After my wife blurted out how much my bike cost to my mom, I tried explaining that what I have is the pinnacle of bicycles. I attempted to explain it in car terms: “This is the Ferrari of mountain bikes; it doesn’t really get any better than this.”
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I'm not sure if my explanation worked.
I realize I’m preaching to the choir here, but modern bikes are truly incredible. While it’s true, bikes can be expensive, what is also true is that they’re one of the only sports that physically move you (quite quickly in fact) where you can own top-level equipment that's sometimes even superior to the professionals. While the pros at the pointy end of the elite field might get custom paint jobs, the equipment they’re on is often the same as you can purchase and ride yourself.
Where else can you purchase, or build up, a machine that is equal to, or even better than what paid professionals are using? The cars, trucks and motorcycles used by professional drivers and teams cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and that doesn’t even begin to take into consideration all the one-off, custom trickery these machines often employ either.
Sure, a skateboard, rollerblades or a scooter (is there such a thing as a pro scooterer?) cost less, but their usage and range is somewhat limited. Plus, none of those multiply your human power as efficiently or can take you up and down hills or skimming over dirt and rocks through the woods very well.
Not only can you ride what the pros ride, it’s relatively simple to create something beyond what the pros have. A road bike that slips under the UCI’s 6.8kg/14.99lbs weight limit is well within reach with a lot of framesets. You can even buy complete road rockets right off the showroom floor that ignore the silly governing body requirement. And until the UCI changes its (also very silly) ruling on banning disc brakes, the bikes that everyday riders use have better braking thanks to the inclusion of discs.
On the mountain bike side, duplicating or surpassing professional riders' bikes is easy too, since just like pro roadies most sponsored riders and/or teams have component and gear deals that have them riding parts that might not be at the top of the technological heap.
Look at Enduro World Series winner Martin Maes’ GT Sanction for instance, it’s made from aluminum not carbon, as are the wheels, and it runs an externally routed dropper post. Tool around any trailhead parking lot and Martin’s aluminum race-winning rig would barely gather a second look.
While it might seem like sheer excess to be riding such high-end equipment, keep in mind that cycling is good for you in a multitude of mental and physical ways and there are much, much worse ways to indulge yourself. Cyclists can have it all, and while it can be expensive, unlike jewelry, watches, fine wine or hypercars the world's best bicycles and gear are typically, and thankfully, within reach.