Are Expensive Bicycles Worth It, Really?

By Troy Stamps •  Updated: 12/30/18 •  8 min read

When I told someone how much I paid for my Trek Checkpoint ALR Gravel bike they were surprised at the expense of it. I wanted a high-end bike because after buying other bikes it was time for an upgrade.

But, are expensive bicycles worth it, really?

The answer to this question will be on the individual as no one answer will justify. The value of that investment is highly dependent upon your budget, needs, and the type of riding you intend to do. Justifying whether an expensive bike is worth it or not is entirely up to the individual.

There are some who would say that buying an expensive bike is totally worth it and I’m sure they have a rap sheet of information to tell you why. In this post, I break down why some bikes are expensive and the value cyclist place on them. Also, you might find my answer to this question to be surprising.

Why Are Some Bikes Expensive?

Some say “variety is the spice of life”, which is why we have an abundance of choices in every market (Excluding cable companies. Not pointing any elbows).

A few reasons why some bikes are more expensive than others have much to do with the materials they are made from, what it cost to manufacture, the additional components, and in many cases the brand.

Bikes are built with the following materials:

These materials can be expensive to manufacture while others can be inexpensive. What manufacturers don’t tell consumers is that the high cost is what consumers are willing to pay for.

In almost any industry, there is supply and demand. In the bike industry, consumers demand more from the products that they use which in turn puts the brand in a spot to supply what the consumer wants. A lot of design and creativity goes into making a bike lighter, more aerodynamic, and durable.

The finished product is then produced in a way that appeals to the consumer. The price is inflated and the consumer pays the price because it is the price they are willing to pay for that product.

What Value Do Cyclist Place On Their Bikes?

With any possession one might have they will place a certain value to it on what it’s worth to them.

Some cyclist may place the following value to their bikes:

Let’s touch on a few details on these values and see which one you resonate with. I know that owning a bike is a personal thing to some and from the outside looking in some may think that it’s materialistic. But who is to say which is right when it’s that individuals’ personal possession.

Sentimental Value. I know growing up my father owned many muscle cars of the late 70s and early 80s. Having one of those cars passed down to one of his children would hold a special place after his passing. The same can be said about a bike one of your relatives had that meant something to them and then they decided to pass it on to you.

Another instance where this could be applied is if you had a unique bike that was a classic, no other bike like it. Owning that bike reminded you of good times and special moments that no one could replace if your bike ended up missing. You would place sentimental value on that bike that no amount of money could replace.

Special Need. If you happen to cycle competitively you may have special needs that another person who rides casually may not understand. A cyclist who races at any discipline whether it’s road racing, cyclo-cross, mountain or endurance will tell you that their race bike is especially for this type of riding.

The goal of a competitive cyclist is to do well in a race and win. So if it takes a specific bike to meet that need then the value they place on that bike will be a special need. Some who race will probably say it does not take a special bike to win races and others will argue it matters. It all comes down to personal preference.

Important Means of Transportation. As the expense of fuel and vehicles rise to insane numbers, many people will opt to forgo their cars and commute to work by bike. There are some who have never owned a car and riding a bike is their only means of transportation.

Imagine a cyclist who rides their bike to work religiously because they don’t have a car. If that bike ever came up stolen or in an accident that would be all bad. That situation would put them in jeopardy with their employer especially if they had no other means to get there.

So the value they would place on that bike would be crucial for them to get around.

Average Cost Of A Bicycle

There is a wide variety of new and used bikes, so no one has to commit to a bike they think is expensive. Going back to what was said before, what is considered expensive will be different from person to person.

It’s been estimated that the average bike cost around $350. But some sources state that the $350 is what it would cost a person to own and operate a bike annually.

If you think that is expensive, then you will be really surprised by the price of this one bike. According to Cycling Weekly, a bike designed for Lance Armstrong named the “butterfly bike” during the 2009 Tour de France, auctioned off for $500,000.

The average cost for a bike will start to vary depending on the type but the average mentioned in this article generally covers most road bikes.

Is It Cheaper To Build A Bike Or Buy One?

After letting my 1995 Concord Air Flex 2100 sit outside on a balcony for the better part of 3 years I decided I was going to fix it up and starting riding it again. It didn’t take very long to realize I was setting myself up for a very expensive task.

It is almost always more expensive to build a bike versus buying one already assembled.

Unless you are a bike mechanic and have interchangeable parts lying around the garage that you acquired over time, building a bike up from just the frame to a complete bike will be costly.

The cost of building a bike will not only be limited to the price but the time it would cost you to search the internet, forums and bike shops looking for specific parts and components. Then you may have to deal with the issue of parts not fitting your frame or other parts of your bike.

Now, if you know a bit about bikes and how to fix them then it may not be as costly to build a bike from the frame up. But it also depends on the type of bike you want to build and the components you plan on upgrading. If you plan to go with all new parts versus used, then it would be much cheaper to purchase a newly built bike than to build a bike with all new parts.

Are Expensive Bike Worth It?

In conclusion, I’m going to answer this question from my own opinion, so please don’t shame the messenger.

As a recent owner of a brand new Trek gravel bike costing as much as someone’s monthly mortgage payment, I think expensive bikes are not worth it.

So here’s why.

I was just as happy with my older single speed Torker bike with its mismatched rims and scuff marks. But I felt the need for an upgrade and decided to buy something that I could ride on and off the road. I do not regret purchasing that bike and if I had to do it all over again I would have made the same decision.

You can say I fell into that “special need” category. The type of riding I participated in were cross-country roads and some long distance paved roadways. If I did not have the special type of bike to handle those terrains I would have been wasted on a single speed bike.

Let’s say you are a casual rider and can only ride on the weekends, then I would conclude that you would see no difference having a cheap bike versus an expensive bike. If you are an avid rider who not only rides on the weekend but participates in cycling tours and other competitive events then an expensive bike might do you justice.

All I’m trying to say is if you have an expensive bike and thinks it’s worth it, then it’s worth it. Also, let’s not forget the others who don’t think an expensive bike is worth it, they too are entitled to it not being worth it.

My hope is that whichever type of bike you have, get out and ride and enjoy that bike. Regardless of what you paid for that bike, you know it’s worth and that opinion is totally yours to own.

Read some tips on how to charge your phone while riding

Troy Stamps

Troy Stamps is an avid cyclist based out of California. Road cycling is his passion which he's been doing his whole life and he has even competed in some local races. He loves getting new people into the sport and teaching them how to change their life through cycling.

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