The Spend Doesn’t End (After the Purchase of a Bike)

by | Feb 13, 2022

Experienced cyclists know that the opportunity to spend money on their chosen pastime is boundless, some driven by want and some that are needed. Novice cyclists in many cases have not come to this realization and many think that once they have outlaid a substantial sum for a bicycle, cycling is a sport free of continual expenditures. Let’s put a jagged thorn in that tube right now. Buying a bike is just the start of a long journey of cycling expenses, some of which you may expect and many of which you won’t. The spend truly doesn’t end after the purchase of a bike.  Let’s get on the audit trail….

Sensible Bike Accessories

When I worked in mainstream bike shop land, I was always surprised by the number of new bike purchasers who flatly refused to think it would be in any way beneficial to have a water bottle cage, water bottle, seat bag, spare tube, patch kit, tire levers, multitool, and chain lube. You can get away without some or all of these things for a while, but there is no fun cycling with a parched throat or being stranded by the side of the road with a breakdown that could have been repaired–especially if you find yourself in a cell phone dead spot. Boy scout motto: “be prepared”. Allocate some new bike budget to sensible accessories.

Cycling Specific Attire

You can ride in whatever you like, but cycling shorts, gloves, and a helmet enhance the experience. It only took my first case of saddle sores on my first long-distance tour in cotton shorts to gain a true appreciation for the potential value offered by padded cycling shorts. Buying a single purchase of these important items is not enough.  Helmets have a life span and need replacing, especially if you’ve crashed–that requires an immediate replacement. Gloves wear out, and cycling shorts wear out. Ride, wear out, replace.

Bike Maintenance

A bicycle is a machine, with mechanical moving parts, and increasingly hydraulics and electronics as well. Machines require maintenance along with cleaning, lubing, and greasing. Maintenance has a cost–your time or someone else’s in return for dollars, but it can help extend the lifespan of the moving parts on a bicycle, and those things cost even more money.

Bike Parts

Brake pads, chains, chainrings, cassettes, bearings, cables, batteries, and tires.  All of these bike parts have a useful life, and the more you ride (and sometimes when you don’t), these items wear out and require replacement. Let your chain get too worn out and it’s going to take the chainrings and cassette with it, turning a low cost part replacement into a high cost part replacement. Last weekend my mountain bike shifters decided they were done with performing a thankless task. Broken internals. Time for new shifters. Not an expected repair, but one that made its need known suddenly and effectively.

Contact Points

You might have expected all of the previous categories, but this one catches many people unaware.  Stuff that doesn’t move also wears out, due to its important role in connecting you to the bike. Saddles for example. The rails bend, the padding breaks down, and the outer fabric gets scuffed or torn. Saddles are a consumable item. Expect to replace your saddle at some stage because it won’t last as long as the bike as a whole, and that’s even if it’s comfortable (or was comfortable).

Using cycling shoes and pedals? When is the last time you looked closely at your cleats? These things last about a season or two, not a lifetime. And the shoes they are attached to will also wear out.  While you may encounter other cyclists who claim to be wearing the same shoes from 15 years ago may or may not be suffering from cognitive difficulties but what’s true is feet sweat.  Sweat (filled with salt and bacteria) breaks down fabric shoes over time.  Secondly, if your shoe soles are hard plastic or carbon, both have a tendency to become more mailable over time.  It occurs at a slow pace (depending on how often and hard you ride) but you may not notice at first the detriments of a loss of comfort, power, and efficiency.  This same wear that occurs with shoes is also true of insoles which have a tendency to easily break down within a year to 2 years.

Handlebar tape breaks down from pressure and UV light and can get manky from exposure to your grubby, greasy hands. Is it time for new tape or grips?

Bike Fitting

Of course, as a bike fitter, it’s imperative not to leave this one out.  I don’t want to make the assumption that the purchase of a new bike provided you with a fitting the met your goals and expectations.  I dive deeper into the importance of why you need a bike fit in a different article as well as the value of selecting the right size bike, but it’s not only something that’s vital when you first purchase your bike to maximize comfort, power, and efficiency. It is also extremely beneficial to continue getting fits over time.  Has your body remained the same for the last 10 years?  Has your fitness level and amount of riding stayed the same over the last 10 years?  For many, age changes your body (sometimes rapidly) and fitness ebbs and flows as well.  Consequently, consistently getting a quality bike fit can vary in cost but is an ongoing expenditure as part of bike ownership.

Events

How about going on a charity ride, gran fondo or race?  Now you are responsible for event registration fees, fundraising, travel, and accommodation. Not to mention the food – lots of food! And of course, to do your best you will no doubt want some sports bars, gels, electrolytes, recovery drinks, and maybe even a post-event massage. Still, think cycling is cheap? Yes! As you may get more serious about performance improvement, you’ll start financially planning for coaching, a training plan, an indoor smart trainer, a power meter, and a Zwift subscription.

Upgrades

Now we venture into the realm of want, and your susceptibility to cleverly constructed marketing campaigns designed to imply that your bike is not good enough, or you are not good enough, or you’re not keeping current unless you buy X. Beware the smoke. Beware the mirrors. But hey – it’s your cash.  Spend it how you like!

N+1 (N = the number of bikes you currently own)

The ultimate upgrade. A whole new bike! Woo hoo! Now we are back to square one. After the purchase of a bike, you realize it needs some new accessories. And you need a new kit to ride in, and now an extra bike needs maintenance, parts and contact point items, and upgrades. You can see where this is going right?  It’s a journey. There is no end to the spend!

John Higgins

John Higgins

John is an elite level bike fitter who works with non-elite cyclists - although a few have won races! Many don't race at all, but ride for fun, fitness, or to compete against themselves. John has worked with 18-80 year olds (and younger and older), novices, age groupers, masters racers and all levels of weekend warrior. These include road riders, mountain bikers, triathletes, tandem riders, tourers, commuters, bike packers and gravel riders and racers. All share a love of cycling and just wanted to ride more comfortably, and in many cases faster. John is the owner of Fit Kit Systems, and provides bike fitting services through BikeFitr (bikefitr.com)

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