Thursday, July 10, 2008

Return from Hiatus

Our family was off on a mini-vacation last week.  We visited Vermont for a few days on a bit of a whirlwind tour.  Stunned by the beauty, impressed with the apparent quality of life, I am left certainly entertaining fantasies of a shot at a simpler life.

Yesterday 07/09/08 was the 1 year anniversary of my employment date at the Buffalo Wild Wings corporate offices.  That first day of employment was the beginning of the commitment to ride my bike to work as frequently as I could.  Now that it has been a whole year, I thought I would take a moment to reflect.

There were two days in July last year when I drove to work; once to bring in a box full of personal supplies and once because of a wedding obligation after work.  If I make it to 07/20/08 then it will be a whole year of riding without once having driven to work.

Why make the commitment?
  • Savings:  I don't have good statistics on the exact price of gas at the time, but I do recall somewhat attempting to justify my stubbornness with the idea that I was saving money. (More on that idea later.)   
  • Interest: I have a passion for bicycles. I simply really like to ride my bike.  Commuting is an opportunity to do that almost every day and puts me in condition to knock of rides on the weekends that are limited only by time, not so much physical conditioning.
  • Health: I believe that regular exercise is a VERY important component of a healthy physical and mental lifestyle.
  • Sanity: With nary an exception my bicycle ride is predictable and consistent. I never sit in traffic unmoving waiting for traffic.  The time I spend on a saddle allows me to think, unwind, solve problems, decompress from work, and to reflect on life in general.

With the exception of cost savings, I think that I can say that objectives match up pretty well with results.  Why not savings?  I made the mistake of taking a peak at Quicken running a report for spending by category for the previous 12 months.  Almost all bicycle expenditures are categorized as "Fun Money: Ken"

Holy Cow!  The list of payees reads like a who's who of the esoteric bicycle parts industry. Hiawatha Cyclery, Velo Orange, Rivendell, County Cycles, ebaY, ebaY, ebaY.  I think that there might be merit to my lovely spouses claims of almost weekly deliveries or arrivals.  Over the last 12 months, I have spent A LOT on bike parts. 

Okay, so I must have saved some by riding a bike, right?  I figure 50 weeks of commuting 150 miles a week is equal to 7,500 miles.  The car I was driving required premium fuel and got 25mpg at best if not driven aggressively.  I seem to recall gas being in the neighborhood of $2.50 last year, now $4.  At an average of $3.50, I've saved about $1,000 in gas. (300 gallons of fuel.)

Let me just say that I've spent four and a half times my savings on bike shit.  That doesn't include my addiction to Ibex sportswear that has been categorized as clothing. (Thanks for saving my bacon on the budget on that one Anika.)  

Of course there is no way that all of my purchases have been required for bicycle commuting.  I would argue that most of it falls squarely in my "bicycle lifestyle and interest" category.  Parts disappear into the basement bike shop, get tucked away on shelves like a squirrel puts away nuts for the winter.  A lot of the commuting-related expenditures have been for items that will hopefully last me for years to come.  Still, I cannot ignore the fact that there has been a substantial amount of spending on consumable bike parts; tires, chains, cogs, chainring, rims, etc. 

The only thing that has really saved me in the overall savings has been the fact that we were able to sell off one of our cars.  No car payment, no insurance, no maintenance.


jess said...

came across your post. happy to hear you love Ibex! Are you wearing just cycling apparrel or loving all sorts of Ibex? As always happy to come across a fan and keep in touch, let us know what works for you (and what doesn't).

We've got new commuter pieces in the works for next keep you're eyes peeled!


Bent Dog said...

Next time your in VT come visit the Ibex offices, we are in Woodstock.
Thanks for the mention!

Jim Thill said...

A halfway competent bike mechanic could be a bike commuter for near zero expense. The old ten-speeds are out there and people are often willing to give them away. If a person keeps his eyes open, a collection of ridable bikes and junkers for parts can be quickly assembled.

Reflector Collector said...

My only problem with Ibex is not owning enough of it!

I liked the shorts so much, I bought 4 pair and the Shak jersey is a must have. I bought one of the (I think the name is Pingo) jackets. The wooly

While we were in VT we were just to the West of Woodstock staying in Rutland, but spent most of our time in the smaller surrounding communities.

I suggested a visit to Woodstock and my wife just smirked. Cannot fault a person for trying though?!

Reflector Collector said...

Jim, while I would agree with you that one could "get by" for much less than what I have spent. Not all of my expenses are commuting related. It would be interesting to review my spending more carefully to determine more precise commuting costs. Admittedly, even some of my commuting expenses might be categorized by others as discretionary. Example my Lake Winter cycling boots.

Had I opted to refrain from said purchase, I would have had to use something like my size 15 Sorrels on flat pedals. Not a combination that I would have likely stuck with through the entire winter.

None of my expenses cover the cost of an existing bike that I use or fenders or rack or panniers. I think it's unreasonable to expect to get by for over 7,000 miles on a bicycle resurrected for free. Could it be done? I know I am not man enough to try.

One must expect to replace drivetrain components. Even getting by for cheap this will run someone $100 if doing chain, cassette, and a chainring. There's no replacing chainrings on inexpensive cranks so possibly replacing an entire crank is not cheap.

Brake pads, rims, chains, brake cables, cogs, a chainring, and tires were all consumables. I hope my new rims will last longer than a year, but the rear may need replacing as I hit an unexpected pot hole hiding at the bottom of a puddle.

One cannot deny that costs add up and I don't think it is unreasonable to suggest that the cost of commuting by bicycle is equal to any savings in gas alone.

Jim S. said...

Seeing as you got rid of the second car, you can justify using the IRS number of 50.5 cents per mile estimate for auto expenses. Thus, your driving expenses would have been $3535. I support your need to not ride a bad department store bike on your commutes. I am sure a lot of your purchases exceeded necessities and fell into the cool category. I have fallen into that trap and certainly do not ride anywhere as much as you do.

Anonymous said...

You've answered the question; Car Insurance-Servicing-Depreciation. Obviously depending on the car you had, you could have lost thousands of dollars just on depreciation. You didn't have to join a gym and pay money to stay fit. I leave the house at 6am, the same time as my neighbour, I usually pass him whilst he's parking his overly large 4wd in the car park at the gym (1 mile away) before continuing his journey into work (another 2 miles away). Most of the road is a designated cycle path!?

rigtenzin said...

The discussion of money saved by riding a bike is difficult and inexact. If you are a bike enthusiast with disposable income, you'll spend lots on bike stuff whether you ride to work or ride after/before work.

However, if you were trying to make a point of saving money by riding your bike as transportation, you could certainly save lots. Start with Jim's idea of a decent, old ten-speed. Go from there, but don't stray too far.

-d said...

ride brother, ride. forget the money savings, forget the money spent. You, unlike most of the people in the U.S., enjoy your commute to work. 50 weeks a year, 5 days a week, twice a day, that is 500 times you did not have to get in a car.

You win.

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