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.