Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cycling's Cost of Entry

Getting into Cycling:
Cheap, Expensive or Both?

When looking at the kinds of bikes professionals use (and I mean the guys we actually see on TV, not riding around the neighborhood on Sunday mornings), many formulate preconceived notions that cycling is a rich man's sport, similar to playing golf and yacht racing. The truth is that there is a slight bit of truth, however small it may be, to that stereotype. It's a view that often gets compounded and reinforced by the bicycle industry itself. Most bikes seen in the Tour De France are actually rebranded custom made bicycles that are not available in stores. The ones that are, however, can sell well over $10,000 USD. Does that mean that cycling is unattainable for someone that isn't a CEO of a fortune 500 company or a trust fund beneficiary?

Let's discuss this topic not as the cost of entry into competitive cycling, which can be an endless and upside down venture. Rather, let's talk about whether the average kid on the block or adult can get into a decent bicycle at a reasonable cost.  

Consider the image that competitive cycling has left on the average person. Competitive cycling, at least here in the U.S, has no development leagues and no academic support to promote the sport. For example, there are no cycling teams in high school and no community groups that teach people about bicycle racing. Although USA cycling may call itself a development program, it's not a program where just anybody can participate. There are membership dues, racing fees and equipment costs that are not covered by this organization. In addition, to state things plainly, USA Cycling is behind on the times in regards to issues like racial and economic diversity among it's members and granting female athletes equal opportunities for competition*.  Let's also point out that the most notable athlete to come out of USA Cycling, Lance Armstrong, was the biggest cheat and liar of them all. Meanwhile other riders with real talent, like Colombian cyclists, have been largely ignored for about 20 years until the recent crackdown on doping has forced the cycling community to recognize where the real talent is. 

Does that mean that cycling is not for the masses? Does that mean we should all just buy our bikes from Wal-Mart and quit trying to compete? As things stand, many of us will be excluded from competitive cycling simply by default. But that doesn't mean that our passion for cycling should end there. Should someone tell their kid who is into basketball they shouldn't play because they are too short to compete? The same line of reasoning can be applied for someone who is into cycling. Maybe our pockets aren't deep enough to afford the equipment and training that would get us to compete on a professional level. So is there a happy medium in regards to all of this?

We can find solace in knowing firsthand that getting into a decent bicycle is attainable for the majority of people on a real middle class income. If a single person makes above $25,000 a year, for example, there is no reason why they can't afford a bicycle between $300 and $800. Let's discuss a price comparison between common modern day gadgets that most people buy and the cost of getting into cycling for each respective item. 

Consider the smartphone. It is not a necessity to own a smartphone, however the majority of people living in the U.S now own one. Let's consider some of the prices for these types of phones.

The Samsung Galaxy S5: $599.00
iPhone 6: $649.00 to $749.00
LG G3: $699.00

Now let's see what types of bicycles someone can buy new for about the same prices

Fuji Ace 24 youth road bike: $439.00
Mercier Kilo Track bike: $399.00 to $449.00
Motobecane Fantom CX: $469.95
Motobecane Mirage Pro: $549.00
Motobecane Boris X5 Fat bike: $599.00
Motobecane Gran Tourismo:$699.00
Motobecane Super Strada: $799.00

Some might say that they don't pay full retail price on their smartphones. How about on game consoles? Let's compare the cost between game consoles and the cost of respectably priced bicycles.

Playstation 4:$399.00
Xbox One: $349.00
Wii U: $300.00 to $360.00

Let's see what kinds of bicycles we could buy for the price of a game console

Mongoose Dolomite Fat bike: $212.00 to $250.00
Windsor Track bike: $279.00 to $299.00
Gravity Deadeye Fat bike: $299.00 to $399.00

Sometimes we might think that a good bicycle is just not affordable, however, on reviewing some of these prices we might just be prioritizing our gadgets like phones, games and tablets over our fitness. I included the Mongoose Dolomite in my comparison because although it is sold at Wal-Mart, it has been proven to be a real bang for the buck bicycle in terms of being a ridable bike and in terms of quality. In addition to the bikes listed, there are thousands of lightly used bikes sold locally and through online classifieds that are of good quality and in some cases professional quality. One just needs to know where to look. 

I know that what I am saying might not be enough to satisfy someone who is really talented at cycling but cannot afford the best equipment. I think those who would still like to compete but can't afford to do so in the main arena should organize themselves in their communities and hold non-sanctioned races with other low to moderately priced bicycles. There is no law forbidding people getting together for competition, and this includes cycling. There is more power in numbers, and when people get together, others will take notice and follow suit. When a large number of the overall cycling population starts competing outside the establishment, then organizations like the UCI and USA Cycling will have to take notice and start making concessions for those who they left out of their inner circles.

In conclusion, in overall terms of getting a durable bicycle, the cost of entry into cycling is attainable to most of us. It is mostly up to us to see the half glass full and take advantage of this to become good cyclists.

*Other source material for this topic can be found in the following media links.

The Guardian
The Daily Camera


  1. 'For example, there are no cycling teams in high school and no community groups that teach people about bicycle racing.'

    That's not entirely true.. http://www.texashighschoolcycling.org/clubs/member-clubs-schools/

    1. I stand corrected on this matter. It seems even in the hometown where I currently reside their are high schools with interest clubs for cycling. However there is a big difference between an after school activity that promotes cycling and a school sponsored team that provides equipment, coaching and covers the costs of fees associated with racing. This is also a very new development. There were no such clubs eleven years ago when I was in high school.

      Consider also that the Jesuit and Catholic schools listed are private schools in affluent areas. What I was referring to was more of a across the board national interest in the sport. If soccer became a school sport and is becoming ever more popular in the U.S, why not cycling?