Monday, December 07, 2009

The High End: Does It Make Sense?

<===The Specialized Epic Marathon 29: It doesn't look all that expensive.......

My gig at Twenty Nine Inches has brought me a lot of great opportunities to go places and ride cool bikes and components. One of those opportunities would be riding this Epic Marathon 29 from Specialized. It's probably the most expensive rig that I have tested long term. How expensive?
Really expensive!
It is just one example of many that several bicycle companies are putting on the market of bikes in the $5000-$10,000 category that are amazing technically, ride pretty nicely, and are hard to justify. For several reasons.
<............but the parts on it sure are!
As I have said, this bike is being reviewed and I have spent a lot of time recently on it. rides great. Yeah.......the parts work well. But we're talking incremental improvements over bikes that cost hundreds less, and in some cases thousands less.
Now, I am not going to be hypocritical and say that I don't appreciate this. No- I would, and have in the past, bought bikes like this. Cutting edge technology that is top shelf in mountain biking. The thing is- it used to be that you had to maybe spend a small, but significant percentage more to get this over your average "high end" bike. Now that "percentage" difference is huge. Waaaay huge. I would argue that it is unjustifiably huge.
Take that casssette up there. Ten speeds. Okay? Well, they say it takes something like 9 hours to CNC the steel to make the cassette cogs from a single block of steel, with the exception of the smallest and largest cogs which are separately made. Okay..........that's impressive. Impressive and veeery expensive! That cassette up there? Yeah............over $300.00 to replace! You can get an XT cassette for under a $100.00, easily. So, I would say that although the technical aspects of the SRAM XX casette are impressive, the process to make it seems wasteful and excessive. And that's just the cassette.
Specialized stuck a customized Reba with a carbon crown and tapered steer tube on there. Necessary? Questionable. Expensive? No doubt. Would a "standard" tapered steer tube fork have done the job as well? Absolutely.
It just seems weird to go with such high end stuff that costs a ton, and will cause headaches come maintenance time for little to no percievable performance advantage. I know that some people will pay for the absolute "best". I guess it all depends upon what your definition of "best" is. Mine would include a marked performance advantage over other bikes/components and a replacement cost to the user that makes sense to own the bike for a long term at an original buy in price that isn't two times the next tier of performance in class.
My argument is that the current "high end" bikes and components are not achieving that goal. They seem to be more about being exercises in technical engineering without regard to making a marked difference in performance out on the trail. They seem to be blind to the affects the "innovations" have in terms of ownership for the end user.
So, do high end bikes and components make sense?
I have a hard time saying yes.

No comments: