Friday, July 31, 2009

The High Cost of Flying High

This post on Guitar Ted's Blog brought something into focus for me today. Bikes are getting real expensive, especially if you want to fly high on the newest, latest, and greatest stuff. I know that cutting edge is always costly and quite often frivolous, but these days it is truly breathtaking what a carbon framed XX equipped race bike will cost.

I had opined that CF composites will eventually be the ultimate material for bike frames due to the unique qualities that allow for the right combo of stiffness, ride, weight, and if done right, strength. But I also predicted they would be getting cheaper. I may have missed that point. I was talking to a pretty sharp guy at Giant Bikes about the future of carbon. He pointed me to hydroformed aluminum frames as the place where the innovation will take place at a reasonable cost. He argued that carbon frames are too costly due to all the hand labor involved in producing them and even mentioned an engineer's dream of producing an all extruded/formed alu frame with NO WELDS!

Back to the present, I find that carbon is not likely to be the material of choice for me if the cost remains that high. Too bad. The Giant frame I am riding right now is pretty nice riding and the alu/carbon composite frame to come should be even more absorbent. I could live with the ride of the XTC 29er with no problems, so an even nicer riding alu frame would be swell.

But, and this is more to the point, all this $$$$ makes me appreciate the steel, SS 29er even that much more. Yes, I know that you can bling them up with King hubbed wheelsets, etc, but that is still cheap compared to what a new, carbon/geared/FS 29er will be.

Go cheap with a Redline or Surly. Or, begin with a Jabberwocky or a Spot steel frame. Maybe a Niner or a Siren John Henry as a step up. Add some BB7s and $500.00 wheels, a nice rigid fork if you can take the beating or a used Reba at 80MM. Heck, buy a Raleigh XXIX or Haro Mary and just ride it as is. 8Spd chains are cheap. Surly cogs too. Used cranks on classic tapered spindles. Those things are in garage parts boxes all over the place.

Go ride and get tougher with that one gear. You may be flying low, but the cost to get there is so reasonable that it makes the cost per smile factor seem so tipped to your favor, you feel like you are cheating.

Ah, the relatively low cost of flying low....and lovin' it.


Anthony said...

I hear ya! I've been wondering how high-priced bikes will get before they start coming down. With the economy's current state there's no way bike/parts prices can continue to grow the way they have the last few years. I mean you can easily drop 7K on a bike or 2k on some wheels. Who's buying this stuff? Not me and I never see this high-zoot stuff on the trails.

Fonk said...

Yeah, carbon's still a bit too pricey for me. For my "comfort" road bike, I wanted to go carbon but couldn't really afford that, so went with a (Bianchi) hydro-formed aluminum bike w/ carbon seatstays and fork. I thought maybe the hydro-formed thing was a gimmick, but it actually does ride quite nice compared to my aluminum (traditional form/geometry) race bike.

I'll second the Haro Mary. I got one and LOVE it. I upgrade the brakes to BB7's (BB5's, which suck, come standard), switched out the saddle and seatpost, but other than that ride it stock and really, really like it. Great bike for the money.

Doug Brummett said...

Carbon seems to be something some high ups are pushing, but is it better? I live in the rocky SE and of the 3 Ibis mojo bikes around 2 have failed due to kicked up rocks striking the frames and the third guy won't ride his in the rocks. Neither were warrantied as this was deemed normal wear and tear. Great, so these high soot frames are only supposed to last 1-2 seasons? They may fail catastrophically. What about after they break? How easy is it to recycle the material? Cozy Beehive had a good blog post about that topic last week.

At any rate, I am more of an XT/X9 bike. KISS. No bling. No King. Just good, strong, and functional parts. My bike still adds up to about $3500 retail, but I got it used for $1000 and put another $500-600 into it. I am not too proud to ride a used bike or a used car for that matter, so long as I get to keep doing what I love to do.

In the event that I have $7K sitting around I will be more likely to pickup a new dirtbike than a high zoot mtb. Food for thought though. Thanks for the post.