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You get what you pay for

So I’ve seen these bikes for £300, why do yours cost more?

Given the kind of attention cycling has got recently, the bicycle industry has pretty much exploded in the UK and the market is flooded with people selling cheap bikes in a box online.

What we’re doing at 8Ball is targeting the middle ground between the high street stores and online retailers that sell you a mass market, pre-configured, pre-built bike in a box, and the several thousand pound made-for-you-from-the-tubes-up custom build. If you’re happy with the former, no worries, there’s plenty of choice. If you’re after the latter, we can do it, but really you’d probably have a better experience with one of our friends. We’re more geared up for volume, while they focus on minute details.

That said, we spend an awful lot of time and effort on every build. We’re not greedy, we just want to pay the bills and feed the kids.

We looked at selling via third parties but in the end we just didn’t have the margin. Physical shops want between 30% and 50% margins to sell your bikes and online retailers only a little less. We just don’t have that. But that gives you some insight into the build costs of many of the other bikes out there. If the seller is taking 40% and the manufacturer is still making a profit, how much did that bike cost to actually manufacture? Of course scale plays a big part here. You buy a lot, you get better pricing, but we don’t buy a lot because each bike is built specifically for its owner. The downside of scale is that every bike is identical – you get what’s in the box. But we don’t think that’s how it should be as a bike is a very personal purchase.

The frame: There are many types of steel, I go into more detail about this here, but in a nutshell, our frames cost more because they’re made from seamless 4130 cromoly (cr-mo) or Columbus Zona tubing.

So our frames our stronger, or lighter, or both, than those cheaper brands.

The majority of our components are from branded manufacturers, especially those with moving parts, like hubs and bottom brackets. We do this because we like to know that the parts we use are going to perform and be reliable. We design our bicycles to handle the British weather. That means lots of rain and in the winter, cold, snow, and salt and grit on the roads. As a result all of our moving components use sealed cartridge bearings to stop all of that road crap getting into the workings.

Sure we could use regular caged bearings or a cheap unbranded crankset rather than Sturmey Archer or something and cut our prices back, but I only use cartridge bearings in my own bikes and I know Sturmey stuff is quality and reliable. And I don’t want to sell anything I wouldn’t happily ride myself.

Our wheels are stiff, with high gauge spokes and strong rims and our tyres have kevlar guard belts and reflective lines for safety and puncture protection against those glass littered roads.

A cheap bicycle will use cheap components that won’t hold up after a winter on the roads or wheels that will flex and give out under stress. The fact that we use full leather saddles and bar tape is just a finishing touch to add some class and differentiate from a flood of leather effect or plastic saddles and grips.

We’re not trying to compete against the ‘build your own’ fixie brands or the £300 bicycles out there. We think we can put together a complete package that covers all the bases from functionality and reliability, substance and style and is still affordable. The big question I’d ask myself when shopping for a bike in this price range though, is, if these guys can turn a decent profit on a sub-£300 bike, then what does it cost them? And at that price, what kind of quality can you expect?

It’s an old cliché but you do get what you pay for.

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Any questions, fire away.

James @8ballbikes