Last week, I bought a bike. It’s the best decision I’ve made in a long time. Economical, healthy, simple, and everything in between, my bike is the embodiment of this website and my frugal journey. After two weeks of riding, I decided to write up the 10 unexpected benefits of buying a bike. Enjoy!
1. Feel like a kid again
The breeze is blowing through my helmet — cooling my scalp. Sometimes I let go of the handlebars and feel free; albeit, for shorter periods than when I was a kid. It’s been too long since I raced my self — pushing to reach the top of a hill faster or make that light.
Or, how about zooming down a hill, with your head tucked, and chest near the handlebars? That rush! Hands wrapped tight around the grips — holding on for dear life. It’s a physiological thrill that never gets old. My bike calls me to jump off a sidewalk or climb a hill. There isn’t one path, only your path. Just don’t forget your helmet, kid.
2. Save money on commutes
Last semester, when I had my car, I consistently missed the bus. This timing and planning error would always result in a simple, but costly decision to drive. Even though the commute to school was only about 4-5 miles each way, that adds up really quick.
The federal government suggests that driving costs on average about 50 cents per mile (after you account for insurance, gas, depreciation, etc.). At that rate, I was burning serious dough with my poor planning. Potentially, my commute would cost me about $5 round trip, and even more when including parking (at $1 per hour).
This was a leaky part of my budget, and buying a bike patched that right up. I don’t have an excuse to drive. I never worry about missing the bus. I just hop on my bike!
3. Save time on car or bus commutes
I plan on riding my bike far more often. Frankly, I’m actively avoiding the bus, which takes a circuitous, tedious route all throughout the western part of my city. All I have to do is snap on my helmet, hop on my bike, and 7-10 minutes later, I’m at school, work, etc.
Despite living about 4-5 miles from campus, my bus commute takes about 25 minutes. I’ve grown to like the route and bus, as it’s afforded me down time and an opportunity to read. But now I get the best of both worlds: the bike takes about 10 minutes at most — saving me 15 minutes in commute time — and offers meditative exercise. The extra time is now mine to enjoy.
4. Get healthy and feel more positive
Despite living in the midwest (read: flat), my city is hilly. Biking to and from campus is a nice little workout. By the time I make it, I’ve got a nice sweat worked up.
Yeah, I probably need to apply more deodorant now, but I’m feeling exceptionally healthy by biking. In a way, biking to and from work offers me a period of time to get in the zone and let loose before undetermined periods of inactivity. The benefits extend far beyond anything physical, visual. Biking has honed my mind, and I feel better focused at work.
5. Put extra funds into retirement accounts
It turns out that the secret to securing the rich, leisurely social life depicted in car ads is to not own a car. –Sydney Morning Herald
Every day I ride my bike is more money in my pocket. Between car loan payments ($196), insurance ($42), and gas (about $35-40) each month, I suddenly have a tremendous budgetary surplus. I’m shocked that as a meager graduate student, I’ll begin saving about $300 per month.
Building a savings and surplus is wonderful, but what I do with the money is essential. I can’t just start spending more on eating out, vacations, and discretionary goods. Over the last couple months I’ve restructured my retirement accounts to benefit from increased income, but also to prepare for a significant end-of-year self-employment tax.
With about $300 per month, I’ll be using commission-free ETFs within a traditional IRA to maximize my 2014 tax refund, while minimizing trading costs on small trades. As the budget settles, I’ll make the payments and trades automatic to benefit from regular, compounded interest — finally!
This is all possible because I downgraded to a bike. But suddenly, it doesn’t feel like a downgrade at all.
6. Slow down your pace of life
Unlike driving or taking a bus, my pace and speed is my own. The independence is empowering. Oftentimes, I use it to slow down and become more mindful of the world around me. I appreciate every moment much more.
Even if I’m commuting to work, the bike ride is a break from it all. There’s a peace as the wind passes over my ears. I guess I didn’t realize how calming it would be — nor did I realize how relaxed I’d feel after a long adventure. Life slows down ever so slightly when phones aren’t checked and the watch is left at home.
7. Develop an environmental awareness
It’s a cliche of biking and green communities, but I definitely feel like I’m helping the environment by opting for a bike. The carbon emissions produced from riding and maintaining a bike are miniscule compared to a car. I’m contributing to a positive change: reduced impact.
After reading countless articles about climate change, I felt compelled to make a serious individual change. It motivated me to sell my car and change my spending habits. Buying a bike is one of the final steps.
The world would look very different if everyone just rode bikes, but our economy is not designed for this singular transportation method. Nonetheless, I realized that the city I live in would allow for this switch. I jumped at the opportunity to change my lifestyle.
8. Join a community of cyclists
In my first two weeks of ownership, I’ve already gone on two longer bike rides with friends. I wasn’t doing this with my car. It costs nothing to bike around the city with friends.
There’s a friendly respect between bikers — from the head nod, wave, or “hello.” This doesn’t happen in cars (see point 10). Vehicles are impersonal by nature, and bikes are open. Your face can be seen.
In a way, biking links you to a community of riders without ever formally signing up. The personal nature helps connect the group and you can trust that if something went wrong, fellow bikers would likely pull over to help you.
9. Your body is the fuel — treat it right
No more trips to gas stations! Gas prices on an individual level are no longer important (yes, they are still important on a macro level as they affect food prices). I’m not spending time squeezing the handle of a pump for a few minutes every couple weeks. I’m done going out of my way to find a station or check for the cheapest prices.
More than fossil fuel savings is the greater joy of realizing that my body is being used. Afterall, we are incredibly complex, biological machines. Producing energy from our food intake is necessary for a long life. My muscles activate when I bike. It’s a simple realization: I need to take care of my body — it’s the only fuel source I have. Better treat it well.
10. Build an empathy for others on the road
This is a positive and negative point. Sharing the road with cars is inevitable, but it’s almost always a horrible experience. Cars don’t give you enough room, trail too close behind, and stories of road-ragers hating bikers are scary. Sitting in your two-ton vehicle, riding a bikers ass is a terrible assault. Whenever I feel that pressure, I feel like slowing down even further.
It’s been a while since I was on a bike this much. By joining the ranks, I’ve quickly developed an empathy for the many people who share the road. We’ve all got to make it work. If only the horrible drivers decided to bike more often, maybe they’d realize what it’s like to be on roads with rain gutters, potholes, and drivers crowding the shared road.