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  1. #1
    Will ride anywhere cyclist5's Avatar
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    True Cost of Commuting by Bike

    I've heard some people say that all you need is a bike in order to commute. But, to make it a routine thing I say you need much more. For people like me who commute 10-20mi one way I've had to buy things as necessary. The prices are what I assume are low-end. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    Bike: a good road bike so you're commute doesn't take too long - $800
    Helmet: $50
    Panniers: $140
    Seat Pack: $20
    Patch kit + tube: $20
    Clothes (1 set): $100
    Winter Gloves: $30
    Jacket: $120
    Headlights (250lumen x2) : $220
    Blinkies (x3): $75
    Balaclava: $20
    Repair/Maintanence: $???

    These are the items I can't do without. I've tried substituting (like clothes) but for longer rides cycling specific gear is a must.

    Anything to add or correct me on? And let's just say the other few commuters I've seen seem to have spent way more than what I've listed.

  2. #2
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    You seem to be inflating the costs a bit. Here's what it would cost me if I only bought what I figured I "needed":

    Bike: $600 Gary Fisher hybrid
    Helmet: $20 Bell (I wear a $50 Giro, but the Bell is just as safe)
    Panniers: Use a backpack, almost everyone already has one.
    Seat pack: For what? Use the backpack.
    Patch kit + tube: Tubes are 4 bucks, I don't even bother with patches anymore.
    Clothes (1 set): $0, wear normal clothes.
    Winter gloves: $0, don't you already have gloves?
    Jacket: $0, don't you already have a jacket?
    Headlights: 2x300 lumen LED flashlights from DealExtreme and 2 mounts for $40
    Blinkies: $5 a pop from MEC (Canadian company)
    Balaclava: For what? It hits -40C here in the winter and I don't even own a balaclava.
    Repair/Maintenance: Unpredictable, but in 2 years of commuting I think I've spent under $20. I can do almost all repairs with the tools I already own.

    I've spent far more than this on my bike, but that was just out of personal preference. For example, I bought a new wheelset for $300 and put gatorskins on my wheels, but that wasn't required.

  3. #3
    Hrumph! El Duderino X's Avatar
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    Hmm... lessee, based on my own experience so far:

    Base cost:
    Bike $750.00
    Helmet $40
    MEC trunk bag $35
    seat post rack $35
    patch kit + tube $15
    Clothes - except for jackets/wet weather gear I don't wear any other bike specific gear so I have to split this up
    wet weather jacket $150
    wet weather pants (Rainlegs) $45 (IIRC)
    wet weather gloves/shoe covers $50
    Cycling jacket $50
    headlight Planet Bike Blaze $15 (paid $170 for 300 lumen (?) Cygolight but I really don't think that powerful a light is necessary for every commuter).
    tail light Planet Bike Superflash $15

    So, in total and at the barest of necessity, around $1,200.00 give or take a hundred or two. There is a lot of room for flexibility based on one's own wants and (perceived) needs. It could all be done much cheaper than this.
    Last edited by El Duderino X; 05-08-11 at 10:18 AM.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member mikeybikes's Avatar
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    Denver B-Cycle card: $65/yr

    That's all I need to commute by bicycle. Everything else for me is because I want it.

    This forum way over complicates things sometimes.
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  5. #5
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclist5 View Post
    I've heard some people say that all you need is a bike in order to commute. But, to make it a routine thing I say you need much more. For people like me who commute 10-20mi one way I've had to buy things as necessary. The prices are what I assume are low-end. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    Bike: a good road bike so you're commute doesn't take too long - $800
    Helmet: $50
    Panniers: $140
    Seat Pack: $20
    Patch kit + tube: $20
    Clothes (1 set): $100
    Winter Gloves: $30
    Jacket: $120
    Headlights (250lumen x2) : $220
    Blinkies (x3): $75
    Balaclava: $20
    Repair/Maintanence: $???

    These are the items I can't do without. I've tried substituting (like clothes) but for longer rides cycling specific gear is a must.

    Anything to add or correct me on? And let's just say the other few commuters I've seen seem to have spent way more than what I've listed.
    You are overestimating/overpaying on several things. Panniers can be found for way less than $140, depending on quality. You could even avoid using them altogether. In nearly 3000 rides to work, I've used panniers only a few times. A rack bag can be stuffed with clothes, lunch and winter clothes for those days when you start out freezing and end up frying

    I've got 5 or 6 jackets in my closet and I've never paid more than $60 for any one of them...including the rain stuff.

    $20 for tubes and patches I've got tubes with 25 patches on them that didn't cost me $20. Rema Tip Top patch kits cost around $3 and a tube shouldn't be more than that.

    All of your costs (~$1600) pales in comparison to the cost of an automobile, however. If you drive an intermediate sized car 20 miles per day getting 20 mpg and work a normal 260 days a year, your cost to operate the car per year are $4060 without a car payment. If you ride to work half time, your costs drop $2030. You are $430 to the good
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  6. #6
    snob rogwilco's Avatar
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    You buy ****ing expensive accessories, cyclist5. For example, $220 lights? I'm perfectly happy with my €20 LEDs which I didn't even have to change batteries on yet in 5 years. And I've never bought any special clothing for cycling, let alone commuting (although I don't commute as far you do, granted).

  7. #7
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Cost of commuting

    Not necessarily so much. I've been commuting three years, 20 miles round trip for one year (it was shorter the first two, but I was car-free those years)

    Bike: a good road bike so you're commute doesn't take too long - $129 (I normally do the 10 miles back in 32 minutes, fast enough for my purposes)
    Helmet: $19
    Panniers: $0 - 2 zipper fabric bags slung over rack
    aero tailbox: $15 material cost
    Patch kit + tube: $10
    Clothes (1 set): no special clothes needed
    Winter Gloves: already owned
    Jacket: already owned
    Headlights: $20 (LED mag light)
    Blinkies : $8 (simple circuit with bright LED)
    Repair/Maintanence: ~$100 (three years, including lube, tires etc).

    It comes to around $100/year.

  8. #8
    Middle-Aged Member MikeyBoyAz's Avatar
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    +1 on the cycling specific clothing not needed. Most commuter bikes don't come with super-performance saddles and reaching 20+ the whole time is not the goal... so a comfortable saddle with proper fitting pants/shorts are fine. Personally I use a backpack with the nifty air flow pad where it contacts my back, and as long as I don't push it to the extreme it is not uncomfortable. As for tubes a patches: unless you are riding through a thorn field there shouldn't be a problem, and there is always slime (or liquid latex). Granted, if you are shopping at REI those prices are likely lowballing it.
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  9. #9
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    There's no doubt commuting by bike can be expensive; especially if you buy quality. However, if you buy good stuff it lasts a long time and eventually begins to pay for itself. I tend to look at things a bit differently. For example, instead of asking what's the true cost commuting ? I ask, what's the true cost of NOT commuting? Higher blood pressure, increase weight, pot belly, reduced energy, less happy, ect. The list goes on. My reasons for commuting by bike, and the benefits I receive, go far beyond a cost benefit analysis.

  10. #10
    Team Water Andy_K's Avatar
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    It's very telling that people regularly start with the cost of a new bike when figuring the cost of commuting by bike, but just assume that you already own a car when calculating the comparison cost. If I figured the cost of commuting by car starting with the $12000 I spent on my car, everyone would say I was cheating. If I threw in interest payments over five years, they'd really say I was cheating.

  11. #11
    I'm Carbon Curious 531phile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclist5 View Post
    I've heard some people say that all you need is a bike in order to commute. But, to make it a routine thing I say you need much more. For people like me who commute 10-20mi one way I've had to buy things as necessary. The prices are what I assume are low-end. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    Bike: a good road bike so you're commute doesn't take too long - $800
    Helmet: $50
    Panniers: $140
    Seat Pack: $20
    Patch kit + tube: $20
    Clothes (1 set): $100
    Winter Gloves: $30
    Jacket: $120
    Headlights (250lumen x2) : $220
    Blinkies (x3): $75
    Balaclava: $20
    Repair/Maintanence: $???

    These are the items I can't do without. I've tried substituting (like clothes) but for longer rides cycling specific gear is a must.

    Anything to add or correct me on? And let's just say the other few commuters I've seen seem to have spent way more than what I've listed.
    If you shop at a swap meet the cost would be like:

    Bike: a good road bike so you're commute doesn't take too long - $400
    Helmet: $25
    Panniers: $60
    Seat Pack: $10
    Patch kit + tube: $8
    Clothes (1 set): $40
    Winter Gloves: $10
    Jacket: $40
    Headlights (250lumen x2) : $150 (most likely won't be able to find these)
    Blinkies (x3): $40
    Balaclava: $10
    Repair/Maintanence: $???

    Quote Originally Posted by avner View Post
    I loled. Twice. Then I cried. Then I rubbed one out and cried again, but thanks for sharing.

  12. #12
    I'm Carbon Curious 531phile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy_K View Post
    It's very telling that people regularly start with the cost of a new bike when figuring the cost of commuting by bike, but just assume that you already own a car when calculating the comparison cost. If I figured the cost of commuting by car starting with the $12000 I spent on my car, everyone would say I was cheating. If I threw in interest payments over five years, they'd really say I was cheating.
    That's right. On paper, it will almost always be cheaper to commute by bike than car, but what if your time was really valuable to you? Say you make like $150/hr. Then saving time by driving rather than commuting would be better, but then you would not get the health benefits of commuting so it is a balancing act. One has to weigh the pros and cons and see what is your priority in life: live a healthy lifestyle? or make loads of money fast and then die of a heart attack right before you retire?

    Quote Originally Posted by avner View Post
    I loled. Twice. Then I cried. Then I rubbed one out and cried again, but thanks for sharing.

  13. #13
    snob rogwilco's Avatar
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    ^^
    Assuming you aren't actually quicker by bike than by car.

  14. #14
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    If you go out and buy all the stuff, you don't already own a bike, then you can figure is one way.
    How ever, if you already own a bike and the related things, you have to figure it another.

    Any bike will get to to work. Around here MTB's are the bike of choice for commuters. There
    are paved trails every where. There are short cuts that the MTB work best on.

    If you wear the jacket or gloves at other times, you can't count them in the cost. If you use the bike
    for a weekend ride, you have to adjust your figures.

    A $300 bike and $100 in extras will get you to work safely for a long time. Figure a min. of $30 a week
    for gas and it gets real cheap in a rush. How many things in this day and age can give you a 100% return
    on your investment in 90 days??

  15. #15
    Senior Member travelmama's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeybikes View Post
    Denver B-Cycle card: $65/yr

    That's all I need to commute by bicycle. Everything else for me is because I want it.

    This forum way over complicates things sometimes
    .
    This is the truth. Bike gear can be pieced purchased to get the best deal when available and does not have to be over analyzed. Furthermore, I don't think a price can be put on commuting by bike because everyone has different needs, distances and jobs to come up with numbers.
    Two Wheels One Love

  16. #16
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rogwilco View Post
    You buy ****ing expensive accessories, cyclist5. For example, $220 lights? I'm perfectly happy with my 20 LEDs which I didn't even have to change batteries on yet in 5 years. And I've never bought any special clothing for cycling, let alone commuting (although I don't commute as far you do, granted).
    Clothing is a personal choice. It depends on the individual and their comfort level. For winter commuting with temperatures below -10 C, bicycle clothing makes the commute far more comfortable and less hazardous to your health. For riding in temperature of over 30C, bicycle clothing makes the commute far more comfortable and less hazardous to your health.

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeyBoyAz View Post
    +1 on the cycling specific clothing not needed. Most commuter bikes don't come with super-performance saddles and reaching 20+ the whole time is not the goal... so a comfortable saddle with proper fitting pants/shorts are fine. Personally I use a backpack with the nifty air flow pad where it contacts my back, and as long as I don't push it to the extreme it is not uncomfortable. As for tubes a patches: unless you are riding through a thorn field there shouldn't be a problem, and there is always slime (or liquid latex). Granted, if you are shopping at REI those prices are likely lowballing it.
    I doubt that there is a 'most' when it comes to commuter bikes. I've personally commuted on everything from pure high end titanium race bikes to low end steel mountain bikes. I've seen people commute on carbon fiber race bikes, single speed cruisers, touring bikes, unicycles and 1944 Whizzers. Whatever works.

    Goals are different too. While reaching work and coming home may be the overall goal, there's nothing that says you have to do it at any given speed or exertion level. I sometimes do want to reach 20+ mile per hour. Sometimes I want to ride over mountains (without roads) to get home. Sometimes I want to go 30 miles out of my way to get home. And, sometimes but not too often, I just want to cruise home without pushing it much. My inner competitor usually doesn't allow that to happen and I'll try to hack out a spleen when I see someone in front of me but, occasionally, I'll mellow out

    From what I've observed of others on my rides home...you recognize the rasping breath and that characteristic gurgle and the spleens littering the roadways..., I suspect many people are the same way
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  17. #17
    Truck Driver Totaled108's Avatar
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    +1 to mikeybikes thoughts on the matter

    Everyone has different priorities. If you have a long commute and are for sure going to sweat because you want to haul butt. Cycling specific clothing will leave you FAR happier during the ride and at the end. I have biked 13 miles each way to work in many different types of attire, by far, bike shorts and either wool or cycling jerseys are the way to go. The cotton, which I have used, just flat out feels horrible when sweating into.

    Panniers are going to be far more comfortable, but a normal backpack will do, unless you have thing you don't want to get wet, from your sweet and rain. At which point you would be happier with a nice water proof bag $$.

    Oh, and try not to be wasteful and lazy, all you need is one extra tube. When you get a flat swap it out on the road. When you get 5 minutes at home or work, in a nice warm space, where you can relax and clean up, patch the tube you took out so you have a perfectly good replacement again. No need to go to the store between flats or stock piling tubes.

    Enough with the chit chat, go ride!!
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  18. #18
    Team Water Andy_K's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 531phile View Post
    That's right. On paper, it will almost always be cheaper to commute by bike than car, but what if your time was really valuable to you? Say you make like $150/hr.
    If you look at your life according to what your time is worth per hour then you probably desperately need the stress relief that a bicycle can provide.

  19. #19
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    I've spent way more than the OP on bike commuting stuff, but biking is also my main sport and hobby. I bike to work because I love cycling, not because it's cheaper or anything like that. However, it's still cheaper than buying, fueling, insuring, parking, and maintaining a second car and better for the environment too, so it's an easy position to defend.

  20. #20
    Hrumph! El Duderino X's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    From what I've observed of others on my rides home...you recognize the rasping breath and that characteristic gurgle and the spleens littering the roadways..., I suspect many people are the same way
    Damn it. I knew that the high impact splat I heard on the way in this morning signified me losing something. Should've gone back to retrieve it.
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by El Duderino X View Post
    Damn it. I knew that the high impact splat I heard on the way in this morning signified me losing something. Should've gone back to retrieve it.
    Hell no, think of the weight you are saving! Beats drilling holes in your CF bottle holder.

  22. #22
    Senior Member dynodonn's Avatar
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    I try to limit my bicycling budget to an average of 100 dollars a month per year, sometimes it's easily done, others times it's a very tight stretch, especially in years when I purchase a new bike.

  23. #23
    Will ride anywhere cyclist5's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeffpoulin View Post
    I've spent way more than the OP on bike commuting stuff, but biking is also my main sport and hobby. I bike to work because I love cycling, not because it's cheaper or anything like that. However, it's still cheaper than buying, fueling, insuring, parking, and maintaining a second car and better for the environment too, so it's an easy position to defend.
    +1. I ride because I love it. Biking to work/school is just a bonus. Actually it costs me. Say it takes me 15min longer to get to work by bike. Well that's 30min/day x 4 days = 2hrs = $30. Gas being 1gal/day means it's $20. But it's silly to argue it costs use $10/wk when you're health is priceless

    As for the stuff about clothes, I tried, honestly for years, to cycle in normal clothes, even clothing that's breathable and not cycling/cheaper. But I can't commute and be all sweaty and waste time showering at work/school because of it. Riding my bike takes enough time, I can't add 10min showering every day after a bike ride. If I wear a jersey and shorts I can hop off, put a layer on top, and go to wherever. There is no price on quality. I'd rather be poor and ride pleasantly than save money and buy crappy items.

  24. #24
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    As a complete cycling noob in my mid-30's who *just* started commuting to work by bike, I can only offer these nuggets.

    1) Nobody will convince me it's expensive to ride a bicycle compared to a car...*any* car. If I were to spend on cycling what I spent on my vehicle, well, even the wealthiest guys in my suburb would be envious of my 2-wheelers and gear.
    2) Commuting costs me $0 except for the Gatorades I suck down at the end of each 10-mi commute I'm a complete noob to this road biking thing and everything I needed for commuting I had already purchased to make recreational cycling more pleasurable.

  25. #25
    Senior Member swwhite's Avatar
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    I ride 12.6 miles round drip. If I drive, the fastest route by highway is 14.4 miles. The price of gasoline as reached the point where I save a firm $2.25 per day in gasoline cost if I ride. That works out to be about $45 a month or about $500 a year. So biking isn't free, but I don't spend $500 a year on it.

    I DID spend a lot when I bought the bike and related gear, but I spent a lot more when I bought the car.

    As for the value of my time, the amount of time I spend riding is about the same as the amount of time I could spend driving PLUS exercising for the obligatory 60 minutes a day. So that evens out.
    Riding in search of the simple life.

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