Thursday, June 30, 2011

What's That Cost?

Since I'm out on my bike all the time these days, I tend to run into other transportation cyclists a lot. Some of these folks are riding because they prefer it to driving, some because they can't afford to drive, and some because, for whatever reason, they no longer have a driver's license. Oddly enough, they all seem to want to talk about the same thing: the cost of our respective bikes.
I had one fellow corner me at a bike rack outside of a Target and subject me to a lengthy lecture about how much he paid for his bike, what the actual retail price was, what the price of the bike was the model year before and after, and what the cost of the other bikes he was considering buying at the time. Then he, of course, asked me how much my bike cost. "Um... I'm not really sure," I mumbled, "I got it on closeout, but swapped a lot of parts and stuff around." This didn't really satisfy him, so I eventually just said, "five-hundred dollars," which elicited a knowing nod and a "not bad" from him.
I didn't quite get it, but it seems to be a common thing. I mentioned it to my boss at the bike shop, and he said last time he and his wife were grabbing coffee after a Sunday ride, the same thing happened (the woman who approached them bragging that she had a "ten thousand dollar bike," which was only off in his estimation by about $9,000).
I'm really not sure how much my bike, as I'm riding it, cost. I know how much the MSRP was, and how much I paid for it when I bought it, but I swapped out a lot of parts, added some things, used some old parts I had lying around, got some stuff from a friend... you get the idea. I could probably tally it all up, but I don't actually care.
I guess it's another case of folks wanting to use their transportation as status symbols. After all, if you're driving an Escalade, everyone knows you spent a certain amount on it, but if you're riding around on a mountain bike, there's the very real danger that people might not realize that it cost you lots of money!
Yeah, it's kind of stupid. I figure even the most expensive add-ons to my bike, like the high-powered headlight for night commutes cost less than a tankful of gas for my old truck, and everything I've done to it serves a purpose.
A more interesting thing to me, in terms of cost/use/etc is to look at what I've worn out since I started using a bike as my main transport almost four months ago. I estimate I've got between 1,500 and 2,000 miles on the bike now (a cyclocomputer doesn't count as a necessity, so my "broke commuter" logic says I can't afford one), and have worn out, lost or broken the following:

A pair of pedals
Two sets of grips
Three inner tubes
Two sets of brake pads
One chain
One kickstand
Two water bottles
One bell
Two taillights
One headlight
One spoke

This is more interesting to me than what the bike cost, or what it weighs (another meaningless question that comes up a lot, the answer is "depends on what's in the saddlebag"), because it's both a tally of the real operating cost of the bike, and a mark of how much use (and care, I fix stuff when it's worn out or broken more diligently than I ever have on a car) my current vehicle gets.

What's it mean? I don't know. It means I'm riding my bike, I guess that's all.


EMF said...

I once got passed by a paceline; I caught up with them about a half-mile down the road where they had stopped to take a break. I wanted to ask where their ride originated, as I haven't ever done paceline riding and was interested in perhaps getting into a group ride or two per month instead of my usual solo jaunts.

Before I got the chance to ask, one guy took a querulously snobbish look at my cyclocross and said, "How much does all that Chromoly weigh?"

"23 pounds, with a full water bottle," I responded, "but it isn't..."

"Oh, no wonder you couldn't keep up. Want to buy this one? It's 17, and my new carbon one's on order --- it'll be 14-five."

This was coming from a guy who might have been 5'8", and if he weighed less than 240, I'd be surprised. I held my tongue about where he'd be better off shaving some weight, and instead commented that it wouldn't be the right frame size.

His buddy was a bit more curious; he "hadn't ever seen disc brakes on a road bike before", and I started to explain that though it superficialy looks like a road bike, it really isn't.

The rest of the group then jumped into discussing gear... "I just swapped out the Ultegras for the DuraAce group, and I tell you, it makes all the difference in the world."
"Thinking about buying SRAM Reds instead on my next one."
"Did you see that new FELT frame?"

I politely excused myself, and finished out my quiet, enjoyable ride on my 6061 aluminum triangles.

Neil said...

I'd have to do some serious math to figure out how much I have invested in any of my bikes. My main touring rig has new handlebars, stem, tires (well, three of them), rear derailer, front fork, and probably other stuff. My Dahon only has one original wheel, and I've easily spent more than the purchase price of the bike on it by now.

Oddly enough, the number one question I get asked about folding bikes is "how much did that cost?"

Matt DeBlass said...

Chromoly? Don't you have a Cannondale?

Yeah, the "light=good" thing is pretty pervasive, to the point where people come into the shop, heft a $300 hybrid and say "oh, that's light, that's a good bike," while we just bite our tongues.

In all my years of wrenching, racing and general riding, I've found two cases where a few pounds on the bike really matter. The first is when you have to carry it, such as to a third-floor apartment or on and off a train. The other time a few pounds of weight makes a difference is when mountain biking. A lighter bike hurts less when it lands on top of you.

EMF said...

Yep, my bike is a Cannondale. I have absolutely no idea why he'd think it was Chromoly.

I don't get deeply into those discussions because I know... and am comfortable with... myself. Even if I enter an event, I'm never going to be contending for a spot on a podium, just to ride well and finish.

I have no need to spend an extra zero that might make the difference between third and first. The only way I'll see single-digit finishes is when there are only ten riders in the race. ;D