Some Thoughts on the Current State of the Bike Industry and Investing in Steel
The Bike Industry has recently found itself in trouble. Countless shops are going out of business. Many troubled shops bought way too much overpriced inventory during and after the Covid-inspired buying frenzy and paid three to five times normal prices to have it shipped. Wages are going up and inventory is stacked and lights, insurance, advertising, and all costs associated with doing business have increased. Great deals on troubled bikes can be found.
As a Consumer and Avid or Beginner Cyclist, this must seem like a great time to score a sweet bike. Maybe. The other day in Polkadot Bicycles I was repairing two bikes bought not that long ago for about the same amount of money. One was a super-lightweight techno-whiz-bang bike that weighed nothing and cost the owner about $2500 new. The other was a steel bicycle with common-sense components, durable wheels, and racks, fenders, lights and other things one needs on a bike. I looked up what each of those bikes was selling for on eBay (ones that actually sold). The whiz-bang bike was selling for around $300. The steel bike with rack, etc. was still going for over $1000. The moral of the story is that everyone knows that the steel bike will still be ride-worth and valued in ten years and the tech one will either break or be so outdated that it's the equivalent of a 1999 iMac. Tech is a horrible investment.
Steel bikes are expensive because good, light, durable steel tubing is expensive. Steel bikes are only made by a handful of companies for the masses because of this. Why offer a steel bike when the big profits are in the low-end aluminum, carbon, and other exotics such as magnesium? The mega- bike companies are in business to make money. Since there are only a handful of affordable steel bike makers (countless small independent builders) such as KHS, Breezer, Somq, Masi, etc. and demand for steel isn't as great since they're not on the cover of every magazine every month, the amount of inventory is restricted. For example, Masi steel bikes are usually completely sold out by May of every year. Breezer only produces a few dozen bikes in each size and model annually. Currently, Breezer bikes are in short supply and there are gaping holes in their lineup. To clear out this year's space in the warehouses they are selling them at a modest discount (10-20%).
I know folks are tight with their money these days, but it costs about $40/day to rent a bicycle and waiting until the exact bike you want goes on sale probably works with the overpriced exotic (Matiere exotique) bikes, but the wisest thing to do is get the exact bike you want in the size you want at the earliest possible date and enjoy it and think of it as saving $40 every time you ride it. The consumer who waits for winter to get the bike that almost fits and is close to what they want all to save $300 is going to be looking for a new bike again, and soon. I don't want to sound like Grant Petersen, but facts are stubborn things.
Polkadot only stocks and highly recommends the Taiwan-built Breezer bikes which are almost exclusively made with Breezer Steel. The higher-end ones are made with Japanese cold-drawn and hydro-formed super-steel. The wheels have normal replaceable spokes that can be found in any bike shop from here to rural Afghanistan and the saddles, rims, tires, etc. are from world-famous WTB.