"Big Brands" vs. "Niche Brands"
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  1. #1
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    "Big Brands" vs. "Niche Brands"

    I'm relatively new to the road bike scene, I've been a long time mountain biker. In the world of mountain biking, there seems to be some people are stick to only buying "niche brands" (ie Yeti, Santa Cruz, Turner, etc). I've found this to be even more common in road biking, people will only look at brands like Pinarello and Colnago while ignoring the larger manufacturers like Trek, Giant, Specialized etc.

    I'm not trying to express my opinion either way, I'm just looking to start a discussion about this. Do you only look at niche brands? Or only at bikes from big companies? Or are they all on the same level? Discuss.

  2. #2
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    I see alot of Big Brand bikes in my area. Personally, I'd rather ride a niche brand just to be different.
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  3. #3
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    Part of this is dependent on what your local stores sell- and the number of bike vendors near you. Part is the herd mindset- exacerbated by advertising. Buy what fits and you can afford, and enjoy riding it. If someone doesn't like your choice, tell them they can buy the replacement.
    We'll be back soon, there will be more of us, and next time we won't be dropping leaflets.

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  4. #4
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    I've heard too many stories from local riders about some of the big brands not standing behind warranty, and I know of more than 1 guy that has broken multiple frames from the same manufacturer - though that one has replaced them each time. Either way, not a good track record.

    Research before you buy.

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    Most everyone that considers themselves an avid cyclist would highly recommend a professional fitting and a test ride before purchasing. I'm in a smaller town with only two LBS's, neither one has the niche brands. It's pretty much Trek and Specialized. I picked Specialized because it felt better when on test rides. Watching professional races, I notice all brands in the peleton. I guess when it comes down to it, any bike with a strong rider will do just fine. Usaine Bolt would be fast in some $15 Walmart specials.

  6. #6
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    I refuse to buy from the large manufacturers. I'd much rather ride something that has some kind of soul to it.
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    Originally posted by Straz85
    I'm relatively new to the road bike scene, I've been a long time mountain biker. In the world of mountain biking, there seems to be some people are stick to only buying "niche brands" (ie Yeti, Santa Cruz, Turner, etc). I've found this to be even more common in road biking, people will only look at brands like Pinarello and Colnago while ignoring the larger manufacturers like Trek, Giant, Specialized etc.

    I'm not trying to express my opinion either way, I'm just looking to start a discussion about this. Do you only look at niche brands? Or only at bikes from big companies? Or are they all on the same level? Discuss.
    Of bikes I see on the road, I'd say 60% to 70% are major brand bikes. I have never bought a major brand road bike. Here is a question for you. Why would I? Why would I buy something that everyone else has when I can get something different that is just as good or better than something from a major brand?

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    Quote Originally Posted by exracer View Post
    Originally posted by Straz85

    Of bikes I see on the road, I'd say 60% to 70% are major brand bikes. I have never bought a major brand road bike. Here is a question for you. Why would I? Why would I buy something that everyone else has when I can get something different that is just as good or better than something from a major brand?
    except of course if one prefers the look/feel of a major name bike.
    or it was the ones on sale....
    Blows your hair back.

  9. #9
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    I've bought 5 bikes from a big brand because that was what was available. Now I'm looking into something more niche because I want something different, and with more choices over spec.
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  10. #10
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    IME, it's easier to get more bike for less buck buying from one of the major brands. Some more than others.

    I'd say it depends on your budget and degree to which you value the uniqueness of the brand name on the frame, or an unusual quality about the frame that's hard to get with the major brands.

    People trash-talk the "$300 disposable aluminum race frame." I sometimes wish I knew where to find that - I love my bikes, but they're sporting equipment, not pets. Unfortunately, $300 disposable aluminum frames, when I look at the charts, tend not to have racy geometry. Damn! If I want my bikes to be unique, I'll write my name on them. Actually, one's already got my name and team on a sticker. Probably do two more this spring, when we have another order cycle.

    If I'm still riding for my current team when I buy my next bike, it's going to have one of seven names on the down tube. Most likely, one of three names - two more common brands our shop carries, and a brand from whom we have a little better deal. It's enough selection for me, and this is something I might destroy. None of them happen to be the Big Three, but two are still very common. If I'm not, hopefully I'll be riding for another team and then my next bike will be one that sponsors them, or that their sponsoring shop carries.

    Not that I don't buy into the idea that more than just the top tube length is different from frame to frame. But almost every brand has a few different models, and a few different brands with a few different models each is already a pretty huge selection. I think most of us have more trouble narrowing it down.

  11. #11
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    All of my bikes are or have been niche brands (Gios, Merckx, De Bernardi, Bob Jackson, Salsa, Waterford). I bought niche brands because the geometry of most big brands sold in local shops (eg, Trek, Specialized, Giant) didn't fit me very well the last time I was in the market for a entirely new bike. Now, whenever I am in the market for a bike, I just buy a frame/fork and swap components from other bikes or build up with parts I've assembled. I can generally get a bike built for less money (or no more) with better components and a better fit by going this route.

    Some of the newer Treks, Specialized other big brands are finally building frames with geometries more suitable for people like me who can't ride a frame with 6" of handlebar drop, but they've pretty much lost me as a customer along the way. I like my niche brands and plan to stick with them unless I get a sudden onset of carbon envy, which is unlikely.

    I am amazed when I go on large group rides at how many cyclists ride Treks, Specialized. Those are the main brands sold by cycling shops in this area, but I'm surprised that more cyclists don't venture more broadly because the older Treks in particular had terrible geometries -- at least from my point of view.

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    Playing Devil's Advocate here (don't necessarily agree): Big brands have more money for R&D so their frames should have better/more advanced technology.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Straz85 View Post
    Playing Devil's Advocate here (don't necessarily agree): Big brands have more money for R&D so their frames should have better/more advanced technology.
    There's some truth to that. On the other hand, big brands tend to be more conservative and profit-focused, so they are less likely to use radical new technologies, and are more likely to cut corners to reduce costs.

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    I look for whatever works for the best price available. Bang for the buck for me, especially on road bikes.

    Actually, I'd feel a bit funny riding an Italian road bike for some reason, maybe like I'm trying too hard! Kind of like when we bought our last family vehicle, we went for a fully loaded Chevy Suburban instead of an Escalade. The 'Burb has all the creature comforts of the Caddy, but without the bling -- I just felt funny test driving the Escalade. I guess I'm just more of a common Chevy kind of guy! I prefer Levis or Gap jeans over designer jeans w/ stitching all over them, clean shaven over manicured facial hair, and plain brown Dr. Martens to fancy shoes, too. Same thing w/ road bikes, I suppose -- put me on a Trek or Spesh that I can comfortably ride, and let me blend in to the crowd ...

    MTB is a little different for me, for whatever reason. Maybe because there are more components involved, or more geometry variables, or whatever, but it is more about the bike for an MTB to me, whereas with road riding, it is all about the rider.

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    It is hard to buy a bad bike today. Not like the Vitus noodles or Trek debonding models of the past. Most bikes I see here in the Bay area are not the big brands. Seems everyone here wants to be different, just like everyone else.

    I own Specialized, Ridley, Lynskey, LeMond and a cheap $200 aluminum frame. I buy bikes that fit me and ride well, not bikes with a particular name written on them.

    I think my next bike may be Ibis.
    Embrace the fact that everyone on these forums has their own unique desires, needs, experiences and environment so what works for you may not work for others.

  16. #16
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    bang for buck. its why I ordered an open mold china frame. why pay retail

    (that being said.. my current bike is a trek)
    "For me, I don't go the judgmental route. Everyone's got their own story. I go about my life in my own way. I know where I'm going; I know what I want. With that being said, sometimes there's going to be a little humor involved. At first glance, second glance, third glance, you may not get it. That's OK. It's not for you to get. It's for me to enjoy."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Straz85 View Post
    I'm relatively new to the road bike scene, I've been a long time mountain biker. In the world of mountain biking, there seems to be some people are stick to only buying "niche brands" (ie Yeti, Santa Cruz, Turner, etc). I've found this to be even more common in road biking, people will only look at brands like Pinarello and Colnago while ignoring the larger manufacturers like Trek, Giant, Specialized etc.

    I'm not trying to express my opinion either way, I'm just looking to start a discussion about this. Do you only look at niche brands? Or only at bikes from big companies? Or are they all on the same level? Discuss.
    Some people just don't want a Chinese frame, and that inherently (now that Cannondale is Chinese) limits them to a "niche" bike...

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by wandern View Post
    Some people just don't want a Chinese frame, and that inherently (now that Cannondale is Chinese) limits them to a "niche" bike...
    As I understand it aren't quite a few of the "niche" frames made in Taiwan as well?

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by robdamanii View Post
    I refuse to buy from the large manufacturers. I'd much rather ride something that has some kind of soul to it.
    lollll

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Straz85 View Post
    I'm relatively new to the road bike scene, I've been a long time mountain biker. In the world of mountain biking, there seems to be some people are stick to only buying "niche brands" (ie Yeti, Santa Cruz, Turner, etc). I've found this to be even more common in road biking, people will only look at brands like Pinarello and Colnago while ignoring the larger manufacturers like Trek, Giant, Specialized etc.

    I'm not trying to express my opinion either way, I'm just looking to start a discussion about this. Do you only look at niche brands? Or only at bikes from big companies? Or are they all on the same level? Discuss.
    First, a nit to pick. I wouldn't use the word "niche" - that word implies a specific, limited purpose for the bike. What you're really talking about is a smaller brand that has the same purpose as the bigger brand. For example, a bike with double wide rims for use on sand or snow is a niche bike. A road or mountain bike made by a smaller manufacturer or even a custom manufacturer, but made for general road or trail use, is not a niche bike.

    Anyway, they all make good bikes whether the man on the street has heard of the brand (i.e. the three biggies you mentioned), or smaller brands.

    Me, I'll admit, I always tend toward less known brands just becuase I like that. My three personal bikes are a Felt road bike, a Jamis Cross/Commuter and a Kona mountain bike. None of these brands are obscure in any way, but they're definitely not Specialized, Trek and Giant.

    On the other hand, bikes I bought for my kids and spouse: (1) Giant road bike, (1) Specialized road bike, (1) Bianchi hybrid (2) Giant MTB's and (1) Trek tandem.

    I bought all those bikes mostly because they were available in the correct size locally - either new or used - when I wanted to buy them, no searching or special order required. The exact reason I bought them is that they are large brands and either owned by people (for the used ones) or are well stocked in many sizes and types by the local stores. They are perfectly fine bikes and the price point represented a good value. Since nobody else in my family has my bias and all they want is a bike that works, everyone's happy.

    I don't have a bias against the major brands, it's more than I just happen to have a bias in favor of something a little different than what everyone else has. I'll admit it, that's one (of 3) reasons I bought Time road pedals instead of Shimano or Look. (the other two reasons being price and the float design).

    OK, I do have one negative bias: For some totally irrational reason, I've always had a negative reaction to the Trek brand. This has nothing to do with their recent ascendancy to world wide domination, their corporate brand-buying strategies or the Lance Factor. What it is goes back to their very beginning. I distinctly remember - and I can't tell you why - I just didn't like their initial branding, marketing, or bikes when they very first came out, what in the mid 70's. But like I said, my tandem is Trek and it's a great bike. I've rented Treks several times and they ride and work great.

    But that's the way consumers work - rational and irrational factors involved.
    Last edited by Camilo; 09-19-2011 at 12:37 PM.

  21. #21
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    I bought a Trek and only looked at the major brands because of distance to a niche LBS. Plus, I must admit, I enjoy the fact that Trek is an American company. Yes, I know my bike was made in China but the majority of the money stays in the US. Just like my Harley I wanted to buy an American company bike. Plus the bike is comfortable, in my price range, and has a good warranty/ company to stand behind it.

  22. #22
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    I've had Specialized and Schwinn mountain bikes, but I don't think I've ever had a mainstream road bike. Okay, maybe the Gitane I bought in 1971. I'm just preternaturally disposed to buying more exotic brands.
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  23. #23
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    "A bicycle built by a frame builder has the soul of the builder. A mass-produced frame does not have soul. It does not know anyone." – Giovanni Pelizzoli
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  24. #24
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    I have Trek road bikes and Gary Fisher MTB's. I'm from Minnesota, my friends work in the Trek LBS or the factory in WI- So I've always supported them. Both Trek and Gary Fisher both started off as small Mom & Pops bike companies, so I don't disciminate just because they've been successful and are known world wide. If they didn't make exceptional bikes, they wouldn't be so well known or successful.
    With that being said - I think my next bike will be ordered from a very small, customized bike maker.... Just because. Any suggestions?

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    "A bicycle built by a frame builder has the soul of the builder. A mass-produced frame does not have soul. It does not know anyone." – Giovanni Pelizzoli
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