Understanding Spec Level Estimates

99 Spokes analyzes the build material and quality level of the frame, fork, wheelset, groupset, suspension system, and more to estimate the overall spec level of each bike.

Motivation

“Which of these bikes is the best deal?”, “What other bikes should I be considering?”, “What’s the best beginner mountain bike within my budget?” Bike geeks around the world answer questions like these for friends and family all the time. Cycling forums and social media channels are flooded with them. At 99 Spokes, we set out to build tools to help answer these questions.

How it works

We break down everything we know about a bike’s specs — frame, fork, wheels, groupset components, brake type, suspension system, etc, and assign scores to each component or feature based on the quality level of the component and intended use of the bike. Combining the scores for the various components produces an overall “spec level” of a particular bike build. Economical builds with entry-level components will generally get lower spec levels, and high-end builds with expensive components and other upgrades will generally score higher. Charting the spec level against the price of the bike makes it easy to understand if a bike provides a high or low value at its price point — a bike that appears higher on the spec level scale at a particular price point comes with better overall components than a bike that appears lower on the scale at that same price.

Caveats

Everyone has their own personal preferences and opinions when it comes to bikes. How can we distill an entire bike down to just one number? The honest answer is that we can’t. These are only estimates made using the information available to us. Wherever possible, our calculations are based on data like standalone groupset pricing. In the more subjective areas like frame material, we’ve carefully chosen weights based on cycling discipline and price point that we think best reflect the opinions of the majority of riders. We think every bike is awesome for one reason or another. Our goal isn’t to assign labels to bikes, it’s to help people find bikes they love. We hope this helps.

Examples