With the weather warming up I have been considering riding a bike to work. Well, initially I would be bicycling home from work, but my ultimate plan would be to ride both ways. I am so out of shape now that bicycling to work might literally take half a day, and result in my being lathered in sweat. Like all good frugal dads, I have to consider things like safety and the associated expenses to make an educated decision.
First, a look at the benefits of riding a bike to work.
Improve my current level of physical fitness. As I mentioned, I am grossly out of shape and the ride could help me lose some weight and improve my endurance. I am currently using up the remainder of my gym membership by driving to the gym after work and riding an exercise bike. It seems only logical that I could eliminate the gym membership, save on gas and ride the bicycle home for exercise – killing three birds with one stone, so to speak.
- Potential savings: $30/month gym membership
Less automobile usage costs. I drive an older model vehicle back and forth to work, and it doesn’t require much upkeep outside of general maintenance. In fact, it is driven so little that I have been able to avoid major repair expenses to this point (knocking on wood, emphatically). The only downside? It is a gass guzzler. By carpooling with my wife on the ride to work, and riding my bicycle home I could save quite a bit on gas.
- Potential savings: $70/month in gasoline
And now a look at some potential drawbacks.
Higher risk of being injured in an accident. I have never been much of a cyclist, but my friends who are tell me drivers are notoriously bad at yielding to bicycles. Obviously, the chances of injury are much higher if you tangle with a car while on a bike, as opposed to riding in a car. Fortunately, about half of my trek would be in low traffic or residential areas. Depending on how I map out my route, almost all of the journey home could be residential, though it may take longer.
- Potential Cost: Personal injury not easy to estimate.
Equipment upgrades. When I do ride a bike for leisure it is a Walmart bike I bought because of the sturdy frame and comfortable seat. The only upgrades I’ve made are a bicycle computer and small bag that attached to the seat post, just large enough to stow away my cell phone. In the near future, I may take a look at garage sales and/or Craigslist or Ebay to see if anyone has any road bikes for sale in my area.
When I ride around my neighborhood I opt not to wear a bicycle helmet, but if I decide to venture out in traffic I think a “brain bucket” is probably a good idea. Like most things, helmets can be as fancy or as simple as you are willing to spend. I think I’ll choose the safest, most economical helmet I can find that gets the job done.
- Potential Cost: $20 upfront cost for bicycle helmet. $20/month maintenance (tires, brakes, grease, etc.).
The elements. Summer usually means severe thunderstorms and downpours without much warning. I will need to keep an eye on the sky around quitting time to make sure bad weather isn’t approaching. If it is I’ll need to make other arrangements to get home – maybe grab a ride from a coworker. I could leave the bike in my office and ride it home the next day. Or, I could lock it up somewhere safe (it’s a good idea to register your bike with the National Bike Registry in case it is stolen).
- Potential Cost: $20 upfront cost for rain gear (poncho, waterproof bag, etc.).
It seems like the idea of commuting to and/or from work by bike is a good one. With minimal up-front costs ($40) I could realize a net reduction in my monthly expenses of about $80. The physical benefits of daily riding could also improve my fitness levels, requiring less doctor visits and reduced life insurance premiums (assuming I don’t opt to ride in rush hour traffic). My next step will be to make some test rides over the weekend to plan the route, and make sure I can still ride that far without collapsing. I’ll report back with a final decision.