How Not To Buy Your First Premium Bicycle….

As I mentioned a while back, I’ve been doing my best to cull the “bike herd’ I have stabled in our garage.  We found a new home for our beloved Erickson and it’s now being enjoyed the way it should have been for the past five years, so that’s goodness.  We’ve had some nibbles on Debbie’s Ritchey and we may even have a buyer for our 2011 Harley–Davidson Wide Glide; wouldn’t that be nice!

Ambivalence over what to do about the Ventana off-road tandem and our triplet has left those two big-bikes in limbo along with a few tandem enthusiasts who have expressed from mild to very strong interest in those very nice machines.  Sorry about that folks. However, we’ve secured a guest stoker for this year’s Georgia Tandem Rally up in Athens so we’re looking forward to pulling the triplet out for that. There are at least two other “triplet opportunities” this year as well, so probably a good thing we held onto it.  As for the Ventana, I’m still hopeful I’ll be able to coax Miss Debbie onto it in the next few weeks.  Alex Nutt at MTB Tandems has generated some of the motivation by announcing the return of A.O.R.T.A. — The Appalachian Off-Road Tandem Adventure.

Anyway, what prompted this particular “observation” on cycling and bike purchases was a would-be buyer for my 1999 Bianchi / Team Mecatone Uno Tour de France Replica frame and fork.  I’ve got it listed for a very reasonable $550 and what I suspect was a young man pondered an offer of $400, but then began to have some doubts as to what something like this frame was worth. He went on to note he’s new to cycling and just looking to get a nice bike.  I had to be honest with him: buying a frame and building it up is probably the most expensive way to get a “good bicycle” when you’re just starting to get into serious cycling.  “Building up a bike” — even when cobbling one together from really old, cast-away parts — is kinda like building a kayak from a kit: it’s fun to do, but it can cost a lot more than buying one that’s been pre-built. Moreover, if you don’t have the tools and don’t necessarily know what you’re doing you can really spend a lot of time and money and end up with something that just doesn’t work well.

As you’d expect, the same is doubly true for tandems.  Again, if you’re looking to build up a single speed, coaster brake beach cruiser.. go for it.  But, if you’re trying to save money on a high-end machine by getting a frame and then sourcing relatively “new” components, with few exceptions it will end up costing the average consumer more than if they bought it as a fully assembled bike from a dealer or builder.  And, if you’re really on a budget, your best bet remains finding a lightly used, fully assembled bike or tandem.

Bottom Line: There’s a reason the average consumers buy cars, motorcycles, houses and “other stuff” full-assembled and ready to use.  

Bicycles are no different, they just seem a lot less risky and less expensive.  The latter may be true, but you can still end up dumping $1,500 into a frame-up build on a collector-item quality frame with “nice components” that won’t be any “better” than a $1,000 new bike. You best bet is to find someone who bought that $1,000 bike, didn’t ride it and is now selling it for $700 – $800.  Now, if you’re a hobbyist or collector and have deeper pockets than the average guy, a box full of vintage Campy components, some Mavic tubular wheels and can appreciate what makes a certain frame special, that’s a different story.  We’re the guys that keep the premium bicycle industry humming right along.

Just something to think about.  Hey, I could have “unloaded” the frame but I’m a win-win kind of seller.  If it’s not a good fit for the buyer – literally or figuratively — I’d rather tell them to pass.  Again, this is why I’ve stayed out of the bicycle business and remained a hobbyist!  I know the difference….


About TG

I've been around a bit and done a few things, have a couple kids and a few grandkids. I tend to be curmudgeonly, matter-of-fact and not predisposed to self-serving chit-chat. Thankfully, my wife's as nice as can be otherwise we'd have no friends. My interests are somewhat eclectic, but whose aren't?
This entry was posted in Advice & Commentary, Bloggishnish, For Sale, Technology & Equip.. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to How Not To Buy Your First Premium Bicycle….

  1. Brian Mc Carty says:

    I won’t comment on building a bike, but I have to say that building a kayak from a kit can result in a better boat than a manufactured one. My ~17 foot stitch-and-glue kayak weighs under 40 pounds. To get that weight in a manufactured kayak you need to go carbon fiber – which cost a lot more than my kit did, even if I include tools and misc supplies. (Though this does not include the 100 hours of labor it took to make it). Plus it looks nice.

    • TG says:

      Funny how we never want to put a value on our time… which is really where I was going with the home-built Kayak analogy. Everything has an opportunity cost! Even screwing around with blog$.

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