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Why are Modern Bikes So Expensive?

Old 03-20-24, 11:53 AM
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Why are Modern Bikes So Expensive?

I wanted to share that I just finished listening to a fascinating podcast about the development and manufacturing of high-end carbon bikes. The interview featured the owner of Factor Bikes who provided some interesting insights. One of the things that really caught my attention was the actual cost of the materials used in making top-tier bikes. I was also surprised to learn about the amount of time it takes to train a builder.

https://share.transistor.fm/s/e21c10d9
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Old 03-20-24, 12:00 PM
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They aren't, but the advertising is generally on the expensive end.
There are many great bikes that are not 'expensive' but cost is in the eye of the beholder and depth of one's pockets...
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Old 03-20-24, 12:25 PM
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Old 03-20-24, 12:30 PM
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One of my kids just got a Canyon Grizzl with electronic AXS shifting for $2750, and I think it came with an upgraded wheel-set.
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Old 03-20-24, 12:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Atlas Shrugged
I wanted to share that I just finished listening to a fascinating podcast about the development and manufacturing of high-end carbon bikes. The interview featured the owner of Factor Bikes who provided some interesting insights. One of the things that really caught my attention was the actual cost of the materials used in making top-tier bikes. I was also surprised to learn about the amount of time it takes to train a builder.

https://share.transistor.fm/s/e21c10d9
I used to go to China a lot before 2020 and would be offered carbon bikes for 2000-3000 yuan - most of these were labeled as American branded bikes (I mentioned this for years and people were incredulous).

The thing that I am not sure is mentioned is how women are payed less than men and hence, companies like doing things that women can do - like make carbon bikes. These are employees that could be trained to lay up a bike and could leave the next day to work in a factory making cargo pants if it paid more.
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Old 03-20-24, 01:02 PM
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Interesting


People in general seem to think that bike prices should not go up while everything else does

totally rough non scientific comparison
IIRC in 1982 I bought a Nishiki mid range bike for $280 or so and a toyota tercel 4WD wagon for $7995

Roughly similar today would be Specialized allez sport at $1400 and a subaru impreza Sport (starting at Msrp of $25k)
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Old 03-20-24, 01:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Kai Winters
They aren't, but the advertising is generally on the expensive end.
There are many great bikes that are not 'expensive' but cost is in the eye of the beholder and depth of one's pockets...
A top-of-the-line Kestrel 4000 with full Dura Ace sold for $2,700 in 1989. Adjusting for inflation, that would be $6,757.10 today.

For the Kestrel with Campy C-Record, the price today would only be $7,507.00.

And the Kestrel came with pedals...

A Specialized Tacoma SL8 with Dura Ace Di2 sells today for $14,000.00. A Pinarello with Campy Super Record is $17,250.00. Pedals extra.

I don't know enough about modern bikes to even know if these models are the top of the line. Are they? Or are the top of the line models even more? Are you really getting $10,000.00 worth of "better performance?"

Have bike prices gone up? Sure seems like it to me.

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Old 03-20-24, 01:23 PM
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Originally Posted by squirtdad
totally rough non scientific comparison
IIRC in 1982 I bought a Nishiki mid range bike for $280 or so and a toyota tercel 4WD wagon for $7995

Roughly similar today would be Specialized allez sport at $1400 and a subaru impreza Sport (starting at Msrp of $25k)
One of the problems with measuring inflation is that some items are static over time -- a gallon of milk, or a bushel of apples. But other goods change over time, often (perhaps usually) for the better. So, while your newer newer car and newer bike do cost more dollars in nominal terms, they are also vastly better -- more features, better performance, better reliability, etc. It's almost like comparing two different products.
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Old 03-20-24, 01:41 PM
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I remember the days when I could walk into a bike shop with a given amount of cash and walk out with a bike, new or used, fit for use.

Now days bike sellers appear more interested in long term financing then providing a bike.

Ahhhh... I get it... Its like a Car Dealership...

BOHICA!
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Old 03-20-24, 01:47 PM
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Originally Posted by smd4
A top-of-the-line Kestrel 4000 with full Dura Ace sold for $2,700 in 1989. Adjusting for inflation, that would be $6,757.10 today.

For the Kestrel with Campy C-Record, the price today would only be $7,507.00.

And the Kestrel came with pedals...

A Specialized Tacoma SL8 with Dura Ace Di2 sells today for $14,000.00. A Pinarello with Campy Super Record is $17,250.00. Pedals extra.

I don't know enough about modern bikes to even know if these models are the top of the line. Are they? Or are the top of the line models even more? Are you really getting $10,000.00 worth of "better performance?"

Have bike prices gone up? Sure seems like it to me.
Just like the high end auto makers, people will pay for status and exclusivity. For example, Porsche is making record profits in the multi-billions. Yes they make nice cars, but the profit margin is so high, the question is if the buyer is getting the value in the vehicle itself versus the less tangible benefits. Of course some have so much money, it really doesn’t matter.
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Old 03-20-24, 01:48 PM
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Originally Posted by zandoval
I remember the days when I could walk into a bike shop with a given amount of cash and walk out with a bike, new or used, fit for use.

Now days bike sellers appear more interested in long term financing then providing a bike.

Ahhhh... I get it... Its like a Car Dealership...

BOHICA!
Ayup. When you can arrange 10 to 15 year new car loans it makes you wonder.
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Old 03-20-24, 01:50 PM
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Originally Posted by smd4
A top-of-the-line Kestrel 4000 with full Dura Ace sold for $2,700 in 1989. Adjusting for inflation, that would be $6,757.10 today.

For the Kestrel with Campy C-Record, the price today would only be $7,507.00.

And the Kestrel came with pedals...

A Specialized Tacoma SL8 with Dura Ace Di2 sells today for $14,000.00. A Pinarello with Campy Super Record is $17,250.00. Pedals extra.

I don't know enough about modern bikes to even know if these models are the top of the line. Are they? Or are the top of the line models even more? Are you really getting $10,000.00 worth of "better performance?"

Have bike prices gone up? Sure seems like it to me.
So, what would it cost today to get a 21 1/2 lb carbon fiber bike with 7 speeds, downtube shifters, 32-spoke wheels, and single pivot rim brakes? Because that's the comparison.
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Old 03-20-24, 01:55 PM
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Originally Posted by zandoval
I remember the days when I could walk into a bike shop with a given amount of cash and walk out with a bike, new or used, fit for use.
Now days bike sellers appear more interested in long term financing then providing a bike.
Ahhhh... I get it... Its like a Car Dealership...
BOHICA!
Hold up- are you saying that you arent able to walk into a bike shop, pay in full for a bike, get a superficial fit, and leave with the bike in hand?
If you arent able to do that, then you are either...
1- trying to buy a bike that the shop simply doesnt have in stock.
-or-
2- needing to shopping elsewhere.

Currently I could walk into any bike shop in a 60mi radius of me, pay for an in-stock bike in full, and leave with the bike.
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Old 03-20-24, 01:55 PM
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Originally Posted by smd4
A top-of-the-line Kestrel 4000 with full Dura Ace sold for $2,700 in 1989. Adjusting for inflation, that would be $6,757.10 today.

For the Kestrel with Campy C-Record, the price today would only be $7,507.00.

And the Kestrel came with pedals...

A Specialized Tacoma SL8 with Dura Ace Di2 sells today for $14,000.00. A Pinarello with Campy Super Record is $17,250.00. Pedals extra.

I don't know enough about modern bikes to even know if these models are the top of the line. Are they? Or are the top of the line models even more? Are you really getting $10,000.00 worth of "better performance?"

Have bike prices gone up? Sure seems like it to me.
$7,500 today will buy you a higher performance bike than a 1989 Kestrel 4000.
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Old 03-20-24, 01:55 PM
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Today, for that same $2700 - NOT inflation adjusted! - you can get an 18 1/2 lb carbon fiber bike, with 12 speeds, electronic shifting, and hydraulic disc brakes. No amount of money could have gotten you that in 1989.
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Old 03-20-24, 02:04 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
$7,500 today will buy you a higher performance bike than a 1989 Kestrel 4000.
Originally Posted by genejockey
Today, for that same $2700 - NOT inflation adjusted! - you can get an 18 1/2 lb carbon fiber bike, with 12 speeds, electronic shifting, and hydraulic disc brakes. No amount of money could have gotten you that in 1989.
This, and this.

Dollar-for-dollar, you get a far superior bike today in inflation-adjusted terms. Same in the new car market and in many others.
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Old 03-20-24, 02:09 PM
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Another data point - in 1995, a Litespeed Ultimate with full Record components listed for $4600,which works out to $9500 today. That's 8 speeds with 1st generation Ergopower shifters, and Delta brakes.
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Old 03-20-24, 02:12 PM
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My buddy just got his first good bike since the old Raleigh 10-speed he rode in high school 30 years ago, a Trek Verve 2. Disc brakes and all for somewhere between $600-700. Considering inflation, I don't consider that expensive. (That's $309 in 1994 money)

My Trek Domane AL3 was about $1600, which is $760 in 1994 dollars. That seems to be in-line.

Could the issue maybe be that you have a taste and knowledge for higher end bikes than you used to?
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Old 03-20-24, 02:17 PM
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Interesting to see the technology comparison. The catch is the older technology isn't really available in the same way that it was before. That means the entry point or basement cost goes up. Of course, this goes for other things as well (cars, phones, etc.) but unless wages go up proportionately, the consumer than has to decide which things to give up completely in order to afford the others.
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Old 03-20-24, 02:40 PM
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Originally Posted by genejockey
So, what would it cost today to get a 21 1/2 lb carbon fiber bike with 7 speeds, downtube shifters, 32-spoke wheels, and single pivot rim brakes? Because that's the comparison.
So you want to compare the top of the line in1989 with bottom of the line today? Gotcha.
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Old 03-20-24, 02:43 PM
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Top-tier bike prices have increased more than inflation. It was interesting to learn about the reasons behind these costs. Firstly, the newer component groups are more complex and have tight tolerances, which increases research, development and manufacturing costs exponentially. Secondly, high-end frames are expensive to manufacture and come with significant development and tooling costs that need to be incorporated into the final price. Finally, modern top-tier bikes are much more advanced than their predecessors, with increased customization and complexity. Therefore, it's unfair to compare them with their equivalents from decades ago, just like comparing an original 911 to a modern GT3/RS.

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Old 03-20-24, 02:46 PM
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In 2003, I bought a Time VX Special Pro carbon fiber frame for $2500. In 2024 dollars, that's $4243. Today the Time Alpe d'Huez frame sells for $4368.

That doesn't seem out of line to me.
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Old 03-20-24, 02:52 PM
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Originally Posted by urbanknight
Interesting to see the technology comparison. The catch is the older technology isn't really available in the same way that it was before.
To me, that's the POINT, not the CATCH.

That means the entry point or basement cost goes up. Of course, this goes for other things as well (cars, phones, etc.) but unless wages go up proportionately, the consumer than has to decide which things to give up completely in order to afford the others.
I'm not sure exactly what you mean by this. The technology is more advanced, the bikes themselves are more capable. You can't get the same thing in 2024 that you could get in 1989 - you get something better for the same money. This is even more true for cars and phones. Sure, the average car costs more, even inflation adjusted, than in 1989, but it also is a lot more advanced, and probably measurably better in all particulars. And phones? How many people even HAD cell phones in 1989? IIRC, they were the size of two bricks taped together, or came in a small briefcase. And they cost $3000 1989 dollars.
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Old 03-20-24, 02:58 PM
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Originally Posted by smd4
So you want to compare the top of the line in1989 with bottom of the line today? Gotcha.
First, $2700 is NOT "bottom of the line", and second, it buys you a much more capable bike than a 1989 Kestrel 4000 with C-record.
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Old 03-20-24, 02:59 PM
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Another factor is simply the economics of supply and demand. Generally speaking, manufacturers/retailers will sell products for the highest price the market will bear. If buyers are willing to spend more than just the inflation-adjusted cost increase, so be it.
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