I just bought a tire for $90.
Normally, I wouldn’t squawk about that. But this wasn’t for my Subaru – it was for my damn road bike. It was a nice Specialized tubeless road bike tire (I’m typically a Continental guy, but --). And yeah, the shop owner lopped 20 percent off since we used to work together at a different shop. I have a feeling he is happy I don’t work at bike shops anymore, and am thus ineligible to fart his his shop up.
But this bicycle tire is literally the same price as each individual Pirelli on my Subaru. And seriously, there is nowhere near as much material on it as what goes into my car tires.
There is really no better reflection of the out-of-control costs of bike parts. Everything associated with wheels seems to be going especially crazy -- it’s not hard to find $2,000 wheelsets (and I just read a bike comparison of "value priced" rides, most of them in the $3,000 range – wtf?).
It doesn’t take a very big nick or a very little manufacturing defect to sideline this way-expensive piece of rubber and Kevlar. Worse yet, it’s the sort of part that can fail in a way that leaves you injured or stranded. Will it be that much better than a $45 tire? Or should regular slobs – myself included – train a little harder instead of trying to buy a tiny smidgen of speed?
I love riding my road bike, and I’ve had the same one since 1998. I’ve broken stuff and replaced it over those years, and it makes me happier as a rider than the day I bought it. My mountain bikes? Awesome. But I am getting to the point where I have to ask some pointed questions about what I’ll do when the pivots on my Santa Cruz are worn – will I even bother with a new fully suspended bike, or will I go for a nice custom steel frame that I can keep for decades? Even that option is fraught with peril – I’ve tried twice to buy custom steel frames, once from an upstart who I had to shake down to get my money back when he couldn’t deliver, and another time from a respected craftsman who just stopped replying to emails (fortunately, before money changed hands).
I’m a huge believer in finding that balance between quality of price -- that nexus that smart buyers call value. It’s where performance and execution matter more than cool factor or flash.
It seems, when a road bike tire costs the same as a car tire, the bike industry at large has forgotten where that nexus exists.
If the bike industry doesn’t believe me, they should read the comments thread following this review of the Marin Hawk Hill, a budget full-suspension bike.
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