High Quality Bikes usually carry a hefty price tag. Are they worth the price?
For starters, high quality has it's advantages. Reliability and Longevity. Higher levels of creature comfort better components means a better riding experience.
Cheap bikes are great because the low purchase price. They are usually adequate for the task but suffer from breakdowns and short lifespans.
Lets consider 2 purchases.
A high quality bike that costs $4,000 vs the $500 cheap bike.
Both bikes have 2 wheels - quality bike has quick release sealed bearings with stainless steel spokes, double walled alloy rims vs. stamped ball and race steel spokes with lug nuts and steel rims. Get a flat one is tool-less the other you need to carry a wrench. One is sealed from the elements the other open. Spokes and rims that never rust vs. rusty rims and spokes - yes rust weakens spokes over time. The better wheels usually carry better bearings that roll easier with less drag, the opposite is true for the less expensive wheels. Is it worth 8 times more to roll farther and not have to carry a wrench? Lets consider one last variable - longevity. A high quality wheel usually has a long lifespan and is durable. One thing less to worry about on long rides and constant use. What is the value in that?
High quality bikes have a feel and ride quality that comes with higher level components. Cheap bikes ride like cheap bikes. Brakes are a big part of this ride quality coefficient. High quality bikes come with great brakes that stop on a dime not so much for the cheap bikes. If your safety has a price tag what is that worth? These days ONE trip NOT to any ER and the price of that expensive bike is paid off in a heartbeat. Don't stop in time and get hit by a car... what you saved on the cheap bike can go for the bills.
Better quality derailleurs shift better. Miss a shift and bang a shin... ouch... but you saved a bag of money on that cheap bike.
Long rides and comfort. Most cyclist eventually set a long distance goal for a ride. Some may look to break into the century range, others just want to get someplace slightly farther than the last one. Either way riding position and frame dynamics come into play. A bike that absorbs more of the bumps the road throws at it's rider makes longer rides possible. A bike that puts the rider in a comfortable position causes less fatigue. The more the bike can be fitted to its rider, the better the rider can enjoy it.
High quality bikes have high quality frames, usually made of aluminum or carbon fiber these materials make for a better ride. Internal routing of cables keeps them out of the way and makes for a clean look. Cheap bikes don't offer these features.
Looks are only as important as the savings. To knowledgeable cyclist what a bike looks like is often a tell of it's owners prowess. Some folks buy expensive bikes so they can look cool riding them. If you don't mind looking like a cheap bike then saving the money is fine.
What you get out of a bike is mostly what you put into it. Little investment - little output. Big investment - big output. Expensive bikes can be ridden daily with little sign of wear and tear. Cheap bikes wear out fast and once they get to a certain point repairs cost more than the bike is worth. A high quality bike can last a life time. They can be repaired and maintained making them more reliable. Cheap bikes are replaced once something wears out or breaks. Quality bikes don't break as often and can be relied on to be there in a pinch. Cheap bikes usually pinch you in the time they are needed most. One can be a trusted friend, the other an uncertain ally.
Lets do some math. The initial purchase price of the quality bike is $4000. It has a trouble free service life of 40,000 miles - tires and other wear components not considered. For someone that enjoys cycling that distance is not out of the question. The cheap bike is $500, it has a trouble free service life of a few thousand miles, 3,000 miles. to go 40,000 miles on cheap bikes you'd need to buy 14 of them, or spend $7000. You get little comfort and reliability and ride quality for more money.
The first thing that usually goes bad on a cheap bike are the wheels. Cheap replacements are available and usually last just as long. Wobbly, rusty wheels are not fun to ride on. Add to this questionable brakes and gearing and one has to ask, what is it the cheap bike owner trying to save? If 2 or 3 rides a year is all one does than the cheap bike is an easy choice. More often than not, the cheap bike is a gateway to cycling and the eventual purchase of a quality bike to enjoy and keep for many rides and years to come.
There are plenty of used high quality bikes available for a great savings and potentially the best way to keep safe, enjoy both the high quality ride and components. If the bike you like is a new model then stepping up to pay the big bucks is probably the only way to get it sooner than later.
Only you know what kind of riding you do and what will suit your needs the best. For those that ride a lot, the safety, comfort and reliability of the quality bike can't be beat, that's why it costs more.