By John Higgins
Experienced cyclists know that the opportunity to spend money on their chosen pastime is boundless, some driven by want and some that is needed. Novice cyclists in many cases have not come to this realization, and think that once they have outlaid a substantial sum for a bicycle that cycling is a free sport. Let’s put a thorn in that tube right now. Buying a bike is just the start of a long journey of cycling expenses, some of which you may expect and many of which you won’t. Let’s get on the audit trail….
When I worked in mainstream bike shop land, I was always surprised by the number of new bike purchasers who flatly refused to think it would be in anyway beneficial to have a waterbottle cage, waterbottle, seat bag, spare tube, patch kit, tire levers, multitool and chain lube. You can get away without some or all of these things for a while, but there is no fun cycling with a parched throat or being stranded by the side of the road with a breakdown that could have been repaired – especially if you are in a cell phone deadspot. Boy scout motto: “be prepared”. Allocate some new bike budget to sensible accessories.
You can ride in whatever you like. But cycling shorts, gloves and helmet enhance the experience. It only took my first case of saddle sores on my first long distance tour in cotton shorts to gain a true appreciation for the potential value offered by padded cycling shorts. Buying once is not enough though. Helmets have a life span, and need replacing. Gloves wear out, and cycling shorts wear out. Ride, wear out, replace.
A bicycle is a machine, with mechanical moving parts, and increasingly hydraulics and electronics as well. Machines need maintenance. Cleaning, lubing, greasing. Maintenance has a cost – your time or someone else’s in return for dollars, but it can help extend the lifespan of the moving parts on a bicycle, and those things cost even more money.
Brake pads, chains, chain rings, cassettes, bearings, cables, batteries, tires. All of these things have a useful life, and the more you ride (and sometimes when you don’t), theses things wear out and need replacing. Let your chain get too worn out and it’s going to take the chainrings and cassette with it, turning a low cost part replacement into a high cost part replacement. Last weekend my mountain bike shifters decided they were done with performing a thankless task. Broken internals. Time for new shifters. Not an expected repair, but one that made its need known suddenly and effectively.
You might have expected all of the previous categories, but this one catches out many people unaware. Stuff that doesn’t move also wears out, due to its important role connecting you to the bike. Saddles for example. The rails bend, the padding breaks down, the outer fabric gets scuffed or torn. Saddles are a consumable item. Expect to replace your saddle at some stage because it wont last as long as the bike as a whole, and that’s even if it’s comfortable (or was comfortable).
Using cycling shoes and pedals? When is the last time you looked closely at your cleats? These things last about a season or two, not a lifetime. And the shoes they are attached to will also wear out.
Handlebar tape breaks down from pressure and UV light, and can get manky from exposure to your grubby, greasy hands. Is it time for new tape or grips?
How about going in a charity ride, gran fondo or race? Now you are up for event registration fees, fund raising, travel and accommodation. Not to mention food – lots of food! And of course, to do your best you will no doubt want some sports bars, gels, electrolytes, recovery drinks and maybe even a post event massage. Still think cycling is cheap? Yes! Time to add a coach, training plan, indoor smart trainer, power meter and a Zwift subscription.
Now we venture into the realm of want, and your susceptibility to cleverly constructed marketing campaigns designed to imply that your bike is not good enough, or you are not good enough, or you’re not keeping current unless you buy X. Beware the smoke. Beware the mirrors. But heh – it’s your cash. Spend it how you like!
The ultimate upgrade. A whole new bike! Woo hoo! Now we are back to square one. That new bike needs some new accessories. And you need a new kit to ride in, and now an extra bike needs maintenance, and parts and contact point items, and upgrades. You can see where this is going right? It’s a journey. There is no end to the spend!
John Higgins is a professional bike fitter and purveyor of unique and boutique bicycles and fit-related components and accessories in Salt Lake City. More info on bikefitr.com