Further to yesterday’s post about the most-hyped wheeled conveyance since the new Ford Bronco, a commenter raised a compelling question:
When did it become “normal” for Pro level bikes to cost close to $12,000?…….I can remember when Pro level bikes cost close to $2,500.
It certainly does seem as though road bike prices keep reaching new jaw-dropping heights (or lows if we’re measuring how far our jaws have dropped), and if I were a real journalist I’d do an in-depth analysis of historical prices and present them to you in graph form. However, I’m merely a semi-professional bike blogger, so let’s take a half-assed look at the Fredly economics of the 21st century.
Okay, so the latest top-of-the-line Tarmac now goes for $12,000:
That’s a lot of money. Some people will point this out by saying stuff like, “You could buy a Ducati for less than that!,” which is stupid because nobody shopping for a road bicycle goes, “You know, that’s pretty expensive, I think I’ll buy a motorcycle instead.” Anyway, $12,000 doesn’t really need contextualizing, I think we’re all keenly aware of how much money that is–unless you have so much money that “small” amounts like this have lost all meaning, in which case when your road bike gets squeaky you just throw it away and buy a new one because it’s easier than lubing the chain:
And of course you can always use your $12,000 to buy two (2) $5,000 Tarmac SL7 Experts and blow the remaining two grand on bananas:
But that’s not the point. The point here is to take a half-assed look at price creep at the top end of the road bike range, and more specifically to address the commenter’s question, that being (to paraphrase): When the hell did five figures for a pro bike become the new normal?
Fortunately for me I already did a half-assed analysis of high-end road bike price creep back in 2008 (!), which means this latest one is merely going to be quarter-assed, if that. What I found at the time was that the top-end Trek road bike went for $9,129.99:
In other words, production road bikes were already lapping at the five-figure watermark well over 10 years ago–though notably Specialized was still lagging behind, since that year’s most expensive Tarmac “only” cost $8,500:
What I also found during that initial half-assed analysis was that top-end road bike prices had essentially doubled since 2003, when the most expensive Trek you could buy was $4,729.99:
And the most expensive Specialized was $4,230–and made out of aluminum, no less:
So here we are in 2020, and while the year itself may be shittier than we could have possibly imagined, the bicycle price situation is actually somewhat encouraging. Sure, the most expensive Tarmac today costs $3,500 more than it did back in 2008, but that’s far less ridiculous than the doubling that occurred over the five-year period between 2003 and 2008. Also, the only real difference between the 2003 bikes and the 2008 bikes was one extra cog and some more crabon, while today’s bikes also net you not only more gears but also electronic shifting and disc brakes–two things I don’t care too much about personally, but which are certainly “Gee whiz!”-worthy, especially if you’re traveling in time from 2008. (Though if you arrived from 2008 and saw the current shitshow you’d get right the fuck back in your time machine again.) And of course for 2003 top-of-the-line money today you can pretty much buy a “Gee whiz!”-worthy bike with crabon, dick breaks, and push-button shifting that, while not top-of-the-line, is still much “better” than it’s early-aughts counterpart, so there you go. (Though admittedly I’m not adjusting for inflation, and according to a random calculator I found via a popular search engine, $4,230 in 2003 would be the equivalent of almost $6,000 today. So I guess that means today we’re getting even more Fredness for our buck.)
So what can we make of this? Well, to address the immediate question before us, basically five-figure top-end road bikes were probably pretty much “normal” by 2010. However, more philosophically, the real conclusion here is that you should probably just give up on all this and buy a Rivendell. Not only do they not do model years, but the obsolescence is already built into the bike. And you can’t put a price on piece of mind.