The Magic Number for Commuter Bikes

The word out there today is the perfect price point for commuter bikes is around $500.

What do you think? Is that about the price you’d pay for a commuter bike?

To me, anything lower than $350 would make me second guess about the quality of the bike…unless its a used bike that was $1000 back in its prime.


  1. Iron Man July 9, 2008 11:54 am 

    That’s probably a good average to start out at. Then moving up or down from that depending on the needs of the rider.

  2. tadster July 9, 2008 11:59 am 

    Yes, I’d pay it, and yes, I did! I got myself an ’08 Redline 925 for thereabouts.
    Of course, I spent more money on necessary extras like lights, tools, and hi-vis clothes.

    But in my opinion, I got way more than I payed for. My 925 doubles as a fantastic recreational bike, there’s no need for me to buy another road bike for weekend riding when my ‘commuter’ does it all.

    $500 is not chump change for most people. But, it can serve as an excellent investment in a well researched, reliable bicycle.

  3. RL Policar July 9, 2008 12:02 pm 

    Funny you mention that Tadster, my most used bike is my Redline 925 too.

  4. Clancy July 9, 2008 12:13 pm 

    $500 would be a fair price for a bike up to the commuting task. My requirements- 7/8spd geared hub, fenders, lights and a rear rack.

  5. Evan July 9, 2008 12:23 pm 

    I think $500 is pretty spot-on. Just like you guys, I also bought a Redline 925 at that price. I am so glad that I did and it’s turned out to be one of the best purchases I’ve made, but any higher and I might have skipped it for something else.

    Especially right now in our weak economy, I think manufacturers who price their commuters much higher are going to be in trouble.

  6. Palm Beach Bike Tours July 9, 2008 12:33 pm 

    My first real bike was a Trek 7300 that I purchased new in 1998. It cost $528. It was my only bike for nearly a decade and I still use it to pull my kid in his bike trailer. My second, current bike was only a couple hundred dollars more but I purchased it used.

    The $500 price point seems right. (Less than a car payment.)

    Most of the people who ask me about purchasing a bike are looking at it from an exercise perspective first and as transportation and enjoyment second. I like to compare the price of a bike to a gym membership.

    A good, solid basic bicycle — commuter, road, mountain or hybrid — is going to cost between $400 and $600. In some cases, you can get a new bike for that price, other times you’ll be picking something up that has been used. In either case, that gets something 20 times better than a K-Mart special bike for just five times the cost.

    A year’s basic gym membership in my area costs between $300 and $500 — about the same as the bicycle. If you went to the gym daily, that is a great deal. If, on the other hand, you’re like most people and go rarely the first month and then never again, that is painful.

    At the end of a year, the bicycle is going to be worth 60-70% of what you paid for it. At the end of the year, whatever you spent on the gym membership is out the window.

    People often look at the cost of a bike as a huge expense for something they might not use and thus don’t buy one in the first place. Once they understand that the bicycle has residual value — unlike a gym membership — they are more likely to spend the money.

    One more note… I always warn people that whatever amount they spend on their bike, they will probably spend that same amount on accessories in the first year. Drop $500 on a bike and you’re sure to spend $500 more on bike clothes, lights, etc.


  7. Wes July 9, 2008 12:44 pm 

    I paid about this much for my ’86 Schwinn frame and the new components to make it road worthy (Brooks saddle included!). I’d say that’s also a fair price for a new bike as well.

  8. Bike Jax July 9, 2008 1:01 pm 

    $500 is the magic number around these parts. I get emails everyday asking what bike I would recommend for around $500.

    It has gotten to be so routine that I have a standard question template that I email back to better judge their needs before answering the which bike question.

    And thank you guys for the great reviews that make answering those which bike questions a lot easier.

  9. Dominic Dougherty July 9, 2008 1:33 pm 

    $500?! I can go to McWalBucksMart and get 6 bikes for the much!

  10. Jon July 9, 2008 1:40 pm 

    $350 is just fine. I’ve been absolutely abusing a Mongoose MTB that probably retailed for around $200 new for over 5 years. The only thing I’ve replaced have been the tires and brake pads, although I do perform regular maintenance on it.

    Better to buy a passable $300 bike (say, a Marin commuter, or something used) and spend $200 more on the extras – wet weather gear, bags and racks, good tires, a nice helmet.

  11. Ghost Rider July 9, 2008 2:12 pm 

    But I only paid $10 for one of my commuter bikes (a bike that brand new cost about $150). That bike is 37 years old, and I rode it today to work…

    BikeJax, I’m happy to hear that you’re not the only one who gets inundated with those kinds of incredibly hard email requests. I, too, have a generic “template” to answer them (using links to our reviews, of course!).

  12. Boar's Head July 9, 2008 2:37 pm 

    That would be great for most folks with a moderate commute. The price would change (i.e., “go up and make wife mad”) depending on needs:
    1. How long of a commute?
    2. Over what terrain?
    3. In what seasons?
    3.5 In what area of the country?
    I believe this is BikeJax’s point.

  13. Mike Myers July 9, 2008 3:17 pm 

    $500 is just about the maximum I’d spend on a bike that would spend a good deal of time locked up out of my sight.

  14. 2whls3spds July 9, 2008 5:06 pm 

    I think that is the range most people are willing to spend. It may change a bit as more people move over to transportation cycling. FWIW I paid $600 for my Redline R530 and then about another $250+ in upgrades for lighting, Brooks saddle and a decent lock. In today’s dollars that $500 price point is pretty close to what a 1972 Raleigh Superbe sold for back then.

    If the manufacturers would quit worrying about the latest gee whiz golly gotta have and build a basic solid fully equipped bike in a decent color for that $500 I bet they would have a helluva time keeping up with demand.

    I also have a 9.2.5 mine is a 2006 model and well worth every penny I paid for it.


  15. Tim July 9, 2008 6:05 pm 

    I would have to got with 400 to 500. That is a nice price point and something feels good about getting something for under $500 dollars. That Redline 925 does look awfully nice. I ride an old cannondale road bike that is great condition, I have been riding it about 10 years and it is probably about 25 years old. I do think spending in the $500 range will hopefully equal a longer lasting bike, and less headaches.

  16. bikingbristol July 10, 2008 6:29 am 

    I spent about $350 on a Fuji Venture (any one review it?) . My first 600 miles have been great. The only problems I’ve had were expected things (two flats… broken spoke). I needed to put a rack on it, saddle bags, light, computer, two water bottle holders, basic tool kit, pump, and a good bike-car rack. All told I’ve spent about $600. Of course I still look around. Like my first girlfriend, I’m infatuated with the Fuji…. but I’d like to get to know a few others!

  17. Val July 10, 2008 9:39 am 

    One of the most frustrating recurring moments in my years of bicycle retail is the point at which a prospective rider says “Well, I don’t want to spend much on it – after all, it’s just my commuter.” What they forget to consider is that this is the bike that they will be relying on to get them to work on time every day. It is also the bike that they will spend time on every day, often more time than they spend on any other bike that they own. If showing up on time at work is not an important priority for you, fine, go ahead and skimp on quality in the commuter bike. If comfort and pleasure during a major portion of your life do not matter, then sure, you can pay no attention to fit and ergonomics. The commuter bike is arguably the most important bike in the quiver, and I have never encountered anyone who felt that they had spent too much on one that they were using – in fact, most of them tend to be thinking about upgrades for convenience and comfort. Having said that, it is quite true that you can get one hell of a lot of bike for $500.00. I used to think that $500.00 was a lot to spend on a bike, and I fooled myself by building mine up one piece at a time, and never looking at a total. Anyone who has done this before is laughing now – what can I say – it was worth it.

  18. 2whls3spds July 10, 2008 1:25 pm 

    What they may be thinking is that it could disappear (stolen) on them? I know I would be pissed if my $25 35 year old Raleigh Sports beater got stolen, much less one of my nicer bikes. If I was riding in a high theft area and had to lock up outside it would be the cheapest, easiest to replace POS I could find.


  19. Mike July 17, 2008 9:46 am 

    Has anyone tried the SE Draft. Saw one last night – black, looked very slick. Under $300. Maybe a bike for review?

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