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Cycling: Cost per Mile

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Old 11-29-18, 02:44 PM
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RubeRad
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Cycling: Cost per Mile

What's your cost per mile?

A working-condition road find is 0/mi from the instant you first set in motion, until you first have to replace a tube or a brake pad or something.

A bike that you pay $10000 (or even $1) for, but it only sits in the garage and is never ridden, has infinite $/mi.

Everything else is in between.*

The $/mi metric can be applied to individual bikes, or whole stables (or even individual components). It gets tricky (see ship-of-Theseus) for somebody that swaps parts between bikes a lot.

But if you start to factor benefit into the equation (I paid X for the bike, but saved Y because of riding instead of driving, or saving bus fare, or whatever), it gets too complicated I think. I'm not so interested in comparing bike cost to car cost (if you've got an axe to grind against cars, go do it in LCF), as much as all of us comparing our bike costs to each others'.

My #1 bike (Surly CrossCheck), has probably $2000 sunk into it (original build + upgrades + maintenance) over the last 6 years that I've been commuting on it, and has accumulated I think 15000 miles or so? That's a cost of roughly 13c/mi. It feels like kind of a high cost if I think of it in terms of pausing every mile to drop another 13c into a jar. (for my 11mi rt, I'm paying about a buck and a half a day, that would buy me lunch once a week). So I think it's better to think of how that cost/mi drops the more I ride (At this time, I've prepaid about a buck and a half a day)

My mountain bike (Surly Krampus): I got for like $1000, only a few months ago, I have maybe 100mi on it. So it's still an expensive $10/mi. Obviously I'd like to get that way down, and the only way to do that is ride baby ride. (Without spending a ton on upgrades). Maybe after a few years I'll consider upgrading to a (used) new model Krampus, because of the braze-ons, thru-axles, tubeless-ready rims, and simpler/stiffer frame (no jump tube, no need for custom chainstay yoke). If I do that and sell my current Krampus, then I can deduct my sales price from the cost and compute (estimate) a final cost-per-mile for the use of that bike.

My previous mountain bike (BD Moto hardtail) cost $750, plus maybe $150 in tires/parts. I rode it for 3 years, but only recreationally, most weekends, so maybe 1000mi? (I don't really have accurate numbers here. Strava users feel free to be as precise as you want, but others go ahead and ballpark it like me), so 90c/mi. (However, it is now my son's bike, so technically I still own it, and it contributes to the family stable cost per mile)

So there you go, I offer example bikes with cost-per-mile at three different orders of magnitude. How about you and your bikes?



* If you flip the bike for more than you put into it, your $/mi is negative!

[EDIT: 2018-12-05 graphs finally added. In the histogram, the top 10% of the cost/mile values are lumped into an outlier bar. In the scatterplot, both axes are logarithmic]





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Old 11-29-18, 02:54 PM
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Hi All!

My experience has been $0.25/mi over the last few years of commuting.

A slightly detailed explanation can be found here:

New BSO long-term test!

A quick synopsis is:

440 commutes
5101km/3169mi/239h
£605.76/$778.42 total
£2.53/h
€2.66/h
$3.25/h
£0.1187/km
€0.1342/km
$0.2456/mi
£1.376/commute
€1.556/commute
$1.769/commute
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Old 11-29-18, 02:58 PM
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I haven't kept a detailed spreadsheet on any of the modifications I've done to my bikes (bike of Theseus?), so there's no way I could calculate an accurate $/mile ratio.
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Old 11-29-18, 03:04 PM
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Originally Posted by acidfast7 View Post
My experience has been $0.25/mi over the last few years of commuting.
A slightly detailed explanation can be found here,,,
Ha, "slightly detailed"
440 commutes since 2013, you must have another bike you use more often? High(ish) cost per mile is due to not that many miles
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Old 11-29-18, 03:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Doctor Morbius View Post
I haven't kept a detailed spreadsheet on any of the modifications I've done to my bikes (bike of Theseus?), so there's no way I could calculate an accurate $/mile ratio.
That's OK, feel free to drop an inaccurate $/mile ratio (like I did in the OP)
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Old 11-29-18, 03:10 PM
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Originally Posted by RubeRad View Post
Ha, "slightly detailed"
440 commutes since 2013, you must have another bike you use more often? High(ish) cost per mile is due to not that many miles
Not really, we work about 200 days/year over here and academics much less (160-180) and I walked to work for a while (18 months or so) so it wasn't used. For my PR application in the UK, I had to list all of the days out of the country (320 over the last 5 years, so I lose those days for commuting too!)

I'm more interested to see whether the money/commute is the same as other people if they're honest with themselves.
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Old 11-29-18, 03:15 PM
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Interesting. I started bike-commuting first workday of 2013, and have been 'full-time' ever since, which includes occasional driving days for required errands, and a couple months out for a couple injuries. I tracked my commuting days over at the bikejournal.com commuter cycling century challenge for 2-3 years, but got tired of it. I never quite made 200 days, but was in the 170-180 days/year range.
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Old 11-29-18, 03:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Doctor Morbius View Post
I haven't kept a detailed spreadsheet on any of the modifications I've done to my bikes (bike of Theseus?), so there's no way I could calculate an accurate $/mile ratio.
How many thousands of dollars have you spent (or netted, if you're also selling) on bikes in your life (or the last 5-10 years?) How many miles have you ridden? BOOM: rough estimate for your stable.
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Old 11-29-18, 03:24 PM
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If we get a good number of responses I'll make a histogram (-making capability), and update it once in a while.
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Old 11-29-18, 03:33 PM
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I spend money on bikes, but I don't use bikes exclusively for commuting. Is there a sensible way to separate the data?
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Old 11-29-18, 03:36 PM
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Nah, I'm just curious about cost per mile, whatever those miles were for. acid&I are just enumerating commutes because that's the primary use of those bikes. Mine sometimes (10%?) rides other places than work, I assume acid's too. And my MTB almost never rides to work.

But if you can think of some meaningful way to split it up, go right ahead!
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Old 11-29-18, 03:46 PM
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I bought a $1200 MTB thinking I would ride it when not on my road bike. Over 2 years I only put 400 miles on it and decided it was not for me. I sold it for $800 so my cost per mile was $1.

I have a rather expensive road bike, Trek Emonda SLR, Sram Red eTap and Zipp 303 wheels... you can guess the cost. In 4 years I put 22,000 miles on it. So my cost per mile is half that of a $1200.

The most expensive bike is the one you don't ride. So treat yourself to the best bike you can afford... you deserve it.

BTW, if you can't afford to replace it if you crash, then it's too expensive for you. Because odds are you'll crash at least once if you ride public roads and ride often.
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Old 11-29-18, 03:53 PM
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Originally Posted by oldnslow2 View Post
Because odds are you'll crash at least once if you ride public roads and ride often.
This is true. I was just ran over by a White Van Man and required a new wheelset. He paid is cash and we had a pint afterward.

For those not in the UK:


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Old 11-29-18, 03:56 PM
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Originally Posted by acidfast7 View Post
This is true. I was just ran over by a White Van Man and required a new wheelset. He paid is cash and we had a pint afterward.
Self inflicted and cost $350 to have repaired. Not a crash, but the cost of being stupid.

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Old 11-29-18, 03:57 PM
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Originally Posted by oldnslow2 View Post
I bought a $1200 MTB thinking I would ride it when not on my road bike. Over 2 years I only put 400 miles on it and decided it was not for me. I sold it for $800 so my cost per mile was $1.

I have a rather expensive road bike, Trek Emonda SLR, Sram Red eTap and Zipp 303 wheels... you can guess the cost. In 4 years I put 22,000 miles on it. So my cost per mile is half that of a $1200.
Why guess when I can math? 50c/mi * 22000mi = holy cow that's a spendy bike, way more than I would ever pay for a bike! BUT, you're amortizing that cost with every mile. Good on ya.

Some people say "Ride it like you stole it". I think the motto of this thread should maybe be "Ride it like you paid for it!"
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Old 11-29-18, 04:01 PM
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Originally Posted by RubeRad View Post
Some people say "Ride it like you stole it". I think the motto of this thread should maybe be "Ride it like you paid for it!"
I say "ride it like your life depends on it". I tell every new rider that they are 100% responsible for their own safety. Never do what another rider does without thinking. Never trust a driver that you don't have eye contact with. And never trust a car with tinted windows. I live on Long Island where almost every road has some level of traffic. My favorite time is 6:00am on a Sunday in the Summer, before people wake up..
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Old 11-29-18, 04:03 PM
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29 cents/mile for me, but my bike is still fairly new (only 17 months), so that cost is dropping as it gets amortized
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Old 11-29-18, 04:04 PM
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Originally Posted by oldnslow2 View Post
I bought a $1200 MTB thinking I would ride it ...
One of my tricks is to use "thought" when searching CL for bikes; as in "I thought I would get into cycling, but..." The sellers in most of these ads don't get anywhere near the 400mi you did.
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Old 11-29-18, 04:05 PM
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Originally Posted by oldnslow2 View Post
I say "ride it like your life depends on it". I tell every new rider that they are 100% responsible for their own safety. Never do what another rider does without thinking. Never trust a driver that you don't have eye contact with. And never trust a car with tinted windows. I live on Long Island where almost every road has some level of traffic. My favorite time is 6:00am on a Sunday in the Summer, before people wake up..
That's a good motto too. More useful when your butt is actually on the bike; "ride it like you paid for it" is more applicable when your butt is on the couch.
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Old 11-29-18, 04:06 PM
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Since 2013, $0.33 per mile
$9000 on 4 bikes (commuter, AL road, CF road, mtb)
26,500 miles according to Strava
Not included are the $1000's spent on clothes, gloves, shoes, bike computers, car racks, trailer hitches, tires, tubes, chains, smart trainer, PowerBars
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Old 11-29-18, 04:08 PM
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Originally Posted by randallr View Post
29 cents/mile for me, but my bike is still fairly new (only 17 months), so that cost is dropping as it gets amortized
?? A Rohloff is well over $1K all by itself, plus frame and everything else. How many miles have you ridden to drop to 29c in only 17mo?
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Old 11-29-18, 04:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Riveting View Post
Since 2013, $0.33 per mile
$9000 on 4 bikes (commuter, AL road, CF road, mtb)
26,500 miles according to Strava
Not included are the $1000's spent on clothes, gloves, shoes, bike computers, car racks, trailer hitches, tires, tubes, chains, smart trainer, PowerBars
Yeah, that raises some interesting fine points. Tires, tubes, chains I would include in the cost of cycling, as well as bike computers. Dedicated cycling clothes I guess would also fit in there as part of the investment in the 'stable'. Reg'lr clothes like I cycle in would not be a cycling cost.

Accessories like hitches/trainers/tools are awkward, because they don't undergo any of the miles that the bike does (although I guess you would want to count synthetic trainer miles in your mileage count)
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Old 11-29-18, 04:15 PM
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Originally Posted by RubeRad View Post
One of my tricks is to use "thought" when searching CL for bikes; as in "I thought I would get into cycling, but..." The sellers in most of these ads don't get anywhere near the 400mi you did.
I was looking for a 2nd bike for riding in foul weather and found one on CL. It was a Scott Addict and the owner rode it twice and realized he needed a bike that kept him more upright due a bad back. I had maybe 40 miles on it and I paid $1300 and he showed me a $2700 receipt from a LBS.

So there are good buys.

My son worked at a LBS while in high school and saw many customers buy expensive bikes that they would not really ride. He rides a 60cm and called a old customer a year later after buying his bike and since the guy never road it he got it for a less than half what the guy paid for it.

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Old 11-29-18, 04:21 PM
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Originally Posted by oldnslow2 View Post
I was looking for a 2nd bike for riding in foul weather and found one on CL. It was a Scott Addict and the owner rode it twice and realized he needed a bike that kept him more upright due a bad back. I had maybe 40 miles on it and I paid $1300 and he showed me a $2700 receipt from a LBS.
LOL you were smarter, not being over-gung-ho up front you bought a more reasonable bike, and recovered most of that price back.

My son worked at a LBS while in high school and saw many customers buy expensive bikes that they would not really ride. He rides a 60cm and called a old customer a year later after buying his bike and since the guy never road it he got it for a less than half what the guy paid for it.
Very proactive!
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Old 11-29-18, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by RubeRad View Post
?? A Rohloff is well over $1K all by itself, plus frame and everything else. How many miles have you ridden to drop to 29c in only 17mo?
Sorry, you are correct. Here's the corrected number: 54 cents per mile over somewhere between 9200 miles and 10000. I have kind of a long commute.
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