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Are Mountain Bikes Too Expensive? The Inside Line Listener Response 14

The Inside Line listeners respond to the question about the current cost of mountain bikes.

Are Mountain Bikes Too Expensive? The Inside Line Listener Response

Welcome mountain bikers! Thanks for tuning in to The Inside Line podcast. If you’ve been listening, you know that I've taken a stab at getting direct feedback from you, the listener, and I’m really stoked with how it’s taken off. As a result, I’ve decided to split up the alternating weeks with our normal guest interviews while adding shows dedicated to listener interaction. Instead of taking away from our guest interviews with listener response questions at the beginning their shows, let’s just do two separate styles of The Inside Line. Today, we’re going hear the responses after I asked “are mountain bikes too expensive?” It seems to be a pretty relevant and hot topic these days and there was no shortage of quality replies from you out there, so thank you.

As mentioned in the last show, we had a bunch of bikes launch in the last few weeks that went well past the $10,000 range. Some were e-bikes, but so many comments on a bike launch announcement, in communities like YouTube or Instagram especially, express anger or disbelief at bike prices. Vital conducted a $2,000 mountain bike comparison a few months ago that we labeled “Budget Mountain Bike Review,” and many comments were “What?! 2,000 is budget?!” Clearly, there are plenty of opinions on the matter, so I’m honored to play the thoughts and insights from you listeners who addressed this question.


The next question in our listener response series will be:

Is mountain bike design as good as it gets?

Have we topped out with quality, geometry, suspension, materials etc? I had a Santa Cruz Nomad in 2009. I said to myself, out loud at the time, “I’ll never need another mountain bike again. this is perfect.” I looked at a photo of this bike a few weeks ago and chuckled. The bike had 26” wheels (nothing wrong with that), triple chainring, no dropper post, and obviously geometry that's quite a bit different to today's bikes. But, at the time, I was convinced I never needed anything on my bike to change. I feel that way about the bikes in my garage right now, too. Keep in mind, I’m never one to think that the bike itself is responsible for the joy found on a ride. Any bike can be a fun bike, and if I didn’t work with in the mountain bike industry, I’d probably still be having fun on my 1995 Gary Fisher Tassajara because I’m such a cheapskate.

So, besides adding motors (if you want to discuss that can of worms, please do), is mountain bike design as good as it gets? What will mountain bikes look like 10 years from now?

Please record your answers using your phone’s voice memo function, and I’ll play it on the next show. If you’d rather type a response, I’ll read those, too.

Send your responses to by Sunday March 8th, and the answers will go live on our March 11th show. If you send in an audio response, you may be a lucky recipient of a limited-edition Inside Line t-shirt.

Thank you to all who responded and enjoy the show!

Thank you - Maxxis Tires

A big thanks goes out to Maxxis Tires as they continue to support The Inside Line.

Thank you - Jenson USA, supporter of The Inside Line since day one, has a special warehouse sale going on now. Hit that link to save big on bikes, parts and riding gear.

Thank you - The Paydirt Fund

The Paydirt Fund is giving away $1,000,000 to trail projects over the next 3 years.

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sspomer sspomer 2/26/2020 8:10 AM

14 comments newest first

Little late to this party, but here is my 2 pennies worth on the topic. The first responder on the podcast eluded to it a bit. There a place for super-buck bikes. Maybe it's not for the masses. Take for example Lexus vs. Toyota. Toyota's are for the masses, Lexus is the "halo" brand and intended for the top-tier group who expect the best. Technology from the "halo" group is used in racing, marketing and the tech eventually filters into the Toyota's mass market line as well. With that said, what the industry could do a better job at is promoting mid/lower spec bikes more. More of often than not, the halo stuff gets much more coverage/reviews than the mid/lower spec stuff. Also, would like to see more commentary and inputs from industry experts to remind people that the delta between a top-spec bike and mid-level bike is not really all that different for most mortal riders and definitely doesn't provide any more enjoyment out on the trails. At the end of the day, progression and evolution is a part of human nature. That's why these super-bikes exist. The industry just could do a better job at promoting that there is not a need for these bikes to enjoy the sport and community.

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I only have a really nice bike because I work at a shop and get a discount, otherwise, it would be really hard for me to spend the kind of money most bikes and components cost. My biggest complaint is that all manufacturers only offer better builds with Carbon frames. If you could get Aluminum frames with all the nicer components I think that would help more people get into our sport. But on the other hand, there are so many people on the trails here that maybe we need fewer people into mountain biking!

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agree Wolfpack almost no high end alu builds. But on the bright side there are awesome alu frames out there from Banshee, Knolly, Ibis and many more from $1800 - $2200 as a starting point to a high end build. With nice components those will still be pricey bikes tho.

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I don't know... What is our definition of affordable? there are plenty of $50-500 new and used bikes available. If affordable means everyone can get a great bike regardless of income, then bikes are not affordable. The exact same can be said about cars, refrigerators, skis, etc. But when I read complaints it usually sounds like riders simply don't like the level of bike they can afford and want better.

When we say there "aren't enough high-quality low-end bikes out there" isn't that just saying we don't enjoy the Cheap Bike experience? The open market ensures that bikes that cost $500 new are pretty much as light, durable and cost-effective as they can get. Is that $500 bike as fun or durable as a $2000 bike? Obviously not. Does that mean bikes are inherently too expensive? No, because the same logic applies to everything we might want to buy and it becomes a matter of priorities. If good bikes are my jam, I can't buy an expensive car. If I love a garage full of sweet cars, I have to pay less for housing. If I can afford all of them, great! If I can't, it's not the fault of the bike, the car or the house market.

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Different people get enjoyment from different aspects of mountain biking. Some just enjoy the ride others enjoy the build some want the latest and greatest and like me the 2016 model is just fine. If you're racing competitively of course the latest and greatest technology is going to benefit you but most of us don't even come close to that level

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As already said. Nothing wrong with expensive bikes for them that can afford them. But there's a big lack of quality cheap bikes for normal folks. I've all but quit the sport. My current bike cost me £300 as that's all I could scrape together. I know £300 is incredibly low end. But by paying up to £700 I wouldn't see much of an improvement. The problem isn't frame makes its the components. I remember when I started MTB in the early 90's £1k was a dream bike. Can you imagine if the car industry make mainly Supercars

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Yes. Way too expensive. Though I have nothing against a 3-15 k fs bike an own one myself their are not enough high quality low end mtbs. You are looking at an easy grand to buy a mtb that isn’t shit and that makes the sport inaccessible to a lot of people particularly youth. I straight up quit mtb as a kid cause I broke my third cheap bike and my parents and I couldn’t afford another. Couldn’t get back into it till 25.

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Mountain bikes are not too expensive. It's the sales model that is the problem. Using distributors who mark them up 50% makes the prices unreasonable. As shown with YT and others, they could be very affordable, but we are supporting 2 industries. The manufacturer and the distributor. The sooner MAP pricing goes away, the better. Unfortunately, manufacturer's already know we'll pay crazy prices. So even if the distributors go away, the prices will never go down unless more direct to consumer brands pop up.

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Good point Nismo. And hopefully we get more d2c brands. The numbers that I’ve seen are 40% markup for some big brands and as low as 25% for some of the ‘gucci’ brands. D2C could go cheaper especially with their higher margins. They’re making more per bike selling direct than to shops. Anyway prices are high it’s just a matter of us voting with our wallets. My new Ripmo AF is on the way. Affordable? Who knows. First mtb was $500 in the mid 90s and I saved up for it and it served me well.

Of course how often do we need a new bike anyway. That’s a whole other conversation and this industry is fed by consumerism like most.

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I like the used market... I like high quality stuff, like heirloom-level stuff, rather than disposable designs. I don't have any compelling personal need to be on the cutting edge. I just have curiosity, and used fits my budget. As much as I'd like to ride a Enduro 2020 on trails I'm familiar with, I don't think I need to become an owner by paying $6000 or whatever, to enjoy that experience, especially if there were a way to rent/demo.

I wonder where all these bike products go. Especially all the shitty placeholder and stepping stone level parts.

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I just wish companies would offer decent spec on their ALU rigs. I don't want to buy an aluminum complete only to have to instantly replace breaks, shock and possibly fork as well. Any brand putting LevelT or low end guide brakes on there "enduro" bikes can fuck right off.

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It's a simple business / retail equation, 4 category sectors which are uniform across every product sector in every market, they are, GOOD, BETTER, BEST and LUXE, apply the aforementioned to any bike / phone / car brand etc and the pricing structure starts to make sense, it's up to us, the individual to make our choice and part with our cash.

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These are super bicycles compared to old ridgid rim brake bikes So there going to be expensive. There are still bikes leading up to $10,000. Can always get a less expensive one and upgrade couple parts or find a nice used one at a fraction of price. I feel like you can have 1 bike that does it all for the most part now. When building up an older one might be good at light trail but break if you jumped or got too hard on it or the bike was too heavy. Nice bikes now you get more out of them and if your smart just by changing tires and shock psi can ride multiple areas and disciplines. And you can find something on sale.

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I think its a moot question because its about market demand. These companies have smart people that understand which builds will sell and which wont, and then build the bikes accordingly. Specialized wont build out 5000 Turbo Leveo Founders Edition bikes because they know they wont sell that many. They have their metrics dialed to know how many of which frame builds they will selll and they supply the market.

Can this be an expensive hobby? Sure. But if you're smart about how you buy and remain patient, the expensive items you were looking at in march, will invaribably be on discount in October.

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