There is an increasing 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 2022 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 no doubt astronomic compared to competitors, whilst 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 actually buy, build and ride this bike, if you have 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.
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 hawt 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 designs made by traditional methods, and it also weighs as little as 33g.
“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.”
The bike would not be complete without the performance-focused 12-speed electronic groupset from Italy’s Campagnolo. In its hydraulic disc brake guise, it is the most expensive production groupset ever made.
Campag claim the motors on its front mech are the strongest on the market, allowing you to shift fluidly under extremely heavy loads without issue. “I made as many unwise decisions as I could on the test loop, such as dropping to the small ring at the bottom of a hill, changing it up and down while cross-chaining and leaving it till I could barely push the pedals going uphill before shifting down, and there were no issues to report,” Jack said when he tested the system for us.
Campag says this accurate shifting performance is also down to its D.T.I. Auto Repositioning technology, that knows what the rear derailleur position is and selected sprocket at all times to keep the front mech in the ideal place.
Then the electronic rear derailleur mimics the Embrace technology of the mechanical Super Record, which increases chain wrap over each single sprocket in individual shifting positions. The Embrace tech is designed to provide better power transfer and reduce wear and tear on the transmission, with the chain positioning itself vertically closer to the cassette.
The ergonomics of Campag’s levers are unrivalled. The thumb-actuated shifters are placed in a really intuitive position, and make a nice clunky clicking noise when you shift.
Also with Campag’s multishift tech you can shift all the way up or down the cassette in one go by just holding down continuously on the right lever or thumb-actuated lever- it certainly moves rapidly and is a nice weapon to have in your shifting arsenal.
PS. I've minused £853 for the cost of the Campagnolo's Super Record EPS crankset, and £114 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 OSPW to work with Campag’s 12-speed EPS. 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 pulley wheels.
The system has three spring tension settings to choose from for the optimal setup based on riding conditions.
CeramicSpeed has a coated version which includes a thin metallic layer that covers the races of the bearings and provides even lower friction and longer lifetime, so much so that CeramicSpeed now covers this one with a lifetime warranty.
Offering “unparalleled low friction”, CeramicSpeed claims this racing chain will save you between two and five watts across a distance of around 650km (400 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.
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.
These lightweight clincher tyres are recommended for rims with an inner width of between 15 and 22mm - the Lightweight wheels we have gone for are 18.2mm, and so these work splendidly.
The casing is claimed to roll smoothly over surface irregularities, while the tread is claimed to have enough thickness in the centre to last well but is thin and supple on the shoulders where it doesn’t wear.
To keep the weight low, you can go for the version with the extralight casing - these tyres weigh just 229g each.
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 £290 will have to do. It's also super light, weighing just 204g.
This is a zero-offset seatpost which means 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.
“It is a carbon fibre chassis for your sit bones that's jaw-droppingly expensive, breathtakingly light, beautifully finished and actually surprisingly comfortable,” Simon concluded when he reviewed the saddle for us.
The SP-01 design consists of two rear sections which are separate from each other and are designed to operate like independent suspension with the movement of the hips, allowing greater freedom of pedalling, lateral flexion and shock absorption for ultimate comfort.
The wide central cutout is designed to reduce perineal numbness, while the shorter length of the Boost model should help make riding in the drops more comfortable.
It also has a ridiculously low weight of 117g for the size small and 120g for the size large - 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 really help you ensure you are getting accurate numbers so you can meaningfully compare over time to gauge your fitness progress.
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.
There’s no doubt that this seems like an insane amount of money to spend on two bottle cages, but you’ll probably never have to buy another again as these gorgeous pieces will look like new forever thanks to the highly abrasion-resistant Cerakote ceramic coating.
Each Sicuro cage is made from high-quality 3Al/2.5V titanium, and is hand-bent and laser welded in the USA - at 33g it’s pretty light, and as it’s titanium it’s pretty tough too.
The Cerakote ceramic coating that’s also used in aerospace, military and biomedical applications is just a mere 1 micron thick, and is designed to provide additional protection from abrasion. It's also said that by protecting the underlying surface, Cerakote also improves fatigue resistance by preventing the titanium from stress cracks.
Subtly good looking, impervious to marking and does the job of holding your bottles securely, this thing of beauty is also super tough so it’ll last you. The only downside is that the black coating does hide the visual appeal of raw titanium. Shame. But you can't quite have it all...
Constructed from perforated leather, this is a durable and hard-wearing choice to go for, plus it’s undeniable good looks.
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.
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.
Let us know in the comments below if you know of any upgrades we can make for an even more expensive performance road bike build. Which, if any, of these specs choices would you consider as a upgrade?