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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 02-28-12, 12:09 PM   #26
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Instead of fussing over how many years you should take to amortise your bike purchases and worrying about whether bikes and tools need to be amortised over different periods, why not just take a simplistic perspective?

Let's say you buy an $1200 bike and $400 worth of accessories (pump, helmet, spare tube, multitool, panniers etc). I pulled those numbers out of the air so put whatever numbers work for you in there.

Then add in a notional amount for maintenance, let's say $100/year to replace chain, cassette, any tubes you puncture, whatever.

From there you can see that at the end of year 1 you're down $1700, year 2 $1800, year 3 $1900 and so on.
What this really fails to take into account is the N+1 factor. Of course, that formula is itself a simplification because at some point you have to add in the cost of a bigger garage (or possibly alimony payments if you were married when you bought the first bike).
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Old 02-28-12, 12:11 PM   #27
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What's the price of "happy face" after my 18 mile commute ? My fuel is coffee, juice and oatmeal, pretty good miles per gram. So , no I really don't have a budget. I have 8 bikes, I just need one more
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Old 02-28-12, 12:26 PM   #28
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Using 50 cents per mile saved in gas and maintenance, this year's commuting mileage is just now equal to what it cost me to put my new bike together. From here out it's just profit.
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Old 02-28-12, 12:41 PM   #29
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Switching to bike commuting allowed me to get rid of one of two vehicles, which amounts to about $750 per month of payment, gas and insurance.
My current commuter, if I were to build it fresh (rather than using some parts that I had on hand) would cost me $3k or so, plus my "fair weather" bike at $2,500 or so. I was dead even after 7 months.

We're now going even more car-lite with an older paid off car so we can sell our other financed vehicle. All told, getting rid of out two financed cars (nothing fancy, $17-20k each, used vehicles) will free up a total of over $1150 per month in costs. Cool.

At that point the cost comparison is more in line with the OP's - now my points of reference are much lower (annual car maintenance, cheap insurance rate, gas, transit pass/tickets, etc).
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Old 02-28-12, 12:46 PM   #30
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My point exactly (if not clearly communicated!)

Unless your alternate scenario is walking, bike commuting is essentially free over almost any non-zero time period.
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Old 02-28-12, 12:55 PM   #31
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Switching to bike commuting allowed me to get rid of one of two vehicles, which amounts to about $750 per month of payment, gas and insurance.
My current commuter, if I were to build it fresh (rather than using some parts that I had on hand) would cost me $3k or so, plus my "fair weather" bike at $2,500 or so. I was dead even after 7 months.

We're now going even more car-lite with an older paid off car so we can sell our other financed vehicle. All told, getting rid of out two financed cars (nothing fancy, $17-20k each, used vehicles) will free up a total of over $1150 per month in costs. Cool.
This is where the financing of my N+1 habit gets easy. Before I got into cycling, I was a car buying junky (something I inherited from my dad), and that's an expensive habit. I used to get a new (to me) car about every two years and I always had a car payment. As long as the payment didn't go up too terribly much, I was happy. Now, I've got a nine year old car with 25000 miles on it sitting in the driveway and $7000 worth of bikes (six of 'em, still half the sticker price of the car) in the garage. The kicker is that the total resale value of the bikes is more than the resale value of the car right now.
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Old 02-28-12, 01:09 PM   #32
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Now, I've got a nine year old car with 25000 miles on it sitting in the driveway and $7000 worth of bikes (six of 'em, still half the sticker price of the car) in the garage. The kicker is that the total resale value of the bikes is more than the resale value of the car right now.
$14,000 is a very cheap car new, and quite reasonable used, car these days, too. You can easily justify claiming you're below 1/3 of the sticker price of the 'average' new car which is upwards of $25,000, as I understand it.

I definitely don't bike commute to save money, at this point, though that is where I started. Today I used my bike to 'save' $4.50 in parking cost at metro, which was what made me decide to start bike commuting, when I was severely under-employed, and money was really tight. I still do that a couple or three times a month (like today). For that purpose I spent ~$80 on the bike itself (a used Kona NuNu circa 1999 or so). And I spent around $100 getting it overhauled by my LBS. Oh, and I spent ~$20 last month putting fenders on said bike because I wanted my rear end to stay clean on that short ride to metro. I'll have to put some money into maintenance soon, but for now she rides pretty well, and if that was still my daily routine, she'd more than pay for herself.

But that's just one of my bikes; mostly my back-up, park at metro, I won't cry if it gets stolen, ride with the kids, take to the beach, etc... bike.

Then there is my usual commuter, for which I paid $600 as a year end close out. Plus lots of money for accessories, like a rack, panniers, bell, airzound, GPS mount, phone mount, pump, fenders, locks, lights, reflective decals/tape, clipless pedals etc... - probably ~$350-500? Much of this stuff was bought used, on clearance, etc... but I probably have twice as much of it as I 'need' (but don't tell my wife, because I promise her that I 'need' all this stuff, and that it saves us money when I bike commute).

Now, not completely a commuting expense, is the cost of clothing, shoes, helmets, etc... I'd guess at another $500-600? Oh, and then there's the rack I use when I multi-mode using the car for part of the commute ($160 between two used racks), but I also use that when I take bikes on vacation, go MTBing, or such, so I should probably get to allocate a portion of that cost...

Then there's the road bike that I do not plan to use for commuting very often...

Of course, now that Congress has cut the transit subsidy well below my monthly transit cost (if I used it every day), I'm back to 'saving money' by biking for real, if you don't count up how much I've spent...

Let's see: my transit cost is ~$10.50/ day on metro (I could add another couple of bucks if I took the bus to get closer to home...), and I go into the office 4 days a week, so that's $42/ week, or $2100/ year (figuring two weeks/year vacation) My transit subsidy covers all but $600 of that. But if I didn't have a bike, I'd either have to pay for parking, pay for aforementioned bus, or spend an extra 1/2 hour walking each way, so I can claim somewhere between another $400-900 a year using the 'hard' costs.

If I drove to work, using $.55/ mile, it would be $5500, but I'm not carfree, so I can't possibly claim that as savings. Gas allocated solely to commuting would cost me roughly $2200 of that, but if I back out my current multi-mode days, I can probably only count $1500 or so of that.

But if we back out the cost in therapy that I'm not getting, and the blood pressure and cholesterol meds I'm not taking, and the heart attack I haven't had, etc... I think cycle commuting saves me an enormous amount, right?
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Old 02-28-12, 01:11 PM   #33
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Just do push ups while you are riding. The more aggressive riding position the better. Just watch out for traffic.
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Old 02-28-12, 01:16 PM   #34
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Just do push ups while you are riding. The more aggressive riding position the better. Just watch out for traffic.
Or do curls with a U-lock while riding.
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Old 02-28-12, 01:50 PM   #35
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I'll admit the goal is a bit arbitrary, certainly I could afford to spend more but something feels right about commuting for 'free'. So I'm curious, do any other BF commuters share the same goal and what is your budget?
I was almost able to break even the first couple of years, but it wasn't as fun as it could have been. I bought a few Craigslist clunkers and tried to keep them going, and also bought a $550.00 lightweight hybrid bike. I have a pretty long daily commute, and it wasn't an extremely comfortable ride on a small budget. The inexpensive bikes just weren't good enough for so many miles to cover in a short amount of time, on such hilly terrain, without feeling like I just got my butt kicked.

I'm going for return on investment this year. I just bought a new $1500.00 touring style bike, with the hope that the better ride will make the long trips more comfortable, and the higher quality will last longer without repair.
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Old 02-28-12, 02:26 PM   #36
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This thread is making my head spin. No disrespect intended, but Y'all sure love to crunch the cycling numbers around here. I get why, I just don't bother. My data is blowing in the wind.

I've got to go feed my unicorn under the rainbow now.
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Old 02-28-12, 05:22 PM   #37
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Hello fellow commuters -

I'm riding out my cheap bike for the winter and going to get a new one start of the season. The only problem is I'm going to bust my budget.

I set my biking budget = cost of taking public transportation so that commuting is 'free'. Needless to say it takes a while to offset the cost of a new bike so it is a tough goal to reach the first few years. I aim for $800 per year.

I'll admit the goal is a bit arbitrary, certainly I could afford to spend more but something feels right about commuting for 'free'. So I'm curious, do any other BF commuters share the same goal and what is your budget?
My cycle-commuting career started in Chicago. From my apt. to work was about 7 miles. Also, I had a part-time job about 6 miles away 3 days per week. Monthly passes in those days ('87) were 50.00 per month.

Found a beater in a friend's basement when helping them move and they gave it to me. Lubed, adjusted, carried a patchkit, pliers and 2 screwdrivers(to use as tire levers ) in a backpack. Saved alot of money and got progressively better bikes, gear and accessories as time went on.

Where I save money on gas I usually spend it on accessories and or gear. Feels better.
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Old 02-28-12, 10:06 PM   #38
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Hold on a second john4789!

1) You are counting buying THREE bikes in your average cost calc?
2) You have a $450 bike already, but are planning to buy ANOTHER $450 bike as an "upgrade?"
3) You spend $200 a year a tubes and lube!!!? That's like 20 tubes and 10 cans of spray lube. WTF?
4) You are only amortizing the cost of the bike over 2 years? A bike should last 10 years easily (my first commuter cost $200 and is still going strong at 23 yrs old) and tools are amortized over forever.


Bike commuting is, for all intents and purposes, free compared to anything but walking.
Good points, let me clarify:

1) Yeah, what can I say, I like to think in absolute terms. Our tandem is really just for fun but I threw it in since we do commute on it from time to time. I guess it is more of a total biking cost and not just commuting specific.
2) I drank the SSFG kool-aid. I've been riding my SS for about 4 months and like it far more than my geared hybrid. My cheap SSFG won't last long so I want a quality SSFG and will make my current one my rain bike. Also, I wasn't saying the new bike would be an upgrade, I was saying new bike plus upgrades. Namely gatorskin kevlar tires and thorn resistant tubes.
3) Mistake, this was for myself and girlfriend and rounding to nearest $50. We do get a lot of flats though, see upgrades in 2).
4) I plan to ride the new one for a very long time now that I've been doing this a while and know what I like. Hopefully it lasts 10 years!

Thanks for checking my math!
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Old 02-28-12, 10:10 PM   #39
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if i were to commute by transit everyday (metra commuter rail) instead of riding, it would cost me $1,452/year ($121 monthly pass x 12 months), so that's a pretty healthy budget to play around with for bike stuff to "keep it free", but with 2 recent bike purchases, a $2,000 road bike in 2010 and a $1,200 hybrid in 2011, i'm not quite at the break-even point yet for the purchase price of my bikes. they should both last for years and years though.
Does your work have a pre-tax plan for transit? Mine does. CTA would cost 12*$86 = $1,032 per year but it is pre-tax so the real cost is more like $800 (hence my budget).

Has anyone tried to write off bike commuting on their taxes?
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Old 02-28-12, 11:34 PM   #40
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Howdy, first post, joined this site recently been lurking for awhile!

I recently started commuting on my bicycle again with great joy! The life of a union sheet metal worker isn't bicycle friendly generally, it's hard to get a 600lb gang box on a Singlespeed!

Is it me or are these budgets really high? I purchased a redline monocog 29er 3 years ago for 400$, I've logged almost 2200 miles on her commuting when I can, my jeep gets 14mpg so in gas alone I've saved over 600. Other than the crappy stock pedals I changed out the day I bought the bike, I have literally not changed a thing, stock tubes and all with about a dozen patches in them! Odviously it has paid for itself!

I recently picked up a 2011 SE Draft lite Singlespeed for 200$



He was today's ride home



I'm a bit of a minimalist so I don't deck it out with racks and bags, just strap a backpack on to carry my lunch, pump and repair tools in. Looks like I will be working local and will have favorable weather for the next few month so this bike will pay for itself in 12 weeks if gas stays above 4$ a gallon, after reading this thread I guess it makes me the minority, but I love riding a relatively heavy Singlespeed, I love the simplicity of the bike, virtually no maintinence, and the heavy bike gives me a better workout!

Also, taking your bike to a shop for maintence is a joke! Those "mechanics" have virtually no training, the bicycle is one of the simplest machines on earth, with the exception of a spoke wrench and a crank arm puller I can take an entire bike apart to a bare frame in less than an hour with $20 worth the tools from harbor freight! How the justify charging those hourly rates for college kids to work on bikes I will never understan.

If there is something you don't know how to do, google it, I promise someone on YouTube has posted a how to video, so save your money and DIY!
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Old 02-29-12, 08:54 AM   #41
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Does your work have a pre-tax plan for transit?
nope.

it wouldn't matter much anyway, as i'm now a dedicated 4 season bike commuter.
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Old 02-29-12, 09:43 AM   #42
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Old 02-29-12, 09:54 AM   #43
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Welcome DayAfter2morrow!
I'm sure someone's going to suggest a trailer for your 600# tool box, and not even be joking!

I agree that most of the budgets are high - especially annual maintenance. I think a lot of people also confuse what they "want" to do with what they "have" to do. I spend way too much $ on my bike hobby, but little of it is required maintenance due to commuting. If you have a long, often wet commute I can see going through a couple of chains and a couple of brake pads a year - that's barely $100. A decent set of tires should last over a year, but even if you are a hard core 5000 miler, one set a year is another $100.

We need more people representing for the "minimalists," proving you can get by with a lot less expense than most people assume.
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Old 02-29-12, 09:54 AM   #44
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My job has a pre-tax benefit for commuting but it's only for mass transit and... car parking I think the govt allows $35 a month pre-tax for bike commuters but my employer is not doing that. The car parking allowance is something like $250 a month or something, and $35 for bikes, ridiculous.
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Old 02-29-12, 10:16 AM   #45
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IIRC, the pre-tax parking benefit allowance is $240, the transit allowance is $125, and the biking allowance is $35 or $40. Aside from most employers not even offering the bike benefit, the rules say that you can get the parking AND the transit benefit together if you use both, but if you get the biking benefit then you cannot get ANY OTHER benefit. So if you multi-mode commute, or bike on nice days and bus on rainy days, or in the winter, you are out of luck.
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Old 02-29-12, 10:19 AM   #46
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... If you have a long, often wet commute I can see going through a couple of chains and a couple of brake pads a year - that's barely $100. A decent set of tires should last over a year, but even if you are a hard core 5000 miler, one set a year is another $100.

We need more people representing for the "minimalists," proving you can get by with a lot less expense than most people assume.
Speaking for the minimalists, that's still way high. $15 for chains, 5 or $6 for brake pads, $14 each for tires.
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Old 02-29-12, 12:00 PM   #47
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My job has a pre-tax benefit for commuting but it's only for mass transit and... car parking I think the govt allows $35 a month pre-tax for bike commuters but my employer is not doing that. The car parking allowance is something like $250 a month or something, and $35 for bikes, ridiculous.
The federal Bike Commuter Benefit is $20/month for commute related expenses. You can save it up though and then spend all $240 at the end of the year. You also have to ride at least 3 days out of the week, or equivalent for the month. We just started it at my work at the beginning of the year. Going to turn in my expensive report for $40 worth of bike stuff today.
I know you are in New York, but I've seen things in California where your employer gives you the money that they would pay for parking if you are riding/walking and don't use the parking spot. Not sure if there is anything like that there. Car spot buy-out or something.
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Old 02-29-12, 12:24 PM   #48
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I agree that most of the budgets are high - especially annual maintenance. I think a lot of people also confuse what they "want" to do with what they "have" to do. I spend way too much $ on my bike hobby, but little of it is required maintenance due to commuting. If you have a long, often wet commute I can see going through a couple of chains and a couple of brake pads a year - that's barely $100. A decent set of tires should last over a year, but even if you are a hard core 5000 miler, one set a year is another $100.

We need more people representing for the "minimalists," proving you can get by with a lot less expense than most people assume.
In the UK a KMC X-9 chain (the basic one) is 14.99, a 9-speed cassette (Shimano Deore) is 17.99, tyres can be anything from 10-15 for the cheapies up to more like 30-40 or more for better ones. Personally I'd figure a chain/cassette lasting me 3000 miles or so, the rear tyre lasting maybe a little less, the front tyre lasting considerably more. So if you're doing 3000 miles per year I'd reckon on 30 for the chain/cassette, 60 for tyres (based on one rear tyre and 1/2 a front tyre). Throw in 20 for brake pads and that makes 110, or about $180 in US money. If you want to go with the cheaper tyres you can obviously come down from that, and you can probably get cheaper chains and cassettes. I listed the ones I did because they seem to be inexpensive enough to barely consider the price of them but good enough to do the job that's required of them. For myself I'd rather pay a little more for tyres and have them last.

That 110-odd that would get me 3000 miles or so on the bike would get me about 600 miles in my car (less in city traffic), or less than one month's season ticket to get into central London.

ETA: Last time I bought a monthly season ticket into central London (end of 2008) it was costing me something like 140/month. So if I bought a 1000 bike/accessories combo and allowed an extra 200 for maintenance in the first year, it would effectively have paid for itself within 9 months.
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Old 02-29-12, 12:31 PM   #49
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By my estimate, I've spent $810 over the last three years on two bikes (recouped $100 when I sold one), including accessories. I've ridden them about 4000 miles so far which put the cost right about 20 cents a mile. Clearly, I need to ride more! *This mileage does include rec riding, so it may not be a fair comparison.

You should have no trouble staying within that budget for the year.
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Old 03-01-12, 07:00 AM   #50
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Originally Posted by MK313 View Post
DayAfter2morrow, what app is that you're using, if you don't mind me asking?
It's called Roadbike lite, my favorite free biking app so far, I probably will pay for the full version I like it so much!
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