Friday Group Ride #406

Friday Group Ride #406

I was talking to a guy on the phone the other day. He said, “I paint all my bikes the same color blue, so when my wife asks if I bought a new bike I can just say, ‘No, I’ve had that one. It’s the blue one.'” This struck me as both evil and intensely practical. I made a note for myself.

Over the last few years, I have made a concerted effort not to spend money on bike stuff. This is rather like saying that Caesar’s Palace put a water saving plan in place that consists mainly of having the fountain out front spray slightly less high, but simultaneously I have given away a tremendous amount of my backstock of parts and clothing. I think I’m in karmic balance. Or close anyway.

I sometimes rationalize the things I do buy by converting each week’s expenses to what I call “travel dollars.” In other words, I have to travel. There a bunch of ways to do it, so some costs are simply implicit in moving around the world. If I were to calculate (I never actually calculate, because I find the results so much less encouraging than I imagine they’ll be.) what I spend would reasonably spend on gas and/or train fare, I think it’s ok to spend those “travel dollars” on bike stuff.

Then there’s the “fitness dollars,” the money I might spend on a gym or fitness classes. And “entertainment dollars,” cash I might lay out on movies or bungie jumping if I wasn’t so busy dropping wrenches and swearing in my basement most nights.

As you can see, all this money accrues pretty quickly, and the small amount (not actually that small) that I spend over and above the aforementioned mental slush fund can be chalked up to the fact that I work in the bike industry. That’s just professional expense. I’d write it all off if I didn’t fear the almighty audit and have a latent sense of guilt over the fantastic life I get to live already.

This week’s Group Ride asks about your spending. A gentleperson doesn’t ask what other people spend in real, quantifiable terms. That’s for pollsters and accountants. What I’m asking is this, do you spend as little as you can get away with? Do you think you’re pretty middle-of-the-road? Or are you everyone’s favorite customer? And how do you rationalize whichever of these positions you take vis-a-vis cycling dollars?

Image: Bike Boom

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  1. Tominalbany

    My newest bike is 18 years old.It’s a mtn bike that I hardly use now. I definitely fall under spending the least. I replace broken stuff. Both bikes are still 9-speed cassettes. Mtn bike has a triple. I have one set of rims and tires. I patch tubes as many times as I can. I only replace stuff when it’s well and truly done.

    The money I spend on bikes right now is for my kids since they have the audacity to keep getting bigger.

  2. Winky

    I rationalize a pretty high level of spend by the fact that my bikes replace our second family car, my commuting costs, my gym costs, much of my entertainment costs. I don’t replace my bikes very often, but buy high end (but not exotic). I have realized this past winter that commuting on a full Dura-ace groupset was unnecessarily expensive. I’m going to run a winter crankset, chains and cassettes through next winter, rather than trash a thousand bucks worth of bike jewelry in 6 months. At least, with discs, I didn’t trash the rims (although the hub bearings were hammered)

  3. Kayce

    I am in the same boat as Winky. I don’t own a car, and don’t do anything else for fitness. I am also in the same boat as you that I am in the bike industry. That being said there is no Etap or anything on my bikes. I am still getting fancier than most, but 303 not 454 kind of fancy. Being able to pool the money into commuting, fitness, and entertainment helps spread the burden. The other pool I take from is the fact that I don’t drink alcohol, more money to go other places in the entertainment field.

  4. Brian Ogilvie

    I’d say I’m middle of the road, on average, with interludes of “favorite customer.” The first bike I bought (as opposed to the one my dad bought when I was a teen) was a 1997 Trek 730 hybrid. In 2008 I got a Surly Long Haul Trucker and a Breezer Uptown 8 for commuting. My first fancy-ish bike is a 2010 Bike Friday New World Tourist, but I spec’d it with middle-of-the-road components (8-speed cassette, generic 54/44/30 triple, bar-end shifters, decent but not fancy hubs, etc.). My true fancy bike is a semi-custom lugged Boulder All Road, which I bought as a frame in fall 2012 and then built up over the winter with some pretty nice components I bought myself (wheels with SON dynohub and White Industries rear hub, Compass cranks, Dura-Ace downtube shifters, Honjo fenders, TRP levers, etc.). That’s the last bike I bought, though, and I use it for at least 90% of my recreational riding. (I did buy a Raleigh Portage with mostly original components last summer, thinking I might fix it up for my wife, but she doesn’t like the handling, so I might repurpose it for me or for visitors.)

    In short: I’m in a position in life where I can splurge if I want, but I’m content to get something nice and then use it as long as I can.

  5. harris

    I was drinking so much when I got back into cycling in 2008 that my then-new mid-level Madone saved me an equal amount (or more)in bar tabs in 2007, so I upgraded the wheels and got a fancier saddle. I wound up selling that bike to a friend a couple years ago, but that bike set the tone for trade-offs/bike rewards/rationalizations.

    1. harris

      I bought the wheels in 2009; I still haven’t learned how to type or time travel.

  6. hoshie99

    When asked the “what would you do if you won the lottery” my answer is simple: I’d buy a lot more nice bikes and have a better place to keep them all.

    I have a fair number of bikes but tend to spend wisely when I get them (think Chorus, not Super Record level) and keep them for a long time. This year will be a good year as a new gravel bike is coming to replace my older cross race bike since I don’t race anymore.


  7. John

    I try to pride myself on practical economy… but my non-cycling friends are shocked by what I consider economical. 🙂

    I’ve got 4 race-worthy carbon bikes, Road, Tri, MTB and CX ( and all get raced over the course of the year). I aim for mid-tier components ( Ultegra, Rival, Xt,…) and have a few blingy things ( Zipp race wheels, 2nd hand ENVY) Most of my bikes are bought on last-year clearance, one off Craigs List and I like the feeling that I’m not leaving much/any performance on the table to guys with the latest and greatest. I make my shoes and helmets last until they are moderately grody…

    All together, it adds up to a decent chunk of money, but lots of guys have an old sports car in the garage, so I don;t feel too guilty.

  8. Lucien Walsh

    I spend more than I admit to myself. I just bought a late birthday present: my first pair of Assos bibs. Yes, friends would be shocked to learn what I spent on this flimsy lycra. And last year I took the plunge on a Garmin 1000 and the Varia radar. Oof.

    OTOH my Sidis are 14 years old and so is my Seven. It got a BIG overhaul in 2017 to the tune of $2k; yea that could have bought a new bike. Maybe. Then again, I couldn’t bear the thought of putting this handmade bike out to pasture and I think I may be a monogamous bike person. I haven’t slept around enough to know for sure, but I think if I had 2, I’d likely favor one all the time. Besides, what exactly is wrong with the Seven? Not a damned thing, so why retire it?

    At age 48 and a good 8 pounds north of where I should be, I just can’t justify a new bike for the sake of some grams or even discs, so I am content with the notion that my bike is enough. More than enough. Many people would be over the moon to have one like it. So it’s ok to spend $3-400 a year on nice bibs and a safety device like Varia.


  9. Jim

    My company gives us $50 pretty month we can expense for bike parts. I’m embarrassed to say I have trouble spending this every month.

  10. David

    I’m definitely a miserly spender. I’ve got a 2009 Lynskey ti framed bike with 49,600+ miles, sporting the factory original Rival drivetrain. I had thought that at 50K I’d treat myself to an upgraded group overhaul……but dammit everything still works! Maybe I can get 75,000 miles before “necessary” replacements!

    I’m of the replace only when broken camp.

    1. Lucien Walsh

      If I could take back replacing my gruppo, I would. There is no discernible difference in performance or feel between the bike’s original Campy Centaur and the Ultegra 6800 that replaced it. I don’t really notice the extra gear, and guess what? It’s heavier now. It’s the nice wheels that made the bike better.

  11. Stefan

    I have a T-shirt that says “ I HAVE TOO MANY BIKES “
    says nobody ever

    That’s pretty much my motto.

  12. Aar

    I like to keep my bikes reasonably “up to date” and I tip in booze. The head mechanic at my LBS goes out of his way to assist me. Pretty obvious which category fits. Recently implemented an annual “bike stuff” budget.

  13. Aaron

    I just bought my first new bike in literally 20 years and that’s not even the bike(s) I was riding most of the time. The most frequent bikes I was riding are at least 30 years old. Needless to say I feel like I’ve come out of the dark ages with hydro discs, 1X and BRIFTERS! LOL…. I’ve been spending a binch of cash over the past few months on new kit and gear and tbh, it feels really good and I somewhat regret not dropping coin on a new ride sooner. I used to be very proud of my old gear and time spent tinkering….not anymore, thank you, and this a quite the perspective shift.
    Buy a new bike! 🙂 Buy new kit! 🙂 Buy new gear! 🙂 Pay a mechanic. 🙂 It feels good.
    Most importantly, ride what you have as often as you can.

  14. Michael Fox

    I have four bikes, all well loved, but,by many people’s standards they are old. MTB is a 1996 To Kona Hei Hei, full rigid, 9- speed, recently relegated to the bike I ride with my grandkids. Cross/gravel bike is a Lemond Poprad, the Matt Kelly white and green one. 9-speed. Bar-cons. IF Crown Jewel was built in Somerville Mass, so that’s how old it is. 9-speed as well.
    On the other hand, I just bought my wife a brand new Specialized Diverge, and my granddaughter a new Raliegh Redux. I think about new bikes a lot. But, I love the ones I have, they still work really well, fit me perfectly, and are just plain fun.
    I do buy kit and such fairly often, always quality stuff. I don’t consider myself cheap, I just like things that work well, and see no reason to replace them until they don’t.

  15. Brian

    I want to say in the middle but looking back at last year well…. But normally i always try to find the best price and will often wait if i don’t need the item right away, there are a few items i generally don’t skimp on shoes, shorts, gloves and tires and even then i’ll buy early if there’s a sale or good offer. I have 3 bikes a commuter a cheapish bikes with Sora, a Canyon ultimate AL that lives on the trainer and then my Felt VR3 that i have 2 set of wheels for.

  16. David Arnold

    I have gone the way of a lot of my Dutch and Belgian friends who still race/train/ride….buy the best you can afford on everything and then just take care of it well. Washing and cleaning it, replacing those parts as needed, keep everything maintained. I always have tried to get the best in clothing and shoes that contact and connect you to the bike. Washing in delicate bags and keeping everything clean. Life is short…riding your bike on a warm summer evening with the sun on your skin, the smell of the fields or ocean in the air and that post ride dump of dopamine and endorphins is worth the money spent. We don’t own race horses or yachts…we ride bikes.

    1. Lucien Walsh

      Yea I notice this when I have to work in France and Italy. I almost never see low-end bikes. I see really nice new bikes, and really nice old bikes, like steel Pinarellos and Colnagos out with amazing Wiliers and teh occasional S-Works

  17. tim

    I have five bikes now (for me), counting a velomobile that will eventually be shipped from the land of wooden shoes. One is an ancient mtn bike I still race occasionally, I just put on new chain and cassette, it may have been 8-10 years on the old one. One is a Salsa VAYA, CrMo frame, but build up with ultegra, hydraulic brakes and a SON generator hub, and redshift seat post. This is my ‘main’ ride, to work or even fast rides. Configured the way it is, I do have trouble hanging on to strong CAT 3s. I have several sets of wheels, and could swap out the front wheel for something faster, but I love the generator hub too much. I love always having dependable light. One is an obscure recumbent (P-38) that I may sell, and am now selling a tandem I purchased to re-sell.

    I also have 5 kids, and all have real road bikes and mountain bikes. This adds up, but my oldest sons have a real love of fitness and the others are coming along too. This too is expensive, but worth it.

    I do justify my spending which can vary, but most years is somewhere between worn out used car and nice used car range.
    I am 52, on no meds and could a loose some weight but, am happy I can still ride with vigor, and commute to work. In Ohio there are a lot of sedentary people and most 50ish folks look pretty weak/fat/worn out.

    I also buy and sell a few bikes per year. The money is made on older nice tandems and recmbents. My wife sees that I do actually make some money doing this and then she knows if I buy a ‘new’ bike, I might just sell another bike later and re-coup my money. This helps her tolerate my habit. It also helps that when I sell a bike I hand her the cash…

    In the end it is WHO you pay, not what you spend. Are you paying the Dr., pharmacy? or the LBS?

    Laslty, as a financial planner, I see the spending habits of the ill, and heavy as they retire. It is no joke, obese clients spend thier money far faster in retirement. It is amazing. I calculate that being fit at age 65 is worth about $250K in future costs you won’t have. So, keep biking and spend what you need to enjoy it to the mazimum, after all, you’re saving $250K!

  18. Wisco

    I once had a garage full of random bikes. As I have gotten older, I race less but with more smiles (mostly cross) and don’t kill myself with 100 mile 10,000 ft of climbing ride anymore. But I still love riding and have culled the herd to a few treasured bikes than work well, fit well and with which I have an emotional bond… a Hampsten roadie, a Rock Lobster cross bike, a Moots roadie. I think it’s obvious that I want bikes that I can ride, that I want to ride and that are not cookie cutters. To me that is the definition of bike happiness.

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