The Frugal Bicyclist

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Bang for your buck

Unless your name is Oprah, then you understand what a budget is. Who hasn’t dreamed of going to an outdoors store or a bike shop with your credit card and buying indiscriminately? Even though you would be a hero for supporting the economy and you would get some really cool stuff, eventually paying the bill will cut into your biking time. That is where being financially responsible (read frugal) comes in. More bang for your buck. That’s what it’s about.

There is something about bicycle touring that brings out the frugal side in us. All of the sudden, free camping, dinner buffets, peanut butter sandwiches, and haggling for services become a bigger part of life. No $4 cappuccino here. A frugal lifestyle can equate to the simpler lifestyle that comes with bike touring. Also, being environmental conscientious is good business. Getting one more ride out those socks or one more patch on the tube, saves you money and reduces consumption.

Before we get started, there should be a place in your budget for your local bike shop. Bike shops provide expertise and convenience that you can’t get on the internet. And, even your local bike shop has sales. Never underestimate the importance of the cool bike shops that will tighten a bolt and say, “No charge. Have a great bike ride!”

Everything goes on sale but it’s wishful thinking if you are looking for big discounts during the summer. As the old adages go: “Buy your straw hats in the winter” (low demand and need) or “Don’t buy an umbrella when it’s raining” (high demand and need).

The internet provides choices and great prices. For bike gear, I search Bike Nashbar, Performance, Cambria Bike Outfitter and Colorado Cyclist. There are many more websites, for sure, but these have worked well for me, at least to start. I am on their email list so I am notified of every sale. Sometimes, this proves to be overwhelming or downright spam, but if you are shopping for deals, it’s the price that you pay. If you know what you want, these stores offer 20% off coupons or free shipping around major shopping holidays like Labor Day, Memorial Day, Xmas. They are competing with everybody else. Also very important, these stores offer very good return policies and match competitors prices, when asked. Another internet benefit can be no sales tax (if there are no stores in your state).

For camping gear, I check out REI or Campmor. Again, there are many choices here. REI has reliable gear at a fair price and a 10% dividend on your purchases. You need to purchase a lifetime member ship for $20, but that pays for itself in no time. Several times during the year, REI has “member sales” that include a coupon for 20% off of 1 item. So if you know what you need and you are patient, you can almost guarantee a 20% off coupon around a major holiday. REI also has a credit card where they give you a $40 gift card when you sign up. As you can tell, I like REI.

Here are some other websites that I’ve used and got a good deal. “Google” shopping is a good comparison shopping site. Craigslist. Ebay (I don’t recommend buying cycling shorts here). And even Amazon has good comparison shopping with free shipping for purchases over $25. A couple more bike specific websites are Roadbikereview.com, Mtbr.com and adventurecycling.org all have cycling gear for sale, classifieds, product reviews, and forums.

Hopefully this will get you started.