Pro Cyclists can spend tens of thousands of dollars just equipping themselves for their sport.
A top-tier professional road bicycle can cost well over ten thousand dollars, and once they also get a custom paint job, it can double the price if the artist is well known. Why is cycling so expensive?
The main reason cycling is so expensive is the cost of materials to build high-quality bicycles and equipment. A lot of research goes into the design, but the lightest and most durable materials are what make bikes faster and gear better. Unfortunately, carbon fiber, titanium, and high-quality alloys for cycling cost more to obtain and refine for cycling products.
To see all of my up-to-date recommendations for bikes and cycling gear, check out this resource that I made for you!
Table of Contents
5 Reasons Why Cycling Is So Expensive
Bike riding as a hobby isn’t prohibitively expensive, but the closer you get to professional cycling, the higher the cost.
The difference between a cheap starter bicycle and a top-tier professional-quality cycle is in the materials and how they are used.
From the first drawings from a designer to the final minuscule tweaks made after a rider does a wind tunnel test, everything from your helmet to your wheels goes through multiple processes to make them the sleekest, smoothest and lightest they can be.
Here are five reasons why cycling is so expensive:
1 – Cutting Weight With Better Materials
A cheap bike often has a steel or aluminum frame. The weight of the wheels and tires, cassettes, and more are not a factor, and you will often find bicycles that weigh over thirty pounds.
Unfortunately, the bike’s weight may slow you down because, as you pedal, you have to bring your own body weight, plus your equipment and clothing, along for the ride.
The cost goes up exponentially for every ounce an elite custom company takes off your pro-bicycle because the materials and design complexity are more significant.
Being low weight is vital to winning races. Regardless of the style of your bicycle, the best ones are almost always lighter.
The materials used to create each part are considered carefully. Designers have to balance durable and lightweight alloys like titanium and carbon fiber parts perfectly to create a bike that is less than 5 pounds.
In fact, the sleekest pro cycles are around two pounds.
2 – Proper Testing Is High-Tech
It seems simple enough to test a bike or helmet. If you don’t know much about it, it’s easy to imagine that you put it together and have someone ride it, but the reality is more complex.
Reducing friction and wind resistance down to as little as humanly possible takes skill and unique testing facilities.
Some high-end manufacturers like the Specialized Company have their own in-house wind tunnels.
As Velo News explains, “The Specialized aero team performs data-acquisition on the bike, in-house CFD (computational fluid dynamics), and measurements in the wind tunnel. They feel that the combination of these three technologies allows them to achieve not only the fastest equipment but to get it done the fastest as well.”
Bikes and gear are only part of what gets checked in a wind tunnel. Pro riders also need to book a time to test in the tunnel.
Checking your gear, bike, and even your posture as you ride in a specially constructed wind tunnel can help you make minor adjustments that add up to big gains.
3 – You Must Have The Correct Clothing
There is an elitist attitude toward cycling clothing. A ‘serious’ rider needs to have ‘real’ cycling clothing.
While that may sound rude or harsh, it’s very practical because cycling clothing fits close to the body. The designs are made from materials with minimal wind resistance.
For example, spandex is entirely smooth. Designers create bike wear with seams that won’t rub your skin raw as you ride while also crafting a minimal silhouette.
No surface of cycling clothing should ever flap loosely and catch extra wind because even a little more wind can slow you down more than you’d expect over time.
If drafting is a cyclists’ friend, pulling you forward with the least effort, then wind resistance is its literal opposite as it holds you back.
Suitable bike clothing is comfortable, breathable, and provides no resistance, cutting through the wind like a hot knife in butter.
4 – Bike Shoes Are In High Demand
Much like the clothing and cycles, bike shoes are specialty gear. The less expensive styles are typically made from injection molded plastics, but the trouble with the less expensive material is that it has more flexibility. Cycling shoes should be rigid.
To create a suitably rigid shoe, you need carbon fiber soles. The material isn’t cheap to develop. However, the advantage is that it holds form and even reduces the amount of weight which in turn helps reduce foot fatigue.
5 – Shipping, Advertising, and Retail
Once the designers, engineers, manufacturers, and testers are done doing their jobs, a cycling product still hasn’t reached the public.
Retailers have to pay for shipping, often from out of the country, and then advertise, so people know the products exist.
They also have operating costs and staff to pay. All those fees plus the retail markup so shops can profit from selling quality bicycles and cycling gear are part of the overall cost.
Helpful Tips To Know About Why Cycling Is So Expensive
Good cycling equipment is a product of excellent materials and dozens or hundreds of hours of design and testing. There’s a lot more going on behind the scenes than you might expect.
Here are some helpful tips to know about why cycling is so expensive.
- Supply and demand also affect the ultimate cost of bicycles. Since the pandemic’s beginning, the number of bikes people have purchased has gone up exponentially. Making more means adding materials, staff, and other costs to the manufacturing process even if you don’t create new designs. Since people want bikes more than ever, companies can ask for a higher price to help meet that demand.
- Cycling is one of the most expensive sports you can participate in if you want to become a professional. While there’s little trouble finding a cost-effective bicycle to ride, you can’t expect to keep up in races and endurance events with a cheap heavy bike and your street clothing.
- Quality materials like titanium and carbon fiber have to be mined or refined before designers and engineers can use them to create bicycling components. Similarly, fabrics and even leathers or synthetic materials for shoes undergo more design and construction work than inexpensive materials.
Before you can make any part of a bicycle, or the gear you need to go with it, you must acquire excellent quality materials.
Inexpensive bikes and cycling shoes are heavier and often use outdated materials and designs that have been through much less testing.
High-quality cycling clothing is made from better fabrics and patterns. If you want to be aerodynamic and have durable equipment for this sport, you have to be willing to shell out for the materials and design quality it takes to cut weight and decrease friction.