Friday Group Ride #238

Friday Group Ride #238

The old saw goes something like this: “The best reason to get a job in the bike industry is to get the 30% discount that comes along with the 50% pay cut.” The percentages vary but the truth is never far off.

It seems that, though I am regularly presented with products to review, gifts from friends in the business, and the largesse of my employer, I still manage to spend a large percentage of my income on bike stuff. And even with discounts and wholesales, that percentage easily runs to double figures, let’s say 12%.

It does not at all help that bikes are getting better and more fun all the time (debatable), and so I feel compelled to upgrade, alter and chase the next great thing. This year alone I have invested in a disc brake bike, a roadie for my wife, a wheel-barrowful  of parts and tools, an extra set of wheels, some studded tires, and a bunch of other absolutely essential equipment that my wife doesn’t yet know about.

It got me wondering how much other people spend on this hobby of ours.

A part of me recognizes that cycling is a problem, an addiction of sorts, and I think I should curb my enthusiasm, but then I think of this song, and I have no regrets, because what comes of all this spending, all this chasing and getting and installing and upgrading, is more fun than I could get from an annuity or one of those accounts that responsible people have aimed at paying their kids’ college tuition.

What is a liberal arts degree worth anymore anyway?

This week’s Group Ride asks, do you spend too much on bikes and cycling accoutrement? Have you ridden yourself into debt, or are you one of those get-one-great-bike-and-ride-it-forever types? Expressed as a percentage of your income, is your velo-spending cringe inducing or a badge of honor? Do you hide things from your significant other? Or are you content with the minimum functional article for every purpose, a cyclo-puritan?

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31 comments

  1. Tom in Albany

    I spend precious little and wear the stuff out. I’m one of those puritans that’s saving for college for the kids and for retirement. I also manage the $$$ so my wife can stay home with the kids because we both think that’s important. No doubt, if I had more spare change, I’d buy more stuff. i did buy a $4000+ Serotta and a $2400 Trek mtn bike 15 and 11 years ago, respectively. I don’t mind dropping the cash. I just wish I had it!

  2. Randall

    I’m 100% with Tom. I’d like to say that I spend ~$200-300 on parts, $200 on clothing, and another grudging $400 on license and fees. At the same time, I know that my next bike is going to be hydraulic disc road, and the nerd in me doesn’t know how to justify the expense. Should I take $100 per month out of my checking account for five years to save up? Even if I do, I’ll have to look at my kids when I leave, they’ll probably want to come with!

    Right now I’m looking at new shift cables, and I’m having trouble deciding between $6.00ea at the LBS or $138/100 on Amazon. I have enough money to get everything I need, but only if I sweat every penny…

  3. Bikelink

    I bought zipp 808 tubulars for racing in the last two years and over time then would often race instead on my 25mm tubeless tire wheelset (bontrager) that cost much less (am selling the zipps) but didn’t feel any slower and handled better. For racing at least it’s eye opening just how marginal many of the gains are. The Specialized wind tunnel guys showed that going from a steel bike frame from the 90s to their $10,000+ aero road bike gained only as much speed as going from a loose to tighter fitting jersey. So in terms of speed/performance, you can only buy a tiny bit and the stronger (or smarter riding) guy on the 10 year old bike will still kick your butt. So I spend a bunch but feel less pressure to do it to be faster as I experience and learn about just how little difference it makes.

  4. August Cole

    The great thing about spending money on a bike is you’re buying an experience, or a means to have one. Unless you are marooned on a trainer, you’re going to go faster than you thought you could, see more of your world than you otherwise would have and share time with people (hopefully nice ones). That seems to be a recipe for happiness, if you look at it that way. That’s why the new bikes in our house have been for the rest of my family (kids, wife) rather than myself. Until now. http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/10/buy-experiences/381132/

    1. Pat O'Brien

      True dat! But sometimes you can combine spending money on a bike and have the purchase provide a memorable experience. I bought a new road bike last year. My local bike shop built it, Mike at M&M Cycling, with each part selected by me sometimes with a little help from Mike. It was built on a Soma ES frame. I had never had a bike built exactly the way I wanted it. The first ride convinced me I should have done it long ago.

  5. peter lin

    I prefer to save money for my kid’s college or retirement than a fancy set of 404, 606 or 808. I really doubt spending another 1200.00 is going to get me a wheel that is 3x better than the Mavic Aksium I’m currently riding. I plan to save up for a Tarmac in a few years, but I don’t like chasing upgrades. It doesn’t make my enjoyment 3x more, or atleast I don’t believe it will make my enjoyment 3x more. When I upgraded from Aluminum to carbon fiber, I did notice improved stiffness, easier climbing and no fatigue on century rides. If I was single, it would be much harder to resist the latest and greatest upgrade.

  6. Harris

    Have wife and kids, and must fight the urge to splurge. While I have more than a few bikes in the stable, I get most stuff secondhand and make gradual upgrades. This helps keep costs down and manageable. I have so far resisted the siren’s song of carbon wheels, opting instead for tried and true bombproof ones. The one thing that is hitting me in the wallet these days, though, are the bibs. However, that is where I am seeing the best return on investment, and I would certainly rather know that something is working on my behind (the bibs) than be left wondering whether something is really working that much better on the road (the wheels).

  7. Kimball

    I’m probably your advertiser’s worst nightmare as I’m still riding a custom steel bike I had made in ’94. Other than upgrading from 8 to 10-speed 6 years ago and the occasional wheel rebuild with new rims (original White Industry hubs still going strong at 50,000+ miles) I really just maintain it and ride. I’m with Harris; nice bibs and jersey’s make a noticeable difference.

  8. Craig P.

    Since I just got back into bikes after a 10 year break, I’ve spent a fortune this year on 2 bikes no less- and did my first century, then another! I tend to like toys and collecting things. Then again, I have no kids to raise to 18 and put through college. I figure each kid I didn’t have = ten $ 10K bikes! My wife bought a bike too ( she started the whole renewed love of cycling ).

    I sell home theater equipment for a living – this hobby isn’t any different money wise. At least I don’t own a boat ! At this point I couldn’t afford one anyway………….

  9. Rod

    I am a huge gearhead, and I like tinkering with stuff and doing almost all my mechanical work. I draw the line where the tools are prohibitively expensive. And I like riding nice stuff (doesn’t always mean “expensive”). That said, almost all of my bikes have been bought as demo models or closeouts. It helps that I worked as a part-time mechanic for the shop sponsor so I get a heads-up when stuff I am interested becomes reasonably accessible.

    My favourite bike is a Far-East Ti CX bike I helped design. It has a couple of nice wheelsets with discs, but the frame itself is nowhere near as nice or expensive as a Lynskey, Moots, etc. And that’s fine, that thing takes a beating from CX and gravel rides. It is’t even painted. I fiddled continuously with the Parabox converter until I found a setting that satisfied me (pull, engagement point, reservoir level and pad clearance; all were new to me since I never had a MTB with hydraulics). So I’m learning as I go.
    And similar to Robot, the next upgrade is never far – my next “project” is 11 spd. Shimano mechanical hydraulics.

    I am currently in a life position where money is less limiting than time. I ride on the trainer 4 days a week, maybe 5 to stay a mediocre racer (and avoid sinking any further! I have no friends in lower cats!). And due to some lifestyle choices (e.g. no car, not many chances to go on vacation, rarely eating out due to toddler impatience, etc) I’m able to finance the bike hobby and still save for my kid’s education and not go into debt other than a mortgage. I live within my means, and my current condition allows for money to be spent on bikes.

    That said, I don’t discuss how much I spend on bikes (and racing, etc.) with my wife and she’s satisfied with the “one bike in, one bike out” rule.

  10. Champs

    I’ve put an emphasis on the cheap. That “daily driver” bike of mine is kitted out to the point where I’ll probably start “downgrading” toward cheaper and/or more reliable components.

    It started as a Surly with basic components. As my road bike was upgraded to Dura-Ace, it took on the hand-me-downs. Then I found a nice Litespeed frame, finished it with a carbon fork and seatpost, and built it up with Ultegra where it was compatible with the road bike… you know, for emergencies and a consistent cockpit. By then, it was fairly luxe for a lot of privateer racers, much less just to ride around town.

    It was all too much. Maintaining a bike with race-level components is expensive! Replacements get cheaper as technology trickles down the Shimano product line, but I shudder to think about how much I spent abusing nice parts with my own money. I’ll be throwing Retroshifts on my bike before replacing an STI, and likewise hearken back to the past with a square taper crankset and SKF bottom bracket that’ll last into my senior years.

    In a couple of years, I might even save enough money for a fancy new bike. The madness can begin anew.

  11. Aar

    I slowly backed off of my “buy every new high end component that comes out” sometime between one and two years ago. For now, I’m saving up for a custom Ellis.

  12. MickR

    My problem is having a meager budget that needs to be spread at least 4 ways: Road (race), MTB, Fixed city fun bike and fender/commuter bike. As listed in order of budget percentage, the poor fender bike getting older by the minute with nothing but hand-me-down upgrades coming its way. The carbon racing bike naturally gets the most attention but soon I’ll want 11 speed, and I’m starting the feel the itch for a disc road bike for travel and future epic rides, but also desperately need a new MTB rig. While we are at it, racing CX would be cool too, no?

    If it was just one bike, it would be so much easier to “keep up”.

  13. Timojhen

    Interesting topic. Guess I’m a bit odd man out with this group… I spend a fair amount and don’t mind it. Consider it a “appreciation” question. I’ll drive an old car without a second thought in order to have a single speed 29er which I legitimately don’t need. Stable is about 7 bikes at this point, and I’m okay with that.

    Had to stop on the gear side though – no matter how cool, I can’t justify jerseys etc. Think my situation may be a by-product of age. I lusted after so much I couldn’t afford as a kid, that when I got back into riding in earnest (early 40s) and could afford stuff, I certainly did so. 🙂

  14. Tom

    Overlooking my finished bikes (Masi, Pinarello, Chesini etc.) as well as working/searching for parts on my current projects (improve my fast Di2 racer with AX seat&post, Schmolke bars, etc.) gives my a smile and direct sense of accomplishment I can enjoy/ experience on the roads.
    I think: cheaper than therapy
    she thinks: by far the best value for money therapy

  15. Miles Archer

    I hate to shop. I don’t really enjoy spending money. I don’t care about having the latest and greatest.

    I started out on road bikes buying a friends mid-1980s Cannondale around 2000. Rode that for several years until I had a mechanical problem with it and my wife had to come rescue me. I bought a new Trek Pilot a few years ago. If I need to go faster, drinking less wine would make more sense than buying a new bike..

    I am grateful I don’t have the gene for always having the new gizmo.

  16. michael

    I read an interview with Robin Williams a decade or more ago in which the writer, in the end, compared the relative cost of a new bike to Wiliams to a spare tube for the writer. That stuck in my brain, but it did put things in perspective! I buy a new bike every couple of years for someone in my family – wife, daughter, or me – and get as much joy out of any of them. We drive 20-year-old cars because we hate them and ride new high-end bikes because we love them.

  17. John

    On the one hand, I spend a lot on bikes, parts, clothing, etc. On the other hand, I bike 30 miles round-trip to work every day instead of driving. I think I spend less on bikes than I would on gas, parking, etc. On the other other hand, I have a wife and two kids so there are certain limitations. Of the nine bikes in my basement, only three and 1/2 are mine, depending how you calculate the tandem…

  18. Jay

    Still riding my 1995 Davidson. Changed out the fork about 10 years ago for better descending; changed out my group from Campy to Shimano after damaging my right thumb in a crash, and changed wheels to accommodate the 11-speed group. Changed saddles a couple of times as I’ve gotten older. Just bought a Garmin GPS unit to help train indoors during snowy Idaho winters. Other than that, tires and tubes. Keep it while it works for you; change it when it doesn’t. Pretty simple.

  19. Alan

    Raising kids.

    So I have the minimum of everything needed to race. Minimum time, minimum money. But do have a decent Allez road bike, an old but good Felt TT, and a decent hard tail Rockhopper 29er with disc brakes.

  20. Bob

    I drive boring basic cars for a long, long time and buy really nice bikes instead. I live within my means and didn’t even think about buying the really high end stuff until the mortgage was paid off…

  21. g

    I have the classic bike racer problem/mark-of-pride…have a POS station wagon that is a rusty dependable bike racers car and I love that when I mount any of my bikes onto the rack they are worth many, many times what the car is worth. I think if you have this “problem” then you have your priorities in straight.

  22. John in Miami

    I used to tell my ex-wife that cycling was more expensive than going to a bar a couple times a week and drinking it up with my buddies. The drinking though would have gotten me into much more problems however. That being said, in my new life without having to explain my hobby finances, I regularly spend on cycling for clothing and parts. I don’t really see the need to replace bikes or upgrade. I also seem to think and pardon this because you are an advertising outlet for manufacturers of the industry; that a lot of the technical advances are marketing ploys telling us that this will make you faster or more stiffer or the dreaded, it weighs 8 grams less. Just like Nike telling us all those years ago that we could be “Like Mike”. No, we weren’t going to jump higher or make the shots better.

    I’m a heavier rider so I swore off carbon and surprising, converted a few guys in my cycling group to do the same. I enjoy riding the forever material known as Titanium but also have aluminum aero and a vintage steel road bike in my stable. I live in a very flat part of the country so braking isn’t that much of a concern for me as I hate climbing (the heavier part again) and rarely do any serious descending, but I do believe my next upgrade will be a disc road titanium bike. Just looking to wait another year or two.

  23. Shawn

    Hey Robot, if you bought all of that on 12% of your income (even at 30% off), you aren’t making a good case for poor pay in the bike industry.

  24. Dan R

    My annualized cost per mile is the only figure that could catapult me to the top of Strava’s rankings. To assuage my guilt (NOT), I’m trying to figure out how to sneak into the garage an $800 cross racer for my nine year old. “Of course, it was on sale, honey.” And, of course, it will need upgrades . . . .

  25. Don Byrd

    After 40 years of riding , the front crankset getting smaller and the cogset on the back getting bigger . I buy most of my bikes used . The new stuff to buy are: cables , chain , tubes and tires . You can find nearly new bikes used . Just rescue them from somebody that does not ride and wants it out of their garage . .

  26. kurti_sc

    hey Robot. Since we are all admitting what we spend / the stuff we have / and the obstacles to future expenses, this kind of sets a stage for a RKP Swap Meet. How about an online service for only a short period of time, like Nov or Dec? We could offer each other some sweet deals and grow the community aspect some more.

    WRT your questions above…
    I have shifted my cycling related expenses to doing more rides and travel. I’m sitting tight with my current selection (Sarto Road Bike and a Stumpy SS) so that I can do more with my friends and family. I still hunker for newer better wheels or another bike – i’m really interested in a SS cross bike or another geared MTB – but keeping focused on riding helps me to drive those demons down.


    1. Author
      Robot

      @kurt_sc – I like that swap meet idea, a limited time marketplace, perhaps. I’ll talk to the P man about it.

  27. Spider

    I spend $150p/w average most weeks (I kept track for 3 months), $8k per annum, that’s keeping a stable of really nice bikes (4 of them) fairly up-to-date, well maintained (by a great machanic) and a functioning wardrobe of Assos (which isn’t as bad as it sounds, the jackets last decades, the bib shorts, some of mine are 7 years old).

    In Australia a pack of cigarettes is now $16-$18. A cocktail at a Melbourne bar will be $16-$20 and a house is $500k if you want to live 40km from the city and over a $1m+ within 8km of the city. You could buy lunch and a coffee at work for $15 each day and easily spend $5-$10 getting to work whils I commute…so it’s all swings and round-abouts.

    Bikes + commuting + being healthy = same cost as Public transport + eating at work + smoking

    Well done Robot for getting people to think about their finances – it’s amazing how many people don’t analyse what they do with their money!

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