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Why Are Road Bikes So Expensive?

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Shopping for a bike could leave you stunned about the prices of some road bikes, especially those that go for more than $5000. Some people believe that spending such a considerable amount of money on a bike is being wasteful. 

In their opinion, there are cheaper bikes in the market that perform the same functionality as the expensive road bikes. Whether this is true or false is totally up to the rider.

This article aims to shed more light on why some road bikes are so expensive and why some bikes are known to give the rider a better riding experience.

The reasons why road bikes are so expensive

Modern road bikes come packed with many features that improve the experience of the rider. Extra features also improve on safety and reliability of the bikes. Road bikes are so expensive because they are made of high-quality components, including carbon frames, high-end gear, shifting components, tires, etc.

A lot of engineering knowledge goes into improving the aerodynamics of high-end bikes to make them faster and safer for the rider. The materials used to make the frame of high-end road bikes are also more expensive than the materials used to make lower-end bike frames. 

High-end bikes that pack many customization features sometimes might cost as much as a brand new car. It is common to hear sentiments from bike shoppers that sound like, “but I could buy a car at that price.”

High-end road bikes have frames made of high-grade carbon fiber, which is light and sturdy. On the other hand, some lower-end bikes have alloy metal frames or frames made of heavier carbon fiber.

The quality of wheels also influences the price of road bikes. This means that bikes with quality durable wheels will be more expensive than bikes with lower quality wheels. According to outside online, additional carbon fiber hoops on a bikes wheel could see the bike’s price shoot up by two or three times when compared to the same bike with normal wheels.

The simple economics explanation

The basic laws of economics where demand and supply affect a commodity’s price also play a massive role in the high pricing of road bikes. When a specific product’s demand is low, yet it has a high supply, the price is low. 

The inverse is correct in that when there is a low supply of a product demanded by many people, the price rises by a significant percentage. Road bikes only serve a niche market, meaning that they are not mass produced. This makes them rare in the market, which means that they are highly-priced.

Photo by Ronny Coste on Unsplash

High-end bikes also cost the manufacturers a lot of money to design and produce. The cost of production affects the price at which the vendors can sell the bikes and manage to make a profit.

Bicycles do not have a massive market since many people who reside in the city, and urban areas prefer owning cars. Road bikes are only owned by a few people in the city and the countryside who ride them occasionally. Such dynamics cause the bikes to be highly-priced.

R&D Cost

Research and development by bike manufacturers has enabled the production of high quality long lasting road bikes in recent years. The geometrics on road bikes allow the user to ride the bike in an upright or bent over position to increase aerodynamic efficiency when riding against the wind. 

The lowered stem and curved handlebars give the rider a lower profile when riding the bike, making it more stable and easier to control. When riding a road bike, the rider’s posture has their back bent over; the bike achieves higher speeds. 

The downside of this design is that the rider requires more effort to keep the bike in motion and maintain the high speed.

The frames on modern road bikes have also undergone tremendous modifications that begin with the material used to make the frames. 

Photo by asoggetti on Unsplash

Aluminum frames on road bikes are cheap and enable the manufacturers to lower the production cost when producing the bikes. The Aluminum material also has a low density that forces the manufacturers to construct the frame tubes wider. This results in a rough ride.

Carbon and titanium frames have allowed road bikes to be smaller and stiffer. The carbon and titanium frames significantly improve from aluminum frames and let the bikes to support more weight and last longer. 

The carbon composite frames also come with the added advantage of the bike frame being capable of adjusting to different environments by having varied stiffness at strategic points. The frame allows maximized energy transfer from the rider to the bike by limiting the frame from flexing and losing energy in the flex motion.

Gear shifting on bikes has also improved over the years, with many bike manufacturers now adopting electronic shifting

Electronic shifting on a bike is smoother and easier to use than manual shifting is. It’s also very quick and precise. Nowadays Shimano, Campagnolo and SRAM make some of the best electronic shifting systems for high-end bikes.

Research and development on the wheel have improved ride quality and enables the bikes to widen the scope of roads they can be used on. Bikes with larger wheels pick up speed faster as compared to ones with smaller wheels. 

The width of the wheel also affects the quality of the bike ride on rough roads. Wider wheels are more stable but tend to lower the speed. Manufacturers compete to find the optimal balance between the size and width of the wheel.

How much should you spend on a road bike?

According to the outside online road bike buying guide, a road bike can cost anywhere between $450 and $11,000. The determinant of what amount you should spend on a country bike is the number of features you want.

The lower-priced bikes have basic features only while the highly-priced bikes come with many features.

Some of the features that you should expect on an expensive road bike include an electronic gear shifting system, an integrated bar stem, carbon saddle, performance brakes and a lightweight aerodynamic frame. A cheaper bike may lack many of these features.

Is a more expensive bike worth it?

An expensive bike is definitely worth the money you spend on it if it comes with many features to enhance your riding experience. Cheaper bikes are often constructed poorly, which means that they do not last for long. 

However, high-end bikes with numerous extra features can cost a fortune and may well be beyond most people’s budgets. It is imperative to note that some additional features may not be necessary if you ride for pleasure.

When buying a bike, consider purchasing a mid-range performance bike with just the right amount of features to improve the ride quality, and serve you for many years to come.

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About Alek Asaduryan

Alek Asaduryan is the founder of YesCycling and has been riding bikes and in the cycling industry since 1991. Since then, his mission is to make cycling more accessible to everyone. And each year, he continues to help more people to achieve that. When he's not out riding his beloved fitness bike, Alek reports on news, gear, guides, and all things cycling related.