I have had one long mother of a morning finishing the Wheelhouse custom Shimano configurator in the pre-order store. We did custom builds last year also, through a lot of email and telephone back and forth with customers, to help them figure out how much adding these bars would be, or what they'd save if they had their own saddle. We love talking to our customers, but the internet is as uniquely qualified as we are to tell you that swapping from a Thompson Masterpiece seatpost to a Deda Superzero will cost you an extra $98. So we built the configurators for SRAM and Shimano custom builds (Campy is next) to press the internet into service, letting you know what parts are available for your custom builds, and how much each adds to or subtracts from the price.
After it was done, Dave and I had a(nother) conversation about pricing today. We played with the configurator a bit to see how complete bikes at nice specs price out. A full Ultegra Wheelhouse, with a Ritchey WCS cockpit, Thompson Masterpiece post, and our 1480g FSW 23 wheels comes in at $2485. Upgrade the gruppo to Dura-Ace and you're at $3522. We looked around to see where other Ultegra and Dura-Ace bikes came in, mostly to evaluate our pricing against the rest of the industry.
It turns out, we're not always the least expensive. There are other "Ultegra" bikes available that are less than $2485. In some cases, the only Ultegra is in the shifters and rear derailleur. We can't fault that strategy, as strategic substitutions are how we build so much value into the Max Perkins (except with SRAM). Only we don't call the Max Perkins a SRAM Force bike. When pressed, we call it a Force / Rival mix, but we actually gave it its own name (after an editor of course) because the build philosophy was not to crib off the positioning of a certain gruppo, but to select the best combination of value and performance we could find for a bike. Period.
The other (and more common) way Ultegra bikes come in at a lower price point is to spec with a full Ultegra gruppo, but then put on 1850g Shimano RS-10 wheels, and cheap house or OEM bars, stem and post which add a lot of weight and siphon off a lot of stiffness. We don't do that. There isn't a lot of value in saving $200 on a bike, if you then have to put $500 into a decent wheelset and another $100-$200 into a cockpit to make it race ready. Our philosophy is that we will never sell a bike with equipment that's not ready to compete at a high level, right out of the box.
So if you root around in our custom configurators, you'll see that everything in there is of a quality racers would happily be relying on when the bell rings with 1 to go. We start with a base price which reflects a spec at the minimum we consider to be competition quality, and allow you to select comparable or upgraded parts from there. A 1850g wheelset or 320g bars are simply not an option for us. We'd never race them, and are not going to try to sneak them into your value-priced build.
But if you do have your own wheels or bars already that you'd like to use, you can simply select "Not one of these" in the configurator and we'll credit you back for those parts. Yes the Max Perkins is our best value in a complete bike, but if you've already got a stem, seatpost, saddle and bars you like, go custom and just get what you need. We think you should pay for what's important - and duplicates of the stuff you already have may not be so important to everyone.
Editing is a big part of what we do. Ours is a market where it's pretty easy to get stymied by choices, and informed buying decisions can require a level of expertise that's unreasonable to expect from every customer, on every purchase. We make a point of editing out the crap that allows our products to hit a price point by wasting your money, and editing in an array of choices in wheels, bars, stems, posts, gruppos, powermeters, everythang that give you enough choice to set up your dream bike, confident that none of the options available to you is some kind of mistake or bad deal.