Today, I thought I’d try and shed some light on two myths surrounding bikes.
Myth: Bikes are Cheap
It’s not uncommon for people to ask me for advice when they’re considering buying a new bicycle. My first question is always “how much are you looking to spend?” $300 seems to be the most common price point. Generally, people are very disappointed with the options available to them for $300. Usually, after someone tells me what they’re looking for in a bike, I tell them that they should consider raising their price point to at least $500, or maybe closer to $1,000. It’s not that I think more expensive bikes are necessary to enjoy cycling, but I find that most people have unrealistic expectations for what they will get for their money.
Now, don’t get wrong. I’m no bike snob. I know there are a lot of folks who buy a $180 bike from a big box store and are perfectly happy with it. I also know that sporting goods stores sell bikes at the $300 price point that are entirely sufficient for many riders – especially if you’re just looking for a comfortable bike to take on Saturday afternoon rides. Used bikes are easy to come by for less than $200. And if you’re willing to put some elbow grease into an older bike, you really can find something for cheap – but it won’t come without effort. I do not discourage these options, but the buyer should be aware that their options will be limited, and the versatility and durability of these bikes is questionable as well. If you skimp on up-front costs of purchasing a bicycle, you will probably pay for it later in maintenance costs. I am all for dumpster-diving frames and parts to piece together a bicycle for hardly any cost at all, but don’t underestimate the amount of time and tools that will be required.
In addition, maintaining a bike can be expensive as well. Cyclists who do their own bike maintenance will inevitably spend several hundred dollars on all the special tools required to do some of the more intense maintenance. In addition, people are often surprised by the labor rates charged by local bike shops.
Myth: Bikes Don’t Require Maintenance
I own both a car and several bikes. My bikes regularly require more effort and maintenance to keep them on the road. Snow, ice, and rain will very quickly cause a bicycle to start performing poorly. Fairweather cyclists (I don’t use that pejoratively) will escape much of the maintenance costs that all-weather cyclists face. However, every bicycle requires regular lubrication, cleaning, and adjustment to keep it running smoothly.
To some extent, this is directly related to the cost of the bike in the first place. Part of what you pay for on more expensive bikes is higher-quality parts that will require less maintenance and are more easily repaired, replaced, or adusted. In my case, I realize that my collection of rusty old bicycles I’ve pulled out of dumpsters requires more maintenance than if I had bought high-quality bikes in the first place. But even the most expensive bikes require regular maintenance. This is often more expensive or time-consuming than people think.