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Why are triathlon bikes and road bikes so expensive?
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My tri bike (2018 Cervelo P3 with Enve wheels was probably about $6,000...maybe more. Either way, it's definitely NOT what I told my wife :-).

I'm just curious on what tri bike(s) you have (if you have more than one tri bike, much respect!) Also, what you paid for it (if you want to divulge that), AND if you think that was a good deal.

I also made a video which goes into the expenses for making high-end bikes, you can view here if you like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pa5smAS8AlE
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Re: Why are triathlon bikes and road bikes so expensive? [brunes83] [ In reply to ]
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I buy my bikes like I buy my guitars, gently used.
2 year old Cervelo P2: $500
3 year old trek domane: $500
2 year old Rolf wheelset: $250

You can’t convince me a bike is worth what companies are charging unless you use it as your primary transportation to and from your job, or if you are a professional cyclist, triathlete, etc.
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Re: Why are triathlon bikes and road bikes so expensive? [brunes83] [ In reply to ]
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Here's a simple illustration I created for another thread that illustrates how a basic bike can end up at $12K as you add features.

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Re: Why are triathlon bikes and road bikes so expensive? [Parkland] [ In reply to ]
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Depends, I Think. The latest top tier models, maybe because of r&d, moulds, High end groupsets. Mid range prices are way too High. If the new bike is really better than the last one, use last years model and put a mid range groupset on it
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Re: Why are triathlon bikes and road bikes so expensive? [brunes83] [ In reply to ]
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I paid, all in, about $1200 for my ‘03 P2k with trispokes, dura ace as it is currently configured. That was buying the frame and building up from scratch with a mix of new parts and stuff from my parts bin.

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Re: Why are triathlon bikes and road bikes so expensive? [brunes83] [ In reply to ]
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I'm $4000 into a Felt IA16 with a Power meter and some other upgrades like crank, shifters, aerobars, saddle, tires.

I'll probably drop $1K on a set of race wheels before next season.

While I didn't get a smokin' great deal on the items I purchased, it's nowhere near retail price and everything is brand new.
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Re: Why are triathlon bikes and road bikes so expensive? [brunes83] [ In reply to ]
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I hate that new road and tri bikes are ridiculously expensive. Sure, everyone will say 'go used', but realistically, unless you're seriously into that as a newbie, it just makes an already high barrier to entry even higher.

I felt my bike was outrageously priced in 2009 at $2300 for a Cervelo P2c with DA, and that's downright budget compared to today.
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Re: Why are triathlon bikes and road bikes so expensive? [brunes83] [ In reply to ]
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Used Speed Concept module $1500.
New eTap Rear derailleur, blip box, clicks $750
$300 nearly new Campy aero cranks
$600 used HED PowerTap disc
$500. new HED Jet 9
$200 for Knick knacks like seat...

I pieced together my road bike for between 5 and 6 grand. Trek Madone with Campy Record EPS. I picked up alll the Campy parts individually on eBay and got some Jet 6s for $666 on a Black Friday deal.

If people can afford to walk into a shop and roll out on a $12,000 DuraAce super bike, then more power to them. I just can’t justify, to myself, that kind of expenditure. I also just can’t justify the marginal cost increase from a Chorus/Force/Untegra level bike to the top end stuff. Those tend to be trivial changes that add up to nearly twice the price.
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Re: Why are triathlon bikes and road bikes so expensive? [grumpier.mike] [ In reply to ]
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you think skinny tire bikes are spendy? You definitely DO NOT WANT to get into mountain biking.
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Re: Why are triathlon bikes and road bikes so expensive? [mountain_erin] [ In reply to ]
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I dropped $5K on my mountain bike 3 years ago. It's the most I've ever spent on a single bike at once.
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Re: Why are triathlon bikes and road bikes so expensive? [brunes83] [ In reply to ]
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They are so expensive largely because high end bikes require a fair amount of R+D but they don’t sell a ton of units. Most people on top on carbon bikes are Pros or a small percentage of the market. When Trek or any other maker produces a low end bike for example a Trek Marlin. They are going to sell thousand and thousands of them. You need much smaller margins to make a profit.

A speed concept 9 series on the other hand sells hundreds. Further they have to much hours in to research to get every last % of benefit.
This is why ultegra is so much cheaper than DA with minimal penalty. It is very costly to go those last few % and they manufacture a lot less.

That said to answer the question.
2019 Cervelo P5d with Enve 7.8 wheels and a few other upgrades and despite getting crazy deals on everything, I’m still in 10K lol
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Re: Why are triathlon bikes and road bikes so expensive? [brunes83] [ In reply to ]
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Because people will pay it.
I ride an aluminum Cervelo P1 that was $1000 and is 10 years old now. I traded a $500 mountain bike for a set of carbo wheels. I still average 21+ mph (I'm in the 60 age group) in my local tris, and win my age group almost every time out. I've beaten a lot of carbon. I have no intention of upgrading anytime soon, if ever. I also have a 33 year old road bike, and 53 year old road bike, which I bought used, for donations to a local charity. I've overhauled them, and have ridden each of them to within 5 minutes, of my Cervelo, in 50 mile time trials. I wouldn't hesitate to race either one, and would only loose about 10 minutes in an IM. Big whup... when you are just another face in the middle of field of 3000. I've pretty much come to the personal conclusion, that all the modern carbon aero stuff can make a big difference to a pro going 30-40 mph... but not so much to us normal folks tootling along at 17-20 mph. But we love to have the stuff our heroes have, so if we have the money, why not? Even if it's not necessary.

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Re: Why are triathlon bikes and road bikes so expensive? [exxxviii] [ In reply to ]
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exxxviii wrote:
Here's a simple illustration I created for another thread that illustrates how a basic bike can end up at $12K as you add features.

That chart is a bit misleading, unless its to show the cost of aftermarket upgrading from that original Tiagra spec bike.

We've got a Tiagra spec'd bike with carbon frame and mechanical disc brakes. The next model up, using the same frame but 105 and hydraulic discs, is only $350 more. The Tiagra bike also cuts costs with an FSA Omega crank, while the 105 model gets the 105 crank (along with a few other upgrades here and there). So the cost difference for a 105 up-spec isn't the $600 you show, but only about half that.

If I were to buy a Tiagra equipped bike and later upgrade to 105, then it would cost me several hundred. But if I'm choosing between 2 otherwise identical bikes except for the gruppo, then the 105 will only cost a few hundred more...

"I'm thinking of a number between 1 and 10, and I don't know why!"
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Re: Why are triathlon bikes and road bikes so expensive? [mountain_erin] [ In reply to ]
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mountain_erin wrote:
you think skinny tire bikes are spendy? You definitely DO NOT WANT to get into mountain biking.

I’ve never bought a mountain bike, but it seems investing more in a mountain bike would be worthwhile. If I’m going to ride a bike down technical terrain, the upgrades I’d be willing to pay more for seem more justifiable. That just doesn’t seem to carry over to my road bike/ tri bike views. But like I said, I’ve never ridden mountain bikes or purchased one. I could be way off base.
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Re: Why are triathlon bikes and road bikes so expensive? [brunes83] [ In reply to ]
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The prices are what the market will bear. People pay $12k for a bike happily because they think it will make them faster or whatever. If people refused to pay that much and opted for less expensive bikes the prices would come down some but I doubtful that will ever happen because some fool will always pay.
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Re: Why are triathlon bikes and road bikes so expensive? [Parkland] [ In reply to ]
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Parkland wrote:
I buy my bikes like I buy my guitars, gently used.
2 year old Cervelo P2: $500
3 year old trek domane: $500
2 year old Rolf wheelset: $250

You can’t convince me a bike is worth what companies are charging unless you use it as your primary transportation to and from your job, or if you are a professional cyclist, triathlete, etc.

Every watch the HBO series Ballers?

I like my bikes in twos.

To the OP.


My last 2 bike purchases involved a race bike and a training bike. The last ones were Argon 18 - The E119 Tri & the 117 Tri. So much easier than swapping wheels etc.
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Re: Why are triathlon bikes and road bikes so expensive? [brunes83] [ In reply to ]
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It doesn't have to be expensive. I got into tri bikes 6 years ago. Got a Trek Hilo 1000, 1999 vintage, in 61cm with 650c wheels, for 500 Canadian pesos. Sold the Rolf wheels and got some sweet Shamal 16 spokes for next to nothing, gp 4000s and latex tubes. This bike has given me great pleasure and has gotten me first place OA by far for time/price in all of my races.

This year I treated myself to a P4. 88mm Chinese wheels, but DT swiss 240 hub in front and powertap pro hub in the rear. The thing is really clean, love it. I paid 1850 CAD for it. Hot deal.
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Re: Why are triathlon bikes and road bikes so expensive? [Warbird] [ In reply to ]
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Warbird wrote:
That chart is a bit misleading, unless its to show the cost of aftermarket upgrading from that original Tiagra spec bike.
I looked at a few higher volume, mainstream brands to develop that. The purpose was to be illustrative, rather than absolute for all brands. Some brands value-price components proportional to cost, others don't. Also, it is a bit challenging, because not all brands spec high-performance bikes down to something like Tiagra. And, many of them go below $2K. I just chose $2K as a baseline because it was easy for a typical performance bike.
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Re: Why are triathlon bikes and road bikes so expensive? [brunes83] [ In reply to ]
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The mark-up on these Chinese frames is criminal. I buy all my bikes on Aliexpress and i've found to them to be reliable, fast, and cheap.
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Re: Why are triathlon bikes and road bikes so expensive? [vanchize] [ In reply to ]
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I just bought a track frame through aliexpress, a lot of people at my track are getting them through there or ebay.
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Re: Why are triathlon bikes and road bikes so expensive? [lightheir] [ In reply to ]
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I think we're wildly overstating the "high barrier to entry" of this sport. Formula 1 drivers don't start out in an open wheel car, they start out in their dad's car at the drag strip, or mom's Miata at an autocross event, and if the passion, dedication, and skill are there, they move up.

At the beginner level, Sprints, Olympics, or even full distance races, you can participate with a $100 garage sale bike, a pair of running shoes from Dick's, and a few other odd items. If squeezing a bit more performance out of your gear winds up being a priority, you figure it out or do without...at the end of the day, it's still mostly about the engine that moves the gear than the gear itself, or damn sure should. I love this forum, and some damn brilliant people educate me daily about the marginal gains to be had in aerodynamics, position, materials, fit, etc, but it's still an athletic event, not a competition for who can spend more money to have the newest and sleekest.

Anyone who decides to "give it a tri" for the first time by buying everything from a $15k bike to a $400 tri suit has more money than sense, and way too many people I see at races with the best gear have the worst overall fitness and don't seem to have any real commitment to the sport or the lifestyle necessary to make it to the upper levels (not that I am, I'm a decent age-grouper, with no dreams of ever "going pro" myself).

I've seen plenty of people doing races, up to a full IM, on a road bike that wouldn't turn a head on a group ride, and holding their own, and swimming and running are just about the cheapest sports one can get into...a pair of shoes and a pair of shorts and a place to use them is all you need.

It's like saying you need to buy a Ferrari to experience driving a car, when a 6 cylinder Mustang is probably more than many of us are capable of hitting the limits of.

And if the passion, enthusiasm, and commitment for the sport winds up being there, you find a way...whether it's overtime at work, buying used, or making sacrifices in other areas of life...brown bagging lunch, ordering well drinks instead of top shelf, or buying coffee at McDonald's instead of Starbucks. 99% of the people who show up on race day wouldn't perform significantly better on a superbike than on a used steel road bike with 8 speed brifters, and an hour or two more saddle time every week.
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Re: Why are triathlon bikes and road bikes so expensive? [dpd3672] [ In reply to ]
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dpd3672 wrote:
I think we're wildly overstating the "high barrier to entry" of this sport. Formula 1 drivers don't start out in an open wheel car, they start out in their dad's car at the drag strip, or mom's Miata at an autocross event, and if the passion, dedication, and skill are there, they move up.

At the beginner level, Sprints, Olympics, or even full distance races, you can participate with a $100 garage sale bike, a pair of running shoes from Dick's, and a few other odd items. If squeezing a bit more performance out of your gear winds up being a priority, you figure it out or do without...at the end of the day, it's still mostly about the engine that moves the gear than the gear itself, or damn sure should. I love this forum, and some damn brilliant people educate me daily about the marginal gains to be had in aerodynamics, position, materials, fit, etc, but it's still an athletic event, not a competition for who can spend more money to have the newest and sleekest.

Anyone who decides to "give it a tri" for the first time by buying everything from a $15k bike to a $400 tri suit has more money than sense, and way too many people I see at races with the best gear have the worst overall fitness and don't seem to have any real commitment to the sport or the lifestyle necessary to make it to the upper levels (not that I am, I'm a decent age-grouper, with no dreams of ever "going pro" myself).

I've seen plenty of people doing races, up to a full IM, on a road bike that wouldn't turn a head on a group ride, and holding their own, and swimming and running are just about the cheapest sports one can get into...a pair of shoes and a pair of shorts and a place to use them is all you need.

It's like saying you need to buy a Ferrari to experience driving a car, when a 6 cylinder Mustang is probably more than many of us are capable of hitting the limits of.

And if the passion, enthusiasm, and commitment for the sport winds up being there, you find a way...whether it's overtime at work, buying used, or making sacrifices in other areas of life...brown bagging lunch, ordering well drinks instead of top shelf, or buying coffee at McDonald's instead of Starbucks. 99% of the people who show up on race day wouldn't perform significantly better on a superbike than on a used steel road bike with 8 speed brifters, and an hour or two more saddle time every week.
Like I get what you're saying but from the average person's perspective, you're going to look like a dingus showing up at a tri with a mountain bike. No one in the tri community cares, they are happy to welcome new people (in general) but that isn't the impression this sport gives off.
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Re: Why are triathlon bikes and road bikes so expensive? [dpd3672] [ In reply to ]
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No, I reiterate it is definitely a high barrier to entry.

Sure, you can get your toes wet doing one or even a few on a mtn bike or old bike. No problemo.

But the moment you want to do it 'for real?' Meaning training for a whole training period specifically for tris? You need a better bike. And entry level now is $2k in most cases for a new tri bike! That's way too high imo.
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Re: Why are triathlon bikes and road bikes so expensive? [lightheir] [ In reply to ]
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Going used you can find deals if your patient. My first tri bike was a 2012 Trek Speed Concept 9.8 and I paid $800 for it. Sold it 1 year later for $1350. I would say the most expensive part of starting the sport is the frivolous spending. I had a 2XU tri suit for less than $100, a pair of Adidas Adios which were on sale for $70 and some stuff here and there but getting into a sport for roughly $1000 is not bad and I could have definitely gone cheaper.
Lots of sports have high initial costs. Want to pick up hockey? $1000 in gear plus seasons ice time. Mountain biking is nearly as expensive. A $1000 mountain bike isn't getting you down Whistler Bike Park comfortably. Triathlon is barely more expensive than cycling, mountain biking. The difference between triathlon and other sports is its one of the only sports where you can tangibly buy performance. Better hockey gear, golf clubs, mountain bikes, road bikes aren't going to make significant difference to beginner athletes. Amateur athletes in those sports don't compete so they also don't have justification for buying countless upgrades. Triathlon, the expenses can be qualified. A set of race wheels will drop your finish time from 10:10 down to 9:59 and that makes it a lot easier to justify the costs.

As far as showing up to a triathlon with a mountain bike. I assume he's a beginner and wouldn't bat an eye. Seeing a 15hour finisher on a 5-10k triathlon bike.....that is what I call ridiculous, not the beginner on a mountain/hybrid bike.
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Re: Why are triathlon bikes and road bikes so expensive? [T2LV] [ In reply to ]
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Tri Bike- picked up a 2012 P2 (ultegra) in late 2012 on clearance for $1800 (msrp $2800), over the years Ive added a power meter, new cockpit, 808s (bought a brand new set of 2016s in late 2015 for $1800), and recently swapped all the components for 11sp ultegra. All in, currently sits at about $6000.

Road Bike- Got a 2019 R2 (105) on clearance for $1950, found a set of 404s from the mechanic at the LBS for $600. All in at $2550.

Not the highest end bikes, but I’ve been nothing but happy and I’ve beaten plenty of people riding bikes that are considered far superior.

All that said, my favorite bike is the $300 single speed that I ride on weekends when my wife and I go brewery hoping, by far the most fun bike I own.
Last edited by: HoustonAg: Sep 16, 20 20:35
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