To many new cyclists, this question definitely pops up when they are considering buying a bike. Why should I pay $1000 or more for a new bike, when I can get a bike at Giant/Carrefour/NTUC etc. for just slightly over $100? This is a perfectly legitimate question, and I believe that many people, including seasoned cyclists, would like to know the answer too.
I would like to tackle this question by doing a logical, simple but extensive comparison of 2 different bikes. By listing down the different components and comparing them, we can (hopefully) see the reasons for the price difference. In order to make the comparison as fair as possible (according to me anyway), I will select 2 bikes that look similar, but with a significant difference in the price tag. Since I am more familiar with folding bikes, I will make the comparision using folding bikes!
One of the cheaper folding bikes that I know of are the Aleoca folding bikes, which can be commonly found in many hypermarts. This particular model shown below is an Aleoca Ready2Ride 20" folding bike, and it retails for less than $150.
Aleoca Ready2Ride (R2R) folding bike, 20" wheel size
A folding bike that I would regard as Premium grade would be the Dahon MuP8. This MuP8 retails for around $1200 in Singapore. The MuP8 is not a particularly high end bike, but it is definitely a very good bike.
Dahon MuP8 20" folding bike
On one hand, we have the Aleoca 20" folding bike for the cyclist on a tight budget, while on the other hand we have the Dahon MuP8, for the more discerning cyclist with a bigger budget. What makes the MuP8 cost 8 times more than the R2R, and is it justified? Let's find out.
To make it easier to compare the 2 different bikes, all the bike components will be placed into a few different sub-categories:
1) Frame and Fork
2) Contact Points and Steering System
3) Wheels and Tires
4) Brake System
5) Gear Shifting System
7) Folding Joints and Miscellaneous Stuff
To start it off, we will compare the frame and the fork of the 2 different bikes.
Frame & Fork
The frame and the fork can be said to form the chassis of the bike, since everything else will be fixed onto the bike frame. It is relatively easy to change out the other components of the bike, but the frame and fork will remain. If the frame is changed, you will be practically changing the soul of the bike, and getting an entirely different bike.
Aleoca R2R Frame: Hi-Tensile Steel
Dahon MuP8 Frame: 7005 Aluminium
Aleoca R2R Fork: Hi-Tensile Steel
Dahon MuP8 Fork: Puro U7 Aluminium
Since the shape of the frames are similar, the main difference here would be the material that is used. Hi-tensile steel is strong and tough, but it is OMFG heavy compared to lightweight 7005 aluminium! For a folding bike that may be carried around frequently, it is definitely beneficial to have a lightweight bike that doesn't break your back. Same thing goes for the fork.
Comparing the hi-tensile steel frame + fork to the aluminium version, the aluminium frame + fork would easily be 1.5kg lighter. This is a huge difference that can be most acutely felt when carrying the folded bike around.
The stiffer aluminium frame of the MuP8 would also transmit your pedaling forces more efficiently to the drivetrain, resulting in less energy loss. However, this property of the material also means that road vibrations will be felt more strongly by the rider on the aluminium framed bike. This is not a serious issue for most people, and can be mitigated somewhat by good quality tires.
Another difference in the material property between steel and aluminium is that steel will rust. Even though the steel frame can be painted, rust is unavoidable in tropical Singapore, where the air is humid and there is usually an abundance of rain. With a steel frame, after-rain maintenance is required to prevent or minimize rusting of the frame. An aluminium frame shrugs off water with no problem at all.
Being lightweight, stiff, rust-proof and low maintenance is what makes the aluminium frame and fork much pricier than the hi-tensile steel version.
To be continued...
Part 2: Frame & Fork (continued)