What a question. And is there an easy answer? I’m not so sure. When people aka non-cyclists ask me about cycling they almost ask me the same questions…. How much does your bike weigh…? How do you sit on that hard saddle…? Do you wear those funny shorts with nappies in them….? How much was your bike...?
Now, I’m not sure that asking someone straight out how much something they own cost is entirely polite, but I suppose, as cyclists, we’re pretty used to people being generally rude to us and upsetting our delicate feelings. So my response to the ‘how much’ question is usually along the lines of, ‘too much’ or ‘more than I was planning’. I then feel the need to justify my ridiculous expenditure with an explanation of how I love cycling, how I’ve been riding road bikes since as long as I can remember, and that cycling is an expensive hobby….
All this got me thinking…. Is cycling an expensive hobby? How much do you actually need to spend and where should you spend your cashola.
IS CYCLING AN EXPENSIVE HOBBY?
Well I say yes and no. Compared to say running, or playing chess, or birdwatching, yes perhaps it is. But, what if you’re into motor racing, modifying your car, designer clothes, travel, photography, collecting art… blah, blah blah... I don’t know, there’s loads of expensive stuff in today's consumer market to waste your money on. You can pretty much blow a fortune on coffee or Christmas tree decorations if that’s your thing…
So is cycling expensive…. No, I don’t think it has to be expensive, we just make it expensive for ourselves.
Take this example. I see cycling a bit like cat or dog ownership. You can research breeds, find some ridiculous exotic example, that you claim fits your needs perfectly, search the world for a breeder, get on a waiting list before stumping up a disproportionately large amount of cash for Mr Woof or Miss Meow. When it arrives you’ll need to spend another few grand on houses, toys, collars, coats, bowls, leads, animal proofing your garden etc…. Then and only then do you have the pleasure of premium food bills, vaccinations, vaccinations, pet health insurance and the latest and greatest doggy day care, or some cat person to come to your house and pat your cat for you while you are at work. Then, even better, it appears that the more you spend on your designer dog or cat, the more issues they have and you're forced to spend time at the vet having many many dollars extracted from your wallet each time. I won’t even go into training, puppy school and cleaning up after them… or how much stuff they will destroy in your house.
The alternative is to go to a shelter, pay 50 bucks for a run of the mill, completely no frills cat or dog, take it home and enjoy.
This is cycling. I think that, and this is most of us, convince ourselves that we ‘need’ these ridiculous bikes. There’s no arguing that a top end road bike does not look, feel and smell amazing… but most of us will never get the most out of them. You can then spend pretty much as much as you like on kit, shoes, helmets, glasses and other rubbish…. Into the multiple thousands would be completely standard for people.
OR… you can pick yourself up a very nice road bike for around a grand (or even less), go entry to mid level on shoes and helmet and buy some excellent value kit and be on your way for less than $1,500 all up. That will see you with a nice bike, good kit and the ability to still ride nice and fast with all new nice shinny stuff. You can even go to the second-hand market and pick up a road bike the would have been in the multiple thousands for less than a grand. And if you don’t mind wearing used kit, there’s tonnes of great condition kit available for about 20% of cost on the web that fashionisters can’t face wearing for more than 12 weeks.
So how much should you spend… well I say as much as you want to. Just know that beyond a point, and I am way past that point, the cost is not going to materially improve your performance. It’s the law of diminishing returns…. A $2k to $3k bike is going to perform a lot better than a $500 bike, but a $6k bike is not going to perform massively better than a $3k bike… and push into $10k+ and well the difference becomes very marginal indeed.
So yes, you can easily find yourself with a more valuable bike than your car… you can spend more than the minimum wage in seconds online buying kit and other stuff…. But if your budget is limited you can still get plenty, enjoy riding, and take great pleasure as you power past people like me on their ridiculous bike.