Thinkin’ ‘Bout Value: When Buying a Bicycle

A Question of Value: What Matters Most When Buying a Bicycle?

By Scotty Mac
I’ve purchased a few bicycles in my time.  Thirteen bikes in the last seventeen years, to be exact.  Seven of those rides came from Ascent Cycling, and with talk of the 2014 offerings ramping up, you can bet there’ll be another on the way.  It’s pretty darn obvious that I’m not satisfied with anything I’ve bought for any great length of time.  And yet, each bike I’ve called mine has had specific parts or characteristics that sent my hard-earned its way.  My ’96 GT Karakoram had a KORE stem and a full Deore LX drivetrain.  The ’98 Trek 8300 was one of the first hardtails to come with a riser bar.  The ’99 Gary Fisher X-Caliber?  Why, it was a hardtail pioneer with a 100mm fork and hydraulic disc brakes.  Then there was the ’03 Cannondale Jekyll with five-and-a-quarter inches of rear travel and the ’07 Rocky Mountain ETSX-Team with my first max-spec XTR build.  My last full suspension bike, a ’12 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR EVO 29er (I run out of breath just typing the name) had thru-axles front and rear, aggressive, trail-ripping geometry, and a generous dollop of suspension travel.  As I’ve discovered new facets of my ridingpreferences and style, my bike choices have tried to keep up.
2014 Camber Evo

Bike One: Pretty sweet, right? Sure,
but is it something you would value? What would you change?

I place great value on what I ride, but the things I place value on change.  What do you place value on?  I would venture to guess that as your riding priorities change, what you value in your bike changes as well.  If that’s the case, then doing a little homework before your next purchase can help you narrow down what’s truly right for you.

Value can mean purchase price.  Value can mean specific components, or frame materials, or even a certain bike company.  It can be a little bit of all those things.  I avoided carbon fiber on my mountain bikes for years because I didn’t think I was a good enough rider to ride one without breaking it, and so I placed value on seemingly more sturdy aluminum and steel frames.  Those values have changed as aluminum frames have gotten thinner and thinner, making a hard crash just as potentially catastrophic (if not more so) as your average, modern-day carbon frame.  Frame material isn’t a big deal to me anymore.  Other things are, and sorting through the priorities can sometimes feel like a task of outsized proportions.
Bikecompanies don’t help.  They know you place value in various bicycle elements, which is why there are so many choices!  There are niches within niches, and that level of specificity can be both gratifying and daunting as you seek to determine the appropriate value for your next steed.  If you are one of the fortunate few who have both the means and desire to own a top tier bicycle, then you can have everything in one shot.  I salute your choice even as I am envious of your position.  For us mere mortals, there is simply no way to have it all.  You can do a frame-up build, but that’ll cost you more than a “turn-key” bike.  You can get a sweet wheelset, but the drivetrain might be a step down from what you truly want.  All right, you bought that new carbon model!… but, the suspension fork doesn’t have many adjustment options because Brand X had to hit a target price point.  There are plenty of nits to pick.  You could deconstruct every bike and never be satisfied, world-without-end-amen.  Value is a hard thing to settle on.
2014 Camber Expert

Bike Two: Similar price, basically the same chassis, but key differences exist that might make it a better bike for you.

Eventually though, if you’re like me, the dust clears and the noise subsides.  You calm down and suddenly all that static that was telling you “Bike A is awesome, except for X, Y, and Z” doesn’t seem to matter.  It’s a moment of clarity that becomes the driving force in your decision.  You’ve made your call.  You decide that the frame’s the thing, or the suspension, or the wheels, or maybe, you got to demo the bike for the weekend and it’s the bike in its totality that seals the deal.    Maybe you don’t care about your next bike as much as I do about mine; though I truly hope you care.  If only a little bit.

The question of value has an answer, but it’s on you to decide where it lies.

Mac out.


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