“Expensive” Bikes aren’t as Expensive as You May Think

“Expensive” Bikes aren’t as Expensive as You May Think

For as long as I can remember, many bike publications have criticized bikes above about $5000 for their price.  I’ve seen reviews that have praised every attribute of a bike’s ride and build execution only to say that you shouldn’t spend that type of money on a bike as it is too expensive. This does you, the rider, a distinct disservice.

One of the great things about the bike industry is how much you get for your money relative to other “speed based” activities. For ~$15K you can ride a bike that is exactly the same, if not better, than what the best pro cyclists on earth are riding.  While that may initially sound like a lot, let’s stop and think about that for a moment.

Some comparison numbers to buy the same equipment the pros use in other wheel based sports:

o Formula 1 Car = $15M
o Moto GP Motorcycle = $2M
o Indy Car = $1M
o WSBK Motorcycle = $90K

Bring things into the “entry level” for other speed based sports and things still point favorably to the value of a top level bicycle.

  • Entry level club car/track driving (Plymouth Neon, Miata…) car. At least $20K to get started the first year with recurring $10K+ costs annually (amortize that over a decade). This is for 8-10 days of driving a year and doesn’t include crash damage (and everyone crashes…).
  • Entry level motorcycle racing equipment has only slightly lower cost than cars.
  • Entry level water ski/wake board boat = $40K. Then you have to buy gas, transport, and pay maintenance and dock fees.
  • Mid-level new snowmobile or motorcycle = $11K.  Again, before maintenance and transport.

The above examples use what is considered entry-level equipment. Given the opportunity, I doubt you would find many club drivers hesitate to trade their Neon for an Indy car. But you have to add a couple zeros to the bottom line to do this.

You can argue that bikes are human powered and comparisons to motor sports are not fair. Okay, let’s look at some non-motorized speed based sports that require equipment (beyond a ball).

  • Horseback riding. Starts around $3K a year ($30K over ten years) for food/vet/barning, not including the actual horse and associated equipment.  If you compare a top level horse and its associated expenses to a top level bike, it isn’t even close. Pro level horse = $60K-$400K.
  • Sailing. While you can race a Sunfish for pretty low cost, what is the speed?  And do we even need to start the discussion comparing top level equipment? America’s Cup boat = $8M+.
  • Skiing. $1000+ a year for a pass. Add at least $2K for equipment every couple years and don’t plan on visiting Jackson Hole if you are going to keep it under $10K a year. While you can ski at the entry level for ~$1000 a year ($10K over ten years), you won’t be on top of the line equipment.

Non-speed based sports that use equipment (golf, tennis…) aren’t direct comparisons, but it isn’t hard to see that ten years of club memberships on their own can more than keep pace with buying a top quality bike.

This leaves the running based sports; sports that require little equipment. Running, soccer, basketball, ultimate frisbee, etc. are a completely different experience than a speed based sport; while cycling and these sports can supplement each other well, they are a hard comparison or substitution for each other. They aren’t good comparatives as they are so different.

The bottom line is that there are very few sports that offer the type of speed, travel and mobility experience that cycling does on equipment that is identical (or better) to what pro athletes use for less money per year.  Sadly, most riders will never let themselves experience what top level equipment offers.  If you ride your bike regularly, you are worthy of riding top level equipment.  Life is too short not to experience what equipment offers your riding experience.

The next time a magazine says something like, “These wheels offer you more fun than a tornado has in a trailer park, but are they really worth the cost?” Think about the reality. The exact same level equipment as the best pro cyclists on earth ride costs less than a trip to Jackson Hole, lasts a lot longer and can be enjoyed right out your front door.

Entry level or top of the line, much of today’s cycling equipment offers a lot of value.

Contact us to learn more. We’re here to help you find great value for your budget and needs.

About Ian

From first time riders to Olympians, Ian has helped thousands of athletes achieve their cycling and triathlon goals. Ian develops much of the Fit Werx fitting and analysis protocols and is responsible for technology training and development. He is regarded as one of the industry leaders in bicycle fitting, cycling biomechanics and bicycle geometry and design. He is dedicated to making sure the Fit Werx differences are delivered daily and provides Fit Werx with corporate direction and is responsible for uniting our staff and initiatives.

Find out more about Ian Here


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4 Responses to “Expensive” Bikes aren’t as Expensive as You May Think

    You didn’t mention (speed) skating (roller or ice), which is the sport most comparable to cycling. It is not only much cheaper than cycling, but also much more practical for travel (the only thing is that you can’t bring the blades on airplane cabins).


    • Ian

      Hi Ilan,
      Thanks for your thoughts and there are certainly sports that cost less than cycling, but they can often be hard to compare directly. I agree that skating, on ice in particular, can start to give some of those same sensations people often pursue with a bike. However, at least in the U.S., unless you have a safe road or a maintained rink/ice surface out your door, access can be a significant limiter when it comes to comparing skating and bike riding.

      It is worth noting that the post wasn’t trying to criticize other sports or say that cycling is the least expensive adrenaline sport one could find. It was trying to put the cost of cycling into perspective with other popular activities. That is where we feel there is still a lot of value to be found on a bike!

  • kennith quesenberry

    My wife might not agree with this very convincing comparison. 🙂 🙂

    • Ian

      Your only hope is, if she rides, getting her on some of this equipment too! 🙂

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