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  1. #1
    Senior Member john4789's Avatar
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    Commuting for 'Free'

    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?

  2. #2
    got the climbing bug jsigone's Avatar
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    you should be able to find a nice used bike for half that budget. Saving that other $400 for the days you don't want to ride the bike.

    I picked up my old Schwinn last week for only $150, threw $10 bar tape on it and my old pedals and was good to go. That is only 3 tanks of gas w/ these current prices.

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    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    If you have a gym membership, cancel it and put those funds toward your commuting fund. The bike will provide cardio and you can supplement by doing push ups, chin ups, crunches, and squats for free. Another frugal way to exercise would be to strap a loaded backpack on and run up the stairs of the Sears Tower.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member SouthFLpix's Avatar
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    The first bike I purchased for commuting was $250 on closeout and that was enough to get me started, at first using a regular backpack. With bike commuting you can make any budget work. $800 a year would be a very doable budget for me.

    After the initial outlay for bikes and accessories and tools, bicycles are extremely cost efficient. For example, I believe that on average I spend less than $10 a month. Once in a while I do get flats or have to replace a tire, or a broken spoke, but that does not happen every month.

  5. #5
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    Well the average cost for a new bicycle in the United States is approximately $400. Therefore, I'd say you're just about $400 over budget already Since most bicycles purchased here in the United States, were purchased from Big Box bicycle stores, they can account for the bulk of the sales.

    IMHO, $800 is just the perfect or ideal pricepoint for a commuter. A thousand could be the absolute limit, but what about those who swear that if they weren't riding their Titaniums to work, they wouldn't commute cycle. Then there's the carbon cycle enthusiasts! This pricing of commuters can get really subjective. Anyway, I think that the absolute budgetary commuter price limit should be about a thousand dollars, tops. Of course, that could change quite quickly, if your work place is in an urban center of one of our larger cities.

    Sometimes the price of a commuter bike can drop precipitously!

    After the initial cost of the commuter bicycle, all you need afterwards is about a hundred bucks for the remainder of the year. Less than that, if you can perform your own mechanical tasks.

    Of course, this is assuming that you already have commuter essentials, such as an air pump, helmet, gloves, and assorted accessories.

    - Slim
    Last edited by SlimRider; 02-29-12 at 12:07 PM.

  6. #6
    Ride On. Underground's Avatar
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    A cheap 29er with road tires can be a solid commuter. Ask me how I know.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member john4789's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SouthFLpix View Post
    The first bike I purchased for commuting was $250 on closeout and that was enough to get me started, at first using a regular backpack. With bike commuting you can make any budget work. $800 a year would be a very doable budget for me.

    After the initial outlay for bikes and accessories and tools, bicycles are extremely cost efficient. For example, I believe that on average I spend less than $10 a month. Once in a while I do get flats or have to replace a tire, or a broken spoke, but that does not happen every month.
    Start up cost is exactly it. I estimated all my expenses today and found the following over the past two years of commuting:

    Bikes: $450 Sirrus Hybrid, $200 Dawes SST, $200 Omega Tandem (not really a commuting cost but we have used it about 10 times, more for the weekends)
    Parts and Tools: $400 (wheels, tires, helmet, pumps, pedals, rack, locks, all sorts of tools)
    LBS work: $200. This is now $0 for the last year since I've learned to do what I need.
    Consumables: $200 (tubes, patch kits, lube, degreasers)
    Total: $1,650 (about $800 per year)

    So, I've been on track thus far. However, I am eying a $450 bike plus upgrades this spring so that will bust my average. No big deal, it will pay off in no time, I just don't like being on the wrong side of 'free'.

    What are all of your yearly budgets? Ever sit down and figure out what you really spend?

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    you need to account for not only your gas but wear and tear on the car, tune ups, your health, etc. Buy a bike, something quality and that will last you.

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    I don't really have a budget/goal. I just want to make my ride as enjoyable as possible for my purposes. I agree with the sentiments above, the major costs are in the new bike itself. Other costs are pretty incidental. Last year was the first year that I tracked my bike commute related expenses & they came out to $450, but if I limited it to stuff that I needed, it was like $250. I'd aim towards the high end on the bike, spending close to the whole $800 (or possibly a little more if you can talk yourself into it) on a new bike. If you continue to commute by bike, yoo will easily spend less than $800 in future years.

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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.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Hendricks97's Avatar
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    I started commuting about 7 months ago with a $200.00 bike, got hooked and a few thousand dollars later, Im enjoying it much more. Did I need 90% of what I bought? Dont tell my wife, I told her I did need it all. I still dont have everything I "need" yet and probably never will.

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    I'll have to commute many more years to offset the cost of everything I bought for cycling, but that's still a lot cheaper than a car. Which I already own. It's not really about cost to me, although I do like not having to pay for gas.

  13. #13
    Senior Member SuncoastChad's Avatar
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    My cruiser was free from my brother. The rack and bag were free from a neighbor. I had the helmet, gloves, etc. from previous activities like skating. My basket was $15 and I picked up some batteries for the lights (from previous life with my sons bikes) along with tubes and a patch kit...

    So, I'm free. Not real elegant and I often feel like Pee Wee Herman - but it's free and fun. I commute about 6 miles each way and do some casual riding on weekends. Granted, it is flat as only coastal Florida can be.

    I'm "looking" for a "better" bike for commuting (for me that just means ego driven!) since I've ridden really nice road bikes in the past!! But, it sure is not a priority at this time. I did drop the hint for my birthday coming up in July. Whatever I get next will definately be a commuter/urban bike. I'm not going back to skinny tires and spandex!!
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    Now I ride a Schwinn Beach cruiser to work!
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  14. #14
    Bike addict, dreamer AdamDZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by no1mad View Post
    If you have a gym membership, cancel it and put those funds toward your commuting fund.
    Well, I'm actually considering joining a gym. My upper body is pathetically weak compared to my legs and that won't change much from riding.

  15. #15
    born again cyclist Steely Dan's Avatar
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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.
    The first rule: if you're riding a bike and not having fun, then you're doing it wrong.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AdamDZ View Post
    Well, I'm actually considering joining a gym. My upper body is pathetically weak compared to my legs and that won't change much from riding.
    Can't you just bench-press your bike a few times a day? you have to have one of the heaviest bike/accessories weights around

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    ((Public transport + gym ) - occasion a taxi) is a good rough figure as to how much cash you have available.
    It is useful to have 2 commuter-able bikes, one for backup, with maybe a summer and winter version or work and play version or fixed and folding.
    $800 may sound reasonable but once you add in racks, fenders, quality luggage, dynamo lighting etc to produce a fully featured bike, the costs exceed $1000 for initial purchase and I assume about $100 per year in running costs and maybe some insurance or an emergency money pot. I think it is reasonable to amortize the cost of a bike over 5 years.
    However you work it, the cycle commuting budget for any employed person can reasonable by much higher than most are prepared to spend.

  18. #18
    Ride On. Underground's Avatar
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    It may not be free for me because I have yet to commute enough to come close to paying for the 2nd bike out of the 4 I own (the Langster has been paid for by my running errands on the bike). I do it because I enjoy it. If I enjoy it, that is what matters. It is hard to calculate vehicle wear and tear and all that. I do know that I am saving on gas, I'm enjoying the ride, I'm polluting less, and I arrive to my destination with a smile. For me, it is worth the cost.

    Also it is nice because a bicycle has a lower depreciation rate than a car. You purchase a bicycle, you can easily sell it for a loss of maybe $50 to $100 after you take it home (or may be able to take it back to the shop). With a car you lose a couple of grand when you take it home. Big difference.
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  19. #19
    Senior Member crazy_lazy_bear's Avatar
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    To really see the savings, you could choose another basis for calculating commuting costs. Since public transportation is still considered an alternative to using your own vehicle, you could use the vehicle cost as a basis. The IRS has set mileage reimbursement at $.555/mile. (According to the government, that is the cost, all expenditures included, to run a vehicle per mile.) If you work 10 miles from where you live, that's $11.10/day (10 X 2 X $.555). If you work 5 days a week, that's $55.50/week ($11.10 X 5). If you take 2 weeks vacations per year, that's $2,775/year ($55.50 X 50). That doesn't take into account non-commuting trips. You can get a nice bicycle and extras for that money. Or, you can get a $400-$800 bicycle and use the rest of the savings for something nice for yourself. Either way, a free commute is a great goal! Congrats!
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  20. #20
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by john4789 View Post
    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?
    EDIT I've posted on this before. Since I work a bit out of town, I end up working in town about 190 days per year. The minimum public transit cost for this would be about $1000. In fact, I bike about 140 days and take the bus/subway about 50 days, so my transit savings are $700. I deliberately ride cheap used bikes and my amortized costs of ownership, maintenance and accessories is much less than $700 per annum. I have two commuter bikes, both bought used for $200-$250 and both have required major repairs like a new wheel or new bottom bracket, but spaced out over 5-7 years that doesn't add up to much. Certainly much less than $700 per year.

    However the biggest saving you realize from bike commuting is if it allows you or your household to own one fewer cars.
    Last edited by cooker; 02-28-12 at 11:01 AM.

  21. #21
    Bike addict, dreamer AdamDZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MK313 View Post
    Can't you just bench-press your bike a few times a day? you have to have one of the heaviest bike/accessories weights around
    Yeah, but that's just it: I can't lift the damn thing!

  22. #22
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by no1mad View Post
    If you have a gym membership, cancel it and put those funds toward your commuting fund. The bike will provide cardio and you can supplement by doing push ups, chin ups, crunches, and squats for free. Another frugal way to exercise would be to strap a loaded backpack on and run up the stairs of the Sears Tower.
    They have weights and an indoor, heated swimming pool at the gym. The bike can't make up for either of these. Bikes are really nice - they're fun, they keep you in shape, they get you where you need to go, they can help you avoid getting hopelessly snarled in traffic - but they're not silver bullets.
    Don't believe everything you think.

  23. #23
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    I like to track the cost of my consumables (by which I mean mostly tires, chains and brake pads, with lubes, grease, etc. as insignificant items in this budget) to about the cost of gas for my car on a per mile basis. Yes, I know this disregards the other car-related costs like maintenance and insurance, but since I keep the car anyway and its disuse has a maintenance cost too, I figure this is a nice target. I also find it gives me a pretty generous budget for tires.

    I do keep track of the per mileage cost of my bikes, but I've never tried to work them in. My most expensive bike (2008 Kona Jake, $900) is at about 11 cents per mile right now, not counting parts I've upgraded. Counting parts and extra bikes, I'm closer to 45 cents per mile over the past four years.

    If I were in your shoes, I wouldn't bother with a $450 bike. Treat yourself to something nice.
    Last edited by Andy_K; 02-28-12 at 11:01 AM.

  24. #24
    2 Fat 2 Furious contango's Avatar
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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.

    Now look at the cost of commuting the regular way. Someone mentioned a figure of ~$120/mo earlier so I'll work with that. So that's $1440/year. So after year 1 you're down $1440, year 2 $2880 year 3 $4320 etc.

    From there you can figure that after year 1 you're behind $260, year 2 $1080, year 3 $2420 and so on.

    If your specific figures aren't quite so conclusive you can still figure how many years you have to keep the bike before it was effectively free (in the case above the bike pays for itself in about 14 months). From there the longer you keep it the more money you save.
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  25. #25
    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    They have weights and an indoor, heated swimming pool at the gym. The bike can't make up for either of these. Bikes are really nice - they're fun, they keep you in shape, they get you where you need to go, they can help you avoid getting hopelessly snarled in traffic - but they're not silver bullets.
    Not all gyms are created equal. There's maybe like 3 out of all of the gyms/health clubs/fitness centers around here that features a pool of any kind- and they charge extra to use it.

    I was just pointing out that one doesn't have to spend $ on gym membership to lose weight/get fit.
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