Before we jump into answering this question, we want to highlight that the word ‘expensive’ is a subjective term, especially in this case.
If someone is new to cycling their first reaction to purchasing a decent quality road bike, mountain bike, cyclocross bike, or commuter bike, will often be asking why they are so expensive.
However, what is expensive to one person may not be expensive to another. It also depends on the use and intention for the bike.
For example, a commuter who will be using the bike daily would often happily pay a higher price for it, as the bike will be used a lot.
On the other hand, someone who will intend to use it perhaps just every now and again, would not be willing to pay the same price as the commuter.
Bikes are one of the greatest inventions we have made yet, it is a form of transportation that promotes physical and mental health, whilst also being capable of zero-emissions, and providing ultimate freedom.
Buying a bicycle is never a bad investment, just make sure that if you splurge on your dream bike, that you take good care of it.
Ensure you have a good place to store it, keep it out of the rain and harms way, and it will be well worth it.
However, noting the costliness, we cannot deny that some bikes do seem to be as expensive as buying a low-mileage used automobile.
Some of these are the greatest, high-quality bikes you could get. But then again you can also get great-quality used bikes with a much smaller price tag on them.
It is important to understand that any high performance bicycle, especially those made from composite materials are a very niche product and do not benefit from the economies of great scale like smartphones, or televisions that number in the hundreds of millions.
Even motorcycles can sometimes be priced similarly to those of high performance bicycles, and they receive better production numbers which reduces their overall cost.
As we were saying, what is expensive for one person may not be for another. Going back to the commuter example.
Bicycles these days are much more advanced and can cover much more ground, without allowing the cyclist to feel as much fatigue.
So, if you intended to ride your bike every day of the week, then paying out $2,000 for a bike does not seem so expensive, in fact, since it is basically to you what a car is to someone else, you are really getting one hell of a deal.
And do not forget the age-old saying “Buy cheap. Buy twice.” This saying is true even with bicycles.
You may be able to go and pick up an old cheap bike from your general store, but if you are riding regularly you may be disappointed in the performance of the bike, and it may actually end up discouraging you.
Besides, it may not even last that long.
What makes them so expensive?
Part of the reason that bikes are so expensive is down to the market economics. Bike prices, as many other things, are dictated by the economics of the market.
Meaning that an item priced too high will sit in inventory, whereas an item that is priced too low will not recuperate production costs and overhead.
Hence, determining the price point takes trial and error and some market research on behalf of the production.
Many bike brands will have established price ranges, though newer bikes may change from year to year. This is something to watch out for when you are bike browsing.
Another part of this is the cost of research and design, but more importantly, materials. One of the biggest cost factors is materials.
Carbon fiber comes in varying grades and forms, the higher the quality of the carbon, the greater the cost of sourcing this.
This will include increased care during refrigeration and cold storing it, as well as more precision and detailing when fabricating now bikes.
Carbon is not the cheapest of materials, and so some higher-quality carbon fiber bikes will cost more simply due to this.
As you would expect, manufacturing also has a say in the cost, next to materials. The higher quality of the materials the more care they will need during the manufacturing process.
Clean welds on an aluminum bike frame require even more specific attention, even if it is a machine or robot doing the welding.
Aerodynamic frame shapes that are constructed of carbon fiber sheets will demand consistent, precision assembly in very controlled processes.
And although this is all assumed when buying any product, the precision required does cost and these costs must be recovered in sales.
Obviously, with the mentioning of high quality and good materials, one of the factors that sets the big name brand apart from department store sales is the quality control.
Engineers from the bigger bike brands will routinely visit the manufacturing facilities in order to check up on every aspect of the manufacturing process.
One of the most discussed topics among online groups for bicycle mechanics is the quality control of products, especially when considering the counterfeit carbon fiber bikes you could expect to see in your local department store.
Finally, although we may be stating the obvious here, customization also costs. So, that bike you really wanted in blue with special handles, will cost you extra.
While it is always nice to have the color you want or the specific parts, or perhaps a specific stem length, it requires a break from the traditional assembly process.
And when there is a deviation in the traditional assembly process this means that there will also be an increase in cost.
Like with anything that is manufactured and made for transportation or even health, there are plenty of factors that equate to cost.
If you intend on getting a bike for everyday use, it is always worth spending that extra cash so that the bike you have is reliable and high-quality.