How Much Could a Bike Ride Cost Anyway?

I’ve spent over a thousand dollars on major bike repairs and gear recently. It sounds like a lot, but some of it was way overdue. I hope I’m good on that for 6 months or so. Time will tell, but I’m hoping I can keep gear and maintenance to a $200 per month level. That will be more of a challenge as weekly mileage increases.

Transportation is the rest of the cost. This project is on a trail for the beauty and comparative safety. On trails, you only find the drivers who would be killers at intersections with roads. The only downside is driving to get out to the trail.

Some people think of the cost of gas as the cost of going somewhere and then never really figure out how much gas it took, especially on local trips. The cost of the car itself seems to get put in some other mental category called “having a car”.

Paying something closer to accurate attention to the cost of driving somewhere is a natural for me though. My father used to calculate the actual per mile cost of every car or truck he owned. Because of that influence, I usually figure that going to a fast food place costs about twice the menu price (ones I like are 15 minutes or so from my home). I’m more attentive than most, but still not as committed to an exact figure as Dad was. For a project like this though, I need to know.

I briefly worked for a company called National Opinion Research Center, (NORC) headquartered at the University of Chicago. They’re famous for opinion surveys, but they collect and analyze all kinds of soft and hard data. They did mileage calculations for the IRS in a manner to make the allowance adjustable. Have you noticed that the deductible allowance changes more often than it used to? Most of that change is due to fluctuation in gas prices because other costs do not fluctuate as often nor as much. The other part of the figure is calculated on the average cost of a car and maintenance. The cost of my car is 20% above average. (I’ve always driven economy cars, but now I sometimes need to carry 5-7 people, two of them over six feet tall). So the IRS figure is what you use if you want to take their average on business mileage. Keeping records and supporting a higher price is what you do if your car is more expensive than average. For this, I’m looking for the best approximation I can get without digging in my files.

The training rides I currently make are quite a bit further than my original plan. Now a ride requires a 96 mile drive round trip (RT) or $56 at the current IRS rate of 57.5 cents per mile. If you add an extra 10% because my car is 20% more expensive than average, that comes to $63.25. I’m currently attempting 3 of those a week, which is $189.75 per week or $796.95 transportation per month, plus the $200 in maintenance and gear for $996.95 total per month. While it is easier on my body to spread it out right now, actually sitting down to do the math increases my resolve to fit my training miles into 2 rides per week instead of 3.

As often as I tend to estimate the cost of transportation as being higher than other people do, the numbers were a surprise to me. And those numbers care about me like the virus does. None. At. All. The numbers and the virus simply exist. What the numbers mean to me though underscores the conflicting feelings that I can’t do this project now, and that I must. It took shelter-in-place to make it necessary to drive 96 miles for a “socially distant ride”, and it took spending time sheltering isolated from my rides and my fitness center to get me over my initial rejection of the idea that I could drive so far to ride. But, it only took that first short ride after sheltering-in-place, to make it pretty clear to me that riding was more important to my immediate health and wellbeing than anything else I could be doing with that same time and money. There’s always a rub isn’t there? I hope I can provide some entertaining footage to people who can’t make the trip.