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Random musing: Road vs. MTB frame prices

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5/4/2020 5:51 PM

Browsing Competitive Cyclist, the price of a road bike frame got me off guard. A Wilier frame was going for $5400...frame, fork and seatpost. That’s bonkers.

When compared to top of the line MTB frames, we‘re talking about $2k difference. What gives? Are they using a different/special carbon fiber process? It makes little sense when looking at the frames as it would seem like MTB frames require a lot more R&D with all of the moving parts and subsequent stresses placed on the frame.

Or is it just that there is a bigger market(?) for road bikes due to the TdF and other high-profile, televised events.

Note: I’m a MTBer turned Roadie turned MTBer so this has little to due our spandex brethren.

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5/4/2020 8:20 PM

Same as anything, people will pay it, $20,000 for a road bike isn't unsual.

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5/4/2020 8:39 PM

One factor seems to be: “levels”
In MTB, often the “Top Level” might be allegedly superior “lay up/technique”. EG Santa Cruz “Carbon C” v Carbon CC” (Probably still made in Taiwan or China.)
Roadies often have another “level” again - EG “Made in Italy”

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5/4/2020 9:10 PM

I think the bike industry knows what status symbol chasers will pay for road bikes.

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5/4/2020 10:30 PM
Edited Date/Time: 5/4/2020 10:30 PM

At least no one price gouges like that in mountain biking.

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5/5/2020 5:40 AM

Some of it certainly seems like charging what they can, but it does seem like top-tier road bikes often have multiple levels of 'carbon' that surpass the standard MTB ones. Given that MTB frames have to hold up to more abuse, it would not surprise me to find that their frames have more resin/'other stuff' than road bikes (which have more of the actually expensive carbon in them).
It could also be a features thing, since road bikes are typically either a) very lightweight (more meticulous layup), b) aero-optimized (lots of time spent in a wind tunnel which is expensive), or c) have comfort tech (like the Specialized Roubaix's suspension or the Trek Domane 'suspension'. Compared to MTB, that's a lot of extra time and money to have to recoup. Full suspension designs have to be more complicated (with pivot placement and the like) but I wonder if that cost has not been 'written off' after most brands using the same/similar platforms for so many years.

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5/5/2020 5:53 AM

Masjo wrote:

Some of it certainly seems like charging what they can, but it does seem like top-tier road bikes often have multiple levels of 'carbon' that surpass the standard MTB ones. Given that MTB frames have to hold up to more abuse, it would not surprise me to find that their frames have more resin/'other stuff' than road bikes (which have more of the actually expensive carbon in them).
It could also be a features thing, since road bikes are typically either a) very lightweight (more meticulous layup), b) aero-optimized (lots of time spent in a wind tunnel which is expensive), or c) have comfort tech (like the Specialized Roubaix's suspension or the Trek Domane 'suspension'. Compared to MTB, that's a lot of extra time and money to have to recoup. Full suspension designs have to be more complicated (with pivot placement and the like) but I wonder if that cost has not been 'written off' after most brands using the same/similar platforms for so many years.

They are just charging what they can / have to... some companies are spending a lot on R&D... some are spending a lot on branding... but there are costs in the frame that you are charged for either way... I used to work for Time, and we invented the $5000 frame set... yeah, it was made in france, it had an incredible racing pedigree, it had vectran fibers, it rode better than every other bike... it was worth it at the price we charged... and yes, you could find a nice looking bike for way less... but beyond that, there just wasnt any business in it if we didnt have a high selling price... ppl gotta eat bro... our customers got the best frame on the market, and i got my mortgage paid... all good... these days, selling a top-shelf frame- you would not be taken seriously at a lower price... you pretty much have to be at that 5K plus level...

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Memory Pilot Sox, Mudguards, Custom Mudguards

5/5/2020 7:44 AM

erik saunders wrote:

They are just charging what they can / have to... some companies are spending a lot on R&D... some are spending a lot on branding... but there are costs in the frame that you are charged for either way... I used to work for Time, and we invented the $5000 frame set... yeah, it was made in france, it had an incredible racing pedigree, it had vectran fibers, it rode better than every other bike... it was worth it at the price we charged... and yes, you could find a nice looking bike for way less... but beyond that, there just wasnt any business in it if we didnt have a high selling price... ppl gotta eat bro... our customers got the best frame on the market, and i got my mortgage paid... all good... these days, selling a top-shelf frame- you would not be taken seriously at a lower price... you pretty much have to be at that 5K plus level...

They are certainly worth it! I love the tech in my carbon cross bike and how compliant it is. The margins are what they are for frames, but the completes are not crazy - my frame is $3,000 alone but only $4200 with a full Rival groupset.

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5/5/2020 10:43 AM

Road bikes are a joke, old tech they have not really changed in like 4ever. I'd rather have a mtb hardtail with a rigid fork for road bike any day than the over priced road bikes available to us nowadays.

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5/5/2020 11:32 AM

Pedal4life wrote:

Road bikes are a joke, old tech they have not really changed in like 4ever. I'd rather have a mtb hardtail with a rigid fork for road bike any day than the over priced road bikes available to us nowadays.

Not really true at all. Oversized headtubes, more aerodynamic, through axles, disk brakes all have been more recent changes.

Overpriced? Sure the high end ones but there are lots of VERY good road bikes at price points way better than a lot of Mtb bike hard tails for the same type of build. Also there are lots of overpriced mtn bikes.


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5/5/2020 12:27 PM

Pedal4life wrote:

Road bikes are a joke, old tech they have not really changed in like 4ever. I'd rather have a mtb hardtail with a rigid fork for road bike any day than the over priced road bikes available to us nowadays.

mfoga wrote:

Not really true at all. Oversized headtubes, more aerodynamic, through axles, disk brakes all have been more recent changes.

Overpriced? Sure the high end ones but there are lots of VERY good road bikes at price points way better than a lot of Mtb bike hard tails for the same type of build. Also there are lots of overpriced mtn bikes.


Especially in the budget category. A 900 dollar road bike is a lot closer to a 2 or 3 k bike then On the mountain side. And a 500 dollar road bike is useable for what it’s meant for while a 500 dollar mtb is destined for a dumpster.

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5/5/2020 3:38 PM

bulletbass man wrote:

Especially in the budget category. A 900 dollar road bike is a lot closer to a 2 or 3 k bike then On the mountain side. And a 500 dollar road bike is useable for what it’s meant for while a 500 dollar mtb is destined for a dumpster.

I think this is the crux of the subject.
A rigid MTB and a road bike should be about the same price, for same “quality”.

Virtually every MTB has suspension forks, and many have sophisticated rear suspension, so they logically should be more expensive.

I think there is a fair bit of fact in the “what the market will bear” thought.
And the “Mystique” about frame stiffness/flex/magic.

“Do you want the same frame that won the Tour De France?”
“It’s not cheap, but it won the TDF. Maybe it’s all that’s stopping you!”


After reading this, I’m ready to pay A$6000 (US$4000) for a MTB frame.
Impressive construction tech. (No Chinese build here!)

https://www.vitalmtb.com/news/press-release/Lightest-Ever-Enduro-Frame-Introducing-the-Last-Tarvo,3580

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5/5/2020 4:03 PM

erik saunders wrote:

They are just charging what they can / have to... some companies are spending a lot on R&D... some are spending a lot on branding... but there are costs in the frame that you are charged for either way... I used to work for Time, and we invented the $5000 frame set... yeah, it was made in france, it had an incredible racing pedigree, it had vectran fibers, it rode better than every other bike... it was worth it at the price we charged... and yes, you could find a nice looking bike for way less... but beyond that, there just wasnt any business in it if we didnt have a high selling price... ppl gotta eat bro... our customers got the best frame on the market, and i got my mortgage paid... all good... these days, selling a top-shelf frame- you would not be taken seriously at a lower price... you pretty much have to be at that 5K plus level...

You worked for Time, yet you have a mudguard as your avatar? Why not a pedal?

In all seriousness, this is where my head was going as I was writing the original post. From an outsider's point of view, it seems like mountain bikes would need to go through so much more R&D because of the pivots and suspension design, not to mention the overall forces affecting MTBs in today's day and age.

While I don't agree with whoever said road bikes are a joke, the evolution of mountain bikes over the past decade is far more drastic than road bikes. This alone perplexes me when it comes to looking at the coasts of road bike frames versus mountain bike frames.

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5/5/2020 5:31 PM

mfoga wrote:

Not really true at all. Oversized headtubes, more aerodynamic, through axles, disk brakes all have been more recent changes.

Overpriced? Sure the high end ones but there are lots of VERY good road bikes at price points way better than a lot of Mtb bike hard tails for the same type of build. Also there are lots of overpriced mtn bikes.


bulletbass man wrote:

Especially in the budget category. A 900 dollar road bike is a lot closer to a 2 or 3 k bike then On the mountain side. And a 500 dollar road bike is useable for what it’s meant for while a 500 dollar mtb is destined for a dumpster.

skypig wrote:

I think this is the crux of the subject.
A rigid MTB and a road bike should be about the same price, for same “quality”.

Virtually every MTB has suspension forks, and many have sophisticated rear suspension, so they logically should be more expensive.

I think there is a fair bit of fact in the “what the market will bear” thought.
And the “Mystique” about frame stiffness/flex/magic.

“Do you want the same frame that won the Tour De France?”
“It’s not cheap, but it won the TDF. Maybe it’s all that’s stopping you!”


After reading this, I’m ready to pay A$6000 (US$4000) for a MTB frame.
Impressive construction tech. (No Chinese build here!)

https://www.vitalmtb.com/news/press-release/Lightest-Ever-Enduro-Frame-Introducing-the-Last-Tarvo,3580

a rigid mtb is gonna cost you north of a grand these days and probably has a much cheaper build then you’d expect

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5/6/2020 11:12 AM

mwolpin wrote:

You worked for Time, yet you have a mudguard as your avatar? Why not a pedal?

In all seriousness, this is where my head was going as I was writing the original post. From an outsider's point of view, it seems like mountain bikes would need to go through so much more R&D because of the pivots and suspension design, not to mention the overall forces affecting MTBs in today's day and age.

While I don't agree with whoever said road bikes are a joke, the evolution of mountain bikes over the past decade is far more drastic than road bikes. This alone perplexes me when it comes to looking at the coasts of road bike frames versus mountain bike frames.

Re: the evolution of mountain bikes outpacing road, I think a lot of that has to do with the actual sport itself changing with the former, and not really at all with the latter. Roads be roads. Gravel is the obvious exception there, and there's actually a lot of innovation in that area over the last 2 years.

As well, road cycling has been around over a century, MTB only about 40 years. Road has had 60+ more years to evolve. I'm not expecting MTBs to change much from 2070-2080.

But, it's a matter of perspective too. To a roadie, a 2010 MTB probably doesn't appear radically different to a shiny 2020 model.

But to the point, yes, high-zoot road frames (with rare exception) are not quantifiably or justifiably better than mid-tier ones. The performance gap between a $2,500 and $10,000 road bike is many magnitudes smaller than an MTB equivalent.

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MRP - VP of Business Dev.

5/6/2020 1:42 PM

Yeah... not entirely sure why anyone who didn't race professionally would spend more than $4k on a road bike. I suppose one could say the same thing about mountain bikes, but it's more obvious why thousands of dollars should be spent. I have personally ridden a 14 lb. road bike, and yeah sure it's nice on the uphills, but if you offered me a 20 lb. bike for half the price, I'm going to choose the 20 pounder. I guess it's the same reason people pay $500 for Sidi shoes, if you can afford "the best", why not buy it. Sure, you might have just payed another $1000 because the name SPECIALIZED is written on the down tube, but if road biking is what you live for, I'm not gonna stop you from spending your retirement fund on it.

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5/6/2020 3:06 PM

Slight drift - I can barely believe how fast MTBs are changing.
My 2012 Trance (AM) has geometry closer to a 2017 Anthem (XC) (I bought a 2017 Trance)
2012 32mm forks 26” wheels
2017 34mm forks 27.5” wheels
2020 36mm forks 29” wheels (Reign - “Enduro”)

The rake on the Reign would have made it a “Chopper” when I was young.
My Reign Pro 0 cost more than my car. Priorities.

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5/6/2020 7:55 PM

Here’s where my thoughts and statements comes from.

1st the road bikes are built to fit in a UCI box literally and the bike manufacturers build them for UCI racing not for riders my point being I’m 6’4”(Big Bird will never fit)of all of the real world riders how many can actually fit properly on a modern road bike(high end race sled)downhill racing may actually be the leading edge of all bicycle racing as it is truly”Run What You Brung “racing at its finest any wheelbase different sized wheels no limits on handlebars with everything that is known about bicycles now it seems a much better bike could be and should be built.

It was this article dated September 2015 that really got me going on these feelings

Master Bicycle Designer Introduces the fUCI Concept Racing Bicycle - Industry Tap

Until we start seeing road bikes built for real bike riders & not the UCI I’m building up what I feel is the best compromise for me.

https://assets.newatlas.com/dims4/default/a5d96b4/2147483647/strip/true/crop/1024x683+0+0/resize/1200x800!/quality/90/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fnewatlas-brightspot.s3.amazonaws.com%2Farchive%2FEggerUCI_1280_20150618_s33.3-0023-1024x683_xm6LKE3.jpg

There’s more
https://www.outsideonline.com/2053331/specialized-fuci-proof-your-bike-should-be-better

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5/7/2020 8:50 AM

Pedal4life wrote:

Here’s where my thoughts and statements comes from.

1st the road bikes are built to fit in a UCI box literally and the bike manufacturers build them for UCI racing not for riders my point being I’m 6’4”(Big Bird will never fit)of all of the real world riders how many can actually fit properly on a modern road bike(high end race sled)downhill racing may actually be the leading edge of all bicycle racing as it is truly”Run What You Brung “racing at its finest any wheelbase different sized wheels no limits on handlebars with everything that is known about bicycles now it seems a much better bike could be and should be built.

It was this article dated September 2015 that really got me going on these feelings

Master Bicycle Designer Introduces the fUCI Concept Racing Bicycle - Industry Tap

Until we start seeing road bikes built for real bike riders & not the UCI I’m building up what I feel is the best compromise for me.

https://assets.newatlas.com/dims4/default/a5d96b4/2147483647/strip/true/crop/1024x683+0+0/resize/1200x800!/quality/90/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fnewatlas-brightspot.s3.amazonaws.com%2Farchive%2FEggerUCI_1280_20150618_s33.3-0023-1024x683_xm6LKE3.jpg

There’s more
https://www.outsideonline.com/2053331/specialized-fuci-proof-your-bike-should-be-better

I have a custom built ItalVega (Univega before it was sold to the Japanese.) from the seventies back when a big bike made you cool. It fits me nice after throwing some old Azonic 2" DH bars on there.

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