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Why Are Mountain Bikes So Expensive?

expensive mountain bike parked on the road

Mountain bikes are a lot of fun, and they are great for commuting, fitness, and even socializing. I believe we all should have a mountain bike as every ride is a new adventure. Although you can get some fantastic mountain bikes for a small amount of money, why do some mountain bikes cost so much more? In this article, we are going to explain this.

Why Are Some Mountain Bikes So Expensive?

mountain bike handle bar part
Image by Hans on Pixabay

Well, high-end mountain bikes are very advanced compared to a mountain bike that you might find at a Walmart. What makes companies charge so much for them though? We’re going to be talking about each of these factors to explain;

  • Technologically advanced materials
  • Engineering process of high-end bikes
  • Very limited suppliers
  • Production
  • Parts

On top of this, we are going to speak about if it’s better value for money to buy a second hand bike or a new bike, to build a bike, and also if expensive mountain bikes are even worth it.

Technologically advanced materials

When you look at basic mountain bikes, typically, they’re made of steel or aluminum frames. These materials are very cheap to produce and naturally very strong, providing they have been produced correctly. They will last for years and, although heavy, do the job well.

Then you have high-end mountain bikes frames. These are made of super lightweight carbon fiber and titanium. Carbon fiber and titanium are very expensive to produce as materials are not cheap.

As you can imagine, the cost of this is much more, and not only does this go with frames but with a lot of other components such as handlebars, seat posts, forks, and many more parts that you will see on a mountain bike.

The engineering process

Sometimes it’s not the materials that are just expensive, but it’s the process of how they are made. Carbon fiber, for example, has to go through a molding process which isn’t cheap to do, and unless then completely perfect, the component will fail.

Titanium also needs special attention when being made into components. You can only weld titanium in special deoxygenated chambers, and there are not many of these around the world. The process is complicated, and it takes a very skilled fabricator.

Limited suppliers

Over the years, especially the last few decades, cycling has changed a lot, and we have seen many suppliers of parts and bikes just disappear, be sold, or have just been unable to be competitive with their competition.

Take gearing, for example. We used to have a lot more brands years ago. Now we have SRAM, Shimano, and Campagnolo, who dominate the market. They are able to set the prices where they want them and corner each part of the market.

Also, people typically tend to buy into mainstream brands instead of a mountain bike they haven’t heard of before. You can get some amazing bargains going for brands you might not have heard of, but you will also find the quality probably won’t be as high. With known brands being so trusted and popular, sometimes they can’t make bikes and parts quick enough for the demand.

Production factories

Over my years of cycling, I have found that many people, when it comes to a mountain bike and parts, especially carbon fiber, will always recommend unbranded goods and say they are made in the same factory as the big brands.

This isn’t good advice, and over time I feel it has been reconstructed information. Yes, only a handful of factories make specific mountain bikes, and they also make unbranded versions that are very similar. In my experience and opinion, they are not of the same quality though and I’d avoid these unless you know they are exceptional quality. If you didn’t trust the quality, I wouldn’t touch these.

As mentioned before, there are only a handful of factories, and they can only run at a certain capacity. Some mountain bike companies share the same factories, which means there can often be a wait on mountain bikes, and there’s not always enough to go around. This means companies can put their prices up as availability just isn’t there sometimes.

Parts

Parts on expensive mountain bikes are incredible. No longer are we looking at the basic stuff. We now have electronic gearing that can self adjust, specialist brakes that can stop you on a pin, tires that can fix punctures without stopping, and even suspension that can travel up to 210mm. Technology on mountain bikes can be incredible and makes mountain biking much more fun.

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Is It Cheaper to Buy or Build a Mountain Bike?

mountain bikes for sale in a bike store
Photo by David Hertle on Unsplash

I am often asked if it is cheaper to buy or build a mountain bike. From my experience, I have found that there’s very little in it, but you do get some advantages from buying a bike built and also building your own.

Building a mountain bike

Building a bike is a lot of fun, and learning the process of how a bike is put together and works is precious knowledge for any cyclist. Although it typically works out a similar cost to buying a bike, you do get to put the parts you want on. So if you want wider bars, you can just buy them to start with. Looking for lower gearing, you can equip this. Basically, you can make the bike you want down to the smallest detail.

Pros
  • Can build precisely what you want
  • Every detail you can change
  • You learn how to build and repair a bike
  • It’s a nice feeling
Cons
  • Does take time
  • About the same cost
  • You can damage things if not installed correctly
  • Not safety checked

Buying a Mountain Bike Ready Built

ready built mountain biike
Image by Mathias_Beckmann on Pixabay

Buying a bike ready-built roughly works out at a similar cost, in my opinion, and is an excellent way of going about getting a new bike. You may not get exactly what you want, but you will get something that has been built by a professional, and also, they typically have put the parts on the bike which the manufacturer recommends. A bike shop will also be able to answer all your questions about the bike and the ride quality it will give you.

Pros
  • Built and ready to go
  • Safety checked
  • Great value for money
  • Deigned for parts they supply it with
Cons
  • You might not have the parts you want
  • Not unique

Whichever way you decide to go, you will be getting good value for money and a good bike. I feel it’s entirely down to personal preference. If you have no experience building a bike, make sure you do it properly, and you will find it a lot of fun.

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Buying a Second Hand Expensive Mountain Bike?

secondhand mountain bikes for sale
Image by InnrSky on Pixabay

Buying a second hand bike is a great way to go. Unlike cars, you can test ride a bike and take a good look at it to see if it is in good condition or a bad state. I would look out for certain things personally when looking at secondhand bikes.

Carbon

Check anything Carbon fiber isn’t cracked. It is easy to fall off when mountain biking, and when carbon fiber is broken, it’s not worth keeping. I would also check for any bodge repairs. I think it is okay to repair carbon, but only if it is done by a professional. If not, it’s just not worth the risk.

Wear and tear on drivetrain

Take a chain checker and take a very good look at the gearing. If it is slipping and has not been well looked after, I’d avoid the bike. For me, if people don’t keep on top of gear maintenance, they probably haven’t done any other maintenance either. You can end up spending a lot of money replacing parts, and at that point, you might have well just bought a new bike.

Check the serial number

Second hand bikes can be stolen. Check the serial number under the frame and search it online to ensure it isn’t. Also, get the details of who you are buying it off and proof that you have bought it and the cash or transfer has been made.

Is It Really Worth Buying an Expensive Mountain Bike?

Mountain Bikes Buying Guide
Image by Simon on Pixabay

I think it depends on who you are and what you want out of your riding. If you are new to the sport and learning the ropes, a cheap bike will be better for making your mistakes and improving your fitness. The same goes if you’re just going out on a Sunday for a ride with the family, you don’t need an expensive bike.

If you have been in the sport a long time and looking to race, getting an expensive bike will make a huge difference. It will help with your ability and improve your speed. Also, if you use a bike a lot, a more expensive bike will be more reliable and give you a noticeable better experience.

It is vital to understand what you want out of the bike before looking at buying an expensive mountain bike. Are they worth it? Yes, if you’re going to do the mountain bike justice. If you are not too serious and just want to go out mountain biking for a laugh, then cheap mountain bikes are okay.

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Conclusion

Why are mountain bikes so expensive? They are not what they used to be. They are much more capable now than ever, and they are a tremendous amount of fun. Not all mountain bikes have a high price tag though, but I do believe in mountain biking. You get what you pay for. As long as the mountain bike helps you enjoy your mountain biking then you are on the right bike.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I use second hand mountain bike parts?

If they are in good condition why not. Check them before you buy them.

How much are high end premium mountain bikes?

You can easily spend above $10,000. Mountain bike prices are not cheap, and getting a decent mountain bike made of carbon fiber isn’t going to be light on the pockets.

If I buy an expensive mountain bike can I expect a warranty?

Mountain bike manufacturers of modern bikes will offer a warranty. It will only be on very basic things and typically bike manufacturers will look if it has been used negligently.

Do expensive bikes have carbon wheels?

Depends on the price point but a high end mountain bike of $10,000+ should have carbon wheels and a carbon frame.

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Robbie Ferri

Robbie Ferri

Robbie Ferri is a cyclist living in Norfolk in the UK. From breaking World Records to competing in some of the hardest Bikepacking races in the world he is not shy of riding the miles. He has been lucky enough to work at some amazing shops and with some big cycling brands. Alongside this he even had input in designing bikes and has also been a tester for unreleased products. He absolutely loves cycling and believes everyone should have a bike.