Bicycle Pays For Itself In Three Months

You can get a decent road bike for about $1,000 – mine was $800 new. I ride almost 10,000 miles per year. 80% of that is shopping, commuting, going to visit friends, etc. – i.e. things I would otherwise have to use a car for.

My van gets 20 MPG, so I save about 500 gallons – or $2,000. I figure I save another $2,000 in automobile depreciation/maintenance costs. So the bike pays for itself in three months. Plus I don’t suffer road rage, don’t pollute, and don’t give money to scummy middle eastern and South American dictators.

Someday I will move to Holland and give up the cars completely. I can’t wait for that.

About stevengoddard

Just having fun
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31 Responses to Bicycle Pays For Itself In Three Months

  1. R. de Haan says:

    Yeah, move to Holland, one of the countries with the highest car density in the world but a great infra structure for cyclists. Most Dutch have a bicycle carrier on their car so they can drive into the countryside to do some cycling in the weekend.
    I’m sure you’ll love it.

    • RVDL says:

      And on some roads you can drive with 130 km/hour, by car of course.

      ps all people from Holland are Dutch but not all Dutch are from Holland

  2. DirkH says:

    “Someday I will move to Holland and give up the cars completely. I can’t wait for that.”

    My Dutch uncle migrated to Sourthern France. He was fed up with the eternal rain and the Muslims. Wasn’t much of a bicycle driver either.

  3. I was pretty happily car-free for the better part of five years, but my wife and I decided that an old used Volvo was easier (and cheaper) than renting a car for road trips. It’s about $400/yr for maintenance & another $800/yr for insurance, which is less than what we’d pay to make two road trips to Texas with a rental car (excluding gasoline). The poor beast just sit there, sometimes for a month, otherwise.

    I know a fellow (and his lovely wife, too) with 6 (six!) kids who has a pick-up truck for work (he’s a professional electrician) and otherwise gets around solely by bicycle. His kids are all basically expert stunt riders by age 4 or 5 and oddly none of them are fat. And yes, this is in the heartland* of the United States, where they don’t have many bike lanes or massively over-priced “bike friendly” projects.

    *where I sadly don’t live any more

    • DirkH says:

      Same with my kid. I should add that i am a bicycle driver myself.

      Steve, there’s one more problem with Holland. It’s flat. You mentioned you ran across the Rockies. In Holland, you don’t even have hills. Well, maybe one or two hills in the entire country and that is what The Nits sung about in “In The Dutch Mountains”.

      I saw them live; fantastic musicians.

      Well, you might be a little bored cycling in Holland…

  4. Sean Peake says:

    “There’s only two things I hate in this world. People who are intolerant of other people’s cultures and the Dutch.”

    • RVDL says:

      I don’t like people that think that Dutch people are intolerant.

    • NikFromNYC says:

      I’m a quarter Dutch. I have a folding motorcycle next to the drill press in my bedroom. In the closet I have two inflatable catamaran design inflatable “commando” boats and a 9.9hp outboard. The inflatable canoe is in the other closet. Living on an Atlantic ocean island full of graffiti free glistening subways, my titanium bike with the old school gear shift levers only comes out for exercise. Here’s Google’s current senior AdWords attorney, piloting one of the commando boats way up the Hudson River:

      I live in the city with the lowest household number of cars in the USA, a city powered by uranium, where I need merely stop a second or two between canyons of steel and stone to allow rivers of people to flow past me until I see my latest fling. God I hated Boston, three years of it, with merely 1/14th the population density. It took two weeks to see a pretty girl!

      Even at 3:55am, as I walked home from the laboratory each night, there were happy people hanging out on the big steps of Columbia, whereas nobody was ever seen enjoying the similarly big steps of Harvard’s library. I never felt so lonely, passing that.

      • I thought Manhattan was underwater.

      • NikFromNYC says:

        When I run my foot wide “illegal” shower head, it threatens to indeed sink the island indeed. It uses drilled out aluminum rivets as nozzles so is now properly modded:

        The inner thing cracked again though, so now its mostly waterfall ‘stead o’ shower, however. I run it much of the day. I love the delicate sound of splashing water and I live for cool humidity. Only two people I ever knew suspected that I was an alien. Today I was called an automated spam “bot” on HuffPost. Does that count?

  5. RVDL says:

    If you go shopping with a $1,000 bike in Barcelona ,that’s where I live now, you have to buy a new bike every two days. That would be $182,000 a year.That’s not saving money, that’s like giving money to Greece

  6. slp says:

    To each his own. There are several reasons I would not forego my car for a bicycle:

    1. It greatly increases laundry bills. A commute to work would require a change of clothes both ways, because even the shortest bike ride completely drenches a set of clothes (here in Florida anyway).

    2. It requires additional food intake, the calories to propel the bike are not free. I maintain my weight with what I currently consume, and do not enjoy eating enough to want to do it any more than I have to.

    3. Likewise, time is not necessarily free, the amount earned in the extra time it takes to travel could easily pay for the vehicle, maintenance, and fuel. (Even with the 16 MPG I get with my V8.)

    4. And for those of us allergic to grasses, weeds, and other outdoor irritants, the medical bills also add up.

    5. Plus, I personally enjoy driving my sports car far more than riding a bike, which is akin to torture for me (see the above points).

  7. Scott says:

    Assuming Steve weighs 160 lbs, then 10000 miles/year is ~448000 calories/year. I just looked and a 14.5 oz box of spaghetti is 1260 calories. I think that box cost something like $1.50/box, or about $0.0012/calorie. So if Steve eats spaghetti only and gets it at that price, then he’s spending an extra $533/year on food. Spaghetti is cheap, so I’d guess the actual number is higher. I’d never estimated this before, so it was nice to know. 🙂 I’d be curious on shifts in “carbon footprints” there too…less personal generation, but more food consumption?

    I also think that $2000/year for depreciation and maintenance is a tad high. Given my car isn’t worth even half of that, you can see why I’d think that. 😉 However, adding in registration, insurance, etc and maybe $2000/year is pretty close. There’s also bicycle maintenance (and depreciation I suppose, though that’s probably minor) to worry about. With my ~$250 bike, I imagine I spend ~$100/year in maintenance on average.

    However, I think the real savings comes in the long-term savings with lower health care costs (and there’s probably some impossible-to-measure savings there too). Imagine how much lower health insurance would be if everyone biked/walked around… I don’t bike nearly as much as Steve (probably don’t top 2000 miles/year), but I can definitely feel the difference when I stop for some reason or another.

    -Scott

    • I eat less when I exercise a lot.

    • Opus the Poet says:

      Well, with the calculations as they are stated you could buy a new bike every year and still be $$ ahead. That would be 100%/year depreciation on the bike. And I buy a $10 bottle of chain lube every 4 years, $20 worth of brake pads every other year, and $50 in tires every other year (2000 miles/year commuting). So totals are $150 in 4 years for about 8K miles. Or, I could buy a BSO from a big-box discounter for $300 and give it to the local bike co-op every December for a tax write-off as I get a new $300 BSO on sale.

  8. Charles Higley says:

    I biked while in graduate school. I quit when I was forced by a tractor-trailer to go through a deep puddle after a rain storm. My front wheel dropped into a hidden crevice in the road, locked the bike, and threw me on the road—I watched the wheels of the trailer pass by inches from my face. I never biked again; it simply was not worth it.

    You need a bike-friendly area, decent weather, and reasonable times for the activity. However, what we do not have largely is drivers who watch out for bicycles. Even the sidewalk is not safe as drivers pull up across sidewalks to see the traffic and NEVER look first for pedestrians or bikes. Nope, not worth it when the conditions are not good.

    BUT, do NOT take up biking to lower your carbon footprint. Since decreasing your carbon emissions does nothing, as human CO2 does not cause ANY detectable warming, going out of your way to decrease your emissions is meaningless. You should find a REAL reason for the activity.

    • Not CO2, pollution. Have you ever noticed after a longish dry spell, in the first few minutes of rain, the water running off the roads is full of grey-black particles? That’s the rubber that scrubs off the tires. There’s also quite a lot of smaller particles that get into the air and are subsequently breathed in by pedestrians, bicyclists, and frankly anyone who breathes outdoor air.

      You might point out that my bicycle has black rubber tires that themselves produce particulate pollution, & you would be right. But keep in mind that an automobile will lose ¼ to ½ of an inch of rubber per year from four tires that are 5-12 inches wide. My bicycle, that I put some thousands of miles on per year, goes through about 1 to 1.5 tires per year, and a vast majority of discarded bicycle tires are from sidewall cuts, or multiple punctures, not wear. I’d guess that the average tire for me loses perhaps 1.5-2 mm of rubber per year, if that, and the contact patch is less than an inch wide. And all that is to do exactly the same grocery shopping, commuting, errand running I would be doing in a car, putting hundreds of times as much particulate pollution into the air, to say nothing of the normal combustion pollution.

  9. NikFromNYC says:

    I demand more threads be onto this one. Confess, DIOXIDE sinners, now that you are culture war winners. I want and need to hear more stories.

    For example: does the 454 big block beat the 350? I mean the biggie has mo’ ultimate go but the 350 is so much lighter so it tend to win races, right?

  10. Robert Austin says:

    I love my bike, I used to ride to work before retiring. Now I ride for exercise or I ride mt bike to the pub because I know I will blow over the limit by the time I leave. But I also love my Chrysler 300C with the 5.7L V8. The extra cost in gas over a Prius is well worth it.

    • We had a guy around here fined for being over the limit when “driving” a donkey cart. The guy mentioned the donkey knew the way home but he didn’t get away with it.

  11. I dont get it. My brand new bike costed me 150 euros with extras. My car does 58 mpg diesel (not an hybrid.) I must be completely off the subject.

  12. Sleepalot says:

    “My van gets 20 MPG.”

    I think that warrants further thought. Do you need a van? (They don’t get very good mileage. 😉
    Does it need a tune-up? Do you drive it like a maniac?

  13. oeman50 says:

    i have a Huffy “girl” bike with ballon tires, one speed and a coaster brake that I use for errands in a pretty flat area around the city. It was free, being given to me by my mother-in-law who didn’t use it any more. So my costs per mile are…..almost infintesimal! (I did have to repair a tube, once.) I sit upright on the cushy seat and view the surroudings like a grandee! I also have a road bike that cost a grand, my attitude is much different when I am on that bike, I am decked out in Spandex and breathable polyester getting it as fast as I can (which is not that fast). I love both experiences. Go, Steve!

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