For frugal commuters, biking is often the vehicle of choice, but it can still be expensive. Blogger Zina Kumok breaks down the costs of biking as the primary mode of transportation.
Bikes are relatively cheap, don’t use gas, and can often get you around faster than public transportation. They also provide a great outlet for exercise and spending time outdoors. What’s not to love?
While bikes are a truly frugal option, they may not be as affordable as non-bikers assume. Anyone who’s fallen down the rabbit hole of bike ownership knows it can quickly turn into an expensive hobby.
Here are some common biking costs—and how to mitigate those expenses.
Service and Repairs
Like a car, bikes need occasional service such as drivetrain cleaning and tune-ups. You may also have to buy new tires, get a fresh coat of paint, or replace your brake pads. Repair frequency depends on how often you ride and what kind of bike you have.
Basic repairs can range from $40 to $60 for a new set of tires to $45 to $200 for a tune-up. If you want to do the repairs yourself, you’ll likely have to buy special tools and materials.
There’s also the potential for upgrading. While this is wholly unnecessary for casual commuters, serious bikers often find themselves replacing just about everything but the chassis of their original bike.
A good bike lock is a necessity, even if theft is uncommon in your area. Bike theft is most common in major metro areas and college campuses; most any lock will suffice. If bike thieves are rampant where you live, spring for a U-lock or other high-end option.
The most recommended locks can run you $40. You can find cheaper locks for less than $10, but run the risk of getting your bike stolen. So splurge for the nicer lock and save on peace of mind.
If you don’t have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance—or if they don’t cover a stolen bike—you’ll have to pay for a new bike if yours is stolen. (An emergency fund can also defer the cost of a new bike.) If you depend on your bike to get you to work, it may also be beneficial to monitor bike sales and keep a spare around.
If your house or car is broken into, homeowner’s or renter’s insurance will likely cover what’s stolen. Thankfully, these policies often include a stolen bike, but you may have to pay the deductible before receiving any money from the insurance payout.
Deductibles for renter’s or homeowner’s insurance typically range $250 to $500. Having at least this amount in an emergency fund is a great idea if you want to avoid losing your bike. After all, what’s the point of having coverage if you can’t afford to replace anything?
Additionally, contact your insurance agent to make sure your bike is insured. Keeping your receipt and having a record of bike ownership will help when filing a claim.
Gear and Clothes
Like any hobby, the more you get into biking, the more you want to do. Basic gear includes a helmet, water bottle, air pump, and backpack; these beginner accessories can cost more than $100. Commuters may also need to change their tires during winter months, which typically cost $20 to $50.
Diehard riders may also want cycling clothes, designed to wick away moisture and be comfortable while riding. Jerseys and shorts typically cost $40 each, but can go much higher. Serious riders also use cycling shoes, which run $50 to $200.
There are seemingly limitless add-ons and accessories for bike enthusiasts. Bike racks start at $30 and help you cart your bike around on a car, while bike trailers ($80 to $300) aid in lugging groceries around town. Odometers cost anywhere from $10 to several hundred for high-end models with GPS and cadence meters. A decent pair of riding sunglasses go from $30 to well over $100.
Don’t convince yourself that you need the most high-end bike or helmet to get started—you’ll likely be fine with bargain versions. You can buy a used bike, search Freecycle for free racks and trailers, or wait for sales. You may even have a friend or family member with a spare bike lying around in their garage.
When it comes down to it, you can ride a $100 bike or purchase one worth more than your car. If you bike to save gas money, you may be comfortable with cheaper gear, while hobby cyclists may want to upgrade. It’s all up to you.
Zina Kumok is a writer, speaker, and coach.
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While Society of Grownups hopes the information is useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation. If you need recommendations geared to your personal financial situation, consult the advice of a financial planner.