I’ve now had my new bicycle for about five weeks and ridden it about 65kms. I don’t commute for work, so my rides mostly consist of running errands and exploring the city on weekends. I’ve added a few accessories to it (like a mirror and a rear rack), and there are a few more I’d like to add, but I’m waiting to save up the money.
Since I replaced my old bicycle with my new one, I’ve learned a lot about riding a bicycle in the city, and how marvelously frugal it is. Here’s what I mean by that:
Buying A Bicycle Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive
I know this is an unpopular opinion amongst bicycle enthusiasts, but hear me out.
I wanted to buy a bicycle for the longest time, but I never pulled the trigger. I’d look at brands like MEC or Pure City and lust over their beautiful bikes, but I couldn’t bring myself to buy one. Why? Because the good quality bicycles I had my eye on were so damn expensive. I couldn’t afford to shell out $700 on a bicycle because I was in debt, so I went without for years.
Finally, last year I broke down and bought a cheap-ish bicycle from Canadian Tire. Since it was inexpensive, I wasn’t so worried about whether I was going to stick with cycling as a hobby. It wasn’t the perfect bicycle for me, but it gave me valuable insight into my next bicycle purchase. That cheap bicycle’s job was to introduce me to the world of cycling in a low-pressure way. And now? I sold that bicycle to a lovely older lady who is also just getting back into cycling for the first time, so the cycle continues (no pun intended).
Ok, let’s get back on track. My advice is that if you’ve wanted to buy a bicycle but you think you need to spend upwards of $500 on it, you are mistaken. Grab the one that has been gathering dust in your mother’s garage, or snag one off Kijiji. Or, like me, buy one from Canadian Tire.
Riding a bicycle is a lot like running. Sure you can buy a lot of gear that’ll make your run more comfortable, but to get started, all you need is two feet and a heartbeat. You don’t need the perfect bicycle to get started with riding a bike as transportation; you just need a bike, any bike. If the habit looks like it’ll stick, then consider upgrading to a bike that will suit your needs over the long term.
Riding Your Bicycle Instead of Driving Your Car
There are two primary ways riding a bicycle saves you money: Riding instead of driving your car, or getting rid of your car completely.
If you ride instead of drive, you can figure out how much you’ll save by dividing your yearly gas and maintenance costs by how many kilometers or miles you drive. Then you’ll get a cost saved per kilometer or mile driven. Even if you keep your car, you’ll save money.
If you get rid of your car though, that’s where the real frugality magic happens. My husband and I are a one-car household, and that is a title we have clung to since I graduated from school. Even when we lived in the country where there was absolutely no public transportation, we didn’t buy a second car (my husband got around by riding his bike). The result? We saved $10,000 per year by forgoing that second car. That’s $10,000 per year that I put towards debt, and then savings.
Right now we have a 30% savings rate, and I have no doubt that we wouldn’t be able to achieve that if we were also paying for a second car.
Riding Your Bicycle for Exercise
I’m not a fitness fanatic like Bridget, so for me, a few workouts paired with riding my bicycle is just about all of the exercise I want in a week. I used to run, but I’ve been dealing with some foot injury issues, so riding my bicycle is the perfect way to get some cardio with absolutely no impact.
Because of this, I don’t need to join a gym, or a run club, or go to yoga classes. I get my exercise while I’m running errands, which I love because it maximizes my time and effort. If you can give up a gym membership or weekly yoga classes in favour of exercise by riding your bicycle, you’re looking at a yearly savings of $600.
Riding Your Bicycle and Mindful Spending
This benefit came as a bit of a surprise to me. Since I purchased my new bicycle, I’ve been using it to run errands. I get groceries, go to the pharmacy, buy beer, etc., and I’ve found that I’m less likely to spend mindlessly when I shop by bike. I’m more mindful of my spending because I can’t just throw extra items in my cart and trust I’ll be able to get them home in the trunk of my car.
As a result, I’m overspending less, and only buying what I need. This mindful spending is saving me about $15 per week, which adds up to $780 per year. Not bad!
Riding a bicycle to be frugal isn’t for everyone. Many people don’t live within a reasonable biking distance of amenities. I understand – I was in your situation just last year. But for those who do, riding a bicycle is an excellent way to get a little more wiggle room in your budget.
If you’re on the fence about riding a bicycle, I highly recommend you give it a try. Make sure you have a helmet, a lock, lights and a bell and follow the rules of the road, but you’ll be fine. If you’re nervous about riding in traffic, go with an experienced friend the first time, and choose low traffic routes. You’d be surprised how quickly you get comfortable navigating around cars.