What with the banks collapsing and all that stuff, there’s never been a more important time to find a safe haven for your money. The stock market? Too volatile. Crypto? That’s for bros who ride Onewheels. Bonds? Who knows if the government will even still be here in five years to back them up? And you can’t just stuff your mattress full of bills either, because thanks to inflation that cash will soon be worth less than the straw that’s already in there. (Yes, I sleep on a straw-filled mattress, I got it from Rivendell.)
That just leaves precious metals, or bike parts, and you’re much better off with the latter since the former loses all its value once you put it in bike form:
How do you think this guy lost his shirt?
But in which bike parts should you invest your money? Quality is one way to choose, but as with any speculative asset, the price a bike part commands is often only loosely correlated to its underlying value, and ultimately price discovery is equally informed by other factors such as scarcity, aesthetics, and the whims of fashion. Still, for reasons both valid and ridiculous, certain bike parts have held their value over the long terms, and here are just a few of the the ones that have remained most stable and immune to market forces over the past several decades:
Chris King Headsets
I’ve been tracking the Chris King Headset Composite Index since at least 2008. Reasonable people can argue over whether or not Chris King headsets are worth the money (even though they’re not), but there’s no question it’s an asset that holds its value over the long-term. That said, thanks to the constant mutation of the bicycle headtube, this financial instrument is available in many forms, and not all of them are equally worthy of investment. Currently, the most valuable (and arguably inflated) of these is the Chris King threaded headset:
A brand-new Chris King threaded headset costs $207, but why wouldn’t you buy it used off of eBay for pretty much the same price instead? People are demanding shockingly high prices for these things these days, fueled no doubt by vintage mountain bike restorations and MTB-to-gravel conversions, which are the modern equivalent of the road-to-fixed conversions that inflated the used parts market in the early aughts. Still, while arguably overheated, most traditional threaded and threadless King headsets are liable to hold their value over time, and you’ll always be able to unload them on people willing to pay a premium to avoid having the letters “FSA” anywhere on their bikes.
Campagnolo Delta Brakes
They’re Campagnolo, they haven’t been made in decades, and they’ve got a reputation for being dangerous, thereby fulfilling all all the requirements for cult status. I had no firsthand experience with Deltas before taking delivery of the Vengeance Bike, but I now know that despite all the stories about how lousy they are they work pretty well, and that the 5-pivot version is supposed to be the best:
Of course a regular dual-pivot brake (and plenty of single-pivots) will work better, set up easier, weigh much less, and cost much, much less. For all these reasons the Delta is a pretty dumb choice if you’re looking for a cost-effective way to stop your rim-brake road bike. But if you’re looking for an unsafe brake that’s a safe haven in an economic shitstorm, these glorified salad tongs will almost certainly provide it, and you’ll always be able to sell them to some corporate vice president who’s restoring a vintage Colnago for his dream trip to Tuscany for Eroica. Invest with confidence.
Since the Normcore Bike has a Uniglide hub, I’ve naturally checked to see how much the cassettes go for on the used market–and holy crap they’re expensive. Chris King headsets you can kind of understand because of their longevity, Delta brakes you can kind of understand because they’re exotic…but Uniglide cassettes? Who the hell even knows what they are, let alone wants one? Yet apparently they’re so coveted people will sell them for $195 and not even bother to hide the box that says $25 on it:
I mean sure, Uniglide has its charms. In particular, if an individual cog gets worn you can just flip it over, which means it has effectively double the life of a Hyperglide cassette. Moreover, now that cassettes are mostly made up of cog carriers to save weight and can’t really be separated, you could argue that the modern cassette defeats its own purpose by effectively being a disposable item and is therefore a step backwards from the more serviceable Uniglide:
However, practically speaking, it seems odd people dare to ask so much for these things since you can upgrade a Uniglide hub to accept Hyperglide without spending too much money or time, and you can even modify a Hyperglide cassette to fit on a Uniglide freehub body. Meanwhile, the sort of truly vintage bikes you’d want to keep period-correct take freewheels, most of the Uniglide hubs themselves are in no way coveted, and for only double the price of that Uniglide cassette you could just buy yourself a whole entire normcore Trek.
Nevertheless, clearly the Uniglide cassette is a commodity many investors overlook, and it could be something to consider given that King and Delta are arguably both underbought.
Sugino 75 Cranks
Like King, they’re very good quality, like King they’re expensive when they’re new, and like King they’re also expensive when they’re used. But, like King…why?
Of course, if you ask the Internet, people who pretend to know what they’re talking about will say stuff like this:
I’m pretending to hold a “crank” in my hand too, and I’m miming a back-and-forth motion. I mean, all that is technically true, but it’s technically true of a lot of other cranks also. Mostly, this component’s high value on the used market is a function of how many people out there need to believe most cranks aren’t strong or round enough for them. Perhaps most absurdly, comparing two cranks by holding them in your hand seems especially pointless, since it’s one of the many bicycle parts you’ll never, ever hold in your hand while riding. (Unless you do some really wild fixed-gear freestyling.)
Then again, even I am not immune to their charms, for I too chose them for my Midlife Crisis Fixie, which I don’t even get to ride anymore. But at least I know that when I get it back from my son I’ll be able to sell the crank and recoup my investment since by then my knees will be far too decrepit for fixed-gear riding. In fact, at this point I’m counting on them for my retirement.
GT GTB Track Bike
Like the Delta, most of what the GTB has going for it is that it’s cool-looking, but unlike the Delta that’s really all it has going for it. It’s just a cheap aluminum frame from an unremarkable company that people buy and sell for lots of money now because it has that “triple triangle” thing going on:
Even more ironically, it was sold new as a complete bicycle back in the ’90s, and it even came with a Sugino 75 crank. I think the whole bike cost somewhere between $500 and $700, which today wouldn’t even get you the frame by itself, lumpy welds and all. Perhaps no bicycle in history has appreciated in value as much as the GTB, and with so little reason.
Suntour XC II Pedals
Old Campagnolo parts can be expensive because they’re not made anymore, but old Suntour parts are expensive because the whole damn company’s out of business, and there’s no greater retro-cred than riding brands that no longer exist. In fact, I hear you’re not even allowed to ride with Ultraromance unless you have at least three (3) Suntour components on your bike. And when it comes to Suntour parts, few are more in demand than XC II pedals:
Of course from a riding perspective there’s absolutely no point in buying used XC II pedals since you can buy the current MKS iteration brand-new for like $65. But that doesn’t stop the Wankerati from obsessing over them and picking out all the utterly meaningless differences between them. And because the Wankerati will choose an old pedal over a new one entirely so they can lend additional faux-thenticity to their latest vintage restoration, you can invest in confidence.
So there you go, this should at least get you started. Or else you can wait until I launch my hedge fund. HNWIs only.