Back in my high school days of the early 1990s, I lusted after a John Tomac Championship Edition Titanium Raleigh mountain bike. For its time, Johnny T’s Raleigh was the epitome of racing technology; a titanium-lugged, carbon fiber-tubed wunderbike built with M900 Shimano XTR, a Rock Shox Mag 21 and the unmistakable Tioga Disc Drive rear wheel. And what I remember more than anything else was the price – a whopping $6,000 in 1993 dollars. Adjusted for inflation, that would be equivalent to more than $9,800 today.
The Raleigh was a hardtail, had cantilever brakes and 60 millimeters of suspension that flexed so much you could make the tire rub the brake arch under hard cornering. By today’s standards, Johnny T’s high-zoot Raleigh race bike is considered prehistoric, yet when some people see a modern carbon fiber full-suspension mountain bike approaching $10,000, they flip their lid and wax poetic about how the bike industry is raping the consumer.
A bike like the $9,300 Specialized S-Works Enduro 29 is an incredible feat of engineering. It’s one of the most versatile and well-balanced trail bikes I’ve ever ridden. Sporting 29-inch wheels, short 430mm chainstays, 155mm of seemingly bottomless suspension and weighing in at only 28 pounds, the Enduro 29 makes Johnny T’s old Raleigh look like an unrideable death trap.
The amount of technology and innovation that’s packed into today’s mountain bikes is simply astonishing, light years better than even a decade ago. And adjusted for inflation, today’s ultra-premium mountain bikes are no more expensive than they were in 1993. In fact, adjusted for inflation, that seemingly exorbitant S-Works Enduro 29 costs less than Johnny T’s 1993 Raleigh.
So if this is the case, then why do people get so bent out of shape about how expensive new bikes are? The whining and moaning over social media about the expense of mountain bikes lacks any and all perspective. Some people try to point out that a new Honda CRF 450r costs as much as a S-Works Enduro 29, as if this point proves how much of a rip-off the Specialized is.
Aaron Gwin en route to his 2013 Sea Otter Classic Downhill victory on a S-Works Enduro 29 (click to enlarge). Photo by John Shafer
But these people are missing several key pieces of information, the most important of which is that the S-Works Enduro 29 a consumer can buy is the same exact bike that downhill world champion Aaron Gwin raced to a victory at the 2013 Sea Otter Classic downhill. The showroom CRF 450r most definitely is not the exact bike seen ripping around the AMA Supercross circuit. There’s at least another $15,000 in custom suspension and componentry on those bikes, so comparing the cost of a showroom Enduro 29 and CRF 450r is moot.
The same people I hear bitching about the cost of a new mountain bike are often the same ones who wouldn’t hesitate to drop two hundo in a night at the local watering hole. For those who ride nearly every day and draw incredible amounts of pleasure from riding, depending on their socioeconomic status, spending as much as $9,000 on a bike might be money well spent. Just because you can’t afford it doesn’t mean it’s absurd. Looking for a more affordable alternative? The Enduro Comp 29 shares the same design as the S-Works model and is $3,600.
I see plenty of people in Downieville rocking mountain bikes worth more than my car. What the hell do I care? If they’re having fun, then the money spent is worth it. Blasting Downieville on an Enduro 29 is magnitudes more fun and less perilous than just trying to survive it on Johnny T’s old Raleigh. And the broken bike and body parts from attempting Downieville on the Raleigh makes the Enduro 29 look like an even greater bargain.
For the past ten months I’ve been riding a RockShox RS-1, a suspension fork with a $1,865 retail price that requires an additional $238 for the proprietary Predictive Steering hub. The RS-1 seems to garner the same price outrage that the Enduro 29 and its brethren get. But the RS-1 is like the Ferrari of suspension forks. Do people bitch about the cost of a 458 Spider when driving by a Ferrari dealership in their Chevy? Unless they’re an unmitigated toolbag, no. The RS-1 represents the epitome of suspension innovation, so naturally, it’s going to be exorbitantly expensive. Don’t hate on it because you think the cost is outrageous.
While I can sort of understand why someone would whine about a $9,300 mountain bike, what really pisses me off is when someone complains about not being able to afford even a $2,000 mountain bike. The old adage “buy cheap, buy twice” is universally relevant, especially with bikes. Below a certain price point, performance drops off considerably. For anyone who is serious about riding and rides at least three days a week, $2,000 is the minimum you should consider for a new mountain bike – especially if it has full suspension.
Whining about how expensive bikes and bike components are only makes you look like a bitter and begrudging schmucktard. Jealousy is not an endearing trait. Can’t afford it? Then either get a better paying job, get an industry hookup, or keep your mouth shut. Nobody cares that you think it’s a rip off. Besides, a well-designed mountain bike that gets ridden almost every day is never a bad investment, regardless of how much you paid for it.
Editor’s Note: The Angry Singlespeeder is a collection of mercurial musings from contributing editor Kurt Gensheimer. In no way do his maniacal diatribes about all things bike oriented represent the opinions of Mtbr, RoadBikeReview, or any of their employees, contractors, janitorial staff, family members, household pets, or any other creature, living or dead. You can submit questions or comments to Kurt at firstname.lastname@example.org. And make sure to check out Kurt’s previous columns.