By Ron Koch

If you’ve read my columns, you probably know by now that I’m as frugal as they come. In fact, on a few occasions I’ve written about my money-saving tendencies. This is true in most areas of my life except for one—my bikes. I have no trouble spending a ludicrous amount of money on bikes and related gear or finding new ways to rationalize my crazy spending habits.


We all know that price and performance are not mutually exclusive. However, generally speaking, the more you spend, the better the bike, product or service is, but there’s typically a bell-shaped curve for this performance-to-dollar ratio. Spend little, you typically get little in return, but that return tends to increase quickly as you spend more. At some point this curve flattens where you get the maximum bang for the buck. I like to call this the sweet spot, and it typically lies in the middle of the product range. It is also most often a brand’s most sold model. Riders generally know where value lies through experience or reviews, so they tend to gravitate towards this.

As the cost goes up, this benefit-to-dollar ratio curve tends to drop off just as fast as it picks up from the low end of the scale. It’s not uncommon to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars more for incremental gains in performance and a handful of grams in lost weight. So, it begs the question, “Why would anyone spend more when they don’t have to?” And, “Why do I do this almost every time?” The answer is both simple and complicated. On one hand you have the simple “because I can,” but on the other hand, there is a deep, hard-to-explain desire to have the very best, because I believe it somehow enhances my ride experience, even if that’s really questionable at best.


If you were to ask my family, they would tell you that I have a list a mile long of why I need the latest and greatest. Some of these reasons are legitimate, while others are just some things I made up to rationalize the spend—not just to them, but also to myself. The most obvious reason that I spend money on bikes and gear is because I consider it a sound investment in my health, both on a physical and mental level. Not only that, it just makes me happy. Few, if any, material objects have delivered so many positive benefits to my life as mountain bikes.

When you think of it through that lens, it becomes quite easy to rationalize big spends, even the silly ones. If a certain bike or piece of gear enhances the experience of your passion, it is always worth the money. A great bike or piece of gear certainly does this. I’ve actually become a better and, in some cases, faster rider because of new technology. From tires to suspension to geometry, everything has added up to a level that I never would have dreamed possible 5 to 10 years ago.

And then there’s the safety aspect. These technologies have kept me off the ground and in control where I’m quite certain things would have ended differently on an older bike or technology. If you factor in the cost of a trip to urgent care or the ER, you are far ahead of the game by riding a better bike. This is where I can really rationalize the cost of marginal gains. The difference between hitting the ground and continuing down the trail on your merry way is often a very slim one. It’s quite possible that the extra 3 percent in suspension performance, tire grip or handling makes the difference.


Because of my job and years of experience testing bikes and gear, friends and family often come to me seeking advice, and it’s often as simple as asking if they should buy something. As long as it’s a good fit, my answer is always yes. It doesn’t matter how expensive it is or if they really need it or not, I push them to buy whatever it is if I think it will enhance their experience in any way.

Life is too short to ride crappy bikes, I often say, because it’s true. Value-focused products are great because not everybody can buy the “dentist bike” that they covet. Everybody has their limits. I would never suggest that anyone puts their financial well-being on the line for a bike, even if I have done so myself a time or two, but when you’re able, and you’re having a hard time rationalizing the extra dough on a bike or piece of gear, think back to how many times you regretted doing it. I’m willing to bet that for most of us, there are not many. So, just buy it, and don’t feel guilty about it. Tomorrow is not promised, so we should treat every ride like it could be our last, because one day it will be. Just buy the bike.

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