How & Why I Became A Bike Convert

Biking saves money! Last year we sold our second vehicle and invested in new bikes. Find out how much we've saved in just one year.

I climbed on a bike just over two years ago for the first time since I was a kid. And you know what? It’s just like riding a bike 😉 Bad joke. But really, biking is super fun. I bought a cheap bike on sale at Canadian Tire and the bf, and I (he had an old bike) went on lots of leisurely bike rides.

That was it though. We didn’t use our bikes as a form of transportation. They were strictly for fun. Why? Well, we live close to downtown, and my confidence level was basically zero when it came to biking in traffic.

Bike Lanes Make a Difference

The following year Edmonton made a big effort to improve the biking infrastructure in the city. Separated bike lanes were installed around much of downtown, and our neighbourhood was now connected. We could make it almost from our front door to the downtown core entirely on separated bike lanes. Hello confidence!

The bike lane project is controversial. Edmonton is car-centric. People drive, a lot. It’s not unusual for people to commute in thirty plus minutes a day from the suburbs to downtown. I think things are starting to change, but living and working central still aren’t the norm. And those commuters? They hate bike lanes. The lanes take up room on already crowded roads, and they weren’t free.

Now, relative to the cost of creating roads out to the suburbs (don’t get me started about the cost of new neighbourhoods), the bike lanes are ridiculously cheap. They also take cars off the road.

Obviously, I’m pro-bike lanes. Their creation has changed how the bf and I get around.

Reducing Our Car Dependence

Last year we sold our second vehicle. It was no longer a necessity, and it was rare not to have at least one vehicle sitting unused in the garage. I usually walk to work, and the bf was either biking or taking the bus. We decided to sell his Jeep and use some of the proceeds to upgrade our bikes.

Turns out there’s a pretty significant difference between a decent bike and a crappy one. And if we were going to be using our bikes as transportation, we figured we would splurge.

Late last summer we each spent about $800 on new bikes. I know, it’s a lot. It’s a big reason why I’m writing this post in the first place. I wanted to break down the cost savings of biking so that I could justify the expense.

Dramatic Sidestory

I’ve got a quick story to tell before getting into the numbers part of this post. I was about halfway through pulling the data together for this when tragedy struck. My bike was stolen! I woke up one morning, and our back gate and garage door were wide open. Some asshole broke in and stole my bike that was LOCKED UP in my garage.

Full disclosure: Our detached garage is about 900 years old, and the door doesn’t actually have a lock on it, so yes, the garage was unlocked. My bike was only locked up with a cable lock because my tougher U-Lock doesn’t fit around the two by four we lock our bikes up to. The bf’s bike had a better lock and was left untouched.

There was more than a little cursing, a hastily written police report filed (thank god for online filings), and a bit more cursing. I figured I was out an $800 bike. Shit. Not only that, I wouldn’t be able to publish my half-written post because there’s nothing frugal about having an $800 bike stolen!

But wait, this story has a happy ending. Only a few hours later I got a call from the cops, and they had my bike!!!

Turns out the asshole thief ditched it about twenty blocks away in the driveway of another house and traded up by stealing two other bikes. I sure hope those people had their bikes returned, but I had to laugh imagining the thief being embarrassed riding a women’s bike and ditching it for something more manly.

So my bike got a free ride home in the back of a cop car and now has a home in the basement instead of the garage. And now, I can publish with the added public service announcement to lock your bikes and garages, and don’t forget to take pictures and record your bike’s serial number.

Biking Saves Money

Back to the real reason for writing this post; the numbers. That was a longer than expected interlude! Sorry about that.

Because I’m a money nerd, I created a spreadsheet to track every time I used my bike as transportation and included the cost savings for both gas and added expenses like parking. Here it is in all its glory:

DateEventKMsDollars SavedComment
April 29/18Ready Player One8.95Parking
May 7/18Library3.40
May 9/18MEC4.40
May 11/18Avengers8.95Parking
May 12/18Board n' Brew/Pampa10.930Uber
May 13/18Stars On Ice8.610Parking
May 20/18A Quiet Place8.95Parking
May 31/18Japonais6.20
June 2/18Deadpool 28.95Parking
June 8/18Bryan Adams1030Uber
June 28/18The Works Fest10.25Parking
June 29/18Ocean's 88.95Parking
June 30/18Farmers Market8.85Parking
July 1/18Baseball Game12.630Uber
July 5/18Blaze Pizza4.40
July 7/18Les Miserables14.66Parking
July 8/18Farmers Market8.80
July 21/18Ice Cream8.40
July 22/18Taste of Edmonton10.210Parking
July 29/18Baseball Game6.310Parking
July 29/18K-Days1320Parking
August 1/18Massage4.40
August 8/18Hlinka Gretzky Hockey Game8.610Parking
August 11/18Farmers Market8.85Parking
August 14/18Fatburger5.20
August 15/18Gelato8.60
August 18/18Avila Arepa7.15Parking
August 18/18Fringe8.85Parking
September 8/18Sonic Field Day8.625Uber
September 25/18Edmonton Oilers8.630Parking
September 27/18Edmonton Oilers8.610Parking
Bike to Work (11 times)440
Total KMs306.6
Gas Savings ($0.55/KM)168.63
Dollars Saved271
Total Cost Savings439.63

The takeaway from the data is that in one summer of biking I have saved $439.63. Not bad at all! That means that in less than two years my $800 bike will have paid for itself. Justified!

I know I could have bought a cheaper bike or a used one for even more cost saving. I like my new bike though. It’s easy to ride and encourages me actually to use it, and it will last me for years.

One thing you might notice is that I only biked to work 11 times. You might be wondering ‘why not more?’ I prefer walking to work. It’s about a 20-minute walk, and I use it to keep up to date on podcasts or listen to audiobooks. Biking is faster but walking is more relaxing, and a nice way to start and end the day. The days I biked to work are days when I would normally drive. Usually it’s because the weather is a bit sketchy or because I’m running late.

Other Benefits

Biking saves money, we’ve established that, but it also has other benefits you won’t get from driving.

It’s good for you. By using your bike to commute you get a built-in workout. Or, if you’re biking to get ice cream, you can count it as a wash since you’re burning calories to get there. Don’t look at the spreadsheet again; I definitely never did this.

You’ll also be doing good by the environment when you choose your bike over your car. No emissions polluting the air while you sit in traffic. And that’s another thing! There’s no sitting in traffic. The bf has been riding his bike, and it takes him less time than if he were to drive (and find parking) or take the bus. If he were as much of a spreadsheet nerd as I was, his numbers would be even better than mine. I bet he’s paid his bike off in full from this one summer.

I’m happy we became bike converts this year. It’s saved us money, made us get out and exercise, and reduced our carbon footprint. Triple win.

Tell me, are you a fan of biking? Do you use your bike for fun or as a mode of transportation?

Biking saves money! Last year we sold our second vehicle and invested in new bikes. Find out how much we've saved in just one year.

This post was proofread by Grammarly.

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8 comments

  1. 100%! I’ve been biking to work (year round!) for over eight years now and love it. It’s the perfect trifecta of saving money, getting exercise and saving time.

    It also helped us pay off our mortgage early. Biking to work was just one change we made to help us free up more cash to throw at our mortgage. If I had to guess I would expect the total impact to be well over $30,000 by now, but that’t just a guess because I stopped tracking it a long time ago.

    1. That’s amazing, way to go! I was actually surprised it added up to as much as it did just in this one summer, it really doesn’t feel like extra work. I find biking way more enjoyable than driving.

  2. I don’t really think a lot about the costs, but I track my commute cycling for fitness goal reasons. I’m a bit under 10,000km for 400 commutes over the two years I’ve lived in Edmonton. According to the CAA calculator, that’s about $8000 in driving costs (for my vehicle), and that doesn’t account for the daily parking charge of $15 ( x 400 trips = another $6000). Now, if only I can convince my better half that this saving justifies buying another bike …

    1. You’re right, I didn’t include the added savings of maintenance and insurance on the second vehicle. We likely would have gone down to one vehicle either way because before we invested in the bikes I was walking to work and my boyfriend was mostly taking public transportation.

  3. I commuted to work by bike year-round for a decade. My commute was 21km each way, and took me just over an hour in winter, and just under in the other season. Not including gym fees, I was saving about $6000 per year over what my car had cost, and about $8000 more than the average annual car expense. I don’t see any easier way to cut that much expense out of my lifestyle. I have a bike that I call “hobo bike” which is a 90s mountain bike that I use to get around when I don’t want to worry about bike theft. Though it is a good bike, it is old and less desirable to thieves as well as being more expendable to me.

  4. You like Bryan Adams? Did we just become soulmates?! And I think you’re right about bike lanes mattering. My biggest fear of biking to school is getting run over… I just don’t know if I’m a skilled enough biker to handle the risks.

    This is an awesome post though!

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