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Why We Should Stop Whinging About The Price of High-End Bike Gear | The Trickle Down Effect

Flick through the pages of any issue of Dirt and you’re guaranteed to come across some products with price tags that’ll make you shout something along the lines of “what the f–k, bike prices are ridiculous these days”, but I reckon we’ve now got it better than we ever have, and that’s thanks to the good old trickle down effect…

From Dirt Issue 139 – September 2013

Words by Ed H. Product Shots from SRAM.

So often I hear people moaning about the prices of bikes, and yes the top–end ones are eye wateringly expensive, but look further down the ladder and you can get some truly great kit for far more realistic sums. If I think back to the first ‘proper’ mountain bike that I bought in the early 90’s it cost me a grand, and for that I got a fully rigid steel frame and forks along with a Shimano XT groupset. I later spent what must have been around £600 on a pair of forks that would be outperformed today by even the very cheapest offerings, and I spent more money ‘upgrading’ to a set of V–brakes than I would have to spend today on a really good set of disc brakes. If I took inflation into account all this would sound even worse, so yes I definitely reckon we now have it better than ever before.

But what has made our bikes better? Well obviously there thousands of answers to that question, but I think the main one has to be that we’ve always had the ability to buy top–end, and normally very expensive kit that has pushed things forward. Yes most of us can never afford this stuff, but without it the cheaper stuff that we can afford wouldn’t be half as good. Rather than complaining about expensive products we should be congratulating companies for making them, and just as importantly thanking those people that can afford them for buying them. I suppose the problem is that we all naturally lust after this ‘ultimate’ kit, and then by the time it filters down and becomes more affordable we’re no longer excited by it because we’re already lusting over the next thing. I think for those of us that don’t have bottomless wallets, we just need to appreciate what we’ve got, and be happy that someone else is funding making our next bit of kit even better.

I can’t actually think of a single part of a bike that hasn’t benefited from the trickling down of technology, whether it be making things lighter, or simply working better. If I go back to the XT groupset on that bike I bought, would I choose to ride that over a new Deore groupset? Would I heck. Not even XTR of that era would stand a chance against what’s on offer today for a fraction of the cost. We already get clutch style rear derailleurs on ‘entry level’ groupsets, and Shimano’s incredible Deore disc brakes have benefited so much from the trickle–down effect that it’s now got to the point where it’s difficult to justify buying anything more expensive. We probably wouldn’t have ever got them though if it hadn’t been for people buying the expensive XTR brakes in the first place.

Diminishing returns are something that we face when buying anything, whether it be bike related or not, and that’s something that we always need to remember. Luckily for us though that magic balance of ‘good price, good performance’ has become a far more hotly contested market over the years, and that’s the area in which most of us should probably be looking to buy. Yes it would be lovely to have the very best kit, but realistically a lot of it isn’t that much better and think what else you could do with the money. Go on a trip of a lifetime with your bike? My point is though that we shouldn’t begrudge those who do have the flashiest bikes, because as I said before we should instead be thanking them for funding the improvement of our ‘more ‘run of the mill’ kit. So the next time you see someone on your dream bike think “cheers mate” instead of “bastard”, because in a few years time you’ll probably be riding something just as good, and yet you’ll have spent a fraction of what they have.

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