Are more expensive bikes worth it? - CycleBlaze

Bicycle Travel Forum

Are more expensive bikes worth it?

Steven Shaw

It seems like you can get a solid new touring or bikepacking bike for around $1,500 to $2,000 USD.  And it seems like most of the bikes sold are somewhere around that range.  But sometimes I'll see bikes with hand-built frames or higher end components that are easily twice or even three times as much.  Are they really that much better, or is it more about filling a need for people who have a lot of money and so want to spend more on whatever it is they're riding?

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6 months ago
Karen CookTo Steven Shaw

Hi Steven,

I am sure someone will have a more expansive opinion, but I like to have good (more expensive I guess) components and wheels because I am not a great bike mechanic and don't want to have to deal with mechanical issues on the road.   I also like a livelier tire and those seem to cost a bit more.    But I don't think my bike is over the $1500-$2000 range (some components are added a little at a time as their wear out so not sure of the exact cost).

I would be nervous about riding a bike that is really expensive because of theft.

I have not priced bikes in the last couple years but for $1,500 to $2,000 you should be able to get something solid for touring.

Karen 

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6 months ago
Jean-Marc StrydomTo Steven Shaw

I have a bicycle that is a bit more expensive than your figures, largely because it has a Rohloff hub (which makes up almost half the cost of the bike).  For me the extra cost is definitely worth it.  We spend at least half the year touring by bicycle which means we need bikes as bullet-proof as possible.  The reduced maintenance and the increased reliability justifies the initial cost.  Long term cost may even be less than a cheaper bicycle because components last so much longer.  However, the arguments that apply to my bike may not be applicable to a derailleur-geared bicycle with more expensive frame and components. 

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6 months ago
Steven ShawTo Karen Cook

Good points. I hadn't thought about the piece of mind you get from feeling better about things not breaking while you're out on the road. But it makes sense.

How would you describe a "lively" tire? What's the advantage to something like that?

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6 months ago
Steven ShawTo Jean-Marc Strydom

Because you ride so much (half the year!) do you have any other parts on your bike that are really high end like the Rohloff hub?

What frame are you riding? I can't quite tell in the picture you posted.

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6 months ago
Jean-Marc StrydomTo Steven Shaw

The bike is a Thorn Raven with pretty standard fittings (https://www.thorncycles.co.uk/bikes) .  Brooks B17 saddle, straight bars with Ergo5 comfort grips, Shimano Deore V-brakes, Shimano flat pedals etc.   All very unremarkable apart from the Rohloff.  

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6 months ago
Mike AylingTo Jean-Marc Strydom

Don't forget your Thorn built wheels, Jean - Marc. The ones on our Thorn tandem are Rigida Andra rims with the CSS coating matched with special V brake pads. They are very strongly built. Also with the Rohloff you do not have a dished rear wheel which makes it stronger than a derailleur fitted wheel.

Thorns are expensive but excellent value for money.

Mike

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6 months ago
Karen CookTo Steven Shaw

While riding cross country I had a set of Continental touring tires (that were touted as excellent for touring) "de-tread" in Colorado.  Dealing with that on the open road was unpleasant to say the least and I was forced to ride inferior replacements.  After that experience I did a lot more tire research.  I have ridden several Schwalbe tires since then and have been happy with them, although some have a better feel...

The Schwable Marathon Plus are more rugged but they felt sluggish.

I ride Schwalbe Marathon Surpremes now, though they are more spendy.  They are not supposed to be as durable as some, like the Marathon Plus, but they have been sturdy enough for me.  They are lighter and seem to have less rolling resistance.  

My experience before touring is that, for the most part, tires are durable or they are "fast".  The Surpremes seem to bridge the gap, at least for me.   So I guess what I mean is that I am willing to pay extra for that combination, and something reliable, which they have been. 



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6 months ago
Mike AylingTo Steven Shaw

Continuing on from my reply to Jean -Marc:

Well built wheels with strong rims can add to the cost of your tourer. In Chris Pountney's current journal broken spokes seem to be an almost daily occurence among the group of up to six riders. You should not experience frequent spoke breakages with decent wheels from a good wheel builder. Even getting  your stock wheels trued by a competent wheel builder before you start your tour is useful.

Tyres - I agree with Karen's post. A lot of tourists seem to prefer heavy "puncture proof"tyres because they do not like  or are unable to fix a flat.  Like Karen I have just changes to Marathon Supremes (mega $$$) but they are nice to ride.

BTW it is much easier to remove and replace a rear wheel fitted with a Rohloff hub than a derailleur.

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6 months ago
Keith KleinTo Steven Shaw

Hi Steven,

Here is my experience. I have ridden a lot of bikes over the years. The most important thing over every other consideration is fit. If the bike does not fit, it will be less of a pleasure to ride. This goes double for touring bikes, as more time is spent in the saddle than for any other type of riding. Even racers, who do more kilometers do it in less time than the touring cyclist will typically spend riding fewer. But assuming that basic fit  has been attended to, then I would echo what Karen said: good components are well worth the money. The old adage was that poor components wear out, good components wear in. And along with that I would also echo what was said about wheels. I build my own, and I haven't broken a spoke in twenty years on the wheels I built. Properly tensioned and stress relieved spokes should last longer than the aluminum rims because they are not prone to metal fatigue. 

Now having said that, I admit I bought a custom built, made-to-measure touring bike this year, and to me it was worth every penny. First the fit. While the fit on all my bikes was as close as I could get it using an off the peg frame and appropriate stem, seatpost and saddle, it was never exactly right. What I notice most is the complete lack of pain even after six or seven hours in the saddle. I used to have a little twinge between my shoulder blades when I rode that long, but on the new bike, nothing. Riding on the hoods, or in the drops, or on the bar tops, all positions are equally comfortable. This leads to me riding more and that can only be a good thing, IMHO. The other major advantage was the ability to choose the geometry, components, tires, etc. that precisely matched my riding style. So I have a low-trail, front biased frame and fork, fenders and racks, dynamo hub and lights built in or brazed on, three water bottle cages, v-brakes (and not discs), 650B wheels and tires, Brooks saddle, Shimano brifters, etc. I know that its not for everybody, but its not supposed to be. It fits what I do, and the way I want to ride perfectly. 

The price was high, and if I was strapped for cash I wouldn't hesitate to buy a bike off the rack. Riding anything is better than not riding, as long as you are not hurting yourself by trying to ride something that is way out of the correct fit. And I will note that even so, the price of my custom steel-framed touring bike was less than a standard size carbon fiber racing machine with similar high-end components. 

There are people who like to show off their wealth, and that's fine by me. If you got it, flaunt it, as they say. But I wanted a bike to last me the rest of my life without wearing me out, and I hope I have found it.

Cheers,

Keith

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6 months ago