Two wheels one girl
November 9, 2011 7:40 AM   Subscribe

Why are road bikes and cycling accessories so expensive? or, where can I get more affordable ones?

So I've been getting into cycling lately, and I'm experiencing a bit of sticker shock as I start to upgrade my bike. Currently, I have a cheapo Walmart-style hybrid bike, which I bought in 2002 for $100. I'm looking to get a low-end road bike that's just a little bit nicer, but I'm finding that there's pretty much nothing in the $200-$300 range. For road bikes, everything starts at $400 minimum, even in the used section (and that counts as "cheap"). I'm not looking for anything fancy or lightweight, just something that works and will get me to my destination maybe a little bit faster than my current tank. On the other hand, there's plenty of low-end mountain bikes you can get new for less than $300.

What gives? Can the manufacturing process really be that different, even on the low end of the scale? Most mountain bikes also have some kind of suspension, which I imagine would add to the cost, but a simple road bike with no suspension at all is still hundreds of dollars more. Why?

To my dismay, accessories seem to suffer from this malady too. A set of bike lights at REI, for example, costs $70 for what's essentially a glorified flashlight and some LED's -- that's more than half the cost of my entire old bike! Even for a rear bike rack, which is just a piece of metal with no moving parts, the going price is around $40. Prices at local bike stores I've visited are similar.

What's going on here? Do these things really cost that much to make? (Again, I'm not looking for anything fancy, just the bare minimum that works.) Or should I just be looking in a different place?
posted by danceswithlight to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I too bemoan the high price of bikes and bike gear. I don't think it's the cost of manufacture, I think it's that these companies cater to the stereotypical successful professional who bikes with his coworkers on the weekend and is willing to spend hundreds of dollars to be 0.01% faster. Those people are extremely lucrative for the bike companies.

Check out used road bikes, that's what every one of my non-rich friends rides. I recently bought a great 1980s road bike for $200. has good deals on accessories. sells new, ready-to-assemble, no-brand road bikes that are pretty decent (despite being a skeezy web page that hasn't changed in 10 years). has a whole page of cheap bike lights that you can't get in stores.
posted by miyabo at 7:48 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Accessories are a ripoff everywhere because selling the bike itself isn't that profitable. So you might save $15 buying a rear rack or a floor pump at Target, but considering the difference in quality over something twice the price, I don't think you're really getting a deal.

That said, you can find super-cheap LED lights at DealExtreme.

As for bikes, clothing, etc., I think you really do get what you pay for up to a point. That Walmart bike $100 has to cover materials, construction, shipping, floor space, assembly, and profits for everyone involved, so you're really not getting anything but the absolute cheapest everything in that situation, obviously. A $600 steel road bike that is assembled and tuned up well by a competent mechanic will be a lot more fun to ride, and will hold up better to use since it's not made of the cheapest possible material.

(I don't know about department stores, but the markup at local bike shops is usually 20-30%, which isn't much considering they have an assemble the bike and throw in a tuneup. So it's definitely not the dealers who are gouging you.)
posted by substars at 8:11 AM on November 9, 2011

Look into bicycle collectives.
There are a lot of free and cheap used parts out there. And even frames.

Seems there is one in Boston, but I have no firsthand knowledge of them.
The Community Spoke
posted by Seamus at 8:14 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think you ought to clarify what you want. You've already got "just the bare minimum that works," so that's probably not what you're actually seeking. You also wrote, "I'm not looking for anything... lightweight, just something... a little bit faster," which is also contradictory. Faster bikes are faster largely because they are lighter.

Better bikes are lighter and tend to work much better, but that means they're using more expensive materials, are more carefully engineered and more precisely manufactured. They really are more expensive to make. Also your cheapo WalMart bike probably required some assembly and included no customer support, whereas a new Trek at your local bike shop might be fully assembled, professionally adjusted and include free tuneups for life. But, there's no need to go spend-crazy, as returns diminish pretty rapidly when you get into the high-dollar bikes.

Based on the sort of prices you seem willing to pay, Craigslist is for you (and me, too). This summer I bought a 1989 Cannondale road bike for $150, in nearly new condition. In '89 it would've cost almost a grand. It's a lovely machine. For accessories, read a lot of reviews and also keep an eye on eBay, online seasonal closeout sales, etc. There's more to many of these products than you seem to suspect (a good bike headlight is a hell of a lot brighter than your average flashlight), but they're also luxury/fashion products and tend to depreciate quite a lot when they're even a little bit used or 'last season.' Deals can be found.
posted by jon1270 at 8:15 AM on November 9, 2011

I think it has to do with road bikes being of interest primarily to a cyclist "lifestyle" market, which almost by definition is less interested in the cheap stuff. Euro-style city bikes have been in the same boat in North America until very recently - but companies like Walmart have realized that such bikes are of sufficiently broad appeal that cheap ones are worth selling. Cheap road bikes, apparently, aren't.
posted by parudox at 8:15 AM on November 9, 2011

I sympathize - when I had replace my beloved old (stolen) commuter bike here in Boston, I figured $300 would do it - then visited even second-hand places like Bikes Not Bombs and ended up realizing I'd need to spend more. I've heard of people having good luck buying lights and other components cheaper (not cheaply, just cheaper) online. The folks who do best are the ones who know pricing and buy a good frame for cheap and add their own components, but that takes time and knowledge. Things like gears and cables and brakes and such are specialized, and thus expensive to make.

The big differences between a cheapo bike like your old one and most decent bikes are better, more durable components and the horrifically cheap overseas labor that put that bike together. When I had a $300 bike I usually paid more than the price of that bike in maintenance and repairs every year, and tried to remind myself to be grateful that my bikeshop pays a living wage.

I discovered when I finally sucked it up and bought a more expensive bike that even though components are slightly more expensive, they last longer, and the labor is about the same. So if you spend $400 on a used road bike with decent components, it should last you.
posted by ldthomps at 8:20 AM on November 9, 2011

kpht and her husband run a bike shop out of their house in Gloucester. Her husband is particularly good at finding quality used parts. You should give them a call; they're in Boston frequently.
posted by mkb at 8:21 AM on November 9, 2011

Those sub-$300 mountain bike are terrible bikes. They are heavy, with shoddy components, assembled with little care, and very difficult to impossible to repair in the long term. There isn't as much demand for terrible road bikes, so they are not as common in the sub-$300 range. You can get a very reasonable steel road bike not too much above $500 and the jump in quality is astronomical from the cheap mountain bikes. So yes, in short, there isn't really much available for road bikes in the slightly nicer than $100 Walmart bike category.

For accessories, it pays to shop online, compare prices between shops and buy from a store with a price match policy. REI doesn't tend to have great prices for bike accessories. For lights though, the super cheap headlights tend to be pretty dim. Planet Bike has always served me well for lights, even if they coast a little bit more.
posted by ssg at 8:22 AM on November 9, 2011

Part of it's weight, part of it's quality.

If you look around you should be able to find a rack for more like $20 as long as you're not picky and don't care about size/color. Here's one for $25 from performance. Also look for a bike-coop in your area. They will have used items that people have donated. They will also teach you how to repair your bike. So you could find a cheap used road bike and then fix it up with guidance.

I've found that having quality lights is something that matters to me. They need to be bright (check out the number of lumens) and in my case I prefer that they be usb rechargeable. I don't want to be flying down a hill at 25 mph in the dark with a shitty light--I want to be visible to cars and I especially want see what is ahead of me. Maybe my night vision is particularly crappy, but I notice a huge difference.

I have two bikes--a low end road bike from a local bike store and a three speed mixte from bikesdirect. I like the bikesdirect bike--it's a rip off of something like a Linus or a Public bike--but it is cheap because the components are cheap. That doesn't really matter to me for cruising around hauling groceries. It has a shimano internal gear hub. I'm not sure I'd go cheap on something with a derailler because those can be more finicky. Do you plan on riding your bike a lot? If so, you want something reliable, not something made with the cheapest parts possible.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 8:22 AM on November 9, 2011

A short answer is yes, the parts that go into a 400-500 dollar road bike are much more expensive to make than those of a 100 dollar wal-mart bike.

They are made of grades of metal with fewer impurities, so the quality is more consistant. There is generally more quality control. There is more casting and less stamping of sheet metal. Better welds. Plus, yes, you are paying for an actual competent mechanic to put it together for you.

As for accessories, I love planet bike stuff- those lights that you linked to are much, much brighter than most cheap blinkies you will come across. I have several. They also sell lots of lights that are smaller, less bright- and cheaper. Buying at REI means that you can bring the light back 15 years from now and ask for your money back, and they will give it to you. You pay for that privilege too.

As noted, craigslist can get you a really decent bike for much less than new. Make friends with a bike nerd- I watch craigslist for bikes for other people all the time. It's fun to find a deal, and really fun to help get another person into cycling.
posted by rockindata at 8:23 AM on November 9, 2011

I bought a Trek hybrid for about $350 from a local bike shop in 2008. The same bike might be closer to $400 now, I dunno. It has been sufficient for me as a casual low-end bike for use on paved bike paths, and far better than the $100 Wal-Mart bike I used for getting around campus back in college. I store it indoors and don't ride in wet weather, so I haven't really had to do much in the way of maintenance over the past three years, which keeps costs down.

I, too, cringe at the high price of accessories. I hated paying $50 for a tire pump. But then again, the $15 pump I had purchased along with my Wal-Mart bike fell apart pretty quickly. So maybe you do get what you pay for, at least for some things. I do think $70 for LED lights is a ripoff, but I also don't ride at night so I have little use for the expensive super-bright ones.
posted by Nothlit at 8:26 AM on November 9, 2011

Oh and another thing--are you a short lady? I am 5'2" and pretty much gave up on finding a used road bike in my size. Maybe you'll have better luck?
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 8:29 AM on November 9, 2011

To answer the "what gives?" question, a lot of this comes down to scale. Good racks, lights, etc, aren't made in such massive quantities that you get into big economies of scale. If they were, I can imagine that the fancy tail rack I bought a while back would have cost 1/3 as much. Some stuff is made in such tiny quantities that it's almost custom work.

For whatever it's worth, I really do believe that for every extra dollar you spend on bike stuff, you really are getting good bang for the buck (up to about $1500 for a new bike). Material quality, workmanship, precision, all that stuff.

That said, there's some stuff that's just fancier than you need, and there are some plain bad deals. A cheap pair of panniers might be fine if you're commuting to work with some papers and a jacket in them, but might leak or fall apart if you took them on a long-distance tour and loaded them down with 40 lb of gear. That's when you opt for the fancy ones.

Headlights (since you mentioned them) break down into "beam" (see) and "beacon" (be seen) headlights. Beam headlights are expensive; $70 would be very cheap for one. Beacon headlights are cheap; $70 would be unconscionably expensive for one.
posted by adamrice at 8:37 AM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I work in a bike shop, and I have to talk to customers about this issue every day. You really have to ask yourself what you want to get out of your purchases.

Yes, there are ~$300 "mountain bikes" out there. They're not really mountain bikes though, are they? I mean, they're not designed to be ridden hard on the trails every weekend without stuff breaking on them all the time, and to handle the terrain in a responsive, comfortable, and agile manner. So really, what they are is just a cheap bike that's welded together in the shape of a mountain bike.

It's a lot easier to find cheap mountain bikes than cheap road bikes like this because that's just what most people want. If you want a cheap road bike, though, WalMart is currently selling a GMC Denali for $159.94. They cut a lot of corners to bring the bike down to that price. The bike has a 7-speed cassette, whereas a nicer bike will have a 10-speed cassette. It has a quill stem instead of a threadless stem. It looks like it uses grip shifters instead of STI-style shifters. And on and on. If you just want a cheap road bike, that'll do ya.

You pay more for a nice road bike because the materials are better (better can mean lighter, stiffer, stronger), the choice of components are better (10/9/8/7 speed, they style of brakes, quill vs threaded stem, the stock saddle, the weight of all these components, and don't get me started on wheels), and the design is better (this one is less important at sub ~$2,000 bikes, because designs get copied, and on lower end bikes a ton of them are made in the same factories in China and Taiwan). There's not a damn thing wrong with a bike made in China or Taiwan by the way. My Cervelo frame was designed by engineers in Canada and then manufactured to their exacting standards en masse in Taiwan, so they can keep the costs down.

There's a sweet spot for value in new road bikes, and that starts around $600 and goes up to around $2,000. You can find a great bike at the low end of that range, but you'll give up nicer components (and you might have an 8-speed drive train and shoddy wheels for example). At the upper end you'll have a nicer frame with nicer components. Is it worth the extra $1,400? That's really up to you. If you're experiencing sticker shock, then go for the low-end road bike and ride the hell out of it. With proper maintenance, it will last as long as you will (some parts will need to be replaced over the years, but when you amortize the cost, it's a great value). You'll either love the bike as it is, you'll change a few things on it to suit you, or you'll say "shit, I should have sprung for the $2,000 bike". You really won't know until you ride it, but if you have to ask these types of questions, then go with the ~$600 bike and start there. You can always sell it to upgrade.

As for lights, the ones you liked to are pretty kick ass. If you're going to be riding at night, you either want to SEE or BE SEEN. Personally, I ride with two of these lights, one on my helmet (on high mode), and the other on my handle bars (on flashing mode). I have two of the PlanetBike Superflashes that you linked to on the back of my bike (one on my seat post, one on my seat stay). I honestly feel safer riding at night, because I'm extremely visible.

I used to ride with a 900 lumen light I bought off of DealExtreme, but it died. I went through three lights from DealExtreme before switching to NiteRider (plus getting the shop discount made it pretty affordable). The DealExtreme lights are bright (NiteRider, Light & Motion, Lupine, SureFire, Fenix, and the DealExtreme lights all use a mix of the same cutting edge LEDs, but the difference in price is attributed to the electronics that run the lights and the construction of the light body). If you go the route of DealExtreme, I recommend buying more than one so you can keep a spare when your main light dies. It will die. Bright, but shoddy construction.

As for the racks you linked to at REI, those are all nice racks. Those Topeak racks, for example, have this sweet system where their top bags slide onto the rack and "click" into place. Really handy to ride up to a store, slide the bag off the rack, walk in and buy your six pack, and then slide the bag back on the rack with the beer inside it, totally secure. Nice rack. The other racks (Planet Bike, Racktime) are just good, solid, sturdy racks. Look around and you can find more expensive (and nicer) racks ( You can also find cheaper racks, and those racks will probably work just fine.

I'm kinda starting to ramble here, and I need to wrap this up because I work soon. TL;DR: initial investment seems steep, but it's an investment in yourself. Amortize the cost of the bike and components over the life of the stuff and it's not so bad. Some cost is justified, but sometimes you're just paying for a brand name. Stuff from WalMart and DealExtreme will work for a while. Lights are important (and that Superflash rear light is probably the best one that's out there for under $50). A good lock is worth it (get a U-Lock made by Kryptonite or On Guard; DO NOT USE A CABLE LOCK). Ride ride ride.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:41 AM on November 9, 2011 [7 favorites]

As Nothlit pointed out, cheap stuff will fall apart pretty quickly. However, buying from a reputable manufacturer means that you can call them up and say, for example, the pump head fell off, and they'll send you a new one. I've been using the same Zefal frame pump for 15 years.

Also, I bought a $15 Flea front light earlier this year, and they mailed me a new one when the first had issues with recharging, no questions asked.

A quality made bicycle is constructed to last a long time, so amortized over 10 years, it's a bargain (or on preview, what spikemajorlee just said).
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:45 AM on November 9, 2011

Oh, and I forgot to add my oft repeated advice for shopping for a bike: find a bike shop where you get a good vibe from the employees, strike up a conversation, and trust their recommendation. If you don't feel that they have a big enough selection (my shop's selection on road bikes is kinda sparse), or if they seem elitist, or if they blow you off, or if they can't talk to you at your level, or if they keep pushing you on a model that you don't like, or whatever, if you don't click with the shop, then try another place. At this price point, don't shop for a bike, shop for a shop and trust their judgement.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:46 AM on November 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

What gives is serviceability and service life; or the interval of time between needing to replace parts after wearing them out.

Think about it this way... anything can be manufactured to last by being fabricated out of quality materials. These items can be produced, by design, to be serviced which extends the service life of the item. Parts on sub $300 bike are not even designed to be serviced. They are designed to function until they crap out then they require replacement. Even worse are department store bikes which in my experience often break the instant you apply a tool to the part you wish to service. Department store bikes should only be considered toys. Seriously. They fill the needs of those individuals who want a bike...right now, as cheap as possible. Riders who get any kind of service life at all out of a department store bike are simply lucky.

Kieth Bontrager (I believe) coined this axiom about bike parts... Strong, Light, Cheap; pick any two. You cannot have all three. It's true.

I often am boggled with the cost of electronics accessories. Fifty dollars for a case for a phone, mp3 player or e-reader that costs $100-150? I think in general
that the prices charged for accessories to any kind of product are more dictated by what the marketing types think consumers are willing to pay and milking the profits to death.

Last note.. having worked in wholesale bike parts AND wholesale electronics I can tell you that profit margins are extremely small on things like bike brakes and computer monitors. Sometimes maybe ten dollars on a $250 monitor. These industries make their money on accessories and volume.
posted by No Shmoobles at 8:51 AM on November 9, 2011

I've been involved in this sport for two decades and I'm annoyed at how this frugal activity has become very expensive, but even over this time the cost of quality components have been high. If you ride a lot then the expensive models are worth it because a) you will enjoy it more and b) you will have less replacement costs. I've ridden around 60k miles on my roadbike over the past decade and at that amount of riding the good stuff matters.
posted by dgran at 8:58 AM on November 9, 2011

Thanks for all the different perspectives, everyone -- in particular, I hadn't thought about the "market" argument, where there aren't any cheap road bikes because there isn't much of a market for them. (Although that raises the question of why so many people apparently do want cheap mountain bikes. Is it because they look more "hardcore" than road bikes?)

I'm aware of the "you get what you pay for" argument, so it makes sense to me that there are plenty of expensive bikes and accessories for those who want quality. What surprises me, though, is that there isn't a corresponding low-end market, or not much of one. (spikelee rightly points out that there are a few cheap road bikes like the $150 GMC being sold online; I just hadn't seen any in person before.)

That is, there are both cheap and expensive mountain bikes out there, with ensuing variation in quality, but only expensive road bikes. That's what I'm wondering about.

The craigslist suggestion from jon1270 and rockindata is brilliant, though! I don't know how I forgot about that before. Thanks, I will definitely look into that.
posted by danceswithlight at 9:08 AM on November 9, 2011

(Although that raises the question of why so many people apparently do want cheap mountain bikes. Is it because they look more "hardcore" than road bikes?)

Their recreational appeal is broader - mountain bikes are easy to use for a ride around the neighbourhood, and driving out to ride on some "off-road" trails seems to be a lot of people's idea for a fun outing a few times a year. Riding fast on roads doesn't appeal to as many people.
posted by parudox at 9:35 AM on November 9, 2011

One tip for accessories: join the, and check for flash sales on bike gear. Selection is limited but you might find your $70 bike lights at 40-70% off.
posted by slow graffiti at 9:36 AM on November 9, 2011

You can get a pretty decent Giant hybrid brand new for $400 (including fenders and rack) if your bike shop isn't ripping you off, and it'll be much more than 4 times better than the Wal-Mart mountain bike, between the better shifting action, the 700C wheels/tires, and the weight.

I don't think you can get a real road bike (new) for that price, but I wasn't looking terribly hard for one, since I don't really like drop bars.
posted by wierdo at 9:40 AM on November 9, 2011

but only expensive road bikes

It's just a different scale. For a road bike with gears, $600 is cheap. $4000 is expensive. And those cheap "mountain" bikes aren't really mountain bikes.

I see that GMC bike everywhere. I know someone on my floor who bought one less than a year ago, and it's basically falling apart at the seams. If you tried to get it repaired or upgraded, I'm guessing that a reputable bike shop would take one look and say, "There's nothing I can do here." And even though they're right, it would sound elitist and up-selling. If you want something to buy super cheap, ride slowly, and run into the ground, that's it.

I also might suggest that you not overlook single speeds (freewheel, not fixed). The price ranges there are much lower since the drivetrain is much much simpler. Better workout, lighter, faster, yada yada.
posted by supercres at 9:48 AM on November 9, 2011

I think it's worth sharing my recent experience with bikes. Last year, my mountain bike was stolen. I only ever used it for getting around town and going to work/school, so I decided to get a hybrid with fairly slim tires. I paid the equivalent of $200 for it, because I'm a poor student.

It lasted seven months. The brake cables started sticking, the crank arms wore down their fitting and came loose, and worst of all, grit got into my wheel bearings and shot them all to hell. By the time I gave up on that pile of junk, the back wheel was wobbling so hard I thought it might fall off at any moment. None of this was due to poor maintenance.

My advice to you is to save money and double your budget. You don't need to spend thousands to get a bike that will last, but you do need to spend more than a couple hundred bucks.

As for craigslist, make sure you get to inspect the bike before you hand over any cash for it.
posted by fearnothing at 10:33 AM on November 9, 2011

Jenson is also a good low price bike part dealer.

Getting a new road bike for under $500 will be tough.

I recommend eBay and Craigslist and finding a used bike and bike parts. I'm a fairly serious bike geek, and our last three serious road bikes were bought used. My wife adores her's and swears never to buy a new bike again. If you are patient, you can get some great deals.

Ride safe!
posted by Argyle at 10:35 AM on November 9, 2011

Nthing that the $300 mountain bikes aren't really. I'm in Europe, the situation is quite similar, "just" with euros instead of dollars (and not much difference in the figures, despite exchange rates and higher VAT here than in the US - brands seem to like numerically stable price points). I know some people who have gone through two or three $300 mtbs in four years. One nearly got killed by his bike, because the frame broke beneath the seat post, which then fell off, and he was almost impaled on the broken metal. Meanwhile, I've had my $1800 (originally $2500) GT mountain bike for six years. It costs me about 25-40 euros per year to maintain, not counting tires, which will be a recurrent cost on any bike. I've never had to replace anything in those six years. The frame, made of aluminum, is guaranteed for life. So are the wheels. I believe it, after six years of riding the thing. It is rock solid, light (not super-light, but still light), rides like a dream, and reliable as all get-out.

Long story short, listen to spikelee, he speaks true words of wisdom. A good bike is worth it. Cheap bikes just aren't. The $600-$2000 sweet spot is the truth! As is finding a good bike shop. I've been going to the same for six years, and the guys there are so great. A place that treats you respectfully is key – they may upsell if they know what they're doing. If a place tries to upsell, listen to their arguments: if they're based on appearance, "the latest thing", advertising fluff, in short, then feel free to walk out. But if they're upselling because a bike has higher-quality components that will fit the type of usage you want (and they should be able to explain why, based on examples from their own experience with other clients), that can be a good place. Sometimes lower-priced stuff won't hold up to what you want to do, it all depends, which is why finding a knowledgeable place is key.
posted by fraula at 12:05 PM on November 9, 2011

I used to have a good old-fashioned drop-bar ten-speed, but it got stolen. For my very light -- insufficient in retrospect -- recreational biking needs, I went to Target and got a $100 special. It worked, it even lasted (mainly because of my light usage), but among other things, Christ is it a heavy SOB. When I started biking for fitness and almost immediately managed to wreck it, I decided the time was right for getting a real bike. That turned out to be a $600 Trek hybrid.

The $500 difference I spent is without a doubt the best $500 investment I've ever made. It was really like the difference between a trike and a bike.

My perspective on this is that your bike dollar -- for new -- really needs to start at a bare minimum of $500, but anything you go up from there will be worth it, just at a level of diminishing returns. That is, to get the same boost as I got from where I am now I'll need to move up to around $1500. I'm sure I'll do that someday, but I don't have the budget yet, so I figure my next bike budget will be something like $900. I know I'm going to notice that $300 uptick, just not as much as I noticed the $500 one.

It really is about materials, build quality, engineering, comfort, and all those tangible intangibles. It's pretty easy to weld some scrap steel together in the general shape of a bike. After all, it's hundred-year-old technology. But you get so much more when you think about what goes into a truly good bike, because a truly good bike acts like an extension of your body and getting that fit and that ease of results is not something that department stores are interested in selling you.

Hey, if all you want is to ride around occasionally, I'm not going to stand in your way. But this isn't snobbery, it's practical advice for someone looking to really bike. You want better. If you can't afford better new, then, look for used, and be patient.
posted by dhartung at 12:22 PM on November 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your best bet would probably be to look for an older well known brand, something like a Trek, Fuji, Cannondale, etc., maybe some of the older, more obscure Japanese brands. Well made bikes tend to age quite well, and I've personally had regular rides that were as old as I am. Common places to find these babies are on craigslist (though it tends to run heavy on "by my kids bike he grew out of" and "by this $5K carbon space shuttle I rode once"), from a local bike shop (selection might be limited, not all bike shops traffic in used bikes), or on eBay (typically has good selection, but shipping costs suck and no in person try-out). I've bought at least one bike via every method I just listed, and the trick to all of them is patience and persistence. You have a bike now, so just keep looking until you find that special someonething. In the meantime, you can keep riding your Wally and maybe putting away a little extra cash for the bike budget.

As for pricing accessories, you should remember that there are certain weirdos out there that will pay exorbitant prices for ridiculous items. Case in point, here's a list of bike lights that ranges from $11 to over $1000. Unless you a fighting vampires, I'm guessing you don't need a thousand dollar light -- you probably don't need a 70 dollar set either. Similarly, here's a list of rear bike racks ranging from $11 to $80. Shop around, find what works for you, and remember that REI is almost always outrageous overpriced. In the meantime: ride bikes, have fun.
posted by Panjandrum at 1:58 PM on November 9, 2011

Panjandrum says, Well made bikes tend to age quite well,

And that can be dramatically true. My 1993 Trek aluminum hardtail mountain bike was probably the best grand I ever spent. I still ride it every day. I've replaced the drive train and the brakes (and the tires and the wheels and oh god so many tubes) over time, but the frame, stem, crank, seatpost, all original. Amortize that!

I have to sympathize with the accessories issue, too. It's hard to find good ones for a reasonable price. I take advice from mandymanwasregistered ;)
posted by zomg at 2:52 PM on November 9, 2011

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