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Author Topic: Why are lightweight bicycles more expensive than heavy ones?  (Read 1953 times)

Offline CliffordK

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So much in the modern world seems to be about minimizing the use of materials.

Many of the aluminum bicycles out today are heavier than my 40 year old Columbus steel bicycle. 

Now, I realize that things have changed somewhat, and many people don't like messing with tires and truing wheels that one might have to with the old road bikes.  However, even "commuting" bikes could be made lighter.

It just seems that a 40 lb bike takes twice the materials to make as a 20 lb bike, so it should be more expensive.  With modern CNC, it should be easy enough to make custom tubing profiles and shapes, and recycle all the cuttings into the next bike.


 

Offline alancalverd

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The selling price of anything is whatever the market will bear. Lightweight bikes seem expensive to you because you are not in the target market sector. On that basis I feel fairly secure in suggesting that you have probably not visited the private departure lounge of your local airport*. There you would find such glossy magazines as "Jet Life" which, curiously, does not deal with remanufacturing engines, but explaining why you absolutely need a diamond-encrusted watch or - I kid you not - a $30,000 bikini. According to the photographs the watch tells earth time and the bikini fits human breasts, but surely they are made for an alien species that farts money and hates the smell.   


* I don't normally frequent such places either, but the crew room toilet was out of order. I still don't understand why the people who buy $30k bikinis need free coffee, whilst the peasants at the sharp end of the plane have to pay.
« Last Edit: 02/06/2014 23:30:24 by alancalverd »
 

Offline CliffordK

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The selling price of anything is whatever the market will bear. Lightweight bikes seem expensive to you because you are not in the target market sector.

I'm not too far out of the target market.  I did, in fact, pay  300,000 for my current Italian road bike...  Oh, yes, that was pre-Euro, and the bike now makes the hills look young.

The problem is that I fall in a class between markets.  The Dept store stuff is just junk, and I'm not doing high-end competitive racing.  However, there are quite a few people that fall in the category of non-racing, but needing something good enough to head out for a 20, 50, or 100 day trip.

I may not be trading in my bike anytime soon, but it doesn't mean that I don't buy stuff, as well as supporting others with their bike habits.

Over the last 20 or so years, the Dept store bikes have come up with prettier paint jobs, some aluminum, and fancier designs and shapes.  Aluminum rims are now becoming standard, even on the children's bikes.  Some of the bikes are even marketed as "road bikes" which would be my market, but they still have no attention to detail and quality. 

I can understand why a company like Trek chooses to sell a range of bikes, and it wouldn't do to make their $100 bikes perform like $1000 bikes.  I do, however, believe churning out junk cheapens their brand (also a reason why I've shied away from Bianchi).

Anyway, when mass producing, it would seem like there would be little difference in cost between making cheap stuff and quality stuff.  And in a market where light is better, one might in fact save on material cost (without going into exotic materials).  Never mind that a bent rim or broken derailleur hanger will encourage a person to head back to a store and buy a new one.  Of course one doesn't want it to fail too quickly, but I'm probably the exception to the rule, riding the same bike for 30+ years, and the bicycle frame is probably about 45 years old.
 

Offline alancalverd

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Anyway, when mass producing, it would seem like there would be little difference in cost between making cheap stuff and quality stuff.

The table you lie on for some x-ray examinations can tilt. They all tilt 90 degrees forward but reverse tilt is sometimes useful. You can buy 90/15, 90/30, 90/45 and 90/90 tables. Naturally, the more reverse tilt, the more expensive - significantly. Interestingly, they all use exactly the same (90/90) mechanism, because that is the cheapest way to make them - just one pattern of semicircular gear wheel and motor. The difference is only where the reverse limit switch is positioned, during the final assembly of the unit. Possibly the most expensive bolt hole in the universe.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Yes, it makes a small amount of sense for a company that stratifies its offerings to multiple markets to make an effort to make "cheap" and "expensive" products. 

For quite some time, car manufacturers have made generic wiring harnesses with every possible option, but only connect up what the purchaser actually buys.  It can be handy because adding a radio or something later is much easier if the harness is already there.

However, say a manufacturer just chooses to target bulk Dept Store bikes...  then it would seem to make sense to add any "quality" features that would set them apart from their rivals.  So, say they are using a CNC to sculpt tubing, go ahead and make double butted tubing, and recycle the metal saved.  Everything today seems to include fancy curves, sweet paint, but still heavy as anything. 

Some people may want their bikes to last like a tank, but go ahead and introduce others to the idea of better designed, easier to pedal bikes.
 

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