steel tubing sourced from a handful of manufacturers, who did their own R&D, and spread the cost of it across all their customers, as opposed to each company doing its own R&D.
I'm not even going back that far. I feel like it's really the last 10 years that the price curve has gone crazy. 10 years ago, carbon fiber and aero shapes were already well into the bike industry and the prices were still only pacing with inflation. Since then, they haven't had a shift in material, they've been making small tweaks to tube shapes, and they've added 1 cog to the rear cassette. Sure electronic shifting has become much more mainstream, but Di2 was already well established in the market 10 years ago. 31% inflation and 65% increase to equivalent bikes during that 10 year period is where I am struggling to see a reasonable cause other than manufacturer greed and/or laziness in overspending because they were able to pass on costs to consumers while sales volumes still grew.
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Old 03-21-24, 01:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Atlas Shrugged
I believe you are mistaken about the current developments in top-tier bicycle manufacturing. If we look at the top-tier bikes from the era of steel tube and lugged construction, we can see that they remained virtually identical for decades. They employed the same materials and construction techniques across various bike models. Despite the hype around the introduction of 753, which required builders to be certified, the actual materials and techniques were not significantly different, and there wasn't much R&D needed from the manufacturers. Even small mom-and-pop builders could achieve the certification. For decades, there was effectively no R&D or additional tooling costs.

Moreover, I believe that R&D costs are primarily incurred by top-tier products, which then trickle down to lower-end bicycles in the current landcape.
What's changed in carbon bike manufacturing in the last 10 years that justifies more than double the inflation increase in prices? The shift to carbon and aero might be a justifiable change, but that had already occurred and since then it's just been small refinements.
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Old 03-21-24, 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by NumbersGuy
I'm not even going back that far. I feel like it's really the last 10 years that the price curve has gone crazy. 10 years ago, carbon fiber and aero shapes were already well into the bike industry and the prices were still only pacing with inflation. Since then, they haven't had a shift in material, they've been making small tweaks to tube shapes, and they've added 1 cog to the rear cassette. Sure electronic shifting has become much more mainstream, but Di2 was already well established in the market 10 years ago. 31% inflation and 65% increase to equivalent bikes during that 10 year period is where I am struggling to see a reasonable cause other than manufacturer greed and/or laziness in overspending because they were able to pass on costs to consumers while sales volumes still grew.
Source? How is "equivalent" determined? What bikes are being compared?
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Old 03-21-24, 01:05 PM
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I wouldn't have wanted to work in the bike industry over the last couple of years, there have been massive challenges. I have no idea if the current pricing is realistic or not, but consumer demand is still there, I think. High end bikes still seem to sell okay. The low end isn't doing so well. Much of the middle has disappeared for the most part.
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Old 03-21-24, 01:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Eric F
"Little to no R&D" is not what Pete said.
In your own words, why donít you tell me what you think he said.
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Old 03-21-24, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by genejockey
Source? How is "equivalent" determined? What bikes are being compared?
Here are a couple mainstream examples of what I'd rate as equivalent. Same manufacturer, model and group set. 2024 Ultegra is Di2 vs non-Di2, but even so, that one is 86% more expensive or nearly 3 times inflation.

2014 S-Works Tarmac Dura Ace Di2 $8,500 Frameset: $3,500
2024 S-Works Tarmac Dura Ace Di2 $14,000 Frameset: $5,500

2014 Trek Domane 5.2 Ultegra $3,670 Frameset: $1,550
2024 Trek Domane SL7 Ultegra $6,830 Frameset: $2,500
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Old 03-21-24, 01:25 PM
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Originally Posted by smd4
In your own words, why donít you tell me what you think he said.
R&D is comparatively more expensive now than in the past. More expensive does not mean that past R&D was absent or low-cost.
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Old 03-21-24, 01:45 PM
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From what I've seen, "high-tech" items--cell phones, computers, cost-per-megabyte of storage--have all gone down quite a bit in real dollars over the years. Are electronic-shifting, carbon-fiber bikes "high tech?"
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