Most people don’t know this but a 30,000 mile tune up on a Ferrari can cost more than $20,000. Most people get lost in the $233,509 price tag of a super sports car (Ferrari 458 Italia) without knowing that it’s the upkeep that crushes you. Even something as simple as a Cadillac or BMW can be ridiculously expensive to maintain – a Ferrari (or better, a Lamborghini) is next-level crazy. A friend of mine who has more mechanic’s certifications than I could list likes to call it “the difference between being able to afford the payment and being able to afford the car”. There is a very wide gap betwixt the two.
Ferrari 458 Italia
The same can be said for bicycles but to a much more reasonable extent. I have about $4,000 into my bike – it’s not top-of-the line, but it’s nice, and a lot closer to tops than you might think. The only difference between my bike and a $10,000 dream machine is a couple of pounds, a set of $3,000 wheels, a nicer crank and cassette and an upgrade in shifters. There is no equal to my bike on the car market. I have one of the very best frames available, just with heavier (cheaper) wheels (1/4 – 1/2 pound between the two), a heavier crank (3/4’s to a pound) and heavier shifters (maybe 1/4 pound). I have made some upgrades too, $300 for the handlebar, $400 for wheels and $160 for a lighter, much sexier stem (well, as “sexier” as a stem can get anyway). Throw in $150 for pedals, $40 for H2O bottle cages and I’m well over $4,000 (if I’d paid full retail, I’d be approaching $5k).
Not quite a Ferrari but close enough for government work.
There are numerous benefits to choosing cycling over sports cars as a midlife crisis hobby:
1. An oil change for a bike costs about $0.45, takes ten minutes and can be done in my living room whilst watching a baseball game or movie. An oil change for a Ferrari must be done by a $100-$150 an hour highly trained technician.
2. Replacing a chain on my bike costs $50 – a new timing chain on a Ferrari would cost a month or two’s salary (if not more, guessing on this one).
3. Tires on my bike: $110 (for a nice set of racing tires). Tires for the Ferrari: $2,000 or more (and I guarantee I’d get more miles on a set of bike tires, about 4,000).
4. Transmission on a bike: <$1,000 (cassette, chain rings, shifters). Transmission on a Ferrari: “Sweet Jesus! No you can’t have my daughter”!
5. Gas for the Bicycle Engine: $0.06 per mile. Gas for the Ferrari: $0.24 per mile (at today’s price of $2.30 a gallon for premium unleaded)… And the bicycle engine fuel tastes a hell of a lot better too! Dude, you’re the engine! Feed the Engine™!
6. Weight lost per 100 miles on a bike: 1.57 pounds (give or take). Weight lost per 100 miles in a Ferrari: 0.00 pounds – unless you take into account that I couldn’t afford to eat, in that case, it’d be pretty close to a half-pound.
7. Insurance for my Venge (includes crashing the bike while riding, the helmet, wrecked clothing, etc.: $18 per month. insurance for a Ferrari: $1,200 per month (that’s more than my mortgage payment).
8. Fresh Air per mile on a bike: Full “Bugs-in-the-Teeth” Saturation $0.00. Fresh Air per mile in a Ferrari: 73% Saturation $20,000-$50,000 for the convertible package (ouch!).
The point is, folks, a super bike runs on my ass and gut fat, a Ferrari runs on my life savings (I’d have written “wallet” but who can stuff that much cash in a wallet?! Impossible!).
A very common question, amongst those riding an entry-level aluminum road bike, is, “Is a $4,000 bike worth it”? Well, yes and no. The practicality is the aspect that can be debated… I’m just over 2 seconds per mile faster on my Venge than I would be on my Cannondale (see My Bikes, scroll down to the bottom) if all things were equal but they’re not. While I could easily make up that two or three seconds with a little extra “want to” on my part, my carbon fiber Venge is so much more comfortable to ride I can sustain a higher pace and cadence for a much greater distance (because it absorbs road chatter spectacularly). Now, I’m not quite done yet because I didn’t go from the Cannondale to the Venge, I went from the Cannondale to a 13 year-old (at the time) used Trek 5200 to the Venge and the Trek is has a composite frame and it feels like riding a limo compared to the Cannondale. The Venge, being a 56 cm compact frame, fitted my riding style better than the 58 cm Trek, after 14 years of technological advances in composite bike manufacturing, there are significant weight and comfort advantages to a newer bike, the color scheme and bike better fit a project that I wanted to delve into and finally, I worked hard for it – in part, it was a personal reward for a job well done in 2013. I had been cycling for three years and I absolutely love it (as much today as I did then, if not more) and I was ready to commit to the sport as my main way of staying fit and trim – and the Venge was a part of that.
In one sense, yes it could be argued that I did spend more than I had to. I could have gotten a different bike with a carbon fiber frame cheaper, it just wouldn’t have matched everything that I wanted, perfectly. That notwithstanding, and I’m not messing around here, the jump from an aluminum frame to a composite, in terms of a comfort to speed to distance ratio, is a leap of truly epic proportions in awesomeness. It’d be akin to the difference between driving a Chevy Cobalt and a Cadillac CTS-V. I am not exaggerating. I also can’t overemphasize the greatness of a carbon composite handlebar for quieting road chatter (the difference is amazing in the arms and hands). I have always loved cycling, no matter what I rode, but the difference between an all-aluminum bike and an all-carbon fiber bike is like my life drunk and my life after twenty-two years of active sobriety. It’s just a touch smoother. And because you don’t have that chop reverberating up your legs, putting greater power to the pedals is much more comfortable and sustainable.
Don’t take my word for it, take a composite bike for a test ride. You should feel it immediately. Then, after about 6,000-10,000 miles, trade that alloy handlebar for a composite bar. I couldn’t be happier with the money I spent on my bike(s) and the subsequent upgrades. They were worth every penny.
Either way, my bike is my toy. It’s my one thing that I get to look at on a daily basis and say, “Thank God for my job and for hard work and for the blessing it is to be me”… And it keeps me young and healthy in the process of using it. Is it necessary to own a super bike? Well that depends on your definition of necessary. In my case, I’ll never willingly go back to an aluminum frame, not at my age, but my definition of necessary absolutely includes my Venge.
Either way, when it comes to cycling as a midlife crisis hobby, you can’t beat it with a stick. Or a Ferrari.