Mountain Biking: A pricey past time

Blacksburg, Va., Jan 26 – Bike Hub: The Bike Hub is the central base for all bike enthusiasts at Virginia Tech. Assisting many bikers every day, Zachary Taub does maintenance on a student’s bike. Photograph: Noah Hayden

by Noah Hayden –

What started as a small club in the 1930’s, has become a worldwide phenomenon that’s grasping the nation. In 2011, nearly seven million people participated in non-paved surface bicycling. That number increased by almost two million by 2021. Mountain biking is only getting more popular and the biking market is expected to grow by at least 3.13 billion between 2023-2027.

While the sport is growing at a tremendous rate, that’s not to say it’s for everyone. The biggest initial challenge for newcomers is understanding the bike market. At a glance, there are tons of price points that would scare any consumer off.

According to long-time mountain biker, Ruben from BikingUniverse, parts for a bike can cost up to $10,000. As daunting as that may sound, there is a bright side. Most bikers are not buying parts for $10,000, especially newcomers.

“You can find hardtails for $5,000,” explained Zachary Taub, Virginia Tech Mountain Biking Club president and Bike Hub employee. “I usually tell people, look on Facebook marketplace first because you could probably find a decent entry-level hardtail for about $500 or so.”

There are other factors that go into the price of a mountain bike. Wheel size, tire material, pedals, type and range of the drivetrain, and even the material of the frame affect the price. When buying a mountain bike for around $500, the main concern revolves around the integrity and performance of the bike. More often than not, one may experience an accident due to malfunctions.

Charles Dye, a 37-year mountain biking veteran, explains that there is some correlation between price and safety. “I generally say to people, don’t spend much less than  $1,000,” said Dye. “When you get out on the trails, life is rougher, things break more, you want more features like suspension, and you really need to pony up like $1,300.”

For college students, $1,300 might just mean their entire bank account. How America Pays for College: Sallie Mae’s National Study of College Student and Parents, indicated that in 2021, the average college student in the U.S. borrowed just above $1,300 via credit card. With college students already relying on outside sources for money like their parents, how is it possible for so many to afford such an expensive hobby?

The most common way is by finding bikes or parts for little to nothing. “Get your way in [to mountain biking] however you can get in,” said Dye. “Usually that means borrowing your old uncle’s bike.” 

Others will recall long hours working part-time, or doing odd jobs around their neighborhood. Luke Dangel, cinema student at Virginia Tech, opened his own garage biking service in the summer of 2020. Despite the many exhausting challenges to get the money for a mountain bike, he says he would never take that experience back.

“It was incredibly fun and stimulating. I became super invested,” said Dangel. “It was one of the best experiences of my life.”

Blacksburg, Va., Jan 26 – Bike Racks: Despite dull weather, students still manage to bring their bikes to campus. There are many bike racks across Virginia Tech that display the vast number of bikers in the student body. Photograph: Noah Hayden

%d bloggers like this: