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What Is the Difference Between Riding a $500 and $5000 Bicycle?

Comparing affordable and expensive bicycles has been a constant debate over the years. However, a $500 bike may be better than a $5,000 in some situations. For example, if you are using it to commute and thus, to save money. But what if you want to maximize your fitness level? In reality, many new cyclists can fall under the influence of marketing and purchase outside their means, some even paying more for a bike than for a used car.

The discussion really changes when you plan to push your fitness level and personal performance on the bike. This is when you start feeling that your bike may not be truly ready for top performance. This can explain, to a degree, your purchasing or upgrade reasons. The classic mountain bikes, road bikes and even hybrids came a long way in terms of technology and materials. Together with durability, these characteristics can represent the true difference between a cheap and a premium bike.


Materials can play an important role in the final price of the bicycle. Although there are always cheaper alternatives, large manufacturers who focus on the best bikes offer up to date materials such as carbon fiber for the frames. These frames can also cost more than iron or aluminum alternatives but at the same time, they can help reduce the weight of the bike and improve journey time. This is why some manufacturers offer alternative materials for the same bike. It`s not unusual to see the same model in two versions, made with both affordable and premium materials. And although the weight might not be significantly reduced with the expensive versions, it can be enough to facilitate high-level performance.

A good example of the different materials used in the frame comes with road bikes. Since these bikes don`t use suspension forks, they need to absorb some shocks with quality materials such as carbon fiber. This is superior to iron or even aluminum for shock absorption but it also costs more. This is why you will need to pay more for the material and the bike if you plan to cover long distances and such choices can make a real difference.


Physics can play an important role for top level performance. This is why the expensive bikes will, most of the times, come with solid research to back performance. Major manufacturers can test new bikes in-house or with third party companies and this is where the physics and aerodynamics are perfected for premium bikes.

According to a test by Global Cycling Network, a top performing cyclist can vastly improve performance just by choosing better wheels with better aerodynamics and improved friction response. This means that the research that goes into more expensive bikes can make a difference, but only when maintaining high speeds for long periods of time such as with races or intense training sessions.

Which one should you buy?

This ultimately brings you to the choice you are left with. Should you purchase a $5.000 bike or a more affordable alternative? The answer is complex and may depend on your situation. If you are using an old mountain bike you could purchase a new model which is up to date on the latest materials and technologies in terms of shock absorption. Road bikes, on the other hand, can benefit from new wheels which can make the bike perform better over longer distances and constant high speeds.

But what if you are purchasing your first bike? In this case, you should always set a budget and design a solution which is based on your needs. Thus, you can spend less on the bike and allow the extra budget for wheel upgrades which might improve the overall experience compared to a standard, more expensive bike.

The final point you have to consider comes with the purpose of your bike. If you are using a bike to replace other forms of transportation, you may as well choose the affordable version. If you plan to push for performance and you are a serious cyclist, you can choose more expensive alternatives, according to your financial possibilities.

Choosing between a $500 bike and a $5.000 bike is not easy and it will depend on your goals and the amount of money you want to spend. As a general rule, you should try to look for new bikes or bikes with fewer miles which might be at their highest performance level. This doesn't mean you can`t look for a second-hand option, but you will be more likely to find a good bike with a newer model. In the end, it may also be worth considering that society should be encouraged to purchase more bikes and use this method of transportation as a healthier and greener solution. For the top cyclists, there are always plenty of top bikes to choose from.


John T Lyons grew up riding the canyons of San Diego on his single speed Huffy. After a stint working for Shelby American in automotive and then in the Aerospace industry, JT started Moment Bicycles. He developed a "better way to buy a bike" using his engineering problem-solving skills. Learn more at

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