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  1. #1
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    Is commuting by bike actually cheaper?

    Six months and over 600 miles later I can say I am a very happy commuter. I changed not only the way I go to work, but there was a change of mind when I found out that the car is not needed for a couple of miles errand trip.
    The main reason to buy the new bike (the main reason I used with my wife, of course) was money. Sure honey, in less than a year the price of the bike will be overcome by savings in gas, yadda yadda yadda, you know the deal. But then real commuting arrived and I saw that if you want to use your bike at night, you need lights, if you want to buy some groceries, you need a basket, if you want to go bigger, or with the kids, you need a trailer. Cleats, shoes, winter gear and so on keep adding up. And then maintenance, flat tires and the likes, so the open question I leave you guys here is:

    Do any of you actually rides his bike because of the money?

    I'll never go back to the 'car for everything' habits, but damn being healthy and green means spending some cash!

  2. #2
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    In the UK, the cost of owning a car (without any driving) is about £1000/year.
    The similar cost for a bike is about £100 (ie maintenance, replacements, insurance etc).
    Once you add in milleage costs, the difference is huge.
    The startup costs for cycle commuting are "front-loaded" so you buy all this expensive stuff to begin with then use it for free. Once you get into a cycle lifestyle, you replace worn out stuff as you need rather than in one big hit.
    You also have to factor in the costs of fitness, eg gym membership, driving to the gym.

    Cycling is cheap even compared to public transport.
    Most cycle commuters under-spend. The thing they use most in their life, almost everyday of the year for about an hour or 2 should be of a good quality.
    If you spend $800 on a bike, $400 on accessories and kit and then spread the cost over 5 years, you end up paying (800+400+4x100)/5=$320/year or about $1/day.

  3. #3
    Senior Member bud16415's Avatar
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    An old friend once told me. “If you want all that economy you are going to have to pay for it!”
    What's not in your legs needs to be in your gears.

  4. #4
    Senior Member curbtender's Avatar
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    I thought about the same thing. My gatorskins cost about $50 a pop. Dollars add up with car and healthcare savings. Even if you break even, at least you have cool bike stuff to show for it.

  5. #5
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    Moving from a 125cc motorcycle to all bicycle commuting hasn't been cheap. I needed two bikes both customized for my requirements. One is setup for long tours and carries the kitchen sink and higher level components as the cheaper ones wear out too fast. The other is more basic and cheap enough I can lock it most anywhere and no one is likely to want to steal it.. but its setup just the way I want it. Then there are the clothes (especially for winter), the lights - and spare batteries. Maintaince on the chain/cranks etc. 2000km a month wears stuff out.

    Is it cheaper than the motorcycle was? No. Is it cheaper than running a car? For sure. Are the health benefits worth every cent? Absolutely.

  6. #6
    johnliu@earthlink.net jyl's Avatar
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    Gas at $3.50-$4.00/gal adds up pretty quick. So does daily parking if you have to pay.

    I save $220/mo in parking alone, plus about $100/mo on gas (short commute, small car). A bit under $4K per year.
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  7. #7
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    There's no one definite reason why my wife and I commute, but in the long run it is less expensive. To us it is fun, healthy, empowering, sometimes quicker, and yes it saves us on gas and maintenance on our cars.
    I think the key is buying quality products/ accessories for your bicycles. I find that there are just way to many people on these forums looking for the least expensive options instead of quality products that last. There are a couple of old saying that come to mind. "The quality remains long after the price is forgotten" or "buy cheap and buy twice (or more)" and the good ole "pay me now or pay me later".
    We use to spend at least $50.00 a week in gas between our two cars now we are down to about $10.00 a week which saves use $2080 a year just in gas alone. Plus we have definitely seen an improvement to our health, no more coughs and colds, blood pressure under control and generally just feeling better at the end of the day.
    You mentioned fixing flats on your bicycle. Both the wife and I have logged over 2500 commuting miles so far this year, and we both had our first "puncture" within a week of each other. A $3.00 patch kit fixed both tubes. Our tires cost more up front but I feel that I am saving money in the long run when you consider how long the tires will last and the extra puncture protection they give. Our headlights and tail lights (absolute necessity for a commuter bike) also cost more than the bargain priced equivalents but we have had absolutely no problems or issues with them.
    To us, it is cheaper in the long run, but we commute because it's fun and empowering

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vampy View Post
    Six months and over 600 miles later I can say I am a very happy commuter. I changed not only the way I go to work, but there was a change of mind when I found out that the car is not needed for a couple of miles errand trip.
    The main reason to buy the new bike (the main reason I used with my wife, of course) was money. Sure honey, in less than a year the price of the bike will be overcome by savings in gas, yadda yadda yadda, you know the deal. But then real commuting arrived and I saw that if you want to use your bike at night, you need lights, if you want to buy some groceries, you need a basket, if you want to go bigger, or with the kids, you need a trailer. Cleats, shoes, winter gear and so on keep adding up. And then maintenance, flat tires and the likes, so the open question I leave you guys here is:

    Do any of you actually rides his bike because of the money?

    I'll never go back to the 'car for everything' habits, but damn being healthy and green means spending some cash!
    If I didn't ride most everywhere, we'd need a second car, so that right there makes it worth it. But even saving $5-10/week on gas adds up pretty quickly.

  9. #9
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    I do save a lot when it comes to commuting.

    The price of gas goes up a lot and it doesnt effect me. I think you may be looking at it only from a strict monetary value. Things to consider:

    - Commuting saves you time in the long run. When people at my work bit*ch about traffic, it does not effect me. Weather does not effect me. The cost in saving time is awesome.

    - no need to budget time for exercise. My commute is 110 minutes round trip so I need not go to the gym. I head my friends complain about trying to find time to go to the gym.

    -Health benefits: A given!

    -Mental health: a given

    -More productive at work. No need to have "wake up time" when I get there. I am already awake

    A lot of the costs you mention are one time costs. Shoes, lights, etc. They will last you. Maintenance on your bike does add up but NOTHING when compared to your car. Buying a tire set for your car can cost around $400 but that goes a heck of a long way for a bike!
    Feel free to visit my blog www.chefonabicycle.com

  10. #10
    Senior Member david58's Avatar
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    I find that this year is working pretty well, since last year was when I bought the bike, clothes, lights, and all that. This season (I kinda look at commute season being started in the fall, when I don't get much recreational riding in), I have had to buy a tire. So I kinda figure that I save straight up a gallon of gas and a little bit each ride - about $5 a ride is my estimate. It's probably a bit more, since I drive less still, since I don't make side trips on the way home and am loathe to get back in the car once I get home.
    2011 BMC SR02; 2010 Fuji Cross Comp; n+1 on hold today, due to college tuition and a wedding. Some day, some where, over the rainbow, I will get that 29er....

  11. #11
    Senior Member Ekdog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vampy View Post
    Six months and over 600 miles later I can say I am a very happy commuter. I changed not only the way I go to work, but there was a change of mind when I found out that the car is not needed for a couple of miles errand trip.
    The main reason to buy the new bike (the main reason I used with my wife, of course) was money. Sure honey, in less than a year the price of the bike will be overcome by savings in gas, yadda yadda yadda, you know the deal. But then real commuting arrived and I saw that if you want to use your bike at night, you need lights, if you want to buy some groceries, you need a basket, if you want to go bigger, or with the kids, you need a trailer. Cleats, shoes, winter gear and so on keep adding up. And then maintenance, flat tires and the likes, so the open question I leave you guys here is:

    Do any of you actually rides his bike because of the money?

    I'll never go back to the 'car for everything' habits, but damn being healthy and green means spending some cash!
    You'd better believe it's cheaper! And there are plenty of Spaniards who've given up on the motorcar--it's not just you. Car sales fell here by 22% last month. The car-centric, American-style transport system is proving to be unsustainable in an economy mired in a depression. Those cars can sit on the lots and rot as far as I'm concerned. We need to bolster our trains, underground systems, buses and, above all, bicycle infrastructure.

  12. #12
    Senior Member jrickards's Avatar
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    Compared to $6/day parking or $2.75/ride city transit and $275/6mo for GoodLife membership, much cheaper but I ride for fitness, not for economy (although on nice days when I wimp out and take the car or transit, I kick myself when I have to reach into my wallet for the parking or bus fare).

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vampy View Post
    Six months and over 600 miles later <snip> and I saw that if you want to use your bike at night, you need lights, if you want to buy some groceries, you need a basket, if you want to go bigger, or with the kids, you need a trailer. Cleats, shoes, winter gear and so on keep adding up. And then maintenance, flat tires and the likes
    You can easily do it for free, or nearly so. You don't really need most of the stuff affluent folks like us buy.

    A second-hand junker, or the local bike mission reduces or eliminates the initial cost. One of the local bike missions is in the church behind my building. None of the guys it serves are concerned with lights, bells, cleats and pedals, panniers and racks, or cycling outerwear. No toolsets or flat repair stuff either. They just ride. When it breaks or flats, take it on the bus back to the bike mission and get it fixed for free. Who needs panniers to carry your returnable bottles? They hold nothing compared to a plastic trash bag anyway. And across the parking lot, the church ladies have lots of clothing they give away.

    Finally, they don't turn you away from either place if you happen to have a job or a home. I could just as easily use their services rather than online shopping or the LBS.

    So bike commuting doesn't have to cost anything. It's a CHOICE that folks like us make.

    That said, I cycle like an affluent person. I own four bikes--one is titanium and two others have full fenders and racks. I've spent a small fortune in lights (both battery and dynamo hub), clothing, pedals and cleats and all the usual accoutrements talked about here.

    But, because I don't even own a car, I can afford to work part-time since I don't have to support a car. And the bus is even cheaper. (Here an unlimited ride pass on the bus is $56/mo, or $672 a year. I own wheelsets worth more than that. Several of them.)

    I ride a bike because I like it. I deeply enjoy it. It's the best two parts of my day. Screw all the rest of the reasons usually bandied about. ThermonicScott said in a recent thread, "I ride to work just because I enjoy it, but I keep getting told it’s for other reasons." That sums it up for me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vampy View Post
    I am a very happy commuter.
    So why not just get honest with your wife. It makes you happy. Isn't that alone worth it all? (And if she isn't concerned with your happiness, that's a whole different thread.)
    Last edited by tsl; 11-02-12 at 07:22 AM. Reason: Battery, not batter. Hmmm, deep-fried lights.
    My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything.
    The perfect day: Riding a bike to the library.—Peter Golkin


    Lucky for me, I work at a library and bike to work.

  14. #14
    Senior Member FenderTL5's Avatar
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    Average cost of car ownership is now $8946 per year according to the linked articled from May of this year.

    My friends colleagues don't understand me when I say that money is not the reason I'm commuting by bicycle. Sure it plays a minor role in that I don't want to buy another/second car but that's about it.
    I ride because I simply enjoy the rides (for the most part, there's been a few moments). The costs/savings and health benefits are just a bonus.
    Last edited by FenderTL5; 11-02-12 at 07:42 AM.
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  15. #15
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    It keeps me and the fiance as a 1 car family, so it's def. cheaper. The issue is, I just spend the extra money instead of saving it.
    In the words of Einstein
    "And now I think I'll take a bath"

  16. #16
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    It really depends what other options are available, what you already own and how far you insist on taking things.
    Public transportation ( bus and metro) is a cheaper option IF its available in your area.
    Additional clothing costs can be minimal IF you already have outdoor gear suitable for cold weather.
    A bicycle can be very economical IF you settle for something used and servicable instead of something that feeds your ego. Just ask students.

  17. #17
    Senior Member robert schlatte's Avatar
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    There are definitely expenses associated with cylcing. But good quality cycling stuff is cool so it's fun to buy. The way I look at it is if I did not bike for transportation, I would incur the cycling expenses anyway since I bike for recreation as well. This way I can put to use the stuff I buy for fun. In the meantime I save all the money I would spend if I spent my life behind the wheel of a car stuck in traffic in some god awful stretch on eight lane hell.

  18. #18
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    I am a new commuter.
    I am trying to keep my bike related purchases to what I have saved on gas.
    Road my but off this week because I want a rack so bad.

    It's tough but I still spend more on my truck payment and insurance than my bike.
    Even when it is just sitting in my driveway.

    I sold some old "toys" that I had to buy the bike so I don't count the purchase price.

    For me commuting supports my cycling hobby.
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  19. #19
    The Empire forges on... ThimbleSmash's Avatar
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    First I will get my N+1 cost outta the way($800). I've spent about $500 over the past 9 months on my main commuter. I fixed this bike up as a bike I had laying around(tires,cables,and clean up), I then converted the bike to SS(new cranks, freewheel,bars), and then finally converted to FG(new wheelset). I would then say another $300 in related accessories and another $300 in stuff I'm sure I missed counting off. I have no mechanic costs since I do all my work myself.

    I would say $1,900 over 9 months isn't too bad for my main hobby,transportation, and fitness. I used a "Car Usage Calculator" and it was quoting somewhere in the $4,000 area to cover overall yearly costs of owning and using a car(Sorry, I've lived car free all my life so I don't know actual costs). I'm sure that number is a little uglier then what it would really be. However that is not including a outlet for fitness and hobby. I would at least tack on another $1000 for those two. In the end I mind myself to be coming out ahead still, even if the car related numbers may be a bit uglier then they should be.

    Plus, I get the mental bonus of doing what I love. That is hard to put a price on.

  20. #20
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    I expected a bigger savings than I actually realized this last year. Some of the costs I did not take into account were tires (I went through a back tire ever 1000 miles or so) and chains (wore one out in 1500 miles). Even so, it was less expensive to commute by bike. Even if it was not, I would still have done it just for the health and well being I got from my commute.

  21. #21
    Senior Member locolobo13's Avatar
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    Well, my bike cost me about $500 initial cost with some accessories 2 yrs ago. I spend about $100 per year on maintenance and repairs so far. So total cost so far is about $350/yr. I expect the bike to last quite a few yrs. So the average annual cost will go down. significantly.

    My beater pickup cost me $2800 7 yrs ago with trade-in. I have spent at least $500 per yr on maint and repairs. Part of the reason the average price is that low is I have been bike commuting the last 4 yrs. So that comes to about $900/yr with assistance by the bike.

    I am also looking for a replacement pickup. So add another initial cost onto the ledger. I will be lucky if initial cost minus selling the beater is less than $4000.

    So yes. For me the bike saves me money. As tsl says you don't have to spend lots of money on yours. You have the choice. Nothing wrong with upgrading tho.

  22. #22
    Senior Member teachme's Avatar
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    Good question OP! I think after a while you accumalate all the biking needs and the savings over auto-commute become more noticeable. My commute cost by car, is approx $5 to $7 per day. My teaching contract calls for 187 days of work. Lets say $6 times 150 days; since I realistically don't ride every single day to school; works out to be a total of $900. Thats approx $1000 dollars I can spend on upgrades and apparel fo cycling! If I could do this for 10 years we are talking $10,000 dollars in savings plus the added benefit of a healthy life style that renders an unknown variable in medical expense savings!
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    The answer depends on a multitude of factors, which are different for everyone. How far is your commute? What kind of car would you be driving if you didn't ride a bicycle? What kind of climate do you live in? Can cycling eliminate any non-transportation costs for you?

    In my case, I commute about 20 miles per day by car, at $3.29 per gallon right now in my area. My car gets 23 mpg. That's a daily cost of $2.86. If I work 20 days per month (let's assume 5 days per week and 4 weeks per month) that's $57.22 in fuel savings. When I started commuting by bike every day, I closed my health club membership, figuring that I now get all the exercise I need on my bike. That's an additional $36 per month saved. So now, we're up to $93.22 in savings per month. If fuel prices stay near where they're at now, I'll save about $1100 per year. Now, because I only drive my car about three times a month when I need to haul something big or go something far away, my car maintenance costs are significantly reduced. Let's say I go from 5 oil changes per year down to 2 (you should replace oil every 6 months even if you hardly drive). My typical oil changes cost me about $30 (I run full synthetic and a good oil filter). So I've reduced oil change costs from $150 per year to $60, for an additional $90 per year savings. Our total savings are now approaching $1200. This is all assuming that I am keeping my car. If you decide to eliminate the car altogether your savings go up substantially; however for me that's a choice I'm not prepared to live with right now.

    Now you have to fill in the blanks on cost of bike and gear. For me, my bike cost $600 when it was new. I spent an additional $150 on pannier rack and bags, $10 for my front and rear lights, $30 for my computer (not a necessity, you can get by just fine without one), $100 for my gatorskin tires (so far I have about 3500 miles on them, and will need to replace them in the springtime). That covers the hardware. Then there's clothing. I spent $75 to buy a whole bunch of biking shorts on ebay, $100 on a pair of Gore pants for cold and wet weather, $75 on a Cannondale rain jacket, $10 on a rain cover for my helmet, $40 for cold weather gloves, $25 for a balaclava, $8 for an athletic shirt from Target, $40 for an UnderArmor thermal shirt, and $40 for my helmet, $35 for my shoe covers for wet and rainy conditions. The grand total is $1338.

    So, all the hard stuff pays for itself in just over a year most of it lasts several years. Now there's maintenance. I go through one chain and cassette per year at a cost of $48. I just replaced a shifter cable after 5 years for $2.50, for an annualized cost of $0.50. I go through one can of CRC Degreaser at $3.75 per can every three months, for an annual cost of 15. My $100 pair of gatorskins have 3500 miles on them I think I can push them to 4000 before replacing them. My bike commute is 14 miles (it's 6 miles shorter taking the MUP through town than driving the car). Riding twenty days per month, that's 280 miles per month, or 3360 miles per year. So, your tires last about 1.25 years. That's makes your annual tire cost $84. I go through about two tubes per year at $16 ($8 each). Two bottles of chain lube, $8 each, for another $16. So, your total maintenance cost is $179.50 per year. I have not yet in 5 years had to replace bottom bracket or wheel bearings, so I'll exclude those costs.

    So, your first year, you're looking at $1517.50, then the second and subsequent years are $179.50. Once you make it past about 1.25 years, you're in the money.

    Additionally, if you're like me and like riding for exercise and recreation, I already had bikes and would continue to have bikes even if I didn't use them for commuting. So, the initial cost of the bike could be excluded from the commuting cost. That drops the total down to $917.50. Now you only have to ride for 3/4 of a year to recoup your initial costs the first year. After that, you only need to ride for about 2 months each year to cover the ongoing costs.

    They key is to ride EVERY DAY that you normally would commute by car. Days that you choose not to ride quickly add up. I know people who ride only two or three days a week and stop when it starts getting below freezing, and they're lucky to break even in a year.

  24. #24
    Senior Member nashvillwill's Avatar
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    For me;

    Daily costs are a near wash. I have to take transit, so $8.50/day round trip via bike&train vs. about $9-10/day via car. $1-2 a day isn't much, but it's nice.

    In-direct costs are the biggest savings. Auto maintenance, wear and tear, not having to have two cars in the family, not having to buy a new car. This is the savings that pays for all my bike gear and them some.

    Intangibles. I didn't exercise at all before I started commuting. Now I'm healthier and happier. I quit smoking! $$$$ That alone is the icing on the cake.


    Once you make the initial investment, it's much cheaper over time.

  25. #25
    Motorcycle RoadRacer cehowardGS's Avatar
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    In my case, HELL YEAH!!

    I have been commuting 5 days a week this whole year. I came from pushing a F150 to the GSX R1000 to the bicycle. Sheesh, the amount I saved I know has reached over a thousand!!


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    1996 Litespeed Classic
    1995 Klein Quantum
    1989 Cannondale Black Lightning
    1988 Centurion Expert Ironman
    1989 Centurion Master Ironman
    1986 Schwinn Prelude(Beater)
    1986 Raleigh Grand Prix(Beater2)
    1985 Raleigh Prestige
    1985 Raleigh Competition
    1985 Raleigh Grand Prix #1
    1985 Raleigh Grand Prix #2 (project #1)
    1985 Raleigh Super Course (project #4)
    1979 Raleigh Competition GS-1

    2007 Suzuki GSX R1K (commuter)
    http://www.cehoward.net/pretty.jpg
    74,Old,Dirty,&Fast

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