The Ultimate Money-Saving Device: A Bike

By Richard Reis

Hello dear,

I’m happy to see how well you received last week’s letter. In terms of stats and read ratios, it’s one of the top.

I expected most people to complain when told to ditch their cars. However, I think they know, deep down, it’s the right thing to do. This would explain why my letter was so well received.

My favorite comment came from a Facebook thread about my letter:

It’s a good thing we agree.

You know what’s interesting in this conversation? After eliminating car commutes, the conversation naturally drifts (if walking to work isn’t an option) to biking (sorry, skateboards).

So, put your helmet on. Today we’re talking about bikes.

Why Ride A Bike?

Picture a clean city — with pristine streets, well-mannered drivers, and tons of space which results in virtually no traffic. San Francisco is nothing like that. It looks more like this:

Source

Not only would this sight make Al Gore shudder, it happens EVERY DAY (In a previous life, I was a victim).

Clearly, those people haven’t read last week’s letter.

But let’s say they’re a bit too far from work (4+ miles). This makes a daily walk last a tad bit longer than most people are comfortable with.

“Hmm… What should they do? Uber?”

Pff, puh-lease. Instead of giving up, there’s an easy solution: ride a bike!

This is especially easy if you live in a dense city like San Francisco or New York (and you can zoom past all the traffic!).

If you live in LA, I’ll say this: I forgive you for driving a car. This is because a block in LA is the size of, roughly, a football field. I know this from personal experience. However, this is no excuse for not shopping around for apartments closer to work!

I won’t talk about all the reasons why you should ride a bike. For that, you can check out Mr. Money Mustache’s posts on bikes here, here, and here. Saying MMM likes bikes is like saying Romeo likes Juliette.

“Bikes are virtually free, and require no insurance, registration, license, parking spaces, or any other hassle. They are so easy to own, and so incredibly useful and beneficial, with absolutely no drawbacks whatsoever to ownership. And yet somehow, there are adults out there — millions of them, a majority of them in the US — who don’t even have a bike.” — Mr. Money Mustache

In short, riding a bike every day will make you much wealthier, healthier, and happier. Better writers than I have covered this several times in the past.

No disagreement there? Fantastic. How could you anyways.

In this letter, I’ll talk about what you’d want to buy/ know when switching to a bike.

So let’s do this.

Bike Shopping List

1. The Bike

I got this advice from Jacob at Early Retirement Extreme:

  • The best bike for commuting is a touring bike.
  • The ideal frame is steel.

I’ll admit it, my bike knowledge is limited to what I personally need/ enjoy. I bought my mountain bike for $700 about two years ago. And I couldn’t be happier.

Why a mountain bike? Because it makes me feel like I’m 10 again (always had mountain bikes) and brings back great memories.

You might think “700 bucks?!”. But, as any early retirement blogger will tell you, it’s ok to spend a bit on your bike. It will save you a ton of money on commutes, increase your health, and give you energy each and every day.

Besides, a car will only last you about a decade. If you take really good care of your bike, it can last a lifetime.

Sidenote: This doesn’t mean go crazy and get a $11,000 Cipollini RD800 Road Bike! It simply means it’s ok to spend $700 on something that’s all benefits.

If you really want to make the best purchase for you, simply ask a friend who’s very knowledgeable about bikes (and who’s not trying to sell you anything).

However, if you want to find something even cheaper, Craigslist is (as always) your best friend. This post teaches you how.

2. Add-ons

Bike Trailer: Going grocery shopping? No problem! You can transport it all using a bike trailer.

For more heavy duty stuff, check out Bikes At Work.

Speedometer: To make riding more fun, keep track of your progress! A good, cheap speedometer will do the trick. This way you can do things like try to beat your weekly records or see how much you’ve biked in a year.

Bright lights: You want to be safe while riding at night. Make sure your LED lights are so damn bright that cars will confuse you with motorcycles.

Helmet: This goes without saying. Be safe out there (and look good doing it).

3. E-Bike

“Ok, Richard. I really want a bike so I can commute to work every day. But try to understand, my office is 7 miles away!”

I totally understand. But I do have a solution. The electric bike.

Here’s a fun table I got from MMM. It will help you know whether or not you should get an electric bike.

Now that you’ve seen this, you know you don’t need your car. So, promise me you’ll stop spending time and money on car commutes? Promise? Pinky promise?

Ok.

In that case, you can get an e-bike kit here.

If you really want to splurge, even the $1,500 Copenhagen wheel is a better option than a car.

Or, you could just buy a fully assembled e-bike like the ProdecoTech Phantom for $1,700.

However, I must admit I’m not an e-bike expert. I don’t need one.

Everything I need is a short walking distance. The furthest location would be supercuts 2.5 miles away (I always ride my bike there. Of course, this doesn’t include the times I ride just for fun, podcast-listening, or exercise).

If you arrange where you live to be less than three miles from anything, you don’t even need a bike. Let alone an e-bike.

If you do need/ want a bike, here are some numbers.

Total Cost: $700 bike + $107 bike trailer + $10 speedometer + $9 Bike lights + $25 helmet = $851! (*my cost)

Total Cost for someone who lives 6+ miles from work: $851 + $1,500 Copenhagen Wheel = $2,351!

This is:

  • Still MUCH cheaper than a car (and you’ll never pay for gas).
  • Will serve all the same purposes as a car.
  • Plus will add all the health benefits you get from exercising daily!

Win-win-win.

This is why a bike is such an amazing purchase. Up until now, this knowledge only belonged to a few rare bike-friendly cities around the world (and Burning Man participants).

Now, this knowledge also belongs to you, use it wisely.

That’s it for today.

See you next week, be well.

R

P.S.: A few friends have complained that, despite following me and the series on Medium, they don’t always get notified when a new letter is out (c’mon, Medium! I loved you). Since our “tribe” has almost reached 3,000 people, this issue could mean a lot of angry moments/ people missing out on something they decided they want to keep up with.

Is this a problem for you too?

If so, I’m no expert, but here are two things that might help:

1. Know that a new letter awaits you every Tuesday.

2. Maybe someone reading this knows the best solution? I’m not a big fan of creating a newsletter (because I don’t have enough content). I might show more love to my Facebook Page, but I don’t know if a lot of people pay attention to those anymore.

Any expertise is welcome 😄

P.P.S.: My good friend, Daniel, shared this letter on his Facebook page (thanks, Daniel!). I liked his comment so much I had to share it with you. Wise words have been spoken by Daniel. It’s easy to see why the bike culture is a growing trend when you look at alllllll the benefits. Ride on!


Is this helpful? Please ❤️ it below, comment or Tweet me 😊 Hearing from your fellow readers and you is what makes writing these letters such a joy.


Since I write about finance, legal jargon is obligatory (because the guys in suits made me). Before following any of my advice, read this disclaimer.