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Are you spending a lot of money on bicycle commuting?

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Are you spending a lot of money on bicycle commuting?

Old 01-21-16, 02:50 PM
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InTheRain
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Are you spending a lot of money on bicycle commuting?

Generally, a lot of threads and posts, address the issue of how much we're saving by bicycle commuting. However, as I look back at the last year, I realize that I've spent a lot of money on bicycle commuting... and I didn't buy a new bicycle. I made some rather significant modifications to my existing commuter. E-bike kit and disc brakes. The E-bike kit ran $2300 + $75 for installation. The conversion to disc brakes cost $500+. I bought new tires at the time of the e-bike conversion (schwalbe marathon plus, $47 each.) So, nearly $3000 for the year.

I don't think it was a money saving thing last year. I also spent $400+ on parts for my road bike (frame replacement by cannondale - had to buy new parts to fit a new frame.) OK, so I'm not paying for gas, insurance, or parking and I don't have a 3rd car for a 3-driver family. But, I don't think I'm going to use the "saving money" card to justify my love of riding my bicycles. They are sweet bikes, but make no mistake... they aren't cheap or inexpensive.

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Old 01-21-16, 03:13 PM
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I'm in it for exercise and the pleasure of being outdoors, I'd never try to convince anyone I was saving money. I'm sure it's possible but that's more for the LCF forum.
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Old 01-21-16, 03:25 PM
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I saved money in 2015 - even just with parking. I'm going to try reducing to 1 car for the summer this year. My commute is too far and the roads not cleared well enough (bike paths not at all) of snow for me to try year round. I switch to multi-mode in the winter - half the time drive (usually parking in a free lot a few miles a way and walking), half the time run half the distance and bus the other.
I'm fairly cheap though - I bought a super-cheap online fixie (critical cycles), panniers, and a few parts that were maybe $400 total. 50 days at $8 a day parking, and I'm in the clear, not even talking about the $5 in gas each day. I don't know if I'm going to keep the fixie, I like it, but don't need another bike. I can probably sell it for pretty close to what I paid in the spring. It wasn't really my primary commuter anyway, it's a toy. Primary commuter is an '87 bianchi (total investment $40 for bike, $80 in wheelset and $120 in tires, tubes, & bar wrap over the past 11 years)
You know, now that I think about it - I didn't save any money last year. hmmmmmm.........
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Old 01-21-16, 03:31 PM
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Compared to before I started bike commuting, I'm saving around $700-$800 a year in fuel costs, depending on average fuel prices. The savings is probably less now that fuel prices have dropped so sharply. But I probably spend that much in a year on parts and accessories and other stuff.
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Old 01-21-16, 03:46 PM
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The initial cost of the bikes and upgrades is high, but once you've got all the gear and accessories in place the cost becomes minimal. And really, it's just he cost of maintaining what you got. Unless, of course, you catch n+1-itis.
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Old 01-21-16, 03:56 PM
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My commute is only a few miles a day. When I ran the numbers through one of those "How much do you save by bike commuting?" apps, it came out to very nominal savings. As others have said, I commute purely for the exercise and the mental lift it gives me. Sometimes, that alone is worth a little investment for tires and some minor accessories. However, I could never justify spending the kind of money you (the OP) did for my commute.
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Old 01-21-16, 04:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Papa Tom View Post
My commute is only a few miles a day. When I ran the numbers through one of those "How much do you save by bike commuting?" apps, it came out to very nominal savings. As others have said, I commute purely for the exercise and the mental lift it gives me. Sometimes, that alone is worth a little investment for tires and some minor accessories. However, I could never justify spending the kind of money you (the OP) did for my commute.
Same - 10 mile round trip by car - 16 miles by bike - to work means saving 2 gallons a week.. so maybe $200 a year at current gas prices - and I'll be lucky to commute half the possible work days - $100. That $100 seems like a minimal I will need to spend a year for upkeep, clothes, etc. My company started offering a reimbursment for commuting - vanpool, parking, public transportation and I thought biking - but alas that was the one part of the program they were not doing ( $20 a month - which would of covered commuting and then some...)
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Old 01-21-16, 04:41 PM
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I probably am an N+1 cyclist... but I haven't pulled the trigger on a new bike since 2008. However, I do a lot of upgrades and try to buy nice accessories. As far as commuting for exercise... I don't commute on a bicycle for that. If I did, I would have never gone the e-bike route. I'll ride the road bike for exercise or go to the gym. I just like being out on my bike. Even in bad weather, I find myself enjoying my bicycle commute more than I enjoy getting to work in a car.

I have a scooter that is my second most favorite mode of commuting... but that only gets used once a week maximum. I think that I really enjoy the bike because I'm on a lightly used MUP that is away from cars and traffic. There is section of the MUP that runs through a thick canopy of trees with beautiful vegetation, a stream, and wildlife. I don't see any of that in the dark on a rainy commute, but I'm still out there pretty much by myself (not a lot of hardcore rain/dark commuters.) I guess I look at it as money well spent for my own well being. Yes, even on the e-bike I get a bit of exercise (it's pedal assist only) but I don't bicycle commute for that reason. I do it because it's fun... and I found the e-bike to make it even more fun since I carry a load and ride in some nasty weather. It's been worth the money spent. ( i do get $20 month as part of a bicycle commuter program - but, I'd do it without the $20 subsidy... and I have for most of the time I have commuted by bicycle.)

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Old 01-21-16, 05:08 PM
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My commuter bike is a 1994 German trekking/touring bike. Still running strong. Replaced brakes, shifter cable and added some new dynamo powered B&M lights. Not much money. But I guess in a few years I need to replace that steel hog with something more modern. Although I don't want to. I love the combined cassette hub shifter (3x7 dual drive). But I rather I keep my old cars which have long been paid off and spend the money on a new bike than paying off or leasing a new car. Plus I am saving around $300 on gas a year.
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Old 01-21-16, 05:14 PM
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OK. Well maybe I'll "save money" this year by bicycle commuting. I don't foresee spending $3000+ again this year. But, who knows? I might buy a mountain bike (that doesn't count against my commuting budget...right?)
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Old 01-21-16, 05:18 PM
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It's an interesting question. I have never bought a bike primarily for commuting; I've always ridden a bike I would have had anyway. I did buy a new light and I received a very nice backpack from my kids for Xmas. But even that puts me under $200 for the year, far less than the $1800 I would otherwise spend on parking.
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Old 01-21-16, 05:26 PM
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
It's an interesting question. I have never bought a bike primarily for commuting; I've always ridden a bike I would have had anyway. I did buy a new light and I received a very nice backpack from my kids for Xmas. But even that puts me under $200 for the year, far less than the $1800 I would otherwise spend on parking.
Parking would cost me $600/year. I guess there is savings in that I don't have a 3rd car. As it is now, my daughter, who has been driving for a year, takes the car to school. However, I didn't drive the car to work even before she got her driver's license. So, it's not really a valid argument for me. I do have a bike that is very specifically for commuting... especially in rainy weather. If I lived in a warmer/dryer climate... I'd consider using my road bike as a commuter (I do it on days where it's warm and sunny and no chance of rain - that's maybe 40-50 business days per year.)
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Old 01-21-16, 05:29 PM
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Originally Posted by InTheRain View Post
Generally, a lot of threads and posts, address the issue of how much we're saving by bicycle commuting. However, as I look back at the last year, I realize that I've spent a lot of money on bicycle commuting... and I didn't buy a new bicycle. I made some rather significant modifications to my existing commuter. E-bike kit and disc brakes. The E-bike kit ran $2300 + $75 for installation. The conversion to disc brakes cost $500+. I bought new tires at the time of the e-bike conversion (schwalbe marathon plus, $47 each.) So, nearly $3000 for the year.

I don't think it was a money saving thing last year. I also spent $400+ on parts for my road bike (frame replacement by cannondale - had to buy new parts to fit a new frame.) OK, so I'm not paying for gas, insurance, or parking and I don't have a 3rd car for a 3-driver family. But, I don't think I'm going to use the "saving money" card to justify my love of riding my bicycles. They are sweet bikes, but make no mistake... they aren't cheap or inexpensive.
The problem isn't that commuting is expensive, it's that you have "upgraditis". Was any of the upgrades you did on your bikes really necessary? The bikes were functional before you started changing things weren't they? I suffer (or enjoy) the same problem but I'm not blaming commuting. Every bike that I've upgraded to the point where it is no longer the same bike it was when I started...including replacing frames...twice!...is because I wanted to change them bikes. They would have been perfectly functional without a single change to the frame or components.

On the other hand, I put less than 5000 miles on my vehicle last year (which is fairly typical) and most of those miles were taking it to destinations rather than running around town in it. If I drove it every day for the 15 years I've driven it, I would have had to replace it long ago which means a payment for a new(er) vehicle. AAA estimates that operating a full size SUV costs around $10,000 per year. Since I've only used it about 20% of the year, I've saved about $8000 per year in operating costs. Over 15 years, that adds up to about $120,000!!!! I know I haven't spent that much on bicycles in the same 15 years.

Yea, I save money...a whole bunch. Plus as Darth Lefty says, I have other reasons for riding.
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Old 01-21-16, 05:38 PM
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Spending on equipment can be as much or as little as you like and can afford. Over the years I've spent a good bit of money on bike commuting stuff, but I could still be going on the initial $400 or so investment I made back in 2007 if I'd wanted to stick with that setup. Everything I've spent since then has been because I wanted to get something more.

I've more or less gotten to the point where I've filled out my accessory pile. I've got all the bike-specific clothes I could use. I've got more racks, fenders and bags than I know what to do with. The lights I keep in a drawer at work as backups are great lights. And, of course, my bike is pretty close to what I'd build if I had an endless supply of cash.

Of course, this doesn't mean I'm going to stop spending. I still need new tires every 12-18 months, but there are also the "just-for-fun" upgrades I make when I have the spare cash to do so. Last year I built a set of wheels that are nicer than any commuter bike would ever need. This year I'm looking to make the jump to hydraulic disc brakes. The biggest change, though, is probably that now when I have money available for bike stuff I'm more likely to spend it upgrading one of my recreational use bikes.
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Old 01-21-16, 05:49 PM
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No not that much although I just bought a new "commuting bike" which will raise my average. A couple hundred per year, more or less.

I drive somewhere two or three times a week, divided into my payments and insurance ... I'm not even going to finish that calculation. It wont come out to very many trips in the car, equaling the cost of one bike.
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Old 01-21-16, 06:41 PM
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In bike commuting, don't forget to include the additional cost of food. Say, an extra 1,000 calories per day. Gasoline is such a dense fuel source, it may be cheaper to drive on a pure cents per mile basis. And this is despite the vehicle weighing 100 times more than a bicycle. Since oil extraction and processing is so compact (footprint) relative to food production, the extra food requirement for cyclists may actually have a larger negative impact to the environment.

Cyclists: also include the cost of an extra shower per day - in terms of the water cost and the energy to heat the water. And the cost of bicycle-related consumables. So I went through 4 chains last year, plus I'll go through a set of rings and a cassette. Basic wear & tear. Plus the cost of at least one set of tires due to simple mileage wear. In reality, I destroy through about 4 tires per year; most of these bite the dust due to chunks of glass or pothole impacts. Plus on average I go through a set of rims per year due to brake-track erosion. Lots of wet-weather riding.

Plus I have a fleet of about 8 bikes that require maintenance. I spend a lot more time fiddling on my bikes than maintaining my car, which is only a twice per year trip for an oil change and inspection. Also I spent several thousand $ in 2015 on various bike upgrades and toys.

Hmmm..
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Old 01-21-16, 06:46 PM
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Last year I put fewer than 1000 miles on the car. Because I've become a transportation cyclist, that car will probably last much longer than it otherwise would have. When it dies, we won't replace it and will become a one-car family. On top of that, fitter people face much lower healthcare costs over the long run. When you factor in things like that, bike commuting is saving me a lot of money. Saving money, however, is not why I do it. I just really, really love riding my bike
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Old 01-21-16, 07:51 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
The problem isn't that commuting is expensive, it's that you have "upgraditis". Was any of the upgrades you did on your bikes really necessary? The bikes were functional before you started changing things weren't they? I suffer (or enjoy) the same problem but I'm not blaming commuting. Every bike that I've upgraded to the point where it is no longer the same bike it was when I started...including replacing frames...twice!...is because I wanted to change them bikes. They would have been perfectly functional without a single change to the frame or components.

On the other hand, I put less than 5000 miles on my vehicle last year (which is fairly typical) and most of those miles were taking it to destinations rather than running around town in it. If I drove it every day for the 15 years I've driven it, I would have had to replace it long ago which means a payment for a new(er) vehicle. AAA estimates that operating a full size SUV costs around $10,000 per year. Since I've only used it about 20% of the year, I've saved about $8000 per year in operating costs. Over 15 years, that adds up to about $120,000!!!! I know I haven't spent that much on bicycles in the same 15 years.

Yea, I save money...a whole bunch. Plus as Darth Lefty says, I have other reasons for riding.
Yes, I do have upgraditis. I do it to make my commutes more enjoyable. I really love the e-bike for commuting. Yes my touring bike was functional but not nearly as fun as the e-bike. Once I did the e-bike upgrade, the disc brakes really were necessary after adding 16+ lbs to the bike. I wasn't real confident in the canti brakes (I had tried several different pads and even switched from tektro oryx brakes to shimano) even before the conversion but felt the canti's would be dangerous in wet weather. I'll admit, I'm not a great wrench and maybe I don't know how to properly adjust cantilever brakes, but I had 4 different bike mechanics at different local bike shops adjust them... I didn't ever get any better performance than when I originally bought the bike. I'm happy with the performance of the mechanical disc brakes.

I imagine I'll upgrade again. Hopefully not for a while. I think the next upgrade on a commuter bike will be a new commuter bike. I'm pretty convinced that it will be an e-bike.
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Old 01-21-16, 07:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Giant Doofus View Post
Last year I put fewer than 1000 miles on the car. Because I've become a transportation cyclist, that car will probably last much longer than it otherwise would have. When it dies, we won't replace it and will become a one-car family. On top of that, fitter people face much lower healthcare costs over the long run. When you factor in things like that, bike commuting is saving me a lot of money. Saving money, however, is not why I do it. I just really, really love riding my bike
I won't categorize myself as a fit or healthy person. I'm overweight, have diabetes, on blood pressure medication, and cholesterol medication. My bicycle commutes help, but I won't call them a "fitness activity." There will always be someone fitter than I am and healthier than I am. But, I do love riding my bikes.
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Old 01-21-16, 08:48 PM
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You can save a lot of money if you can avoid buying a second car.

You can save a TON of money if you can avoid buying a first car.
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Old 01-21-16, 08:58 PM
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I think where I'm saving the most money is reduced wear and tear on a high mileage vehicle. Less oil changes, as well. I really need to get a few more years out of my car while we pay off the wife's new ride. Hopefully a little over 2 more years there.
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Old 01-21-16, 09:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Dave Mayer View Post
In bike commuting, don't forget to include the additional cost of food. Say, an extra 1,000 calories per day. Gasoline is such a dense fuel source, it may be cheaper to drive on a pure cents per mile basis. And this is despite the vehicle weighing 100 times more than a bicycle. Since oil extraction and processing is so compact (footprint) relative to food production, the extra food requirement for cyclists may actually have a larger negative impact to the environment.
Everybody's commute is different. I'm guessing at 6 miles per day mine is fairly average. According to a heart rate monitor I burn a few hundred calories on a typical day each way, - 500 to 600 total. On a very cold winter day with some snow on the ground I might burn 1000.

If I drive I still burn some calories between the actual driving and the 10 minute walk from where I park the car to the office. It's about 80 calories each way according to this site: https://www.healthstatus.com/perl/calculator.cgi I can park there for free but I have to move it at lunch. So to walk back out to my car, drive it to another location and walk back is probably another 40 calories. So about 200 calories for the day. That assumes I'm not stuck in rush hour traffic.

Anyway, the net difference most of the year is 300 to 400 calories per day. A $1.00 sausage biscuit from McDonalds happens to be 430 calories. Or I could get a 32 oz fountain soda from the local convenience store for $.89 that has 450 calories. Even at $2.00 a gallon of gas I'm still coming out a little bit better by cycling. Our car gets about 20 mpg in the city and this is city driving. At 12 miles per day, I'm using more than a $1.00 worth of gas a day.

Of course I could pay $5.00 for parking and not have to move the car at lunch but that lot is farther away so you can add another 5 minutes of walking to and from, - and then of course there's the $5.00 for parking. I could pay more to get closer. I'm lucky that my office is towards the edge of downtown. Some people pay a lot more to park.

I'd also guess that most people in the US don't eat more because they commute on a bike, they just maintain a healthier weight. Most people in the US consume far more calories than they need anyway so I don't think the argument holds much water. Personally if I wasn't riding to work I'd be making it a point to burn some extra calories in another way.

If you really want to see an environmental impact comparison you can look here: https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/qu...need-to-take-a

It's a long discussion but I don't think factoring in the impacts of the production and maintenance of bikes vs cars entered into it anywhere. Until our kids move away we still likely own two cars but they'll need to be replaced far less frequently because I do a lot of riding. A bike can last indefinitely.

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Old 01-21-16, 10:04 PM
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Don't forget to consider the value of the health benefits of commuting. E-bike kit? Not sure how long/steep your commute is, but the only people I see with e-bikes at work are the ones with plenty of disposable cash. I see a lot of fairly low end hybrids or mountain bikes parked all over the place. Some road bikes.

I find biking to work more enjoyable than fighting traffic in a car.
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Old 01-21-16, 10:21 PM
  #24  
tjspiel
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A shorter answer to the original question: Not any more.

I used to spend a fair amount of money on upgrades, tires and clothes for winter etc. That was when I was doing triathlons on a regular basis and tinkering with bikes was a major hobby. But I bought used bikes and used parts when I could. I probably have no more than $1,200 into any one bike.

Now I only replace parts that need replacing. I haven't made any kind of major upgrade or accessory purchase in a few years. My current most ridden bike is the one that was the least expensive to buy and it's dirt cheap to maintain.
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Old 01-22-16, 12:41 AM
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Well if you consider that you also need to replace various parts on your car from time to time, just like a bike, then you're definitely saving.
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