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11 Real Reasons Why Bikes Are So Expensive

These days everything seems to be getting more expensive, and that includes bikes. What used to be one of the cheapest and easiest modes of transportation is now considered by some to be an activity only truly enjoyed by the wealthy.

Whilst this may not be entirely true it can certainly be argued that in order to own a top of the range bike you need to have significant funds behind you nowadays. 

There are many reasons why bikes have become more pricey in recent years and today we will be explaining just 11 of the reasons why bikes are so expensive.

Let’s get straight into it. 

1. Expensive Materials and Components 

We’ll start where the process of actually building a bike begins, with the materials and components that go into making it.

Bikes may look like one large object, but they are actually constructed out of hundreds of components that all come together to make a working model. 

The costs of these materials and components can vary massively depending on the company and model of the bike.

For example the top companies such as Pinarello and Trek will often use carbon fibre to construct the frames of their bikes, this is an organic material that used tiny strands of carbon form a rigid structure that is perfect for bike frames and forks. 

In terms of the components that companies use, this is a similar story as depending on which brand of components a manufacturer uses the cost will likely be higher.

If a brand decides to include Shimano or SRAM gears or brakes in their bikes this will hike the price up somewhat thanks to these brands good reputations. 

2. Labour Costs

Next up is another very basic point regarding the actual construction process of a bike. They all have to be built with people involved at some point in the process.

Whether this be in the research and development phase (which can often be the most expensive part), the construction, or simply salespeople trying to market the model, they all need to be paid. 

Many high-end bike brands do not use machines to make their bikes, instead opting for the premium approach of ensuring all their models are handmade. This of course takes much longer than a production line but will also be of much higher quality and craftsmanship.

This will drive the price of a bike of hugely as it allows brands to market the bike as the product of skilled workers that have worked to ensure the highest standards are reached. 

Purchasing a bike that has been assembled by a machine will almost certainly be cheaper. 

3. Brand Names

As with anything these days, you will always have to pay more to buy something from a well-known and well-respected brand.

The reason that many of these companies have gotten so big in the first place is that they have prided themselves on ensuring the highest standards are met in the production process and as we have touched upon earlier, can use this to market their bikes in certain ways. 

To give some context to this point. If I were to present a relative newbie to the sport with the choice of two bikes, one made by a reputable brand such as Trek and other made by an unknown brand with very little marketing presence, then the chances are the person would choose the Trek model. 

There is a phycological reason for this choice that brands are aware of, and this means that they can raise prices and still have their loyal customers come back for more.

Whether this is ethical or not is another question, but there is no doubt it is effective. 

4. Professional Endorsements

One of the big points for brands in the modern day has become to ensure that their bikes are used an endorsed by professional teams and riders.

Many of the best teams in the world scramble at the start of each season to make sure that that they have the best deal on bikes as they possibly can, giving them marketing power and high-quality models in unison. 

Some brands even go as far as building their own teams in order to bypass the scramble to sell their bikes to other teams.

This is of course a costly investment but gives the brand the power to prevent any other team from using their bikes making them seem exclusive. Trek have long had a factory team that uses Trek bikes exclusively. 

This is again more of a phycological point when it comes to consumers, as people assume that if the professionals ride a certain bike than perhaps they should too? 

5. Technological Innovations

Moving back to the actual production process of a bike for a moment. The research that goes into making a new model can often be one of the lengthiest and costly aspects of the process for bike brands.

The reason for this is that it is getting increasingly harder to come up with new innovations that excite consumers enough to spend more money on a new bike. 

There really is only so much that companies can do with a bike, as at the end of the day some people simply want something that has two wheels and pedals. Some brands do actually use this as their unique selling point nowadays though. 

When it comes to innovation, the objective is always marginal gains (especially when it comes to road bikes) as they can be marketed as the difference between success and failure in races.

A very specific group of consumers care about these gains and can be swayed by the pull of the latest gadgets etc. 

6. Added Extras

When you go to purchase a new bike, it used to be a simple process. You could simply walk into a store and buy a bike, riding it away a few minutes later.

Whilst those days have long been a thing of the past, the process of buying a bike these days can be tiresome and full of expensive extras. 

Many online stores will try and add on additional costs to the bike such as insurance cover, extra color choices, optional care packages, and more.

These can range from a few extra dollars all the way up to another hundred on top of what you have already paid. 

7. Shipping Costs

Something to be aware of if you are wanting to import a bike from outside of the US are shipping costs, these can be an extortionate extra that you may not be aware of when buying a new bike. 

If you were to order a bike from a US brand or website, the chances are that you could get free shipping on your order.

Buying from outside of the country is expensive because of the taxes that are involved, these percentages can vary depending on what state you are from (they are between 5.5% and 12% for American VAT from the UK for example). 

8. Supply and Demand

This is a tale as old as time, supply and demand, but what actually is it? 

At a very basic level, this is an economic phenomenon in which prices are often determined by companies and governments around the world. It involves looking at the availability of a product or service against the consumer demand for it. 

Essentially the less there is of a product when people really want it, the more expensive it will be. This is something that is entirely true when it comes to high end bikes as there simply isn’t enough to go around, therefore prices are raised to counteract this demand. 

9. Upkeep 

You may think that the expenses end once you’ve purchased a bike but that couldn’t be more wrong! The costs will never end if you want to keep your bike working well.

These costs can vary depending on which kind of bike you ride, but most commonly you will need to by gear such as a helmet, jersey, and shorts alongside less cosmetic items like chain lube, chamois cream, and energy supplements. 

10. Inflation

Given the current climate of the world, it is hardly a surprise to see that inflation impacts bikes as much as anything else. Inflation is linked to our previous point regarding supply and demand as it is an external factor that is determined by the economy of the country. 

Inflation is basically the process of prices increasing in an economy, when the price of products and services rise, a nations currency can buy you less of those items, thus causing inflation.

The current rate of inflation in the US is at 8.2% according to most economic experts, this is a very high level that has grown exponentially in the past few years. 

11. They Can Be as Expensive as You Want Them To Be

The final point I want to briefly make is that not all bikes are expensive and that you can still find bargains out there if you want a basic bike that has no thrills.

The best places to look for these are at thrift stores and online as many of the past few season’s models can be found for much lower prices than they originally were. 

There we have it, 11 reasons why bikes are so expensive. Hopefully this piece hasn’t put you off buying a new bike in the near future, but maybe made you more aware of the factors that have drove prices up over the past few years.

If you’re looking for why some brand-specific bikes are so expensive, I listed some of the main reasons in these articles: