Dirt jumpers are durable single-speed “stunt” bicycles with front suspension. Most come without a front brake to facilitate the performance of tricks involving bar spinning.
Despite the simple design and the lack of features found on classic mountain bikes (e.g., gears, rear suspension…etc.), the price tag of dirt jumpers is high enough to shock some people.
Dirt jumpers are expensive because they’re highly specialized bicycles occupying a small cycling niche. This combination results in fewer manufacturers (less competition) and low production volume.
To cover their expenses and compensate for the low demand, producers charge more than one might expect.
The targeted consumers comply because the functionality, strength, and performance of the bikes are important to them and cannot be found elsewhere for cheaper.
Why Are Bikes So Expensive In General?
Dirt jumpers are “specialist bikes”, but they’re still bicycles nonetheless. As such, they’re affected by the same market forces that influence the entire industry. Only then the “dirt jump specifics” come into play.
Thus, one first has to answer a broader question – why are bikes so expensive in general?
The price tags of some MTBs and road bikes are shocking. Some models cost as much as a decent motorcycle which has everything that a bike offers plus a combustion engine and a ton of supporting technology.
The main reasons are:
1. Unfair Comparison
Luxury bicycles costing over 10k are designed for die-hard enthusiasts with a great passion for the sport and professional cyclists who extract performance value from those machines.
When you compare luxurious bikes to an average motorcycle or even a car, they seem expensive, but that comparison isn’t fair because the products are of contrasting echelons.
The “top of the food chain” cars and motorcycles corresponding to high-end bikes cost as much as a small airplane.
2. A Niche Market
The bike industry is huge, but it’s still significantly smaller than the auto sector because more people are driving motorized vehicles than riding bikes.
In consequence, there’s less competition and production optimization within the cycling segment.
If more people were buying bicycles, the prices would drop. Whenever there’s more of something, it’s always cheaper.
3. People’s Willingness to Pay More
Ultimately, a product is worth as much as the consumers are willing to pay for it. If people weren’t buying those carbon wonder bikes, then bike companies would either lower the prices or stop selling them altogether.
As I explained in my post on chain guides, the cycling world often combines low demand with high desire.
The demand for high-end bikes isn’t so great, but those who want them do so with great strength and are willing to make financial sacrifices.
4. Marketing + Obsession
The art of selling requires marketing experts to tap into people’s obsessive properties and bend them accordingly.
One of the ways to accomplish this task is to present new technology as revolutionary and imply, albeit indirectly, that it’s necessary for top performance.
The souls obsessed with the sport will naturally follow even though the slightly lighter frame and a bit faster derailleur, or whatever else is the new hype, won’t make a practical difference in performance.
For that reason, the cycling industry loves trends as they create an opportunity to induce “purchase waves”.
Specialist Products Always Cost More
A dirt jumper is made for jumping as the name suggests. The geometry of the bicycle (compact frame, short chainstays….etc.) reflects the machine’s purpose.
When you buy an expensive dirt jump bike, you’re paying primarily for the custom geometry of the bicycle and the durability of the parts.
Those two rather than some insane functions of the components separate a quality dirt jumper from a low-end one.
The unique characteristics of a dirt jumper in conjunction with the fairly low popularity of the sport, narrow down the segment even further and limit the number of producers offering the needed package for proper riding.
The lack of options creates scarcity and keeps the prices high.
To illustrate this mechanism more vividly, another product could be used as an example. You can think of a dirt jumper as a custom knife designed for cutting only one material (e.g., plastic).
The number of customers who would purchase that product would be pretty low because most people need multi-purpose knives.
Consequently, fewer companies would offer such a specialized item because of the narrow potential for growth. Those who do will try to maximize their profit margins by keeping the price high due to the limited number of potential sales.
The same holds true for dirt jumping – the sport is too technical, dangerous, and necessitates very specific circumstances to attract the general public. Most people use bicycles either for commuting or to hit the local cross country trail during the weekend.
Testing and Quality Control Are Also Part of the Deal
Companies put quality bicycle components through rigorous testing to ensure that all parts are strong enough to sustain the impact. The result is durability, safety, and trust within the consumers.
Cheaper “knockoff” models aren’t subjected to the same filtering. The result is a higher failure rate and a shorter lifespan.
The limited demand for dirt jumpers impacts the production schema. The companies have a lower incentive to fully optimize their manufacturing process and cannot benefit from bulk discounts due to the low volume. The results are higher expenses affecting the final price.
“If You Want to Play, You Gotta Pay”
At the end of the day, high-quality dirt jumpers aren’t a necessity. They are more of a luxury product which people use for recreational activity in their free time.
The Brand Matters
As with other products, the name of the brand could increase or decrease the price.
A well-known company that’s been in the game for a long time can leverage its market presence and reputation and charge more for a model that another producer would offer for less.
The Principle of the “Agreed Price”
The price of a product is determined by two main factors:
1. How much are the consumers willing to pay
2. How low are the sellers willing to drop the price
The buyers want the highest quality at an acceptable price whereas the sellers try to charge the most without losing clients.
The place where both sides meet determines the price range.
The price that the consumers are willing to pay is dependent on two factors:
- How much do they want the product?
- How much money do they have?
To know the answers to the questions above, we first have to determine who are the most likely buyers and then outline their psychological profile.
The most likely candidates for buying a dirt jumper are:
1. Middle or upper-class young adults with enough income to invest in hobbies.
2. Children interested in the sport. Kids may not be earning money yet, but their families are very likely to sponsor them.
3. Middle-aged men who want to reinvent themselves.
The potential buyer of a dirt jumper bicycle is unlikely to have an income significantly below the average because in that case, the money will have to be used for higher priorities.
Would you consider buying a luxury car if you’re struggling to cover your apartment rent and utilities?
Also, don’t forget that sports like dirt jumping and mountain biking require a car if the trail and jumps are far away from where you live.
You can use your mountain bike for transportation if the trails are fairly close, but a commute longer than 6 miles/10km is too tiring and negatively affects one’s performance.
Dirt jumpers, however, are not meant for commuting. Some models allow longer pedaling if you install a very long seat post, but a dirt jumper can never be a comfortable transportation bike.
Thus, the potential buyers of dirt jumpers are very likely to have a vehicle or access to one. The exception would be individuals who live close to a trail or plan to use the dirt jumper as a street bike.
The location of the potential buyers is also important because it influences their average salary.
Dirt jumping is more popular in countries with a higher standard of living (e.g, the USA, Western Europe…etc.) because poorer states don’t have the infrastructure needed for the popularization of the sport.
This peculiarity raises the bar even more. A USD 1500 dirt jumper may seem crazy expensive to someone who is making USD 300 a month in a poor country, but it doesn’t feel as much of a burden to a man who makes USD 5000 in a state with an advanced economy.
How To Find a Decent Dirt Jumper For Cheap
If you are on a tight budget, paying retail is rarely an option unless a bike shop is making a massive sale (50% or more) which is a rare occurrence.
Thus, you will have to do some second-hand shopping. The possible options are:
1. Buy a dirt jumper from a site for second-hand goods or Facebook’s marketplace.
Bicycles are like cars and don’t hold their value very well. Sometimes you can find older models that used to retail for a 1-2k and buy them for USD 500 or less.
Many teenagers start riding but quickly get discouraged or switch to another discipline (MTB, BMX…etc.). Some of them sell their bikes for ridiculously low prices.
Tip: If you’re negotiating with a kid, you may offer them to exchange your video card for the bike.
2. Buy 1-2 new components and then start hunting for second-hand parts to complete the build.
You can buy a new frame and then purchase everything else second-hand.
Tip: Some bike shops are specializing in servicing older shocks and forks. You may be able to find pretty good offers there.
3. Exchange or sell your current bike for a second-hand dirt jumper.
4. Buy old models
Naturally, newer models cost as much as possible because they implement the latest designs and technology.
If you’re on a budget, however, look for dirt jumpers that were “the real deal” years ago.
Why? Dirt jumpers haven’t really changed since 2012. An older bike in good condition will work just as well as the freshest models.
Unlike MTBs, dirt jumpers aren’t as affected by the newest tech. All you need is a solid fork, a good frame, and strong wheels.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I look for when buying a second-hand dirt jumper?
The integrity of the frame and fork, as well as the conditions of the wheels, are of the highest importance.
The frame shouldn’t have cracks or dents. The fork should be working smoothly without making weird noises. The wheels should be straight.
If you feel uncomfortable judging an offer by yourself, it’s best to bring someone who knows dirt jumpers or mountain bikes.
Alternatively, you could post a link to the offer on a forum to get the opinion of other people.
Don’t buy “supermarket” bikes and stick to proven brands.
1. Dirt jumpers are highly specialized bicycles satisfying the needs of a niche sport. Due to the low demand, the production process isn’t as optimized and as competitive as possible. Thus, prices tend to reach surprising values.
2. A lot of the money goes into product design, testing, and marketing rather than material costs.
3. Dirt jumping is a luxury rather than a necessity. The potential customers are fairly wealthy individuals willing to pay more to participate in the sport.