From the Forums: Why are there so many “Superbikes?”

At what point does price outpace performance?

From the Forums

Riders in our forums are discussing how much is too much to pay for a mountain bike and what constitutes a “superbike.”

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone reading this that mountain biking can be an expensive sport. Riders in our forums are discussing just how expensive mountain biking needs to be and why so many riders appear to be on so-called “superbikes” AKA high-end mountain bikes.

Related: Best Mountain Bikes Under $1,000

One forum member using automobiles as an analogy notes that they see a lot more Ford Escapes and Honda Pilots than Porsche Cayennes and Range Rover Sports on the road, but the opposite appears to be true on the trail. They see a lot more high-end mountain bikes than entry and mid-level models on their local trails.

Other riders note that cars might not be the best analogy, since high-end automobiles are an order of magnitude more expensive than a high-end mountain bike—$100,000+ versus between $8,000-$10,000.

Related: 5 most expensive mountain bikes and what you get for your money

Specialized’s Founder’s Edition of the Turbo Level SL certainly qualifies as a superbike with a retail price of $16,525.

Another forum member points out that in comparison to other hobbies such as hunting, boating, and car racing, high-end mountain bikes are not that expensive, and have the benefit of improving your health. Riders also have different opinions of what constitutes a “high-end” mountain bike. Do you draw that line at $10,000 or lower at $5,000?

Shimano’s flagship XTR drivetrain is light and precise, but is it that much better for the average rider than more affordable XT or SLX versions?

Finally, there’s the argument for diminishing returns as you reach the “superbike” level. “The longer I ride, the less I’m inclined to spend a lot of money on bikes, as it really doesn’t make that much difference once you get to a decent functional level,” one forum member points out.

This price version performance debate is often seen when riders decide between carbon versus aluminum mountain bikes and when they try to get the best mix of parts that balance price with performance, such as is the case when choosing the best mix of Shimano XTR, XT, and SLX components. 

Where do you stand on the superbike debate? Click here to join the discussion in Mtbr’s forums.

About the author: Josh Patterson

Josh has been riding and racing mountain bikes since 1998, and has been writing about mountain biking and cyclocross since 2006. He was also at the forefront of the gravel cycling movement, and is a multi-time finisher of Dirty Kanza. These days, Josh spends most of this time riding the rocky trails and exploring the lonely gravel roads around his home in Fort Collins, Colorado.


  • bob says:

    ““The longer I ride, the less I’m inclined to spend a lot of money on bikes, as it really doesn’t make that much difference once you get to a decent functional level”

    That is so true. I never thought I’d say that a few years ago, yet here I am.

    I used to buy the most expensive bike but now I’ve sold them and buy the midranger. Its almost the same, sometimes more reliable, easier to sell, and since i’m going to break some stuff and replace some parts anyway, a much better value…

    I’d rather swap the bike every 2y than have a super bike for 5, because in 2y, the super bike will be obliterated by the new mid rangers.

  • Ben says:

    I started the thread as a relative newbie to the sport and after reading through all the responses, and doing a bit more research into brands, models, and specs it does appear that around $5K is really the mid-range.

    When you look at brands that make both aluminium and carbon frames of the same model there seems to be a roughly $1000 premium to get a carbon frame, and then for the most part the manufacturers only put the higher spec components on a carbon frames, so if you want XT or GX, mid-level brakes, and Fox Performance suspension or similar then you pretty much have to buy a carbon framed bike and you’re closing in on that $5K price point. If you’re there you might as well spend the extra to upgrade to Factory and whatever else, because it’s still cheaper than an after market upgrade, and suddenly a $6K ‘superbike’ isn’t that outlandish, and if you’re going to spend that much on bike why buy a ‘normal’ brand when you can have a ’boutique’.

    That’s why you see so many Santa Cruz/Pivot/Niner/Yeti ‘superbikes’ on the trails.

    I’ve yet to ride a carbon framed bike, so I don’t know if it’s worth the premium for me? I have treated myself to one of the few aluminium framed bikes with XT, Fox Performance, mid-range brakes etc… so now I’m just looking forward to riding it when it arrives sometime next year!

    See you all on the trails….

    • Josh Patterson says:

      Ben, thanks for starting that thread. There’s lots of great input from the MTBR community in it. Steep pricing can deter (or at least confuse) new riders while also being something that many experienced riders take for granted. As with almost everything in cycling, the answer seems to be “it depends.” Every rider has a different budget and expectations from their equipment.

    • Sean Birnbaum says:

      I think it is a wise approach for every new rider to gradually scale themselves up to a superbike. I transitioned from a $200 Walmart mountain bike to a heavily discounted $1500 mountain bike in 2007 for $700 and then jumped up to a $3800 bike and then again up to my current $5500 bike. You really do need to come to the conclusion that you really enjoy the sport before you make any kind of significant investment. I would strongly recommend that all new riders start on a bike in the $500-$1500 range. If you find that sport really enjoyable scale up to a higher performance bike.
      That said, to answer the question is the jump from aluminum to carbon worth it, absolutely, but only if you really enjoy the sport. That said, I do think you get your money’s worth at the $5k pricepoint. You just have to realize that equally just as much engineering goes into that bicycle as a motorcycle, and the former will improve your health both mentally and physically. The latter, not nearly as much.

  • sirios says:

    Yes there are a lot of so called super bikes but there are also a lot of bikes in the $2000
    to 3000 range that are Super .
    Most frames are made in taiwan from ” super bikes ” to very very good bikes . put some mid range shimano components which are very close in quality to high end ones and you have a Super Bike at a very reasonable price .

  • TylerV says:

    Let’s not overlook that Picard busted himself with that sudden turn of insight and almost perfect grammar.

  • Josh Patterson says:

    Great advice, Sean!

  • Joey says:

    I have been riding for 50yrs. At my current and steady conditioning and skill level, I ride about a $2000 bike. A $7000 will make no difference to my conditioning and skill level.
    If its very technical riding where one can be hurt, I slow down, so the worst that could happen is I fall side ways at walking speed.

  • CF says:

    As a 35 year riding veteran and former shop employee/service manager in my younger years, I appreciate this debate. Back in my day, a super bike was $2k. I was spoiled back then with below cost bike deals for shop employees that enabled me to ride the best bikes available. In the late 80’s/early 90’s MTB race bikes were 25-26lb hard tails that required real skill to navigate traditional northeast technical, rocky natural singletrack trails when you had to work for every mile. XC was king. Bikes and bones broke a lot. Full suspension bikes were just coming onto the scene, and downhill racing was driving the first waves of tech innovation…thanks to John Tomac and Missy Giove!

    With today’s engineered flowy and impeccably maintained trails combined with modern bike technology, and the expansion of club/government/land owner alliances that have opened new trail networks everywhere, and even the proliferation of many more lift served trails, we are in the golden age of mountain biking!

    Now I have the benefit of years of hard earned skills and means, but I still cannot come to grips with spending that kind of money on a new bike when kid’s college bills need to be paid. My $1500 used yeti 26er with modernish geometry from Craigslist has made riding so much more fun. To get my wife back into it, I bought her a $2500 27.5 SLX full suspension Kona trail bike on closeout, which she loves. These days, it’s hard to find anyone riding less than a $5k bike on the trails.

    I’m glad the sport has come so far. It’s great to see so many people enjoying such great trails with truly great bikes. Enjoy everyone!

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