Monday, 15 September 2014

Expensive bikes and gear - is mountain biking becoming off-road golf?

Few days ago on Pinkbike I was checking a photo report from 2014 Eurobike and someone made a funny comment under one of super expensive bike components: "Biking was a cool thing to do but I can't afford it anymore so I am riding MX". Are mountain and road bikes ridiculously expensive? Yes but... so what?

People complain about prices of bicycle components and it is perfectly understandable. Some stock bikes cost around 10 000$ or even more, latest Race Face Next LP crankset costs more than a new entry level bike, CK/ENVE wheelset can get you a really decent full suspension bike. Off course if one knows where and when to look, exactly same parts can be obtained even 30% cheaper as new or 50% cheaper on second hand market but still, it's hell a lot of money. Finally there are some cheaper alternatives with similar properties, just without the looks, even if it's a fancy logo we are talking about. 

But is it really that simple? Doesn't titanium frame have this magical color and shine? Is Light Bicycle carbon rim a perfectly reasonable substitute for ENVE which is supposedly a treat of biking lawyers or dentists? I don't think so. It is a so called "added value item" and whether someone likes it or not, that value is added there, even if it is solely a matter of generated hype. Just remember, that hype is not generated by the seller only - the audience does the job here with good and bad comments. Someone came up with that really cool logo and it generates magnetism similar to Louis Vuitton bag. Bloke who designed the curves of Specialized Enduro 29 frame, definitely has more design experience and has spent more time with that particular design, than his counterpart shaping Canyon Spectral. 

Today I parked my 2005 Volvo V50 by the cafeteria and as I was getting out of it, a black Porsche GT3 with red brake calipers parked next to me... had I for a second thought in the lines of - that is such a stupid car, I bet a guy buying a car like that sucks at driving, you win nothing by paying so much? - No... I thought: what a freaking awesome car! If I would't resist drooling reflex, I'd dehydrate. Today I was watching pictures of Rock Shox RS-1 fork inside Mike Levy's review on Pinkbike and I just saw this connection between that fork, a Ferrari, Hans Wegners sofa, Spitfire airplane, shape of a shark, Sienna Mill... whatever. Those things are just extremely aesthetical, they are beautiful. As an architect, form design hobbist I can tell you without a doubt, some things appeal to vast majority of people at the first sight.

Altough I agree that 300$ for pedals is an overkill some people just complain too much, so much that I am suspecting some complex under it, speaking through them. Aren't some whiners compromising for their inability to own a particular item, whatever that handicap is? We internet people customize our bikes, we are used to buying and replacing stuff, relatively expensive stuff - none the less. If you pay 50$ for a rim, that may not be a 600$ ENVE, but it definitely isn't a 20$ WTB. I think we are just spoiled and then something out of reach comes along and we go bladi fucking bla! Then there is that issue with geeks that they like only stuff of a kind that they own and the stuff they are planning to own...

Do we need them nice things? It depends what you need, is that so hard to understand?! If you just need a mountain bike fork with decent damping, buy a freaking X-Fusion, if you want a fork with a bit of Twang - buy RS Pike, if someone feels the need of owning something special and he/she by a chance can afford, then who are you to judge? Are you going to play the "what about hungry children in Africa" card? You are riding a mountain bike, think about the sense of that activity for a moment...

So are they worth it? That depends solely on who you ask, that is all we can say about that. Shut the hell up if you want to talk about the "law of diminishing returns" - remember that the same guy you despise for spending tons of money for a bike that he cannot utilize the way you think it should be utilized, could despise you for having little money for anything. Let's say we are into mountains and we stare at Matterhorn, we don't say - it sucks! But if you heard that someone bought it and then that someone bought Eiger, someone else Mount Rainier, other bloke got himself Ben Nevis, then you would start scratching your head - is it worth it? You'd start to hear comments: but what can you do with that? That is greed! 

What I ultimately mean is that it is the ownership that screws it all up so as we have that admiration for physical object with, we may as well allow ourselves to admire those objects without owning them. So don't get overexcited, there are worse"first world problems" that all of us have, more often that we would like to admit. Whatever an item like RS-1 fork is, it is a product of evolution of a human kind, so it is a part of you and me. We see a carbon fiber in the eye of our brother but we cannot see a 2001 Kona Stab in our own :D



Credits: picture from


  1. every time i see a comment on, that says: i wish i can afford one, but bla bla, and it's a comment from a guy from one of thous countries that we used to work in, cause of better salary - i just start to think, how much love and determination is in some of our polish mates, that are ripping a hill on a "million dollar bike" wearing tld kit ;) and they are ripping properly :D

  2. oh, golf equipment is waaaay cheaper than biking! You have to pay a fee to play it - like a pass for DH biking- but a top set of clubs, in general, is not even close to half of what a top bike costs.
    With that being said, the world is filled with envy...

  3. Dang. I specifically said "diminishing returns" about a helmet that was $300 today.
    But if I can't make fun of people spending a lot of money, how can I be proud of my own ingenuity at getting similar performance on the cheap? 3M foam in the handle bars instead of spike bars that come with it. Come to think of it, didn't you point out that your carbon bar has foam in it too?

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