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Cycling is Not Expensive! Well…


August 2013

I stumbled on a search query a few days ago that led someone to my site that bummed me out a bit:

“Cycling is expensive”

There is no doubt that cycling can be expensive; some avid cyclists can drop $10,000-$20,000 on one bike, let alone all of the necessary equipment that goes with it. Helmet, shorts, jerseys, shoes, pedals, socks, gloves, glasses and maintenance equipment. Then you still have to worry about a rainy day bike and cold weather clothing!

For most of us though, cycling is just a touch more attainable and unless you’re planning on going pro, it’s more about the engine than the bike anyway. Until today I had a fourteen year-old carbon Trek 5200 that I bought used for less than a decent entry-level bike and it was good enough that I could ride with just about anyone. A couple of pairs of cheap cycling shorts for short rides and a nice pair for long rides, a helmet and a couple of jerseys that I bought on sale and I was good. The rest of the stuff; a floor pump, shoes and pedals, I picked up as I could afford them. For a time I even used my mountain bike shoes and pedals on my road bike. At the time it was what I could afford (and I never got any gruff about it from the people I ride with).

Mountain biking is even more possible on a slim budget. The high-end mountain bikes are just as expensive but the entry-level high-end bikes are truly affordable. The helmets, shoes and pedals are far more reasonable as well. Though you may have to shill for a State Park pass (I buy mine with my vehicle registration), it’s completely worth it. Also, with the right saddle, compression shorts under my cargo shorts replace the need for cycling shorts except on long rides.

The main point here is that while cycling can be expensive, the outlandish cost has never been a requirement so much as a desire and should never be an excuse to stay away. If anything, it’s been my experience that those who have the legs to keep up with the advanced folks on entry level equipment get more respect than those with high-end stuff. In fact, that I had a used bike with $30 cycling shorts, mountain biking shoes and pedals and a cheaper helmet never came up at the advanced club ride that I frequent. Not once. What did come up, on a regular basis, was how well I made use of that equipment.

So, if you want to get into cycling but are put off by the thought of endless thousands going out the door on a bike, fear not, it’s not that bad.



  1. Sandra says:

    And you can donate stuff that doesn’t fit anymore to local cycling shops to give to folks that cannot afford it.

  2. elisariva says:

    At least at the start…. I just ordered my 4th bike. Two roadies, a tt and now cyclocross…

    • bgddyjim says:

      See, this is the problem with the N+1 rule vs. the S-1 rule! I’m at S-0.005 right now… No way I can keep up with the Elisa’s! Thinking I’ll donate the Cannondale to a needy kid (through the LBS) and get that back to S-1. Can’t wait to read about the C-X bike.

  3. Katy says:

    Great post! I agree– cycling is only expensive if you make it to be. You don’t NEED a super light carbon bike. You don’t NEED a ton of cycling shorts and jerseys. You don’t NEED an expensive pair of bike shoes just because they are a tiny bit lighter. If you can afford it, that’s great. If not, the basics will do just fine. And yes, the engine (YOU) plays the biggest role in how fast you can cycle or how good you are on the hills!

  4. For me starting out, I bought a used mountain bike for $100 just to be sure I would like cycling after 20 years. I rode that bike for a season and sold it for $50 when I purchased my Trek DS 8.3 for $800. I rode that bike for a season when a friend got me to rent a road bike and then I got hooked on road cycling. I then had to buy a road bike but did not sell the DS 8.3 as this was a very good trail bike. I purchased my Cervelo S2 for a screaming hot deal at $2200. So between the two bike I have in the stable right now, I have spent $3700 including all gear.

    There are certainly a lot more expensive hobbies out there. It need not be expensive, you just need reliable equipment and have a passion for what you are doing. What ticks me off is the person that goes out buys all the expensive gear only to do a couple of rides and they leave the bike in the garage to collect dust.

  5. I’ve just managed to by a entry level road bike here in the UK for under £300 (around $550-$600) and then along with buying my shorts, helmet, jersey, gloves, lights, speedo and a few other things like a pump and spare inner tubes, I’ve spent a total of around £450 ($800-$900) which may not seem expensive but for someone working minimum wage as is a student, it’s a hell of a lot of money but the enjoyment and the healthier lifestyle that I currently have far outweighs any money that I have spend and I’ll keep spending as and when I can afford it.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Awesome, and that is a lot of money but now that the investment is made you’re good… And that bike, well maintained will last for a decade or more. Taken over time, that initial investment is a little more friendly. Enjoy!

  6. PedalWORKS says:

    Couldn’t agreee more. Th equipment doesn’t make thee cyclist. Used is always an option. And, retrofits. I have a 20 year old rebuit commuter that cost < $100 to put into xcellent shape.

  7. Cycling CAN BE very expensive — especially if you have to buy clothing so you can ride in temps of -20F or below — then have have to buy five or six bikes for the different terrain you ride over (sandy beaches, ice covered lakes, deep snow, mud, gravel, and what was the other one? Oh yeah, one for roads.

  8. Tim Hammelman says:

    Totally agree. Started last summer by dusting off my 20 year old Huffy Savanah, moved to my son’s mountain bike. After he complained about my moving the seat enough, I hunted for a good deal and found a nice Masi cyclocross that I am putting the miles on and enjoying. My question is what do you when the wife says I should a second bike?

    Keep riding

    • bgddyjim says:

      Ah, what to do when the wife says to buy a second bike… There’s a rule for this! The equation is: The proper number of bikes to own is N+1, or the number of bikes you currently own plus 1. Now, when wives are in the equation, that changes to S-1 where S represents Separation (or divorce) minus one bike, or the amount of bikes that will lead to divorce minus one. If the wife says to buy another you fall under N+1, which is good. Then, the equation for how much to spend becomes on said bike is S-$200. Easy as pie. Hope this helps. 😉

  9. David Bonnell says:

    It’s the secret of the true Fred, how to make the most of the least expensive equipment. My bike is 10 years old now (but then it is a Litespeed- so it should last).

    • bgddyjim says:

      My last is 14, a Trek 5200. My first is 22 now, a Cannondale.

      We have a particularly cool club. Old-school has a revered place and new is happily ogled.

      Speed and safety before brand. We only worry about unsafe Freds… And they’re taught rather than shunned – unless they get cocky about their poor skills. In that case, just shunned. 😉

  10. cyardin says:

    Cycling can be expensive, but look at the alternatives:
    – Golf – uber expensive – beer gut
    – Motorcycling – more expensive – loss of license (and temporary citizen of the earth)
    – Car enthusiasm – uber expensive – potential for divorce
    at least cycling keeps me fit, I don’t have to pay gym fees, and I have met more than 100 like minded individuals but from all different backgrounds who took up the passion for different reasons. How do you put a cost on that?

  11. Eleanore says:

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  12. Reblogged this on A Girl, Her Bike, and Their Journey and commented:
    Awesome post. I totally agree. The process you just explained is exactly how I entered the sport, frugally. Also check your local area for shops that sell used gear.

  13. I totally agree with the author. Cycling doesn’t have to be expensive. Look for resources and help in your local community. You may find shops that that sell quality used bikes, gear, etc. Thanks for a very encouraging post.

    • bgddyjim says:

      My first three (and my wife’s first two) bikes were purchased used. Four of the five from private owners, but the best deal came from the local bike shop. Great point.

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