Author Topic: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike  (Read 1914 times)

GotStacheNotCash

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 7
Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« on: October 09, 2017, 09:43:45 AM »
Hi everybody,

I'm looking into the potential for buying a bike to cycle to work. I've got a few hurdles I'm hoping to get some advice on dealing with in that question.

The situation:  25y/o, I make 58k/year, and have about 46k in debt between student loans and credit cards.  Idiotic college years aside, I'm hoping to move forward from that and get all my debt paid off ASAP.  I don't yet know how fast I can plan to pay off my debt, as I'm trying very aggressivly to cut my spending but am living with my girlfriend who does not have the same mentality (she doesn't have debt and is open to the idea of saving but has otherwise been paycheck to paycheck for ~5 years and appears convinced that it is due to her earnings, around $40k annually) The state I live in has some harsh winters, and I have almost no experience riding a bike.  Currently I commute to work in a used mazda 3 which gets ~32 MPG on average.

I'm thinking about spending a couple hundred dollars to invest in a bike to commute to work (that research is its own adventure, given my noob status with bikes, but I've started by reading the articles from the FAQ), but my concern is that the set-up costs to be able to use it in the coming winter months are going to make it infeasible given how much money I'm trying to throw at my debt, and that my lack of experience will be an issue in rough weather.  I also need to dress professionally for work (pressed shirt, slacks, nice shoes, no tie), and would love to get some advice from anyone who has experience commuting in rough weather on how they handle it and how much stuff they bring to work so that I can plan on a bike that will enable me to do the same.

So, my concerns.  First and foremost are the added costs - my winter gear is non-existant outside of a poofy jacket and a dress jacket.  From the sound of things, I should expect to buy lighting of some kind (dark winter months), a helmet, gloves, a new saddle, and whatever clothing is necessary to protect myself from harsh conditions on the way to work.  Any and all of those purchases pull directly from my ability to pay off my debt faster.  Second, am I going to get myself killed trying to bike in the Winter, given my lack of experience?  I learned how to ride when I was 20, and never quite got the hang of it very well, but I want to learn and get better!

Ultimately, I'm trying to do all of my homework to ensure I make the right decision.  I figure that decision might be driving this Winter and starting in the Spring, so that I can get experience in safer conditions and then start winter biking next Winter.  I also figure that my concern over Winter biking might be irrational, or my brain's way of making sure I uphold my current status quo.  Either way, it seems like switching to biking will be a great way to save money.

Oh, and I nearly forgot - my commute is 9.1 miles, at least one steep hill along the way, lots of less maintained roads if I want to use a bike (highway for commuting via car.)

PoutineLover

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 392
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2017, 09:50:16 AM »
If you are not a confident biker, and don't have any gear yet, I would recommend waiting until the spring. Based on the winters where I live, it's definitely challenging to bike in the winter and you don't want to be skidding around on ice and snow around cars. You should probably do a case study to figure out exactly how much money you can throw at your debt over the winter, and do some research and slowly collect what you'll need to bike once the weather is better. By next winter you will probably be ready to tackle winter cycling, with a summer of practice and experience behind you.

GotStacheNotCash

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 7
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2017, 10:09:37 AM »
Hi PoutineLover,

Thanks so much for your response!  I was drawing somewhat similar conclusions as I wrote this out, but it's great to get advice from people who have more exposure to this sort of thing. 

Given the idea of waiting until after this Winter, I can use the time to study local craigslist offerings to assess prices and maybe scoop up some out of season gear during the Winter, then do the same come Summer to prepare for my first Winter cycling.

Imma

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 439
  • Location: Europe
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #3 on: October 09, 2017, 10:53:01 AM »
I am nearly always pro-cycling and I commute by bike year-round, but I'm in a bike friendly country and our winters aren't harsh.

Don't underestimate cycling through harsh weather. You can get some nasty injuries if you fall on ice. You don't want to break or shatter your arms or legs. Make sure you get a good quality helmet that fits well. Find a bike that's suitable for cycling on snow and ice (look for MTB-type wider tyres). Use this winter to prepare yourself for next winter: identify the route to work by bike and check the conditions of those roads during the winter. Gather the necessary supplies on discount by the end of winter. If you want to practice cycling in rough conditions, loose sand is a bit like loose snow. Packed snow is more like a regular dirt road, but it can be dangerously slipperly quite suddenly. It doesn't sound logical, but you don't want to ride in car tracks. Untouched snow is much easier to cycle through. The heat from the cars make the snow melt and then freeze again and it makes car tracks very slippery.

In my town, some roads are cleared from snow and treated with salt while others are not. I have made sure I know which roads are in the best condition during bad weather so I know how I can safely get around. I'm lucky that my street ends up on a main road and my workplace is also close to a main road. If you use separate bike lanes next to main roads, make sure you check if they get the same treatment as the main road.
 
As for clothing, you definitely need a good quality, warm, weatherproof outdoor jacket. On top of that you need weatherproof gloves. I know many people prefer wool, but your hands get really cold if they get wet. You get really cold when your head gets cold, so you might want to wear some sort of cap under your helmet. Get advice from a local outdoor shop or someone you know who's into outdoor winter exercise.  I like to wear long thermal underwear under my regular clothes when I bike to work. We have a super casual dress code so I can turn up at work in jeans and a hoodie. In case of snow, ice or very low temperatures I like to wear snow boots. I leave a pair of lightweight shoes at work. You'll want to wear shoes or boots with proper soles in case you need to walk a part of the way. I always wear hiking socks in my snowboots to keep my feet warm.

If you need to wear formal clothes to work, I would take some pants and jackets and dress shoes to work by car and change clothing once you're there. I think you can find a way to carry a clean pressed shirt to work in a backpack without it getting wrinkly, but I don't think you could do so with a jacket. Depending on how cold it gets over there, you can wear regular outdoor exercise clothing or something more suitable for the cold when you're on the bike.

Depending on the distance and how bad the weather is, you might want to consider walking instead of cycling through the harshest period of winter. My commute is about 3,5 miles and whenever I'm not sure about the weather, I set my alarm 1,5 hours early and consider walking.

ixtap

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 750
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #4 on: October 09, 2017, 11:06:49 AM »
Would you be selling the car?

GotStacheNotCash

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 7
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #5 on: October 09, 2017, 11:33:19 AM »
Would you be selling the car?

Most likely not, as my SO's car is not long-distance worthy and my nearest family is 20+ miles out.  That said, we could look into the possibility of selling hers.  Our jobs are inconveniently located in opposite directions, with hers being farther away, which makes having at least one fully-road-worthy car something of a necessity due to her longer commute.  She's looking for a new and more local job presently, however, which provides more ammo for the "wait until the Spring, ride next Winter" argument. 

Edit:  Thanks to Plog's wonderful advice, I'm definitely re-evaluating the idea of selling the car.  However, I will certainly be waiting and making sure that I enjoy cycling and could manage to cycle to work and back consistently without issue prior to doing so.


snipped for length


Pretty sure that breaking something would end up setting me waaay farther back than a winter without using my car would get me ahead!  Thank you for all of the excellent advice, I will definitely do some "trial runs" of the bike route this Winter to get a feel for any problem areas.  I've definitely got some work cut out for me in terms of finding Winter gear, so having a year to prepare both my body and my wallet will help.  As for walking, it isn't a realistic option given the length of my commute (9.1 miles.)  Though I am hopeful that once my SO finds a new job, we can move out of our current expensive city-sukka apartment (which, to be fair, is still cheaper than my old one when I foolishly lived alone) and into something much cheaper and more local to my work.

« Last Edit: October 10, 2017, 07:29:33 AM by GotStacheNotCash »

plog

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 180
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2017, 12:07:12 PM »
Wanting to bike threads on MMM is always super confusing to me.  Are you seeking financial advice?  Just looking for positive reinforcement that will spur you on to this new venture?  These threads in this context are just weird. 

From a bicycling perspective, you'd get much better advice on a biking forum.  Or go to your local bike shop and talk to the manager.  Ask him your bike questions and then at the end tell him to level with you.  Tell him that you know he gets guys like you starting from scratch every so often and ask him what he thinks their success rate is.  How often does he see a bike he sold to them either being tried to be returned or on craigslist being sold because the guy gave up.

Financially, do the math.  Biking to work is not going to make a dimple, much less a dent in your debt.  I bet the break-even period is at least 6 months. If the financial aspect is what's going to tip the scale, you are not interested enough in bicycling to work to bicycle to work.

Practically, I think you can find out your resolve to do this without buying a bike.  Borrow one from a friend or see if you can  rent one when you talk to the bike manager.  Then on a Saturday or Sunday make that 9.1 mile ride. And back.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2017, 12:08:51 PM by plog »

GotStacheNotCash

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 7
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #7 on: October 10, 2017, 07:27:32 AM »
Wanting to bike threads on MMM is always super confusing to me.  Are you seeking financial advice?  Just looking for positive reinforcement that will spur you on to this new venture?  These threads in this context are just weird. 

From a bicycling perspective, you'd get much better advice on a biking forum.  Or go to your local bike shop and talk to the manager.  Ask him your bike questions and then at the end tell him to level with you.  Tell him that you know he gets guys like you starting from scratch every so often and ask him what he thinks their success rate is.  How often does he see a bike he sold to them either being tried to be returned or on craigslist being sold because the guy gave up.

Financially, do the math.  Biking to work is not going to make a dimple, much less a dent in your debt.  I bet the break-even period is at least 6 months. If the financial aspect is what's going to tip the scale, you are not interested enough in bicycling to work to bicycle to work.

Practically, I think you can find out your resolve to do this without buying a bike.  Borrow one from a friend or see if you can  rent one when you talk to the bike manager.  Then on a Saturday or Sunday make that 9.1 mile ride. And back.

Thanks so much for the advice; like I said in my post, I'm trying to do my homework before committing to a large decision - I know I enjoy cycling, and that I need to pay off my debt ASAP, and that one might help the other.  I also live in a city, and know that a bike would be a great means of travel 90-95% of the time, assuming I was competent enough to use it in the Winter.

The reason I posted here instead of on a biking forum is that I was looking for feedback from people who were in similar situations (I.E, saving money, potential debt emergencies) to learn if investing in a bike prior to paying off the full amount of my debt would be a worthwhile investment given my debt situation.  A (edit: estimated minimum, not ballpark) of 6 months to payoff tells me that my time will probably be better spent elsewhere unless I want to sell my car.  I mentioned earlier that I wasn't interested in that, but your wake up call on how biking alone would impact my debt (not much if at all) lets me know that I should seriously consider it.  Thank you for that.

Honestly, I think you answered your own question!  Between the reminder that it won't be 9.1 miles a day, it'll be 18.2, and the warning about my priorities and what it means for my cycling resolve (it's not like I have a good track record with cycling, after all,) you've given me really great advice!  I'm also concerned about gear costs and frugal ways to reduce them (and I've gotten some lovely advice on that front from others) which is why this forum helped me so much over a biking one; I'm less concerned about picking out a specific bike at this moment and more interested in learning about the associated costs and potential pitfalls for someone in my situation.  Now I'll be able to make a more informed decision, thanks to the wonderful people here.  My next step will end up being more biking-forum related, as I learn more about types of cycles and what might work for me, but that will wait until after I've managed an 18 mile biking trip and ensured that it is something I want to invest in =)

Thank you again, I hope my reasoning for making this post is more clear now!
« Last Edit: October 10, 2017, 07:32:34 AM by GotStacheNotCash »

ooeei

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1053
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #8 on: October 10, 2017, 07:39:33 AM »
Wanting to bike threads on MMM is always super confusing to me.  Are you seeking financial advice?  Just looking for positive reinforcement that will spur you on to this new venture?  These threads in this context are just weird. 

From a bicycling perspective, you'd get much better advice on a biking forum.  Or go to your local bike shop and talk to the manager.  Ask him your bike questions and then at the end tell him to level with you.  Tell him that you know he gets guys like you starting from scratch every so often and ask him what he thinks their success rate is.  How often does he see a bike he sold to them either being tried to be returned or on craigslist being sold because the guy gave up.

Financially, do the math.  Biking to work is not going to make a dimple, much less a dent in your debt.  I bet the break-even period is at least 6 months. If the financial aspect is what's going to tip the scale, you are not interested enough in bicycling to work to bicycle to work.

Practically, I think you can find out your resolve to do this without buying a bike.  Borrow one from a friend or see if you can  rent one when you talk to the bike manager.  Then on a Saturday or Sunday make that 9.1 mile ride. And back.

I've never been to a bike forum, but if they're like any other hobby forums, I suspect they'll immediately suggest some pretty expensive high end gear. Go into a knife forum and ask what you should use as your daily pocket knife and they'll immediately suggest ones in the $50-500 range, with plenty of them saying anything under $100 is garbage and not even worth buying. Most people can get just as much utility from a $15-30 knife as a $200 one. Forums are full of enthusiasts, and enthusiasts tend to go all in on things. It's hard to figure out what is actually worth it in those scenarios. Is the $1000 bike really better than the $500 one? Do disc brakes matter? Is ____ derailleur really $200 better than ____ derailleur?

Asking about it in a place where people are going to be more inclined to recommend value oriented setups makes sense.

Dave1442397

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 595
  • Location: NJ
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #9 on: October 10, 2017, 07:53:20 AM »
Winter cycling can be fun, but you really have to be careful. We ride road bikes (skinny tires) year round, but we will call off a ride if it's too icy outside. I personally know two guys who broke hips from falling on ice, and they've been riding for 30+ years.

Do some research on fat bikes and studded tires and you'll find plenty of winter riding tips, such as this article: https://qbp.com/call_up/rubber-side-rad

Another issue is road conditions and vehicular traffic. Around here, we tend to lose most of the shoulder to plowed snow, so you're closer to cars than usual.

frugaliknowit

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1341
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #10 on: October 10, 2017, 01:50:31 PM »
I disagree with many of the posts here.

Financially:  Biking to work is a complete NO BRAINER win.  The payback on the biking ~9 miles to work instead of driving is huge and quick, even if you don't do it EVERY day. 

The Winter:  Cold is certainly irrelevant.  You build up a lot of heat (like there's furnace inside your body!) while cycling.  As far as snow and ice:  I get it.  You can skip it during "unsafe conditions", but that's not going to be every day of the winter!  In my case, my policy is when it snows, I wait 3 days for plowing and melting before I bike.  That still leaves many days in Chicago that are bikeable.  On "unsafe days", I take transit.  Of course, some years there's a lot of unsafe days, others not.

Lights:  Yes, get very good lights.

fluffmuffin

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 191
  • Location: VA
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #11 on: October 10, 2017, 02:30:00 PM »
Following this post with interest! I bought a bike earlier in the summer with the eventual goal of commuting, with the wrinkle that I learned to ride a bike three days after buying my bike earlier this summer, at the ripe old age of 29. So far I've only spent money on the bike itself (~$290 for a used bike from a reputable dealer; BF gave me lights).

I still suck SO MUCH at riding that I have no idea how long it will take me to get confident enough to bike to work, since I have to deal with some busy roads and heavy traffic in the afternoon. So I might miss the winter weather issues. But it's great to know what to be aware of.

elaine amj

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2161
  • Location: Ontario
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #12 on: October 10, 2017, 05:03:04 PM »
With a debt emergency I'd hesitate to spend a bundle on a bike and all the attendant bike gear. You'd be better off spending your time finding other efficiencies and then try biking in the spring. I would totally caution you against buying something fancy at this point though. It's very tempting to buy the latest and greatest (especially if you talk to gearheads), but not really wise at this stage.

If you want to try it, go to the thrift store and buy a warm winter coat (even if it is not the most fashionable) along with a pair of decent warm gloves. Pick up a couple of baselayers from Costco, etc for $10-15 each. Then borrow bike or buy an el-cheapo secondhand one and see how you do. You can upgrade when you start doing it more.

Anyway, that's what I did (although I didn't have a debt emergency and did already own an ugly $50 winter coat) when I started bike commuting. Two layers of baselayers along with a half-decent jacket kept me warm enough to ride along with a good scarf, warm hat, and thinnish thrift store gloves at around zero degrees. I did switch to walking (my commute is much shorter) when it was icy. And would give in and drive occasionally.

Regardless, I think it's crazy to drop $500 on a decent bike + gear to save a little bit in gas when you have a debt emergency. I do think the long term payoff of bike commuting is awesome though and I love it. But maybe something to explore when you have a bit more disposable income and/or can get the gear cheaper?
My journal: http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/journals/realigning-spending-to-match-our-future-goals-a-canadian-journey/

Camp Mustache Canada 2017 was everything I dreamed of and more. Super excited that Camp Mustache Canada 2018 is now a thing!

calimom

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 480
  • Location: Northern California
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #13 on: October 10, 2017, 05:18:13 PM »
I'm in the "if you want to bike, bike" camp. But to address the financials of the equation, I'm with those who think it really won't help in the long run, especially since you're in a debt emergency. If you were going to sell the car and replace it with a bike and all the gear, sure. But I question money saving tips that actually cost a lot of money. Think Insta Pots, Vitamixes, inversion stoves, etc.

meghan88

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 418
  • Location: Ontario
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #14 on: October 10, 2017, 05:26:44 PM »
Regardless, I think it's crazy to drop $500 on a decent bike + gear to save a little bit in gas when you have a debt emergency. I do think the long term payoff of bike commuting is awesome though and I love it. But maybe something to explore when you have a bit more disposable income and/or can get the gear cheaper?

^^This.  Consider this another vote for buying a second-hand bike, or borrowing at first.  Clothing-wise, opt for layers.  Try out your commute on the weekends to see how you like it and to plan out an optimal route.  Keep your wits about you at all times (e.g., know what's going on around you, never wear earbuds).  FWIW, I'm a 58 and I bike all year in Canada, though I will walk on really snowy or icy days.  If I can do it, any able-bodied person can.  Bikes are also great for grocery-shopping and other errands.

My used Trek cost me $80.  Why pay more than that?  Nice / new bikes are thief-magnets, so my u-lock cost me more than the bike.  Another word of advice: *never* leave a bike unlocked, not for a second.

Mariposa

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 167
  • Location: NYC
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #15 on: October 11, 2017, 07:19:21 AM »
Agree that a bike isn't a solution for your debt emergency, unless you're committed to getting rid of a car. And, if you have little experience riding a bike, it's probably not a good idea to immediately attempt a 9-mile commute each way. 9mi would likely take ~1h, so you would be committing to biking 2h a day. Be sure this isn't ultimately a shopping outlet for you, an excuse to research gear.

If you look around, you could probably find something that rolls for sub-$50. You only need a cheap lock (no sense getting a $75 lock for a $50 bike) and a helmet to get started. Personally, I would be OK with a used helmet, if the owner assured me it was never in an accident or damaged. If that makes you queasy, here's a new one for $25: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00012M5MS/ref=twister_B076CMSG77?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

You don't have to wait until the Spring to go this route. I would start by using your bike for every <5mi errand, and see how you like it. After you get the hang of biking, try the 9mi commute and see how you feel. If you can't commit to doing that on most days, I wouldn't put another cent into this bike thing. And that's OK: I don't think I could do a 9mi commute each way, unless most of it was along paved bike trails.

I've been riding bikes my entire life. Currently, I'm riding a 12-year-old beater with an MSRP of $300 and current fair market value of maybe $25. It's the nicest bike I've ever had. FWIW, I to a 2.5 mile commute in stop & go traffic year-round on my beater, under every condition except maybe heavy snow. For a long time, I used a $5 rain poncho from the drug store but eventually upgraded to a $100 raincoat + rain pants after I was doing this commute for a while. I did buy good lights early on, since I commute at night and value my life. I bike when it's in the teens without any special gear. I just layer on what I already have in my closet: 2 thin wool sweaters under my winter coat, 2 pairs of gloves, leggings under my work pants ... my commute is short.

elaine amj

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2161
  • Location: Ontario
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #16 on: October 11, 2017, 05:09:09 PM »
Agree that a bike isn't a solution for your debt emergency, unless you're committed to getting rid of a car. And, if you have little experience riding a bike, it's probably not a good idea to immediately attempt a 9-mile commute each way. 9mi would likely take ~1h, so you would be committing to biking 2h a day. Be sure this isn't ultimately a shopping outlet for you, an excuse to research gear.

If you look around, you could probably find something that rolls for sub-$50. You only need a cheap lock (no sense getting a $75 lock for a $50 bike) and a helmet to get started. Personally, I would be OK with a used helmet, if the owner assured me it was never in an accident or damaged. If that makes you queasy, here's a new one for $25: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00012M5MS/ref=twister_B076CMSG77?_encoding=UTF8&amp;psc=1

You don't have to wait until the Spring to go this route. I would start by using your bike for every &lt;5mi errand, and see how you like it. After you get the hang of biking, try the 9mi commute and see how you feel. If you can't commit to doing that on most days, I wouldn't put another cent into this bike thing. And that's OK: I don't think I could do a 9mi commute each way, unless most of it was along paved bike trails.

I've been riding bikes my entire life. Currently, I'm riding a 12-year-old beater with an MSRP of $300 and current fair market value of maybe $25. It's the nicest bike I've ever had. FWIW, I to a 2.5 mile commute in stop &amp; go traffic year-round on my beater, under every condition except maybe heavy snow. For a long time, I used a $5 rain poncho from the drug store but eventually upgraded to a $100 raincoat + rain pants after I was doing this commute for a while. I did buy good lights early on, since I commute at night and value my life. I bike when it's in the teens without any special gear. I just layer on what I already have in my closet: 2 thin wool sweaters under my winter coat, 2 pairs of gloves, leggings under my work pants ... my commute is short.
+1

I have a pretty $1500 mid level road bike. Works great and is just what I need for long distance endurance type stuff.

The bike that makes my heart happy everyone I climb on (practically every day to commute) is a beat up ancient old cruiser I picked up for $50. Previous owner had removed the gears for easier maintenance and I keep it that way. It's old, it's slow,  it's not fashionable (a few months ago I found out the bearings were worn almost to nothing) and yet I was just telling hubby I don't think I could ever give it up lol! I'll just keep fixing whatever needs to be fixed! It just fits me perfectly and makes me feel safe and comfy.  So glad I didn't drop $300-600 on an commuter bike like all the bike experts said I needed (I was tempted).

Sent from my STH100-1 using Tapatalk

My journal: http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/journals/realigning-spending-to-match-our-future-goals-a-canadian-journey/

Camp Mustache Canada 2017 was everything I dreamed of and more. Super excited that Camp Mustache Canada 2018 is now a thing!

MrThatsDifferent

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 242
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #17 on: October 11, 2017, 05:44:13 PM »
I ride almost every day to work. We have a shower at work, so that solves the clothes issue. Iím fine riding in the rain, my commute is only 15-20min and rain is the worst it can get, never snow or ice. Iíd never ride a bike in snow or ice, ever. I donít know how people do it.

PrinsKheldar

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 13
  • Location: North of the wall
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #18 on: October 12, 2017, 12:27:59 AM »
Hi,

Glad to hear that you consider bike-commuting.
I sold my car years ago and started to bike everywhere. That is by far the best decision I've ever made, not only financially but also mentally. I now feel a lot less stressed and alot more happy. Truly!

I guess you have heard most of these tips already but here it goes anyways...

Before you continue hesitating because of the winter conditions I should mention that I myself live very close to the polar cirle and winter is pretty harsh around here, to say the least. And I can therefore say with confidence that there is absolutely no problem to bike-commute during the winter. I've done so through out blizzards, heavy snowfall, rain, hail and storms...it works fine. Not always a walk in the park but it works!

It do does requires som good enough gear though and first of all I'm glad to see you bring a helmet to your list. It can be a really cheap life saver! =)

Next after helmet you should put TIME. This is often not mentioned but if you do plan a little extra time for every travel, and therefore always have a little margin, you can keep a comfortable pace no matter what. You can take any upcoming and unplanned detour with ease. It can happen due to road works, snowpacks, floodings or a hungry bear/ threatening packs of wolves in your path. A little extra time enables yo to handle all this without getting sweaty. ;-)

Jokes aside; This really do helps when needed to be fresh and well dressed arriving at work.


Shoes, gloves and hat should all be warm and rainproof. Good rainwear is essential and a back pack-rain cover is allways a good thing to bring along. I bring these things with me at all times, even during warm sunny summer days ( those are suspiciuosly rare overe here though)

Another good thing for snow and muddy winter biking is a hub mounted dynamo/generator for the lightings, batteries wears out pretty fast during the cold. (Having the dynamo/generator mounted in the hub protect the generator from getting jammed or clogged by mud or ice).

Also studded/spiked winter tires are greatly worth the cost!

And offcourse, don't buy the bike brand new! ;-)

Have fun!
« Last Edit: October 12, 2017, 12:29:54 AM by PrinsKheldar »



runbikerun

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 112
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #19 on: October 12, 2017, 01:43:12 AM »
Borrow a bike from someone and try doing the commute cycle on a Saturday morning. You'll get a decent idea of how long it takes, which parts of your body need covering, which parts are basically a giant furnace, and (crucially) whether you like it enough to do it regularly. If you arrive at the office after half an hour in shorts and a T-shirt despite the cold and a massive grin you can't seem to get rid of, then go buy yourself a decent secondhand bike and start riding.

If you get there after an hour, teeth gritted and knees skinned from a fall on black ice, with frostbite in your nose, maybe leave it off for the winter.

I'd also add my voice to the chorus advising you to keep away from cyclists' fora. Cyclists are unbelievably dedicated as a group to sustaining ever-increasing demand for marginally lighter or more aerodynamic equipment, and every cycling forum will have at least one regular who spent an extra two thousand euro on his (and it will be a man) last bike so that the click from the shifters would be the kind he likes.

Wayward

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 19
  • Age: 33
  • Location: USA
  • Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #20 on: October 12, 2017, 01:37:08 PM »
In your situation, I would recommend optimizing other areas to deal with your debt emergency first.  If you havenít done so already start tracking your spending Ė notebook, Excel spreadsheet, Mint, Personal Capital, whatever works best for you.  I definitely recommend reading Your Money or Your Life or The Simple Path to Wealth.  Also, 9.1 miles one way is quite far for a novice biker, especially in the winter.  Have you considered finding an apartment closer to your job (maybe even a cheaper one), if possible?  In my opinion, optimize spending over the winter while driving to work, then consider buying a used bike and some gear in the Spring and bike to work a couple days a week to start.  Iíve put my work clothes/shoes in a backpack and change once I get to work to avoid getting sweaty or dirty in my nice clothes!

Since your SO isnít keen on saving, perhaps talking about goals for the future and seeing if the FIRE lifestyle is appealing to her would help?  She needs to not be living paycheck to paycheck if you are going to reach that.
Play a game to pay of student debt with Givling, sign up with code RW411953!

Sign up for a 5% interest savings account with NetSpend here: http://www.mynetspendcard.com code 3230468760
(info at https://www.financialpanther.co/netspend-account/)

GotStacheNotCash

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 7
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #21 on: November 09, 2017, 07:29:33 AM »
Holy moly!  So many wonderful responses, so little time!  Apologies for the delay!

Winter cycling can be fun, but you really have to be careful. We ride road bikes (skinny tires) year round, but we will call off a ride if it's too icy outside. I personally know two guys who broke hips from falling on ice, and they've been riding for 30+ years.

Do some research on fat bikes and studded tires and you'll find plenty of winter riding tips, such as this article: https://qbp.com/call_up/rubber-side-rad

Another issue is road conditions and vehicular traffic. Around here, we tend to lose most of the shoulder to plowed snow, so you're closer to cars than usual.

Great points all around, thanks!  Snow plowing tends to be a bit of an issue around here (more accurately, running out of places to put it) and I hadn't considered the loss of the shoulder - it'll definitely be an issue worth considering, and suggests that if I were to buy a bike, I wouldn't be able to sell my car outright.  I'm taking the snow tires into consideration too, as I don't want to have to make a ton of small purchases (that add up to big $$$) to make this work.

I disagree with many of the posts here.

Financially:  Biking to work is a complete NO BRAINER win.  The payback on the biking ~9 miles to work instead of driving is huge and quick, even if you don't do it EVERY day. 

The Winter:  Cold is certainly irrelevant.  You build up a lot of heat (like there's furnace inside your body!) while cycling.  As far as snow and ice:  I get it.  You can skip it during "unsafe conditions", but that's not going to be every day of the winter!  In my case, my policy is when it snows, I wait 3 days for plowing and melting before I bike.  That still leaves many days in Chicago that are bikeable.  On "unsafe days", I take transit.  Of course, some years there's a lot of unsafe days, others not.

Lights:  Yes, get very good lights.

It's great to see discourse, especially when it is so constructive!  As a really rough estimate, I'm pretty sure that $300 of expenses would be covered by about 33 trips on a bike - a pretty fast break even point by investment standards!  (Maths:  18.2 miles @ $.50 cents a mile = $9.10 in cost savings per day commuted.  300/9.1 = 32.97)  I'm going to look into transit alternatives (bus routes mostly) to see if selling my car is an option.  Adding lights to the list of possible expenses at the bottom.

Following this post with interest! I bought a bike earlier in the summer with the eventual goal of commuting, with the wrinkle that I learned to ride a bike three days after buying my bike earlier this summer, at the ripe old age of 29. So far I've only spent money on the bike itself (~$290 for a used bike from a reputable dealer; BF gave me lights).

I still suck SO MUCH at riding that I have no idea how long it will take me to get confident enough to bike to work, since I have to deal with some busy roads and heavy traffic in the afternoon. So I might miss the winter weather issues. But it's great to know what to be aware of.

You and me both!  I'm super excited to know that I'm not the only one who is learning late in life (25 here) and it's nice to know that you are still working on gaining skill/confidence.  Do you feel the investment in the bike was worth it, or that you could have gotten away with a cheaper one?

With a debt emergency I'd hesitate to spend a bundle on a bike and all the attendant bike gear. You'd be better off spending your time finding other efficiencies and then try biking in the spring. I would totally caution you against buying something fancy at this point though. It's very tempting to buy the latest and greatest (especially if you talk to gearheads), but not really wise at this stage.

If you want to try it, go to the thrift store and buy a warm winter coat (even if it is not the most fashionable) along with a pair of decent warm gloves. Pick up a couple of baselayers from Costco, etc for $10-15 each. Then borrow bike or buy an el-cheapo secondhand one and see how you do. You can upgrade when you start doing it more.

Anyway, that's what I did (although I didn't have a debt emergency and did already own an ugly $50 winter coat) when I started bike commuting. Two layers of baselayers along with a half-decent jacket kept me warm enough to ride along with a good scarf, warm hat, and thinnish thrift store gloves at around zero degrees. I did switch to walking (my commute is much shorter) when it was icy. And would give in and drive occasionally.

Regardless, I think it's crazy to drop $500 on a decent bike + gear to save a little bit in gas when you have a debt emergency. I do think the long term payoff of bike commuting is awesome though and I love it. But maybe something to explore when you have a bit more disposable income and/or can get the gear cheaper?

No costco's in a reasonable distance to justify a membership (about 30 mins away), but I'm noting base layers & a winter jacket as part of the setup cost for when I decide to pursue this.  I think it's crazy to spend that much on a bike too - I'm guessing that I'll be looking to spend $100-$200 tops, but I'll start by borrowing and making sure I enjoy it (is it weird that I'm actually not too concerned about my enjoyment of it?  I feel that the benefits will outweigh any of my bitching and moaning about the difficulty and that I could "fake it till I make it" with actually enjoying it.)  I'm planning on really taking my time to acquire the necessary gear.

Hi,

Glad to hear that you consider bike-commuting.
I sold my car years ago and started to bike everywhere. That is by far the best decision I've ever made, not only financially but also mentally. I now feel a lot less stressed and alot more happy. Truly!

I guess you have heard most of these tips already but here it goes anyways...

Before you continue hesitating because of the winter conditions I should mention that I myself live very close to the polar cirle and winter is pretty harsh around here, to say the least. And I can therefore say with confidence that there is absolutely no problem to bike-commute during the winter. I've done so through out blizzards, heavy snowfall, rain, hail and storms...it works fine. Not always a walk in the park but it works!

It do does requires som good enough gear though and first of all I'm glad to see you bring a helmet to your list. It can be a really cheap life saver! =)

Next after helmet you should put TIME. This is often not mentioned but if you do plan a little extra time for every travel, and therefore always have a little margin, you can keep a comfortable pace no matter what. You can take any upcoming and unplanned detour with ease. It can happen due to road works, snowpacks, floodings or a hungry bear/ threatening packs of wolves in your path. A little extra time enables yo to handle all this without getting sweaty. ;-)

Jokes aside; This really do helps when needed to be fresh and well dressed arriving at work.


Shoes, gloves and hat should all be warm and rainproof. Good rainwear is essential and a back pack-rain cover is allways a good thing to bring along. I bring these things with me at all times, even during warm sunny summer days ( those are suspiciuosly rare overe here though)

Another good thing for snow and muddy winter biking is a hub mounted dynamo/generator for the lightings, batteries wears out pretty fast during the cold. (Having the dynamo/generator mounted in the hub protect the generator from getting jammed or clogged by mud or ice).

Also studded/spiked winter tires are greatly worth the cost!

And offcourse, don't buy the bike brand new! ;-)

Have fun!

So many great tips, I don't know where to start!  The time commitment is a concern to me; I like working out (lifting) in the AM which currently forces a 5:30 wake-up.  Tacking on an hour to commute will complicate that, but since about half of the time I spend working out is doing fasted cardio (losing weight) I think the actual loss wouldn't be too bad, maybe half an hour.  Rain gear is getting added to the list of setup costs for sure.


Borrow a bike from someone and try doing the commute cycle on a Saturday morning. You'll get a decent idea of how long it takes, which parts of your body need covering, which parts are basically a giant furnace, and (crucially) whether you like it enough to do it regularly. If you arrive at the office after half an hour in shorts and a T-shirt despite the cold and a massive grin you can't seem to get rid of, then go buy yourself a decent secondhand bike and start riding.

If you get there after an hour, teeth gritted and knees skinned from a fall on black ice, with frostbite in your nose, maybe leave it off for the winter.

I'd also add my voice to the chorus advising you to keep away from cyclists' fora. Cyclists are unbelievably dedicated as a group to sustaining ever-increasing demand for marginally lighter or more aerodynamic equipment, and every cycling forum will have at least one regular who spent an extra two thousand euro on his (and it will be a man) last bike so that the click from the shifters would be the kind he likes.

I'm glad to know that I chose a good forum to discuss this on, if not surprised!  I like the idea of doing a saturday morning commute - I might try that this weekend, before the weather worsens.  I'm going to reiterate a question from my response to another poster and ask, is it weird that I'm not worried about liking it?  I'm so excited by the host of benefits that it offers that I feel like I'm going to make myself like it if I have to.

In your situation, I would recommend optimizing other areas to deal with your debt emergency first.  If you havenít done so already start tracking your spending Ė notebook, Excel spreadsheet, Mint, Personal Capital, whatever works best for you.  I definitely recommend reading Your Money or Your Life or The Simple Path to Wealth.  Also, 9.1 miles one way is quite far for a novice biker, especially in the winter.  Have you considered finding an apartment closer to your job (maybe even a cheaper one), if possible?  In my opinion, optimize spending over the winter while driving to work, then consider buying a used bike and some gear in the Spring and bike to work a couple days a week to start.  Iíve put my work clothes/shoes in a backpack and change once I get to work to avoid getting sweaty or dirty in my nice clothes!

Since your SO isnít keen on saving, perhaps talking about goals for the future and seeing if the FIRE lifestyle is appealing to her would help?  She needs to not be living paycheck to paycheck if you are going to reach that.


How about all of the above for financial tracking?  I mostly stick to Personal capital and Penny now.  Your money or your life is on my reading list - right after I finish A Guide to the Good Life.  I'm very much hoping to move closer to work and somewhere cheaper.  My current rent, though lower than when I lived alone, still represents just under 25% of my income, which is just way too high (And with that comment, I'm sure the reasons for my debt emergency are much more apparent).  Unfortunately we just moved in at the end of June for a 12 month lease, so I'm not sure if I have much in the way of options there.  I agree about my SO - we've been talking more about it and she's becoming more open to the idea, but she pays the same amount of rent and makes less than I do (we were morons for picking the apartment we did - chose with our emotions, not logic, ugh)  so her opportunities for saving will be limited - she's still not really on board with the whole FIRE thing.  I'm hoping that'll change, as we've discussed life goals and I think it's dawning on her that she hasn't made a step towards any of them by living paycheck to paycheck.  As for the long commute, I am definitely concerned about it, but I'm willing to do the work and get good at biking to make it happen!  As for buying a bike, I'm thinking the winter will give me a huge window of time to wait and snipe a good deal in.


Thanks for the wonderful input, everyone!  I've compiled a list of the gear suggested, and will be doing research as to how I can acquire it most cheaply and what the total cost would be.  I figure that I will end up needing:  A bike, helmet, lights.  I figure that the following would allow me to cycle more often and in more conditions but won't be immediately necessary: a rain cover for a backpack, rain gear, base layers, some winter gear, and snow tires.  I've been trawling Craigslist to get a feel for average prices and potential deals as well.  I think my plan will be to borrow a bike to try a test-commute this weekend, and then take the winter to find a good deal on a half decent used road bike to at least use for in town errands and to ultimately commute with come spring.

I will update as time goes on to let you all know how things go!

fluffmuffin

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 191
  • Location: VA
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #22 on: November 09, 2017, 08:37:25 AM »
Following this post with interest! I bought a bike earlier in the summer with the eventual goal of commuting, with the wrinkle that I learned to ride a bike three days after buying my bike earlier this summer, at the ripe old age of 29. So far I've only spent money on the bike itself (~$290 for a used bike from a reputable dealer; BF gave me lights).

I still suck SO MUCH at riding that I have no idea how long it will take me to get confident enough to bike to work, since I have to deal with some busy roads and heavy traffic in the afternoon. So I might miss the winter weather issues. But it's great to know what to be aware of.

You and me both!  I'm super excited to know that I'm not the only one who is learning late in life (25 here) and it's nice to know that you are still working on gaining skill/confidence.  Do you feel the investment in the bike was worth it, or that you could have gotten away with a cheaper one?

My bike wasn't really an investment bike, haha. I probably could have gotten it for around ~$200 on Craigslist, but as a first-time bike owner I had no idea what I should be looking for in terms of mechanics and safety, and wanted the security of going through a reputable dealer who had already done all of the servicing and tuning up. Routine servicing in my area is $60-$70, which I would have had to do with anything I bought off Craigslist anyway for peace of mind. So going through the dealer cost me $30-$40, which was well worth it to know I was getting something safe without any deferred maintenance issues. I also did a lot of research online into brands and read a lot of "how to buy a bike for beginners" articles. The consensus seemed to be that absent an amazing Craigslist find, bikes going for under $200 were not from reputable brands that would safely handle higher mileage and not require a lot of maintenance costs. My budget was $200-$350 and there were multiple options at the local shop in that price point, even though they specialize in higher-end commuters and fancy road bikes from the population runbikerun outlined :) I'm very happy with what I ended up with!

PS. There's a thread for newbie bike commuters over here if you want to join us: https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/throw-down-the-gauntlet/start-biking-to-work-cycling-newbies-chat/?topicseen
« Last Edit: November 09, 2017, 10:35:00 AM by fluffmuffin »

elaine amj

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2161
  • Location: Ontario
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #23 on: November 10, 2017, 10:41:32 AM »


My bike wasn't really an investment bike, haha. I probably could have gotten it for around ~$200 on Craigslist, but as a first-time bike owner I had no idea what I should be looking for in terms of mechanics and safety, and wanted the security of going through a reputable dealer who had already done all of the servicing and tuning up. Routine servicing in my area is $60-$70, which I would have had to do with anything I bought off Craigslist anyway for peace of mind. So going through the dealer cost me $30-$40, which was well worth it to know I was getting something safe without any deferred maintenance issues. I also did a lot of research online into brands and read a lot of "how to buy a bike for beginners" articles. The consensus seemed to be that absent an amazing Craigslist find, bikes going for under $200 were not from reputable brands that would safely handle higher mileage and not require a lot of maintenance costs. My budget was $200-$350 and there were multiple options at the local shop in that price point, even though they specialize in higher-end commuters and fancy road bikes from the population runbikerun outlined :) I'm very happy with what I ended up with!

PS. There's a thread for newbie bike commuters over here if you want to join us: https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/throw-down-the-gauntlet/start-biking-to-work-cycling-newbies-chat/?topicseen

I read the same stuff you did and was actually planning to spend $200-$300 on a commuter bike too. Got my bike off an online ad from some dude. It was wrecked with rusty tires, worn out everything but it felt comfortable and worked so I grabbed it for $50. It worked smoothly for my daily 50 min round trip commute for months. And then the time came when my wheels were getting exceedingly unsafe looking. So I shopped for "new" wheels and found a local dude who fixed bikes out of his basement. $50 later, I had two "newer" wheels and new bearings (turned out the bearings were completely worn out to nothing). I've biked on it for 1+ years since. I love my bike so much - feels so much more comfortable to me than fancier, newer hybrids or whatever. I was surprised that an ancient cheap bike continued to work for so long after all the experts told me that it wouldn't be a good purchase. Glad I went with my gut (and the cheaper option). Of course, I could have easily ended up with a lemon and wasted the initial $50. I still think the risk of wasting $50 (compared to the guarantee of saving $300+) was worth it.

For your initial spending, I'd go with low cost options to start with and gradually upgrade as needed. I didn't have proper rain gear last year but in general, my winter coat was waterproof-ish enough to handle some rain. I do have a reasonable thrift-store poncho I use during other seasons. I also used nylon pants and would just change to dry clothes at work. I don't have raincovers for my gear. I usually just wrap everything up in whatever plastic bags (usually nicer looking ones haha) I have handy. I  don't have waterproof gloves - but then I don't like heavy gloves - a thin thrift-store pair works for me (on the flip side, I use an expensive cashmere scarf as my essential winter gear). Now that I know I will brave the rain, this year, I'm going to hunt the thrift stores for waterproof (taped seams) raingear or maybe snowpants (as long as I can find them slimfitting and not baggy as pants often get caught in my chains).
My journal: http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/journals/realigning-spending-to-match-our-future-goals-a-canadian-journey/

Camp Mustache Canada 2017 was everything I dreamed of and more. Super excited that Camp Mustache Canada 2018 is now a thing!

GuitarStv

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 9480
  • Age: 36
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #24 on: November 10, 2017, 11:44:30 AM »
I'm pro-cycling.  I ride my bike year round in up bere in Toronto, through ice and snow.  That said . . .


- Cycling saves you money in the long run.  It will cost you more money initially (as you get a bike, get the gear that you need, learn to maintain your bike, etc.)  It's way the hell cheaper than maintaining a car, but it's never going to be free.  Just like with a car, you will end up with regular wear and maintenance items.

- Daily winter riding at the distances you're talking about will be very hard on your bike.  Stuff will wear out much faster than during the summer because of the wet, the salt, and the grit from the road.  When stuff wears out and your bike is broken down you need to be able to get it to a shop to be fixed, or you need to have the tools and parts to fix it yourself . . . otherwise you miss the next day of work.

- Winter riding is harder.  Roads are slippery and you need to be very confident controlling your bike and riding with traffic to stay safe.  It is physically more demanding, so if you're not already in great shape you may find yourself miserable for a lot of the time you're out there.


What you're proposing to do is possible, but it's really a hard way of approaching the problem.  It would be better to:
- start riding in the spring to build up your strength, confidence, route knowledge, and bike handling skills in the nicer months.
- if your plan is to go completely carless, I'd suggest purchasing two bikes . . . this way when something goes wrong with one you don't have to worry about fixing it to get to work the next day.
- You absolutely need to learn how to do basic maintenance on your bike  . . . from figuring out what parts need to be regularly lubed, to tuning your derailleurs, to changing flats . . . you do not want to be learning to do this on the side of a snowy road with cold hands.
- Cycling specific winter clothing can really make things more comfortable.  It goes on sale on and off through the year, so you have a while to stock up on it and don't have to pay as much.  The same is true for lights, tires, replacement chains, lube, etc.
- Ask around your area and local bike shops for advice regarding the kind of bike and clothing you'll need for what you want to do.  Every place is a little different and things that work well in one area might not work in another.  Local experience beats online advice every time.



That's my 2 cents.

ChpBstrd

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 628
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #25 on: November 10, 2017, 04:04:31 PM »
It's not an either-or situation. The point is to keep mileage off the car, so you could just start out biking to work on nice days.

If there are ice patches or blowing snow, just wimp out and take the car those days. Chances are your commute is bikeable 70-80% of the time, and pleasantly bikeable 50% of the time. Translate those into milage reductions and it makes economic sense. If you do 500 miles a year, that translates to about $250 in depreciation, brakes, tires, etc. at a low-estimate 50 cents/mile. Some of these savings might not be realized for several years.

When will you break even on a bike? IDK. Depends on the bike's price and how much you use it. The main benefit is good health. Craigslist occasionally has some deals for those who know what they want and are willing to pounce. Pay close attention to the sizing of the bike - makes a huge difference in enjoyability. If you want brand new, bikesdirect.com has some nice starter MTBs and hybrids for just $300.

Merrie

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 461
  • Location: Midwest
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #26 on: November 10, 2017, 07:24:07 PM »
I encourage people to figure out the actual cost per mile to operate their car rather than using general numbers. If your car is pretty old and you own it outright, you aren't losing value too fast versus a new car, so depreciation is less. And if you would sell your car if you converted to biking, you'd want to figure in the cost of your insurance and registration--but if you'd keep your car even if you mastered bike commuting, you shouldn't be pretending you would save on insurance and registration if those costs will be the same either way. I have heard tell of plans that are cheaper if you drive less, so apply that only if it's relevant.

At bare minimum you want to figure in cost of gas, depreciation in value (which can be a little hard to pin down), and maintenance.

Someone else is probably better at this stuff than I am but I at least wanted to bring it up. Your cost to operate your car may not be 50 cents per mile.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2017, 10:29:44 PM by Merrie »

COEE

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 323
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #27 on: November 10, 2017, 10:20:33 PM »
It's great to see discourse, especially when it is so constructive!  As a really rough estimate, I'm pretty sure that $300 of expenses would be covered by about 33 trips on a bike - a pretty fast break even point by investment standards!  (Maths:  18.2 miles @ $.50 cents a mile = $9.10 in cost savings per day commuted.  300/9.1 = 32.97)  I'm going to look into transit alternatives (bus routes mostly) to see if selling my car is an option.  Adding lights to the list of possible expenses at the bottom.

Yeah, those are the numbers I got too also.  About 6 weeks.  That's very fast payback.  I love riding and walking to work (I'm 1 mile away).  As Merrie points out, this may not be your actual cost - that's just about the government rate, and that's an okay average.  Depreciation and car replacement plays into that value as well.

Here's my suggestions:  1) I'd probably go for a bit better bike than my old Schwinn Hercules cruiser for the distance you have.  2) I'd go with skinny wheels - they cut through the snow better.  Just don't ride in the ice.  3) I'd probably wait until Spring to get serious, but store up on gear now before the spring hits.  4) Have you considered moving closer to work?  A 1-2 mile walk is glorious!  If you like your job and think it's stable - it may be worth moving.  5)  Dress clothes are more tricky - keep a few sports coats at work?   Hopefully you have showers at your work?  Perhaps just put your clothes in a backpack and change and shower once you get there.

Personally I hate riding when it gets down below freezing.  I'd rather drive the 1 mile to work for ~$1 round trip a day. 

Tell us where you live and people will probably help you identify craigslist bikes.

GuitarStv

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 9480
  • Age: 36
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #28 on: November 10, 2017, 10:25:51 PM »
I would not even consider an 8-9 mile commute over hilly terrain if a shower isn't waiting at the other end.  I sweat much more during the winter than during the summer, because even the best cycling kit isn't going to breathe enough to keep you dry.

scottish

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 904
  • Location: Ottawa
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #29 on: November 11, 2017, 10:20:19 AM »
GuitarStv, what kind of tires do you use in the winter?   Are studs helpful?

Has anyone tried one of those snow bikes on snow covered bike paths?   I've talked to a couple of people riding them, but they weren't riding on much snow...

GotStacheNotCash

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 7
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #30 on: November 13, 2017, 07:39:52 AM »
PS. There's a thread for newbie bike commuters over here if you want to join us: https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/throw-down-the-gauntlet/start-biking-to-work-cycling-newbies-chat/?topicseen

Thanks for the link!  I'm definitely going to check it out.

I encourage people to figure out the actual cost per mile to operate their car rather than using general numbers. If your car is pretty old and you own it outright, you aren't losing value too fast versus a new car, so depreciation is less. And if you would sell your car if you converted to biking, you'd want to figure in the cost of your insurance and registration--but if you'd keep your car even if you mastered bike commuting, you shouldn't be pretending you would save on insurance and registration if those costs will be the same either way. I have heard tell of plans that are cheaper if you drive less, so apply that only if it's relevant.

At bare minimum you want to figure in cost of gas, depreciation in value (which can be a little hard to pin down), and maintenance.

Someone else is probably better at this stuff than I am but I at least wanted to bring it up. Your cost to operate your car may not be 50 cents per mile.

That is a great suggestion - I don't have much doubt in my mind that cycling to work will save me in costs, however.  I drive a 2013 mazda 3 with around 35k miles on it.


Yeah, those are the numbers I got too also.  About 6 weeks.  That's very fast payback.  I love riding and walking to work (I'm 1 mile away).  As Merrie points out, this may not be your actual cost - that's just about the government rate, and that's an okay average.  Depreciation and car replacement plays into that value as well.

Here's my suggestions:  1) I'd probably go for a bit better bike than my old Schwinn Hercules cruiser for the distance you have.  2) I'd go with skinny wheels - they cut through the snow better.  Just don't ride in the ice.  3) I'd probably wait until Spring to get serious, but store up on gear now before the spring hits.  4) Have you considered moving closer to work?  A 1-2 mile walk is glorious!  If you like your job and think it's stable - it may be worth moving.  5)  Dress clothes are more tricky - keep a few sports coats at work?   Hopefully you have showers at your work?  Perhaps just put your clothes in a backpack and change and shower once you get there.

Personally I hate riding when it gets down below freezing.  I'd rather drive the 1 mile to work for ~$1 round trip a day. 

Tell us where you live and people will probably help you identify craigslist bikes.

I'm in New Hampshire.  I'd actually like very much to move, but we signed a 12 month lease back in August, so I may be stuck where I am for now.  As for cycling and gear, I'm going to spend the Winter season gearing up for Spring and the Summer season gearing up for the following Winter.  Given how shaky I was on my recent trial ride, I think the Winter will prove to be too dangerous on many occasions, but I'm going to remain open minded and on the lookout for days when it will be possible. I'm a little concerned about a shower situation, as we don't have any.  It feels silly to try and reduce my consumption by cycling only to have to take wet-wipe showers every time I bike commute, so I'll have to think on this some more.

Thanks again for the advice and perspective, everyone.  This gives me a lot more to think about; I'm so glad I asked for advice and didn't just dive in and purchase something - clearly this topic is going to require more learning on my part (maintenance, handling showers, gear, learning to cycle safely, etc) and I'm entering a great time to be able to do so while waiting for the right deal.

skeptic

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 35
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #31 on: November 13, 2017, 08:23:10 AM »
It's great that you are exploring this. I support exploring it and I don't see any compelling reason to wait until spring, unless you think you are easily spooked and might give up on the idea entirely if it isn't initially pleasant.

My overall thought is: go gradually. It's not like you need to buy a bike and tons of arctic gear on Sunday and then start a full-time bike commute on Monday. There are a million ways to ease into it. One example: you could put the bike on a rack on the back and drive part of the way in the beginning. Then you only need your gear to keep you warm for 2, 3, or 5 miles instead of the whole way, and you can test the water a bit.

I also don't think you should be worried about snow and ice. Just don't ride on particularly bad days. Even if you live in Buffalo, they still plow. 1-3 days after an average storm, the streets are fine for riding. Or you could wait even longer, or take a whole month break.

Nine miles is a decent distance to jump into all at once. Just understand that after some time of doing the ride regularly, your body will adjust. So what totally wipes you out the first week will be as easy as going up a few flights of stairs after a couple months. You can also ride a little slower, especially when you are getting started.

Hands and feet are the hardest parts to keep warm, but still certainly doable. I agree with others that you'll get more comprehensive advice on bike forums or on that biking-specific MMM thread already mentioned.

I wouldn't go into it with "What is the full list of things that I need to buy to take this on?" But instead just get a bike, lock, lights, and helmet and go from there. Eventually having rain pants will be really helpful though. I wouldn't worry a lot about the money (assuming you're not spending more than $500 on a bike). If you master this life skill you'll earn back everything you spend about 10x or more.

The biggest difficulty might be that you have a partner who is not fully onboard with frugality/saving. Good luck.

ChpBstrd

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 628
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #32 on: November 13, 2017, 08:46:36 AM »
The best way to obtain more information/perspective on the feasability of your commute is to try it once as an experiment. Watch for nice weather. Identify a bike rental place or, better yet, a friend whose bike you can borrow. Wake up early with your backpack packed. See what happens.

Your biggest obstacle will probably be your fitness level. Keep in mind that changes.

GuitarStv

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 9480
  • Age: 36
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #33 on: November 13, 2017, 09:11:41 AM »
GuitarStv, what kind of tires do you use in the winter?   Are studs helpful?

Has anyone tried one of those snow bikes on snow covered bike paths?   I've talked to a couple of people riding them, but they weren't riding on much snow...

We salt the hell out of the roads in Toronto, so even when it's well below freezing you're much more likely to be cycling over slush and grit than snow and ice.  I've been using some cheap 32 mm (they actually measure about 30mm wide) Continental Tour Ride tires for the past few years.  They have a little tread and grip OK on snow, but they're able to punch through slush pretty well and contact the tarmac below.  They're heavy as hell, but are very flat proof (which is essential for me in the winter - fuck changing a flat with cold fingers).  I don't commute in freezing rain, but other than these conditions the Tour Rides work well for most of the winter.

When there's deep snow that's unplowed I ride in the tire marks that cars make on the road.  This means that I can get by with less tread on my tire than if I was slogging through the snow on it's own.  If you do this, it's very important to always look ahead and be prepared to bunny hop over the edges to nearby car tracks when necessary.  If you've spent much time on a mountain bike in sand, riding in deep snow has a similar feeling.  It's controllable, but you have to get used to how the bike handles differently.

I've tried studded tires, and they work great on ice or deep snow.  They suck on dry/mostly dry road though, and since I'm going 22 km each way I don't really want that extra drag slowing me down for the minimal advantage to my particular circumstances.

jeromedawg

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2424
  • Location: Orange County, CA
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #34 on: November 13, 2017, 09:32:49 AM »
A few tips if you decide to go this route (sorry I don't have a ton more specifics):

1) A shower at your office/work is huge but not a necessity. A towel, deodorant and dry shampoo should be good enough. Either way, I wouldn't suggest riding 9-10 miles in nice clothing and I'm assuming you wouldn't want to either

2) A backpack (if you don't mind your back getting a little sweaty) or pannier/bag to hold your nice clothes.

3) Leg warmers and/or long-johns for colder weather

4) Helmet, side mirrors (if you are riding on roads shared with cars), bright lights (front and tail) if riding when it's dark especially but good to have anyway when sharing the road with cars, tire patch kit, spare tube, decent hand pump (to carry with while riding), decent foot pump (for home), u-lock, potentially fenders if you're riding in mud/snow/rain

5) Try to learn how to change a tire/tube and also patch a tire *before* you start riding. Sucks to be stuck out there for half an hour+ trying to figure out how to get the stupid tire off the wheel as well as how to get the new one back on... especially in the rear wheel and if you have gears. Practice pumping with the hand pump and foot pump too.

6) Learn how to correctly lock your bike up to a rack or anything truly stationary (you may want an extra u-lock depending on your location too but consider the extra weight). If you can bring the bike into your office/cubicle/etc that's even better.

7) Another option, that some here may frown upon in the name of pure exercise, is to get a bike with (or have installed) pedal-assist or electric options. This should help with the hill and afford you the chance to come into work not dripping with sweat and in a soaked shirt (you might even be able to wear some or all of your 'nice clothes' this way). It can be expensive but maybe something to consider depending on how rough it is. 9-10 miles one-way is no walk in the park for someone who hasn't ridden a lot - it gets easier as you do it more but even when I was riding in when I used to, it was only 5-6 miles and I'd work up a crazy sweat. Course, the roads/paths are pretty flat where I am so I would try to push where I could (more so in the afternoon though)
« Last Edit: November 13, 2017, 09:35:45 AM by jeromedawg »

elaine amj

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2161
  • Location: Ontario
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #35 on: November 13, 2017, 10:14:51 AM »
I don't shower at work. But then I don't typically get very sweaty - I joke that I "glow" instead haha! When necessary, I wipe down with hand towels that I wet down at the sink. Not as nice as wet wipes, but gets the job done for me for free. I used to change almost completely at work but after some time commuting, I started wearing more and more work clothes. That said, my office is casual enough that I can get away with it. Plus I have learned to bike in dresses. I change my shoes most of the time though and nowadays have a couple of pairs of neutral heels stashed in my office.

I have to say, I looked pretty funny one day biking home in the pouring rain in a poufy dress. I don't know why but it always feels a million times worse getting wet in my "nice" clothes whereas I don't care if I am soaked in my athletic gear.
My journal: http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/journals/realigning-spending-to-match-our-future-goals-a-canadian-journey/

Camp Mustache Canada 2017 was everything I dreamed of and more. Super excited that Camp Mustache Canada 2018 is now a thing!

zinnie

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 559
  • Location: California
Re: Entry-level Mustachian, debt emergency, considering a bike
« Reply #36 on: November 13, 2017, 10:24:55 AM »
The best way to obtain more information/perspective on the feasability of your commute is to try it once as an experiment. Watch for nice weather. Identify a bike rental place or, better yet, a friend whose bike you can borrow. Wake up early with your backpack packed. See what happens.

Your biggest obstacle will probably be your fitness level. Keep in mind that changes.

This is the best advice. Rent a bike an try it out when the weather is nice. And if that isn't until spring, so be it. Don't buy a bunch of stuff until you're sure it is what you will want to do. And once you do, used bikes are the way to go, and a nice hybrid doesn't need to cost more than $200-300. It is very easy to tell what kind of shape a bike is in by looking at it, and repairs and maintenance are easy to learn with video tutorials. You don't need to buy thousands of dollars of new bike and gear to attempt this...

On showering at work, I've found wet wipes sufficient. But I don't get very sweaty biking and slow down a lot up hills etc.