Chris always tolerated me hanging around the shop. I like to think he enjoyed having someone around to talk about proper mountain bikes with. In between the crazed commuters, haggling pensioners and whatever else the city centre hurled at him, we'd grab a few moments to talk about the World Cup results, new bits and where we'd go riding when we had time. As he dug out inner tubes, panier mounts and obscure bolts for whatever broken shopper had been wheeled in (the shop made its keep by stocking inner tubes in every weird size and shape you could imagine), he'd dispense his wisdom on the world too. There's one thing he said that stuck with me, one weird little gem that is lodged in my brain: "Downhillers are a nightmare for shops. None of you f*ckers ever pay retail price for anything." Looking around at our friends, he was right: I had Chris helping me where he could, some trawled the websites and others the classified ads. All of us had put our bikes together the best we could on our small, student budgets.
Davide from Bagnoli bike, offering advice on bike setup.
Nearly a decade now separates me from those words, but they come back to me from time-to-time. Chris was right, but on a much larger scale than maybe he knew back then. The cost of mountain bikes has continued to rise as more and more space-age technology gets hung on them. Carbon fiber, highly refined suspension technology, light-but-powerful disc brakes – all of these things add up to a hefty bill at the register, and makes them even more difficult to attain, especially for those on a limited budget. With prices climbing into the five digit range, it's easy to have a knee-jerk reaction when faced with the price of a new, top of the line mountain bike. “$10,000? I could buy a (car, truck, motorcycle, jet ski...) for that much” seems to be the refrain every time the latest carbon wonder bike is revealed. Certainly, it's frustrating to not be able to afford the bikes found at the top tier in a company's lineup, but these show pieces are used to demonstrate a company's latest technological advancements, advancements that no doubt cost a fair bit of time and effort, not to mention money, to bring to market.
Plus, realistically, how many people walk into their local bike shop and plunk down the full retail amount for a bike? Even those that do pay full price are often given perks, like a year's worth of free service, or discounts on additional parts and accessories. What's often overlooked is the fact that much of the technology on an exorbitantly priced new bike will be trickling its way down to more affordable offerings in the near future. Remember when hydraulic disc brakes were a luxury item? It didn't take long for them to become standard equipment, and we now we take it for granted that our next bike will have them.
All of this brings up the question: Did you pay full price when purchasing your last bike?