Thursday, September 1

Thursday Economics Lesson and Monthly Mileage

So you might ask, with righteous indignation, how I can cry "poverty" and talk about buying a MTB priced in the neighborhood of a grand?

You'd be right to ask, and I'll go ahead and answer that question in the context of a monthly mileage update.

I posted on twitter the other day: "I just want a US made intermediate level mountain bike for around $1,000...HELP!"

Now, people that know me might think my planning on spending a grand on a "toy" is insane. And even as I was typing the tweet I was thinking: How pretentious!

But even though I knew the tweet sounded pretentious I didn't bat an eye and went ahead with it. I felt justified, but at the time I couldn't articulate it even to myself, how buying such an expensive bike made sense. Self indulgence? Whack priorities? Sheer stupidity? Nah, I finally dredged the depths of my brain for the words that had been there, just avoiding daylight at an inopportune moment of social media expression...

Here's the gist of my internal (and now external) argument:

The late Ken Kifer estimated* about 93.8¢ per mile to operate a motor vehicle and 12.8¢ per mile for a bike. Obviously there is a cost to operate a both a car and a bike. It takes energy to move both, there is an overall cost to purchase and maintain both and unless you're driving or riding through trackless wilderness there is a necessary infrastructure needed to connect your destinations.

From Ken's arithmetic we instantly see huge gains to be had by choosing the bike over the car, a whopping 81¢ difference! The difference in cost is the cost of operating SIX MORE BICYCLES. You can operate SEVEN BICYCLES for the cost of one automobile.

How many 8+ member carpools do you know of? That's what it would take to come close to offsetting the cost of driving an automobile instead of riding a bicycle.

The Cannonball X is my primary mode of transportation. But if you are a regular bike commuter you know that sometimes the bike isn't ready to go when you are. Sometimes you wake up, get ready for work and go out to find a flat tire. A crash one day which requires repairs at the LBS will seriously affect your next day's commute.

For the most part, since we've given up the second car I've had two bikes at my disposal. Mechanical problems have only stopped me from a psychological standpoint, not a practical one.

Now while I can "borrow" either of Mandy's bikes if the Cannonball decides to be ornery it is good for a man to be self-reliant. The last time I borrowed the Ute I knocked her out of a prime opportunity for choosing the bike over the car. And then if I crash her bike...well, let's not go there. I'd just feel horrible.

So part of my (our) decision to go ahead and purchase the replacement mountain bike is the transportational redundancy it will provide for me in our car-lite lifestyle. The secondary consideration is the need for an adequate bike for Leadville next year and my growing obsession with all things off-road cycling.

But even with the "luxury" of a second bike I am still far removed from the financial impact of car ownership. Based on my total miles for the year and Ken Kifer's estimates so far I've saved $2,810 by choosing the bike over the car. Even with the Xtracycle conversion and the new MTB I'm still ahead of the game. I have not factored in Mandy's Ute because I don't know her exact mileage. I'm certain we've already covered the cost of the Ute with my commuting alone.

So the tally:

August ended with 427 miles. The shoulder injury slowed me down a bit, even into August. I had a few days off when I didn't commute and other than our Leadville trip we didn't do a lot of riding on the weekends. It's just been too hot.

Even so, with that figure I've averaged 433 miles a month in 2011 with a total so far of 3,469 miles, and if we continue on out to the end of the year I project I'll be at 5,200+ miles for the year no problem. That's a total savings of $4,212 for the year.

The bikenomics of it all tells me I'm still in the black and that the bike is a major key to financial resilience in these complex times.

* Ken's estimates were from no later than 2003. With high fuel costs, inflation and all that jazz the true costs of both driving and cycling could be significantly more...or not. I'm going to go with his figures here because I think the relative difference will be approximately the same.

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