16th June 2017

Why are bicycles so expensive? A consideration

Giant Defy Advanced Pro 2 2017The Giant Defy Advanced Pro 2 2017, pro-level riding for £2,499

The answer is: They aren’t. But they can be.

Many people who are new to cycling are horrified at the thought of a £1,000 bicycle, and usually say something along the lines of: “You can buy a car/motorbike/one-bedroom flat in Cambodia for that!”

While this may be true, you can’t buy a really nice, brand new car for £1,000.

£150 is expensive

Relative to a bag of crisps, yes; £150 is expensive. But consider for a moment some of the ways you want a bicycle to perform:

  • You want to be able to ride it uphill without fainting from exhaustion, so it has to be strong without being too heavy
  • You want to be able to go over bumps without the frame crumpling in two, so the frame has to have some flex as well as being strong and light
  • You want the gears to change when you tell them to, which involves a not-uncomplicated set up of levers, cables and springs
  • You want your drivetrain (pedals, chain, gears) to be able to withstand considerable force from your legs without exploding
  • You want everything to be waterproof, because it rains
  • You want your brakes to function well even when wet, potentially to save your life
  • And you want your bike to do all of the above, reliably, for hundreds or thousands of miles.

All of this requires carefully engineered and properly manufactured components, which requires manufacturers to pay for decent materials, labour costs, research & development, and so on. Just like creating any other machine.

You get what you pay for.

You get what you pay for.

A decent entry-level bike will cost £300 new

That’s just the way it is, and if you think that someone along the way is making a killing, you’re mistaken. For a bicycle retailer, the profit margin for selling a new bicycle could be as little as 8%. That’s £24 on a £300 bike.

Bear in mind that for £150 you will usually be able to find something resembling a new bicycle – maybe from a supermarket – but it will not be a pleasant ride. It also won’t last long, you’ll probably have to assemble it yourself, and heaven help you if you’ve got to bring it back to, say, ASDA or ALDI for advice if it doesn’t work properly.

B85WA6 Aldi discount supermarket Monchengladbach Germany. Image shot 02/2009. Exact date unknown.

Not a bicycle shop.

Why is a Ferrari so expensive?

A £200,000 Ferrari and an £8,000 Kia Picanto do the same thing, on the face of it. They move forward, they turn corners, they brake. Now consider what it feels like to drive a Ferrari, compared to a Kia.

The same is true of a bicycle. The look, the feel, the entire experience of riding a £2,000 bike is completely different from riding a £150 bike. Pedalling, changing gears, braking, even carrying it up stairs, is all effortless in comparison. Performance-wise, you can reach much higher speeds, and the bike responds with lightning speed to your every command. Which feels great. And your cyclist friends will think you’re even cooler than before.

Cervelo S3 Disc 2017

The Cervelo S3 Disc Ultegra Di2: A mere £6,199

Now consider this: A cheap Ferrari is 25 times more expensive than a new Kia (£200k compared to £8k.) Meanwhile a pro-level bicycle is only 10 times more expensive than a decent entry-level bicycle (£3k compared to £300.) That is to say, the Ferrari of bicycles is only 10 times more expensive than the Kia of bicycles.

Even the Bicycle Co-op’s most expensive bike, a super-elite pro-level Cervelo S3 Disc Ultegra Di2 at £6k is still only 21 times more expensive than an entry-level bicycle.

But enough talk of Ferrari-level bicycles. If you’ve never ridden a new £300 bike before, you will be blown away by how different it feels to the 15 year old hack bike you found in your uncle’s garage. Don’t believe us? Come and try one out.


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3 comments on “Why are bicycles so expensive? A consideration

  1. Fred on

    I have a couple of £2.5K plus bikes in my shed however, I recently purchases a 3 speed 1985 Raleigh town bike for £25. The Raleigh is a great bike! I used it for the Eroica and have been commuting on it c20 miles/day. Essentially, you can get a nice bike for very little money!!

    Reply

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