Thursday, December 3

Cheaper Than a Car!

Buddy Amortization to Date (Feb-Dec 2009)


Bikes are dollars and sense beasts just as automobiles are - if we're talking about commute costs. You may think that a bike is a lot cheaper than a car and so you almost can't help but save money. It ain't necessarily so, though I HAVE cracked the first threshold in my quest to get Buddy down to 10 cents per mile operating cost. Buddy now is OFFICIALLY cheaper than the average car - by 2 cents per mile. If I look around various locales about how much cars currently cost to operate, they all cluster in the 50 cent per mile ballpark.

Bikes just aren't cheap anymore. You want to get a nice "urban" bike - say the Gary Fisher Simple City or the Novara Fusion, and you'll be out a cool grand. You'll be out AT LEAST that much for any Surly you'll want to use to commute longer distances regularly.

It's something to think about. If you live less than 10 miles to work, you'll be riding NO FURTHER than my mileage even if you ride every work day, rain or shine, or cold or heat. Yes, buy that Civia or Redline, or whatever, just remember that you better darn well LOVE that bike because in raw economic terms, you are PAYING A PRICE TO BIKE COMMUTE. You want cheap miles - get something out of a dumpster and keep it running on a shoestring. For me, Buddy gets the job done and it looks like we'll hit the 10 cent per mile "target" before the bike gets worn out. Ride your bike to work to save the planet, or for whatever reason works for you, but DO keep an eye on the bottom line. You got to put in miles to get that cost down. Otherwise that elegant bike is an expensive toy, much as Felix is.

Buddy's operating cost is about half what it would be had I bought it new. The operating cost would have been lower had I not ridden the road bike to work for over 1000 miles of my total commute. PART of that road bike mileage was to keep the miles down on Buddy - it seems a little odd to AVOID riding a bike to keep mileage down, but my road bike was much cheaper than Buddy and already has over 7000 miles since I got it It is BELOW the target cost so riding it is almost free. If I can keep Buddy together for four years, I should be able to achieve the magic 10 cents per mile mark. Maybe even some of the components will still be good which will result in salvage value. A replacement frame would run about $900 new. Right now, I'd estimate the tires are about 60% worn so their per mile cost will drop before replacement is needed. Cost of cyclocross tires are NOT included since cross is FUN, not commuting.


Chandra said...

Very nice post! Totally agree on nice bikes ain't cheap! Have heard koolstop brake pads (assuming you bought salmon colored) are great. Where did you get'em, local?

Peace :)

Steve A said...

None local so I went to eBay. Very nice brake pads. I hope they last better than OEM which pooped out in less than 3500 miles.

Rantwick said...

The difference for me is that I ENJOY spending money on bike stuff! I can't remember ever being happy about new car parts. Thankfully I like building them (bikes, that is), which keeps my costs lower if I control my component based urges...

Anonymous said...

I've given up on trying to cost justify commuting equipment, because it is so tough to recoup your costs. I did, however, (and this is the topic of the post I have drafted to publish after work) have an epiphany last night when I got my insurance bill and discovered I had driven my Jeep so few miles that I now qualify for about $100 in discounts next year!

Steve A said...

Rantwick - buy a collectible Jaguar and you too will learn to love buying car parts. The gray (grey to you) headliner for my E-type trumps even the Campy wheels I have slated for Frankenbike in the future.

Steve A said...

Tracy - I'm not REALLY trying to cost justify the commuting equipment either. However, keeping an eye on the commuter running costs does add discipline to the process. You will note that there are a lot of things I don't count against running costs - like clothes, racks, fenders. Nor would I count totally unnecessary gewgaws like that frog bell I have my eye on.

Doohickie said...

I wonder how that would come out for the Dumpster Queen...?

Steve A said...

Dumpster Queen would come out very well PROVIDED that the urge to buy cool new stuff for it is kept in check. You know, like hammered fenders & really slick handlebars & such.

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