There is a huge number of money-no-object cycling products on the market as brands set out to showcase their expertise in materials science and engineering; here’s how expensive a bike build can be in 2023 if you opt for the priciest choice for each component…
With the use of the latest fashionable technology – namely, 3D printing – the cost of these stunning showpieces is astronomical compared with competitors, while the performance gains at this tippy top end of the scale are almost certainly marginal. Nevertheless, those brands have still gone all-in to produce some incredibly beautiful and innovative products.
Even if they're not for you, we hope you enjoy taking a look and appreciate the engineering that went into these products which aim to stand out and break the limits.
Now for the rules…
We’ve stuck to products which you can pretty much buy off the shelf. This build doesn’t include anything that’s fully custom-made with no RRP. The frameset we’ve chosen, for example, does have custom tubing but you can see the price as you go through Bespoke Cycling’s bike builder - you can also, of course, buy this as 'frameset only'.
It also all has to fit together. The seatpost needs to be the right diameter for the frameset. The crankset, chain and oversized pulley system have to be compatible with the chosen groupset. All this means it is possible to buy, build and ride this bike... If you have over 30 grand spare.
We thought that the £6,500 Moots Vamoots Disc RSL we reviewed back in 2020 was a serious contender for the most expensive frame… before our buyer’s guide editor John pointed out that in fact the Parlee Z-Zero Disc tops it by some margin.
Featuring custom geometry, custom tube lay-ups as well as tubing made by Parlee in Beverly, Massachusetts, you can buy this frameset with London-based bike fitting specialists Bespoke Cycling.
Parlee says its tube joining process is neither ‘lugged’ nor the traditional ‘tube to tube’ construction method. According to the brand, it’s “more precise, more costly [evidently!] and unmatched in strength”, with only carbon fibres used to fuse each tube to another. Parlee's diagram below shows the visual differences in the techniques.
Compression moulded carbon drops and bearing races in the head tube and bottom bracket has allowed Parlee to reduce the metal content in the Z-Zero to less than 20 grams it claims. “Eliminating metal correctly in any carbon composite structure translates to lighter weight and better durability,” says the brand.
A tapered headtube is usually 1 ⅛” at the top and 1 ½” at the bottom, whereas Parlee has gone for the smaller 1 ¼” at the bottom for a balance that it says provides “strength, safety, performance and lightweight without harshness”.
For a claimed “perceptible increase in stiffness”, these 46cm wide carbon bars have a large 31.8mm cross sectional profile from the bar mounting to the mid section.
To further increase the stiffness of the drop section of the bars, this has been tapered down to a diameter of just 27.5mm, which is notably larger than the usual 24mm - a more comfortable grasp for riders with larger hands is also promised.
This (more expensive) version has a UD (unidirectional) weave which is a more subtle ‘non-woven’ carbon look with all the fibres running in one direction. The image above shows Schmolke's UD finish.
The bars we’ve chosen (above) have a clamping diameter of 31.8mm and can be mounted on stems with four clamping bolts and, thus, work with Schmolke’s TLO carbon stem, made for internal cable routing.
What makes this stem special? “Rather than going the simple way by holding the aluminium nuts by a half round bent plate we are using the ‘loop technology’ where the carbon fibres run fully around the aluminium inserts – allowing for full stiffness,” Schmolke says.
Weighing a claimed 81g, this stem has a 1k carbon finish and is available in 100mm to 120mm for road bike use.
As the stem has four clamping bolts it can be paired with Silca’s super-strong 3D-printed titanium computer mount for a totally overkill, albeit neat, way of finishing off the front end of the bike.
Silca says that it is six to 12 times stronger than aluminium, and is also said to weigh as little as 27g. It can be custom printed to your stem's width and Silca says it will improve aerodynamics, with a claimed saving of 3-6w.
“3D printing lets you have full control over the design of the product compared to traditional CNC methods because it’s possible to also design the interior,” says Silca. “This results in a lighter and stronger product which can be optimised in ways which are not possible by any other method.
“The [Mensola] mount takes full advantage of this by having a latticework inside instead of being made of solid titanium. This design uses techniques and concepts from architecture and aircraft design allowing for maximum strength at minimum weight, and then 3D printing allows these techniques to be applied at a scale far smaller than is possible by any other manufacturing method.”
Instead, SRAM's flagship groupset aiming for the very best performance, is still a pricey addition and means we can add some more expensive alternatives later on too.
When SRAM Red AXS was launched, it provided a radical new approach to gear ratios and succeeded by delivering key benefits. It is a 12-speed groupset offering electronic shifting for 2x or 1x drivetrains, and for this expensive build I have opted for fully hydraulic disc braking.
SRAM has focused on providing a wider range of gears and smaller jumps, with more flexibility to build a groupset to meet a widening band of requirements. "It works really well. Shifting quality is excellent with noticeably faster shifts, and it's also very quiet with the new derailleur and chain," Dave said when he tested the system for us.
The new cassette starts with a 10-tooth sprocket and Dave felt that the most appreciable difference is the increased single-tooth jumps. A 10-28 cassette provides seven single-tooth jumps, compared with four on an 11-28 or 11-30 11-speed cassette.
AXS is SRAM's integration system connecting software to electronic bicycle components. This allows you to personalise controls and customise shifting of the new groupset using the AXS app, like changing the shift button layout from the default and assigning blip buttons.
PS. I've minused £656 for the cost of the SRAM Red AXS crankset and £72 for the chain from the RRP of the groupset in order to add in even more expensive alternatives...
This 3D-printed titanium crankset offers dual-sided power meter measurement with an error of less than 1% claimed for “unparalleled accuracy”, along with no recalibration or regular re-zeroing required.
To calculate a cyclist’s power output, the InfoCrank 3D Ti directly measures torque and cadence from within the crank arms at a rate of 256 times per second, per crank arm. The brand says other power meters measure multiple forces and use mathematical algorithms to estimate power output.
“The crank arm design and strain gauge placement fully isolate the tangential force, which is the only force propelling you forward, and so as with its predecessor the InfoCrank Road there's no need for ongoing recalibration, zeroing, and all the other tricks designed to average out the unavoidable inaccuracy that comes from not directly measuring,” Verve Cycling explains.
As it's 3D-printed in titanium, “world-beating strength” in a lightweight package is also promised.
For stiffness and keeping the weight low, the structural carbon fibre body of these chainrings features CNC machined and shaped "Grade 5 Titanium pins". Every aluminium alloy Al7075 tooth is individually worked to optimise operation in all conditions, according to Carbon-Ti.
The outer 53T ring weighs 85g and the inner 39T is just 34g.
To optimise the overall efficiency of your drivetrain (so we're told), you’re gonna want an oversized pulley wheel system... and luckily CeramicSpeed makes its super premium titanium nitride OSPW to work with Sram Red AXS.
CeramicSpeed says that using it will mean your chain has to bend less to wrap around the pulley wheels, generating less friction and drag compared to a standard setup.
Developed, designed and handbuilt in Denmark, the OSPW has a compact moulded carbon fibre cage to keep the weight low, and this 3D printed version is fitted with CeramicSpeed coated titanium nitride pulley wheels.
They claim that this displays "twice the durability of machine titanium" and leaves the jockey wheels covered in a deep golden hue, which you may say doubles the beauty too.
These OSPW's are a special edition which CeramicSpeed says are truly the best they have to offer.
Offering “unparalleled low friction”, CeramicSpeed claims this racing chain will save you between two and five watts across a distance of around 600km (370 miles).
Following the brand's acquisition of Friction Facts back in November 2016, CeramicSpeed set itself up to test and validate industry claims regarding chain efficiency and frictional savings and says that tests it conducted revealed the UFO chain was the fastest, also over time, compared to Shimano’s 11-speed and Sram’s 12-speed Force chains - you can find more details on how this testing was carried out over here.
These very fancy discs have a central carbon body with a steel braking surface and laser etched titanium fixing rivets.
The braking surface has a special design that Carbon-Ti claims reduces wear of the pads for optimum braking power and heat dissipation.
The 140mm version weighs a claimed 64g and the 160mm is 80g.
There's attention to detail, and there's £280 for a pair of 3D printed lockrings from Sturdy Cycles.
They are titanium with a web design, and are said to weigh 10g each. Oh, and you do have the choice of six different colours.
The Lightweight Fernweg is an aero wheelset that has been based on the concept of the brand's renowned Meilenstein wheel and is claimed to have high stability, a relatively low weight of 1,695g and an optimal weight distribution.
The wheels have 63mm deep full carbon rims and full carbon spokes for efficient power transfer.
“The fight for every single gram can be at the expense of stiffness,” Lightweight notes, and it has chosen to focus on the latter with this tubeless wheelset.
At 80 Newtons per millimetre (N/mm) Lightweight claims that the aerodynamic wheels are on average around 20 N/mm stiffer than comparable aero rims. “The high stiffness of aero wheels ensures agile handling and good acceleration,” says the brand.
Lightweight also claims the Fernweg showed a lower wind sensitivity than comparable competitors in the wind tunnel, even in crosswinds. “This secures valuable seconds and ensures a comfortable ride,” says Lightweight.
The Schwarz Edition also has very lovely stealth black decals, because good looks are definitely important at this mega high price point!
With the use of “aeronautical materials”, Carbon-Ti claims these are the lightest and highest quality thru-axles on the market - the front weighs around 22.5g and the rear, 30g.
The refined laser etched graphic is a neat touch - they’re also available in a wide range of anodised colours to match with the rest of the bike, which is of course of great importance.
The Corsa Pro tyre has been ridden to numerous pro wins since the start of the season with the Italian brand saying it's “the most advanced cotton road tyre ever made”.
This is Vittoria's top-of-the-range racing model which is said to use their latest graphene and silica compound and new electrical vulcanisation process that “allows a seamless application of the tread to the casing”.
The Vittoria Corsa Pro TLR comes in 700C and in 26mm, 28mm, 30mm, 32mm, and 34mm widths, and Vittoria claims a weight of 295g for the Vittoria Corsa Pro TLR in a 28mm width.
It is available as a tubeless-ready option so you can use them with or without inner tubes but for this expensive build we have chosen to run them with tubes.
As we opted for clinchers, now it’s time to pair with some expensive latex. Silca developed these supple tubes with Vittoria and claims latex tubes can save as much as two to five watts per tyre compared with traditional butyl tubes when riding at 30mph.
Latex tubes are also considerably more elastic and this is claimed to make these tubes harder to pinch-flat compared to butyl.
The 42mm valve can be extended to 70mm with the valve extender, and the SpeedShield is claimed to eliminate valve stem rattle as well as improve the aerodynamic performance.
While we could have gone up to £599 for the very fancy THM Mandibula if the seatpost diameter on our Parlee was the standard 27.2mm size, unfortunately it's 31.6mm, so this compatible Enve Inline seatpost at a mere £330 will have to do. It's also super light, weighing just 204g.
This is a zero-offset seatpost (meaning that the saddle is placed directly above the clamp),which is a good option for those who want to be in a more aero riding position.
Titanium components are used for holding your saddle securely in place, while allowing for a saddle angle adjustment of zero to 27 degrees.
A subtle gloss black logo makes this a very neat option too.
To engineer this exquisite fully-carbon racing saddle, Selle Italia partnered with Dallara, the Italian company that makes composite products for Formula One.
The Superflow technology uses a special central relief channel running down the middle section to relieve any pressure or fatigue from around your sit bones.
It also has a neutral shape which is said to be ideal for many types of riders, whether you have a dynamic or more upright riding position.
It also has a ridiculously low weight of 90g for the narrow (S3) option and 100g for the wide (L3) - this is certainly a showcase of all Selle Italia’s expertise.
While we do already benefit from power readings for both legs from the Verve crankset, dual-recording can help you ensure you are getting accurate numbers so you can meaningfully compare over time to gauge your fitness progress (do you think we're cheating by speccing two power meters?).
Look and SRM collaborated to produce the Exakt which has a carbon pedal body along with a durable contact surface made from stainless steel. It’s the spindle that contains all that’s required to provide the accurate power measurement and this has been assembled with an oversized ball bearing and needle to help with the load distribution.
The Exakt is said to record the number of pedal strokes you make in one minute combined with the force you apply on the pedals to give you accurate power output, and also has torque analysis which measures the left and right torque for each pedal stroke to give maximum and minimum values as well as pedal stroke smoothness feedback.
To last you through the worst riding conditions, the Exakt is claimed to be fully waterproof, meeting IPX6 and IPX7 standards thanks to Look’s double sealing system on the inside and end caps.
No, your eyes do not deceive you, this pair of bottle cages are in fact £190, Chris King adding a little bit of bling to your bike whilst holding your bottles securely.
There's no doubt that this seems like an insane amount of money to spend on two bottle cages, but they do come with two titanium straws!
Each Sicuro cage is made from high-quality 6Al/4V titanium, and is hand-bent and laser welded in the USA. At 29g it’s pretty light, and as it’s titanium it’s also pretty tough.
Brooks' leather bar tape has appeal beyond retro builds and classic bikes, thanks to its longevity and good looks.
Constructed from perforated leather, this is a durable and hard-wearing choice to go for.
This is an engraved carbon fibre headset cap that comes in a detailed skull design for a unique finish.
If you have a particular skull that you’d prefer, Kapz says it’ll also be able to cater for that. You just need to upload your design idea image when adding to the basket. Simples.
You can also choose the colour of the titanium bolts too. Gold, please and thank you.
For some final finishing touches, you can match your custom headcap with some custom bar end plugs.
Custom bar end plugs start from £99.95 depending on the complexity of the engraving and the type of bolt. It was only right that these featured a gold stainless steel bolt putting the price up to £119.85.
There are boltless bar end plugs too, also starting at £99.95.
While AbsoluteBlack’s GraphenLube is the most expensive bottle of lube you can buy at a shocking £114.99, Muc-Off’s Ludicrous AF lube is unbelievably expensive per ml. £49.99 gets you just 50ml, and you can expect between 10 to 12 applications, each costing £4 to £5.
To go with this big price, Muc-Off’s big claims are that it offers 18% less power consumption than the nearest competitor - this makes it “world’s fastest lube”, according to the brand.
“When applied to the chain, it penetrates deep into chain links", says Muc-off. "As the chain is used, the molecules react with the surface of the chain, leading to the creation of a fluid sheer plane which helps to reduce friction and thus power loss.”
It’s designed to provide this long-lasting optimum performance, in both wet and damp or dry and dusty conditions at a range of temperatures.
The lube is also biodegradable, petroleum-free and made from renewable sources.
Are there any other upgrades more expensive than these for a road bike build? Let us know in the comments section below...