Is Cycling An Expensive Hobby?
Cycling has really taken off in the UK over the last fifteen years; statistics have shown that more people are cycling now than ever before and there are many contributing factors. The rising cost of fuel and the recent economic crisis being one of them and the drive to live a greener existence being another. Whichever way you look at it, cycling has certainly become the fashionable hobby of the 21st century.
In some respects, cycling has become the new golf, the new approach to the fabled mid-life crisis and it’s also become the mode of transport of choice for the younger generation too. When you consider the sports incredible popularity, you’d think that everyone would want to get involved; however, that’s not the case. Many potential cyclists are being put off by the huge price tags that come attached to cycling. It’s because of the massive surge in popularity that many potential cyclists feel like they are being priced out of the market!
And why do they feel that way? If we look at some of the popular stereotypes, it’s not hard to see why.
First, let’s look at the standard (and fairly insulting) lycra-clad male stereotype. The stereotype points at middle-aged men who spend a lot of money on the best, the fastest and the most attractive bicycles on the market; these men generally follow the Tour with their full attention and are often seen holidaying around the stage routes of Europe, cycling away with the family in tow.
Your second batch comprises of the city based commuters, who invest top dollar in the fastest, swiftest and most ergonomically designed bikes. They’re equipped with the latest gear and are often seen flitting through the lanes from home to office, office to meeting, meeting to lunch and all of the rest. This stereotype can alienate potential cyclists because if you’re not a top dog in the city, then you’re not allowed to ride a bike! Or so it seems.
Lastly, you’ve got the mustache wearing, over-sized glasses sporting hipster clique, who, as we’re all well aware of, are incredibly cool. They take the vintage fixed gears and ride them with ease through the fashionable neighbourhoods of the cities. The older the bike is, the squeakier the wheels are, the more expensive the bike seems to be. To the outsider, it appears that they might not be cool enough to take up cycling as a pastime.
Well, let’s debunk those myths right away! Cycling has no class system and just because someone else rides them, doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t. The only problem that these stereotypes create is a matter of price.
What Does It Really Cost?
Cycling can be as cheap or as expensive as you can afford. Now, there was a reason we mentioned those stereotypes earlier: if you want to buy into the advertising, sure, you can spend a fortune.
If you want to have a Tour de France capable bike, then you’re going to have to pay for it. But do you need it? If you’re not already an avid cyclist, the chances are that you’re probably not going to be entered into one of the world’s biggest cycling competitions next year, right? If that’s not the case, then you probably don’t need to holiday in the mountainous regions of Southern France either. So that bike that you saw advertised for upwards of £5000 probably isn’t for you. So don’t feel like you have to buy it.
The second lot; this is the hardest one to debunk because there are merits to having a decent bike if you’re going to be covering a large amount of miles for your commute. Paying for comfort is never a bad thing but it doesn’t have to be incredibly expensive. After completing a cursory search for the top commuter bikes of the year, the cheapest on the ‘top 10’ lists usually sits around the £500 margin (with the highest being almost £2000 – and that’s in the ‘affordable section). £500 may seem expensive but as a beginner, you don’t want to be buying a brand new bike anyway – you can easily find the same model second hand; it will have halved in value and you’ll still have a comfortable and capable bike to get you from A to B. Everything devalues over time. So find what you’re looking for and then do a proper search for something second hand and far more affordable.
And then there’s the third stereotype: the fashionistas. Don’t be fooled by the expensive looking bikes or the vintage chic. If you want to get in to this club then by rights you shouldn’t even be looking in a shop. The best place to pick up a bike of this style is to raid your grandparents and older relative’s garages and storage lockers. You’ll find something that ticks all of the boxes. Follow an online re-spray tutorial and before you know it, you’ll have an authentic, vintage and one of a kind ride – for absolutely nothing. A shop I know in the South East of England basically does this and sells them at a price followed by three zeroes. Don’t be fooled.
Buy What You Need
…And also by the best that you can afford or are willing to stretch to. If you’re getting into cycling for the first time, you won’t need any of the top level stuff until you have worked out your specific needs and requirements. As a newbie, you might struggle to commute to work every day, even with the best cycling technology. You should graduate slowly and buy what you need, when you need it.
As for the rest of the gear, it’s probably best to have none of the gear and a rough idea rather than ‘all the gear and no idea’. Having a helmet is probably one of the first ‘extras’ that you should invest in but even there you have to be careful. A friend (and recent convert to cycling) explained that he checked into a newly established cycle shop for a helmet after realising that some protection was better than no protection and was recommended a very affordable helmet for £120. This was the so-called ‘cheaper’ end of the spectrum too! He declined and bought a snowboarding helmet instead for a fraction of the price. The reasoning was that (as he’s a full-time motorcyclist), he could buy a motorcycle helmet that offers far greater protection for that price and as the jury is still very much out about cycling helmets, it wasn’t worth the expense for his twice weekly jaunts about town.
If It’s Got Two Wheels – Ride It
The bottom line is this: cycling is as expensive as you want to make it. To some people, a £5000 bike and a £120+ helmet is affordable and it suits what they need it for. The people that spend the money know what they’re buying and know what they’re capable of. There should be no stereotypes and no need to debunk the myths either – if it’s got two wheels, ride it. A bike that costs a fortune or one that’s been found in a skip can provide exactly the same level of fun providing that you have the enthusiasm to ride it. With that in mind: cycling is cheap. Very cheap. And extremely rewarding.