Of Madones and M9s

Leica M9

Did you know, 19 of the 21 Madone racing bikes listed on Trek’s website are priced above $2000, with nearly half of those priced above $4000, and two models at nearly $9000? It’s beyond me to say whether or not those bikes are “worth” that much, but obviously somebody thinks they are or I wouldn’t see so many on the road, and Trek wouldn’t be doing so well in the marketplace.

The $9K Trek brings to mind the limited edition Leica Titanium M9 camera. Leica manufactured a limited run of 500 of these cameras, priced at $30K each. I figured they’d have a tough time selling through 500 at that price. Guess how long it took to sell out the entire run? One hour. Shows how much I know.

Just about any bike (or camera) will do in a pinch, but obviously, there’s a very wide spectrum of what people think is required to get a job done. It’s no different with transpo bikes. I have a friend who’s all about sub-$300 recycled bikes, and I have another friend who’s looking at a Co-Motion with a Rohloff hub as his first commuter. Who am I to say who’s right?

Many of the better commuter and transpo bikes fall into the $1K-2K price range. Sure, it’s possible to spend far more and far less, but if you’re looking at ready-to-roll, production commuters that will last more than a season or two, you’re probably shopping in that price range. I’m guessing that creates a bit of sticker shock for someone who hasn’t looked at Madone prices lately. But upon closer inspection, a $1K-$2K transpo bike that replaces a car and lasts 10 years or more appears to be a very good investment, particularly when the cost of owning and maintaining a car is brought into the equation (believe it or not, according to AAA, it’s nearly $10K per year). And just think, if you sell that car and take up bike commuting, you’ll save enough for a Titanium Leica M9 in only 3 years… ;-)

50 Responses to “Of Madones and M9s”

  • Brian C says:

    Alan:
    I love the analogy! The most expensive bike we have is one I got my wife this year – at pennies under $2000. Personally I cannot imagine having more than $2500 to spend on a bike (much to my wife’s relief).

    I would love one of the civia bryants, with an 11 speed shimano rear hub (we have the hills to take full advantage of the range). I can happily drool over the exotic trek road bikes, but since most do not even provide a decent mount for a rack, they are out!

  • Voyou says:

    ummm….my good, old bianchi (circa late 70s) has served me the past 11 years. i paid 230 dollars at the time, one major upgrade of 100 dollars this year…I certainly don’t need a 9K trek as it will end up with the same fate of my 5k trek. it was stolen by someone who broke the van window and took nothing else but the bike. i do miss riding a performance bike, and am building a touring bike from a 80’s cannondale frame. quite a winter project to enjoy and to endure! budgetwise, it will be ideal if it’s under 1K.

  • dweendaddy says:

    While I am very happy with a new (to me) 1970’s Raleigh Sprite 1×5 which is tackling Nashville’s hills with ease, I still dream of a Rivendell. Thinking of $9000 Treks make a Rivendell one day seem utterly reasonable. Now, if only the rest of my family would see it that way!

  • Dottie says:

    That M9 is digital, right? I can’t imagine why someone would spend $30K on a digital camera that will be obsolete sooner rather than later, especially when a film/timeless Lecia can be had for much, much less money. That’s another comparison, in my opinion, between cars and bikes. A car notoriously depreciates as soon as you roll it off the lot, but a solid-quality steel bike retains its value. No comment about the Madone, though – that’s a whole other category that I know nothing about.

  • patrick says:

    i don’t get the analogy. Maybe the amount a person is willing to spend (much different than “afford”) is just much different between people.
    When I was working at a bike shop, I wanted a “cost” table where I could enter a couple figures and blammo, expected expenditures for transportation.
    Everyone with a car already gets how easy it is to spend lots of money on personal transportation infrastructure, but they have a hard time giving up the car. And those without a car (or guaranteed monthly transportation expenditures) often see cycling as a welcome solution but are unwilling to spend the money.
    I wish there was an easy way to get people to understand what value really means: cheap doesn’t equal value just like expensive doesn’t equal valuable.
    Fine. If I had cash to burn I’d definately get a Leica, and probably a full carbon speed monster (they really are fun) and that is fine. Folks will always want their super rare exotic fancy things. But those guys will always find ways to spend “too much”; the problem is getting the guys who don’t really want fancy stuff to spend at least the right amount for a bike. (not to mention periodic maintenance)

  • Supp Suppinger says:

    You are absolutely right! Bicycle mobility is just another mode of transportation, and nothing in todays world is for free! But as You wrote, cycling is still the cheapest way of transportation. And by the way also the most efficient one!!! Ivan Illich already mentioned this in 1973, as You can read here: http://www.davidtinapple.com/illich/1973_energy_equity.html#8
    All the best, Supp!

  • Perry says:

    In the case of the M9, I wonder if it’s considered a collectible and thus an investment. Don’t know, just a guess. I know it’s still a ridiculous sum but people pay all sorts of ridiculous sums for collectibles. Thoughts?

  • brad says:

    I’ve been learning the hard way that cheap bikes can be more expensive in the long run. I bought a recycled bike for $200 that lasted about three months before thngs started breaking down and a bike shop estimated it would require at least $400 to turn it into a reliable form of transportation (it needed new hubs and wheels, a new derailleur and shifters, etc.).

    So I donated that bike to charity and spent $550 on a brand-new seven-speed aluminum-frame bike designed after the Dutch models. Despite minor problems with dodgy shifting and occasional chain drops, this bike served me pretty well for a year, but then the wheels started going out of true more and more frequently, spokes started breaking, and now I’m looking at replacing both wheels. It’s hard to decide whether to keep putting money into this bike or just cut my losses and get a reliable bike in the $1,200 range, which is what I’ll end up spending either way in the end.

  • Alan says:

    @voyou

    Your old Bianchi sounds nice. Refurbs on bikes from the 70’s and 80’s are getting popular, to the point that it’s getting more difficult to find good quality frames at reasonable prices. You probably saw the nice work Andy did on his pair of refurbs:

    http://www.ecovelo.info/2010/11/18/gallery-andy-churchs-74-raleigh-and-66-schwinn/

    Those are beautiful bikes, though he put some money into them too. I’m guessing they still ended up being a lot of bike for the dollars invested.

  • Alan says:

    @Dottie

    “That M9 is digital, right? I can’t imagine why someone would spend $30K on a digital camera that will be obsolete sooner rather than later, especially when a film/timeless Lecia can be had for much, much less money.”

    It’s my guess that most of the Titanium M9s were sold to collectors.

  • Alan says:

    @Patrick

    “…the problem is getting the guys who don’t really want fancy stuff to spend at least the right amount for a bike.”

    There’s a sweet spot, and I haven’t quite figured out where it is yet. Below a certain price range and bikes fall apart under you in a year or two, above a certain price range the returns start diminishing very quickly.

  • Alan says:

    @Perry

    “In the case of the M9, I wonder if it’s considered a collectible and thus an investment. Don’t know, just a guess. I know it’s still a ridiculous sum but people pay all sorts of ridiculous sums for collectibles. Thoughts?”

    I think you’re right. Certainly no one bought it for the image quality, though it’s undoubtedly very good.

  • Andy says:

    You are still thinking very high at at 1k-2k for a commuter bike, in my opinion, but I also buy used. My current commuter bike was $650. It’s a K2 Enemy cycloscross bike. Shimano 105/Ultegra, racks, fenders, dynohub, etc. I watch 5-minute repair clips online and do nearly all my own work which saves hundreds more over going to the shop to fix things, and I generally buy the consumables (tires, tubes, chains, etc.) when they are at their lowest price. My one expensive component was $300 for a dynamo hub lighting system, but I needed a new wheel regardless, so it was a good time to get one. $2000 for a commuter just seems way overkill to me. At that price, you’re paying for brands. It probably comes with decent parts, but I feel no need to pay extra to have a Surly or Co-Motion when some non-popular K2 no one has heard of offers the same parts at a fraction of the price.

  • Tom says:

    @patrick

    The problem may be getting the guys who sell the not so fancy stuff to price it at most the right amount. (not to mention periodic maintenance).

    It’s all a matter of perspective.

  • Alan says:

    @Brad

    You would not believe how often I’ve heard your exact story over the years. From outward appearances it’s not easy to discern the difference between a $400 bike and a $1200 bike, which leads to a lot of people going through what you’ve experienced. This can be a real turn-off after the second or third bike falls apart. Besides wasting a lot of time and money, dealing with unreliable bikes fosters distrust between the LBS and the customer, and it makes the riding experience less enjoyable than it could be. All that said, it’s not easy to demonstrate why a person might be better off spending more up front, particularly when they don’t really know how much they’ll use their bike when they’re just getting started.

    As far as your current situation, my inclination would be to cut my losses and invest in a more serious bike that will hold up over time. You’ll enjoy it more, and you’ll probably end up spending less in the long run. Also, higher quality bikes tend to hold their value better in the event you decide to sell it in the future.

    Alan

  • CHenry says:

    The titanium M9 is a collector’s item, a much more expensive version of the regular M9, priced around $7K. It is a rarefied item even in its conventional dress. My guess is that most of those titanium cameras are going into bank vaults in Asia and Europe, never to be used at all.

    For the person who has film Leicas, the regular M9 offers the closest thing yet to the film rangefinder camera experience, with a full-size (for 35mm) sensor that gives their expensive Leica lenses a digital camera that has a 1x multiplier factor. You would have to be both persuaded of the value of Leica lenses to see any reason to buy their $7K digital body, but those who do buy those bodies will likely use them. It is useless to explain to someone who would never pay more than $300 for a digital point-and-shoot why $7K is something one should spend on a camera body that doesn’t even have a lens (and will become obsolete quicker than any film camera), except to say that most people who have Leicas have spent as much or more already on film bodies and lenses. And Leica is not the most expensive or rare digital camera out there (check out the Mamiya DM56 and get back with me on that).

    At least the buyer of the $9K Madone usually uses the bike, and parts that wear can be replaced and upgraded over time.

    I have seen $100K home kitchens bought by empty nesters, $10,000 barbecue grills, $4000 washer/dryers, exotic flooring and countertops. Lots of people think $80K is reasonable to spend on upscale cars. Let’s not even go into boats. Compared to the kinds of other things some fairly non-spendy folks will buy, even the $9K Madone seems restrained. Think of it as a cheap recreational vehicle.

    Oh, and I don’t have a Madone, but I did build a very nice Moots from a pristine used frame I bought on eBay. And I have owned Leica, but I don’t ever plan to buy one of their digital cameras. Still, I would understand why someone else might scrimp and save to buy one (to use.)

  • marty says:

    I am a recumbent enthusiast and of late do 99% of my riding on my trike. This does not make for a good ride with others. I have become lonely and desire more rider companinship. I built up a Fuji tourer to my liking with racks fenders etc. to ride with my club. The bike weighs in at 34#. I thought I would be able to get by on slower club rides, but I just can’t keep up with those sub 20# carbon bikes everyone seems to be riding. I know with a lighter bike I could easily keep up with the better riders. The truth of the matter is funds are limited and I really don’t want to go back to Spandex.

  • Ryan says:

    I shoot Leicas, film ones though – great cameras that stand the test of time and in my opinion were worth the entry fee. Spending 30k on a “titanium” M9 instead of the 7-8K a regular M9 seems weird to me, especially when it is a digital camera. I don’t see a point in making a collector grade digital camera. I never understood camera collectors though, can’t see a point to it. Where is the value of something that will most probably never be used?

    I currently have several bikes and will get more, but to be honest, not one of them has been bought just to add to the collection, just for the purpose of owning. They are all currently being ridden or could be with some needed tinkering, they each have purpose beyond ownership. I have decided my next bike will be a Rivendell, an expensive bike to be sure. I see value in something that will last the test of time, will function for years even though it is expensive. A quality steel framed bike will do that, and a Riv is a quality steel framed bike. The one I plan on buying will take the place of two of my current bikes that previously took the place of one of my cars. Seems to be a pretty good value to me.

    Can’t really comment on Madones though, they just aren’t my cup-o-tea.

  • brad says:

    Another thing to consider in all this is where you stand in the time-money curve. For most of us, we have more time than money when we’re young, and then as we grow older and have more responsibilities (house, family, career, etc.) we have more money than time. When I was in my 20s, I did most of the repairs on my bike and also my car, but now in my early 50s I simply don’t have time and have to pay someone else to do it. The initial quality of the bike matters more when you don’t have time or the inclination to do repairs.

    The weak link in many cheaper bikes seems to be the wheels. I’ve been riding bikes for 30 years and never had a broken spoke until this year, and good wheels stay true for a long time. Even the machine-built wheels that came stock with my Trek 520 stayed true for five years despite some long tours and near-daily use on pothole-ridden streets. Cheap wheels, or wheels that aren’t designed for your weight (including loaded shopping bags and panniers) will go out of true and break spokes.

  • Mark says:

    Has anyone ever heard of conspicuous consumption? Status symbols? You have to be invested in maintaining an image of yourself in a particular class to spend 5k more on bike that weighs a pound and a half less than the madone 5.2. Even the tour de france limits the minimum weight to 6.8 kgs so it’s not like racers even need it. In any case, how many people buying this bike are even hardcore racers with zero body fat to drop? Who buys porche 911 turbos? Car racers? Get real.

    What explanation is there for the sales of luxury items that aren’t even as good (in terms of reliability) as the cheaper products that the non-rich must purchase? Why would someone purchase a rebranded toyota for much more as a Lexus? These manufacturers make a lot on the on the existence of economic classes.

  • Urb Anwriter says:

    As Mark says “conspicuous consumption,” but there is one other subtle angle on that consumption. Read Pierre Bourdieu’s book, ‘Distinction.’ And if like me you’re not totally on-side with French academic theorists here is a direct quote from the director Bruce Green, “In my social circle there are only two cars I’m ‘allowed’ to drive – a Lexus, or 65 Mustang.” That conversation took place 15 (?!) or so years ago, over dinner, in my home town. And I’ve never forgotten the implications of higher social and economic class – while arguable more ‘comfortable,’ there are at least as many expectations. I just wish I had the money to experience those expectations. :)

  • Matt says:

    My Oma Fiets was 175Euro, my fietstas(panniers) cost 15Euro now, there aren’t many hills on my commute but 2 hours a day on the thing, 5 days a week makes me wonder if even the $2000 commuter bikes are out of control. To each their own I suppose. I am happy that there are people spending money on the two wheel pedal powered vehicles and using them. It is good for business and health.

  • Tamia Nelson says:

    Ah, Alan, you don’t remember your basic economics class where the prof described Veblen goods. Nineteenth Century economist Thorstein Veblen described these in his book The Theory of the Leisure Class. Wikipedia has a good description. Quoting Wiki: “Veblen goods are a group of commodities for which people’s preference for buying them increases as a direct function of their price, as greater price confers greater status, instead of decreasing according to the law of demand.”

  • Voyou says:

    I suppose both Veblen and Bourdieu are critical of conspicuous consumption and of the material life built upon unequal social and cultural capitals. But do we acquire sustaining happiness from luxurious items? Don’t we in the North simply believe in the myth of advanced technology and in the pursuit for ‘better, high-end, lighter, more technical’ stuff?

    I’ll probably be happy with a M9, but what’s behind the viewfinder stays the same. :-)

    @ Alan: yes, i saw those nicely restored bikes last week. they were inspiring! In Montreal, we have quite a few bike coops where used parts can be found and where volunteer mechanics help out and newbies learn about building a bike from a to z. This helps bring down the labour cost and allows investment in better parts. Most importantly, learning a new skill is the best reward!

  • Ted says:

    My goal on bike costs are $0.50 per mile. Still working on paying off my LHT, at a modest 1100mi/year commute. Around $0.30 per mile on my old mountain bike.

  • Don says:

    Cameras and bikes: few other products are so idiosyncratically fetishized, and I include myself. What “straight” economic arguments always discount is the value of intangibles, no less real for being ignored or unstated or invisible (like the hand). Some people value frugality, so that is a factor for them. For others, aesthetics and craftsmanship and material. For still others, rarity or obscurity of origin. And for others, prudent decision making within time, location, or financial constraints. And then there’s the weighing of one value relative to the others. If all the intangibles and the pleasures they provide were quantified somehow, the values would probably level out.

    Variety is beautiful. And so is a person’s bond with a beloved tool. For the moment, my Lumix LX3 and my Gary Fisher Monona keep me satisfied, but not so much that I can’t pine irrationally for the next iteration. It is great fun to be human.

  • Don says:

    @Brad, so true about wheel quality. The corresponding part with cameras is either the sensor or the lens, if you can consider them separately. I’ll say the sensor, so that the lens can correspond to the frame. A great used lens is like a fine old CrMo frame.

    I tell you, Alan, the analogy keeps going! : >)

  • Alan says:

    @Tamia

    “Ah, Alan, you don’t remember your basic economics class where the prof described Veblen goods.”

    I slept through that class, Tamia…. ;-)

  • Tamia Nelson says:

    @Alan

    “I slept through that class, Tamia…. ;-)”

    And you’re not married to an economist, Alan!

  • Saddle Up says:

    There is a saying that fits in with this conversation; “If I have to explain,you would not understand.” I understand the $9000 Madone. Most people would not be able to walk to a car dealership regardless of the brand and be able to afford a race ready automoble. I’m not talking about production vehicles I’m referring to race ready machines. Sure there are folks that can buy a top of the line Corvette, Porche 911, Mercedes AMG, Ferrari xxx whatever, but who can buy a Mercedes or Ferrari Formula One race car? The same is true of motorcycles, people can afford the latest production Honda superbike, a world class race ready FIM Moto GP/WSB is another matter entirely. This is essentually what you get with the $9000 Madone. It is the very pinnacle of Trek road racing bicycle technology. It is the exact same bike Lance and crew ride.

    Just yesterday we received the latest 2011 Specialized S-Works Tarmac in our shop, in my size no less. To my eye the bike is a work of art. I told my co-workers that when I’m ready to leave my work life and the bike industry behind I will buy one, it would be the last road bike I would ever need or own. In the history of Specialized bikes they have never built a one off bike for any of their racers, what the race team uses this year becomes the production bike next year. For a mere $9000 I could own the very best Specialized is able to produce. I use Specialized simply because I’m not really a Trek fan, insert your brand of choice. $9000 for the best of the best, heck I could put that on a credit card.

    The collecting aspect I understand also, I bought a bike that has been in storage since the day I bought it, I’ve yet to ride it except around the shop floor. It sits exactly like it did when it left the factory, tire labels not lined up with valve stems etc. I have bikes that are more fuctional and far less expensive. It’s a Pashley Guv’nor, one of only two that I’m aware of in a city of a million people.

    Price is always relative to one’s own finacial situation, I’m sure 30k for that camera is nothing to the people that bought them, they puchased a treasure, just like the Guv’nor is to me. If I could only have one bicyle that would be the one.

  • voyage says:

    Did you know that Henry Ford said:

    “People can have the Model T in any color – so long as it’s black.”

    –Henry Ford

    http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/203714.Henry_Ford

    Eventually came other colors, fins, and (peeling) Vinyl roofs (tops):

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vinyl_top

    Fetishism aside, are utility/commuter cyclists starting to understand and apply some of the “Total cost of ownership” concepts in their informed decisions?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_cost_of_ownership#Transportation_industry

  • Ted says:

    Perry has said it. Buying the lieca is not the same as a Madone or nice Audi.
    Purchasing that camera was equivelant to purchasing gold, silver or rare coins.
    A dusty battery may never see the inside of that camera!

  • Ted says:

    The very high-end of bicycles, cars and cameras reminds me of the satirical Acura commercials of late. The ones where people are showing off their conspiciously ultra-expensive “chestnut roasters” and such. Also “The Office” where one of the staff shows up on a Madone as his commuting bike. I don’t see chaining a carbon racing wonder to the public transit bike rack and then expecting it to be there in whole when I return.

    At the same time, some people will demand ultra-quality or rare items that are priced at the very end of the value curve. Why?…cause they can…whether they receive the value or not.

  • Pete says:

    I wonder if there is a similar conversation going on over at the wristwatch blogs. “Why would someone buy a $50k Vacheron Constantin when a $30 swatch tells time just as well?” ;-)
    We could dismiss the statistical outliers – like $9000 bikes – and ponder how we can address the perceived value gap that makes a $1000 bike seem absurdly expensive to most people. Is it that all bikes are still perceived as “toys,” whether it’s a Huffy MTB for a 13 year old or a $5k carbon thingy for a 50 yer old? I don’t think Ive ever seen another transpo cyclist at my LBS. They are either roadies, or they are families buying bike for the adults and kids with the exact same criteria – somewhere between toys and sporting goods.

  • bongobike says:

    “If I have to explain,you would not understand.”

    Oh I understand. A few people with way too much money and vanity.

  • Stevep says:

    I would assume that a bike shop makes more profit on a $9000 Madone than on a very basic model.

    Thank you spendy-cyclist-guy for buying that super expensive bike and helping my local bike shop stay in business.

  • Josef says:

    My velomobile Quest was delivered in July 2007. Since then it has done about 22.000 km, mostly on the commute. Its current resale value would be at 80 % of the original price. Even when considering the upgrades and maintenance costs, it is not only supremely efficient on energy but also on my purse.

  • Mowestusa says:

    @dweendaddy
    “While I am very happy with a new (to me) 1970′s Raleigh Sprite 1×5 which is tackling Nashville’s hills with ease, I still dream of a Rivendell.”

    I would love to see pictures of your 1970’s Raleigh. I admire anyone who keeps those old machines on the road and out of the landfills. Also, I would have to admit that reading EcoVelo often creates a strong desire in my heart to have a beautiful bike like Alan’s bikes, but then I realize that new racks and a greased front hub will keep my 17 year old Trek 530 working great to get me around town to run errands (no commute because I can walk to work).

    I also live in a town that is not the best for bike safety. Bicyclists often use side walks simply because of the lack of shoulders or bike lanes on city roads. Yet, except when I’m out riding recreationally and see other riders on their lightweight road bikes, the bikes that I see being used for transportation have names like “Huffy”, not Civia or Raleigh or Rivendell. Those are the people that I admire who are using two wheels, perhaps out of necessity, but at the same time they are using the bicycle for real everyday transport.

  • jheri says:

    I live in København and bikes are basic transportation. You do see some people on expensive racing bikes, but that is their hobby or sport. Most of us get around on something like my black Batavus which in USD cost about $800. I keep it in repair myself for the most part and have just put on my snow tires for the Winter. It is three years old and should go at least ten more.

    I’m unusual in that I also have another impractical bike just for riding for pleasure. She was made to my measurements as I have very long legs and is all hand brazed steel and she only has one fixed gear. In USD she cost about $3800. This is an extravagance and is rare for a Dane, but many Danes have expensive three wheeled transport bikes. I don’t have a car and don’t miss not having one.

    You look at something differently if it is basic transportation or a toy to support a passion:-)

    I am a model and know a bit about cameras. The old film Leicas had a great feel and could become part of you. They were very good for action shots and many great photographers used them. The newer digital cameras from them fall short of that and I doubt they will be collectable. In fashion we mostly use Hasselblads – the equivalent of a medium format camera. Without lenses these cost about $20,000 to $40,000, but no professional buys them. Rather you lease as the technology changes rapidly and you just get a new camera every few years. The newer cameras make wonderful images and pay for themselves in film costs.

  • Fergie348 says:

    Seems like we have essentially two user groups here with slightly different needs. There’s the ‘DIY’ crew who like to tinker and eventually get to their ideal commuter rigs, and there’s the less mechanically inclined group who just want to buy a reliable bike that does what they need it to do.

    I’ve been a bike mechanic for years and do all my own work but it took me many years to get to that point with tools and knowledge. The DIY market is not well served by bike shops, so we have eBay – I built my last 3 bikes mostly out of frames and parts that I found on eBay either slightly used or NOS for a fraction of what it would have cost me to buy them from my LBS. I think I’ve spent about $800 on my current transpo bike, but I started with some old road stuff from an elderly road bike I recently retired. I also could have done it more cheaply, but I like the nicer stuff for reliability and aesthetic reasons. Having upgrade paths for my current bikes keeps me busy and away from new bikes, which makes my wife happy..

    Seems to me that the sweet spot for a fully equipped retail commuter rig is roughly $800 to $1200. From this: http://www.raleighusa.com/bikes/steel-road/port-townsend-11/
    To this: http://www.breezerbikes.com/index.php/component/content/article/36-bicycles/89-uptown-infinity.html

    Of course, you could spend much more, but can’t you always. My cost savings for riding to work as opposed to *cough* driving is about $400 per month. Not that driving would be satisfying anyways, but it’s good to point out that the amount I spend on bike parts per year is greatly exceeded by the savings over more conventional transportation methods.

  • Tim D. says:

    I’m with your friend who does things on the cheap, but definitely out of necessity rather than choice. The thing is, you can find really decent used bikes (or at least parts of bikes) for super cheap if you know where to look. My commuter isn’t super nice, but it’s not a complete junker either. I bought the bike itself for $30…that’s right thirty bucks. Now, I spent another $250 making it what I wanted, but that’s still a pretty affordable bike.

  • Bryce says:

    OK – let me first say that I love reading this blog, and I love the concept of bicycle commuting. Unfortunately, my patience is wearing very thin when it comes to cycling,as it has become an expensive and painful hobby of mine. The initial fixed cost of the bicycle was just the tip of the iceberg. I got a pretty good deal IMO ($900) on a then-new 2008 Lemond Poprad that was meant to function as an all-around bike for me.

    As I got more dedicated to bike commuting, I made fairly typical purchases (set of lights, toe clips, waterproof panniers, fenders, lock and cable, helmet, bike shorts, water-resistent jacket, lubricant, degreaser, pedal wrench, floor pump, and a multi-tool). Also, as I got more saddle experience and discovered what I did and did not like about the bike, that brought on another wave of expenses. The stock saddle was awful so I swapped it 4 times before I stumbled upon what a proper-fitting saddle is supposed to feel like. I switched the stem a few times trying to dial in the fit. I switched the knobby cyclocross tires with a less-tready pair. I ditched the drop bar for a more commuter-friendly Albatross bar. When I did that, I had to swap out the brake levers and shifters. I also had to replace the pedals after my first pair disintegrated over time.

    Now after over a year of bike commuting, I have developed pretty chronic knee and neck pain. While I have health insurance, there is still a decent amount of out-of-pocket expenses associated with doctor visits.

    In summary, bike commuting has been unkind to me. The incremental costs seem to be pretty constant. Learning about bike parts and bike fit is an expensive trial-and-error process. As a twenty-nine year old who has stayed very healthy through lots of other athletic activities, I am very disheartened that cycling has caused my body such physical distress. My goal is to try to heal my body and give it another go. But I might just ditch the whole thing. I hope my experience is atypical.

  • Saddle Up says:

    @Bryce. A bicycle is ony a “good deal” if…
    1. It fits
    2. It’s suited for it’s intended use
    Sounds like you got neither.

  • bongobike says:

    Bryce,
    sounds like you may be over doing it. What’s your total weekly mileage, including commuting and recreational?

  • Bryce says:

    Thanks for the responses. I appreciate all the feedback I can get.

    @Saddle Up
    — I agree with that assessment. After some experience, I now have a much clearer picture of what I want out of a bicycle. I keep wondering if I am trying to make my bicycle into something it is not from both a fit and function perspective.

    @bongobike
    — My commute really is not that long at just about 7 miles round trip. That is pretty much nothing compared to a lot of the mileages various other commenters quote. Now, in full disclosure, I was also training for the Seattle-to-Portland ride this past year. That usually involved 50-ish mile rides once every week and a half. For those rides, I was riding another bike. Maybe I got a little too gung-ho too early??

  • Ryan says:

    Bryce,

    I would really look at the way your bike fits you. It sounds as if you have some issues, maybe crankarms that are too long or seatpost too low. I used to have a few knee issues, but once I got rid of the clipless pedals and went to platforms the issue dissapeared.

  • Pete says:

    I think it’s pretty common for people who are not very old and in decent shape to think they can just hop on any bike and start riding. Especially if you have a short commute, you think that its no big deal to put up with “little” issues for 20 or 30 minutes at a time. But when you start doing it repeatedly, every day, you can develop really troubling injuries from those “little” issues. It goes back, I think, to the ideas we developed as kids on bikes – just hop on and ride.
    It’s really tough to get someone to start commuting if they have to go get “fit” first. A decent fitting session feels more like doctor’s appointment than a trip to the “toy” store. (It’s even more off-putting if they then have to buy a new bike to replace the no-doubt-too-small one they already have!) It just doesn’t jive with the idea cycling as cheap, easy and fun.

  • Herzog says:

    Bryce,

    Honestly, I think that is a terrible, terrible all-around bike. I used to ride a racing bike with narrow tires and quickly decided it was torture. I bet you’d be more comfortable on an old 3-speed. Especially since you don’t need to go fast with your short commute.

    I ride a lugged steel 3-speed which I bought for $50. Over almost two years, I probably spent less than $300 on upgrades, maintenance, and accessories. I ride 20 MILES A DAY, 365 days a year (okay 361 in the last one) in normal clothing.

    I’m a huge believer in 3-speeds and there are like a million reasons why I think they are better than what is usually sold in bike shops.

  • EcoVelo » Blog Archive » November’s Greatest Hits says:

    […] Of Madones and M9s […]

  • Mike C says:

    That $9000 Trek Madone becomes a $11,000 Trek Madone when you opt for the Di2 package as part of their “Project One” bike building resource…

 
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