The new status symbol for ardent pedal-pushers: a five-figure ride. Just ask some well-to-do cycling aficionados. "It's like buying an expensive...
PORTLAND — The new status symbol for ardent pedal-pushers: a five-figure ride.
Just ask some well-to-do cycling aficionados.
“It’s like buying an expensive sports car,” lawyer George Schreck said of his $10,000-plus handmade Calfee Dragonfly road racer. “You don’t need it. … It’s a toy.”
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A very pricey toy that Schreck conceded doesn’t improve his racing results. But it sure looks good.
Schreck is among a growing legion of cycling enthusiasts shelling out top dollar for two-wheeled eye candy.
Price ceilings have risen with the introduction of more lightweight, sophisticated and aesthetically pleasing cycling components. In turn, many of the high-end bikes have become collector’s items, more to lust over than to use for any practical purpose.
River City Bicycles co-owner Mark Ontiveros calls them “rideable art.”
“When we go down to our basements or our garages, it makes us as happy as some of the finest art in the world,” Ontiveros said. “It’s just beauty. And that’s why they sell.”
The latest masterpiece on display at the River City shop in southeast Portland: a limited-edition, sports-car-inspired Colnago for Ferrari.
Production of the red-and-black road racer, hand built in Italy, was limited to 60. The price: $15,000.
“Some people would call it hard to justify,” David Guettler, River City’s other owner, said of the expense. “But as a bike nut, I don’t find it hard to justify at all.”
Never mind that a perfectly fine racing bicycle can be had for one-fifth the price, Guettler said.
Not much about the Colnago for Ferrari could be called affordable. The wheels alone sell for $4,000. The pedals: $200 to $300.
Avid racers, unless they’re subsidized by sponsors, generally eschew such high-priced bikes.
“It’d be a waste,” said Brad Ross, an Oregon Bicycle Racing Association board member. “You might as well get a bike that just performs really well, isn’t super fancy and gets the job done. Because you’re going to keep it for a year … then throw it away and get a new one.”
And a higher price doesn’t necessarily translate into faster race times, Guettler said.
The Colnago, Guettler said, “is for someone who appreciates the aesthetics of bicycles and takes a lot of pride in what they’re riding.”
There are a few of those around. River City rings up one to two bicycles a month in the $10,000-and-up price range. It’s not uncommon at other area shops, either.
“Ten years ago, $3,000 was a lot of money,” said Demetri Macrigeanis, owner of Veloce Bicycles.
Now, Macrigeanis said, high-quality, high-end racing bikes start at $3,000. The majority of bicycle makers these days offer products with five-figure price tags, he said.
Prices start at $3,000
His shop doesn’t rely on sales of such bikes, which have included a $12,900 custom-made Independent Fabrication.
His average sales price is closer to $2,000 but rising.
Blame seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong for the high-priced bike movement. In addition to boosting the sport’s popularity, one of the most enduring of the so-called Lance effects “was to get the people who already rode a high-priced bike to buy a higher-priced bike,” said Jay Townley, a partner in a Wisconsin marketing and research firm who studies cycling trends.
Hence, the proliferation of custom-bike builders, perhaps as many as 190 worldwide, Townley said, that cater to the cycling market’s upper crust.
“The people driving this high-end business aren’t your typical bike commuter,” Townley said. “They aren’t helping the environment or saving money by buying these high-priced bikes. They’re doing it because it’s a fashion statement for them within their circle of friends and acquaintances who happen to be other bikeys.”