Why should a bicycle cost 8,000.00

Million Dollar Radl: What a bicycle can cost

So a million. That should be the upper limit. In any case, the network does not spit out a more expensive bike than the fat bikes that the "House of Solid Gold" had made in 2012 by the Los Angeles-based bike boutique Veloworx. The 13 mountain bikes are plated with 24-carat gold. 600 black diamonds and 500 sapphires are used in the "HSG" emblem. The saddles are made of alligator leather.

How does the bike ride with its rather simple but partially gold-plated Shimano XT components? Uninteresting. There are no reports on this: what matters is the price. The bold number: one million. It doesn't matter whether it's dollars or euros (it's dollars). "There are always bikes that are commissioned by luxury labels. They appear briefly in lifestyle magazines - and then never again," says Martin Granadia with a smile.

Granadia is a cycling blogger. Be 169k-net, a cycling blog is one of the most competent things you can find on the subject of bikes in German-speaking countries. Granadia mostly writes about racing bikes, function and bike style: Neither what he wears nor what he rides is cheap.

"On business" he sometimes drives in the (low) five-digit price segment, not privately: "Up to a price of around 15,000 euros, the prices can be understood, explained or argued - but we are also in the freak area."

There is a reason for this: "From around 4,500 euros, bicycles rarely get really better, they only get more expensive," explains Karl Schöpf. Schöpf is the bicycle technology mastermind of the Viennese "mountain bikers": "It's like clocks: The time also shows one that costs only ten euros. The rest is a gimmick."

Making a bike expensive, he says, is no art: frames around 8,000 euros can be found with two clicks of the mouse. Using the combination of wheels, gears and brakes to advance into five-digit ranges is child's play. Watt measurement system pedals, bike computers and the like are once again full four digits.

Then comes the little things: axles, bearings, handlebar stem. Parts where each gram less costs several hundred euros more - but only really uses the very fewest. The most expensive bike that Schöpf ever sold to a "normal" cost 15,000 euros. Only: "Most people take the wrong posture on the bike. And I'm not just talking about racing bikes: It doesn't matter how much money you invest, they will neither be fast nor enjoyable."

Nice sum

That doesn't prevent anyone from spending money in the arms race. The tip of the iceberg can be seen every year at Ironman Austria in Klagenfurt at the beginning of July. Around 4,000 hobby triathletes form the largest racing bike parking lot in Austria. The record for 180 kilometers by bike at the Ironman is four hours and twelve minutes.

Normally, however, usually drive over six hours. But you can hardly tell from the wheels who is going to climb: professional or "Hobette" (the word is gender-neutral applied to both men and women). More than half of the bikes are in the over 12,000 euro category. 4,000 times 12,000: a nice sum. The "parking lot" is strictly guarded at night by securities and sharp dogs.

In "classic" cycling races or mountain bike competitions, but also in everyday sporty cycling, the price structure of the hobby athlete bolides is only slightly different. But the awe-inspiring view of thousands of extremely expensive fun bikes is only available around the transition areas of major triathlon events.

You just can't see them up close. Certainly not attack. And: They are mostly off-the-shelf goods that have just been "pimped". But it is also possible to be exclusive, i.e. made to measure. For example at Kurt Stefan's Veletage. Stefan was responsible for the shop and brand appearances of brands such as Diesel, Adidas or Peak Performance in Austria, but decided five years ago to focus on bicycles and on the segment of small but super-exquisite goods: on highly functional bike fashion, the is both glockner high alpine road and (ok: almost) bonnet local compatible, on the one hand.

And also on made-to-measure wheels. Hardly any customer spends less than 6,000 euros; a bike that costs just under 20,000 euros leaves the shop ten to 15 times a year. "But our customers also ride these bikes," says Stefan. You have bike dreams - and wait up to six months for them to come true.

The myth of the wheel

Because the titanium frames are made to measure in Bergamo for such high-quality bikes. Marco Bertoletti selects the pipe cross-sections and shapes that match the dream and the customer. Bertoletti is a superstar in bicycle frame forging: The big names in the professional bicycle scene have ridden his creations for decades - but mostly without any labeling.

The big brands that sponsor and equip the cycling teams painted their colors and logos on Bertoletti's works for a long time, but then turned it off. Today the professionals sit on correctly labeled trestles. Of course, that doesn't change the myth.

Titanium frames, Stefan calculates, are available from 6,000 euros. Bertoletti is usually more expensive. Usable high-profile carbon wheel sets are available from 2,000. A chic Campagnolo Record EPS groupset costs another 4,000 euros. A nice saddle for 1000 euros.

And so on: hubs, cranksets, bottom brackets ... But the Veletage man also emphasizes: "None of that makes you faster, but it's like a tailor-made suit: it strengthens self-confidence. You can feel that in your own performance." It is no coincidence that the Veletage motto is "Drive nicely and quickly".

There would be enough customers who also smile like this. You also travel specially. Not just from Vienna's outskirts, but from all over the world. For example the Arab region. "And I put my hand in the fire to ensure that at least 80 percent of our bikes are ridden."

This is what distinguishes the racing bike scene from the rest of the bike scene. Three percent of all bikes sold in Austria are racing bikes. The super-expensive segment is mainly found here. Mountain bike buyers who actually ride know about the higher wear and tear on the terrain: a "House-of-Gold" bike will probably never be beaten over a single trail.

And neither the $ 46,000 "Gold Collection" wheel by Montante (11,000 Swarovski crystals, gold-plated, saddle and frame pump covered with python skin) nor the $ 12,000 leather-covered "Flaneur" by Hermès is what you get in front of the university or anywhere else on a bike stand. Not for long anyway. And: racing cyclists look very closely at other racing bikes. They realize what is good, expensive, and super expensive. And that's exactly what matters. (Thomas Rottenberg, May 11, 2019)