15

I originally paid $250 for a Schwinn road bike on Amazon 5 years ago. It's been a really solid bike, even though I know it's just a mass produced brand.

I didn't know any better and did no repairs or maintenance for 5 years and it made it through 3 triathlons just fine.

6 months ago I started commuting with it and so wanted to add on a rear rack and swap out the tires. Total upgrade cost was about $200.

Just this month I wanted to get a full tune up - $124. New chain, all new cables, new grip tape, new pedals, new brake pads, etc adds up to $320 total.

So I've spend $550 in repairs and upgrades on what was originally a $250 bike. Did I make a huge mistake and should I have just bought a new commuter or road bike from a decent brand for $700, or is it just fine to spend that much on repairs?

  • 3
    That you think about the economy of replacing it after you had it fixed shows that you might be quite satisfied with it, and maybe even attached to your bike. Sounds very much like you did the right thing, even if it seems uneconomical at the first glance. – gschenk Feb 22 '17 at 20:54
  • 1
    A related answer determined the maintenance costs of a bike was about 3x the devaluation cost of the bicycle itself. In short, your experience is unfortunately not unusual. – Rider_X Feb 22 '17 at 21:19
  • Overall it looks fine. Parts wear and need replacing. Upgrades make it a better bike. The only real savings to be made are to do the work yourself and save on labour costs. But there's learning curve cost, as you spend time to study what you need to learn, and also learning from mistakes. Enjoy your bike – andy256 Feb 22 '17 at 22:47
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    @njzk2 - two tires at 40-50 each, possibly tubed, pannier at 40-75, labor. Not unreasonable. – JohnP Feb 23 '17 at 3:33
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    Yes - the bill is more understandable if the parts cost is separated from the labour cost. – Criggie Feb 24 '17 at 0:46
17

Bicycles cost money to maintain. Even if you do all your own mechanic work, you still need to purchase parts. That being said, more expensive bikes are generally more expensive to maintain at the level you bought them at.

By this I mean you can purchase a replacement derailleur (of roughly the same quality) for a $250 for perhaps $10 to $20. If you had purchased a $2000 bike, that "same quality" derailleur may run you $100. The point being, if you had purchased a $700 bicycle up front and done no maintenance, you likely would have spent roughly the same amount of money or slightly more on repairs (based on your description). More expensive bicycles and parts do not require less maintenance.

In your case, if you were happy with the performance of your $250 bicycle for five years before you needed to spend money on it, you may have been better off buying a new $250 bike. ~$50/year for a bicycle that you are happy with seems like a good return.

  • 5
    This is almost tautologically true. Very high-end bicycle parts are not expensive due to being sturdier. They are expensive because they are thinner and lighter (requiring more expensive materials to obtain these properties without sacrificing too much durability). – Stephen Touset Feb 23 '17 at 0:48
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    Yes. You have, light, cheap and reliable. Pick two. – JohnP Feb 23 '17 at 3:35
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    @sixtyfootersdude I would except some complete junk at the bottom end of the market from that pattern. There's probably a sweet spot a tier or two up from the cheapest retail parts, where they use better steels (e.g. Shimano use much more stainless in acera than altus) but don't skimp on weight. – Chris H Feb 23 '17 at 6:53
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    @sixtyfootersdude - From rehabbing bikes for Christmas Anonymous I can tell you that BSOs will generally take a lot more abuse than fancier bikes. And certainly really high-priced bikes are quite fragile (in particular, the wheels are easily mucked up). As Chris suggests, there probably is a "sweet spot" higher up in price, but I would say that it varies by manufacturer and with the rapidly changing "styles" imposed on us by Shimano, et al. – Daniel R Hicks Feb 23 '17 at 12:36
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    @DanielRHicks You comment holds true for road bikes, but less so for many other style of bikes. My most expensive downhill rigs have withstood the most abuse. As far as wheels are concerned, I had a dirt jumper that crumpled the front stock wheel at 5 mph on a pump track. The replacement wheel set (which was significantly more expensive) withstood years of stair drops and other abuse just fine. High end road stuff can definitely be fragile, but if you look at Shimano's Saint line, you'll get what I am talking about. – Deleted User Feb 23 '17 at 14:03
12

It is all a balance, and you shouldn't just think about it from an entirely monetary point of view:

  • By keeping the same bike- you didn't have another one produced for you, all that energy saved by reuse.

  • You also have a bike with a known history- you know how it fits you, you know where its been.

The components on your cheaper bike, are, well, cheaper. So if you need to replace anything in the future, they should be cheaper. If you had bought a $700/1400/2000 bike, then all of the components would also be more expensive to replace as well.

  • 4
    Good points on saving production of something new. And yea the history is a good point. Originally assumed the bike wouldn't last too long, but it's been a beast. Cost savings with cheaper parts is real. – Joe R. Feb 22 '17 at 20:21
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    There is also emotional value attached to the bike. Even if the replacement costs are lower than the repair costs, its their bike. What is more, the money was spent for the local economy. – gschenk Feb 22 '17 at 20:51
  • @gschenk I would also attach a value to a bike that physically suits me. Before my current main bike (hybrid) I rode a too-small BSO, and badly. Now I can jump on almost any bike that fits OK and ride, but to get something that works as well for me as my hybrid would take considerable expenditure of time and money, even starting from a much better bike – Chris H Feb 23 '17 at 13:37
4

A nicer bike tends to be nicer to ride, or faster, or better climbing. They still wear at about the same rates.

So your $550 of repairs would be about the same if your bike originally cost $2k.

Another way to think of it is cost per kilometre. Work out how far you have ridden and divide the total costs by the distance for a $/km number. My example

  • Used road bike $123
  • Tyres @$50 x3 $150
  • Tubes @$6 x4 $24
  • Bartape @$10 x2 $20
  • Long seat post $55
  • Commuting lights $100
  • Pedals and cleats $80
  • Top tube bag $9
  • Replacement front derailleur mechanism $60
    • and bike shop labour $90

Grand total of $711. I've ridden this bike 7047 km in 15 months, so it cost me 10.1 cents per kilometre, or about $48 a month.

EDIT I'm using New Zealand Dollars and prices. Petrol here is $2.05 (New Zealand dollars / L) = $5.58 ( U.S. dollars / US gallon ) and 10c/km includes buying the bike as well. A car figure would have to include the purchase cost of the car.


I think if you want to save money, look into doing more of the maintenance yourself. Separate the cost of the parts from the cost of the labour to fit them. Bikes are relatively simple machines, and while some tasks require specialist tools, a basic toolkit can do a lot.

As a rebuttal of consumerism consider this counter-example

20 years ago I bought a used car for $10k, and filled the tank once a fortnight. This car has cost be $29k in petrol alone, plus repairs. Should I have bought a new one ?

  • 1
    Yes - as I've ridden a lot more recently, it could make sense to buy a higher quality machine since repairs would be about the same as you said. Great idea breaking it out over the length of time riding. Car maintenance metaphor is spot on as well. (Except my legs are the gas, so maybe should buy more leg juice?) – Joe R. Feb 22 '17 at 20:19
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    Woah, you ride a dirt cheap road bike and spend 10.1 c/km. That's only slightly lower that what you'd expect to spend on a car. And damn, you don't have to pedal in car. (I spend a lot more on my MTB and there's no way I've done 7k on it) – Mark Segal Feb 22 '17 at 23:03
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    Good answer, but I don't like the counter-example. OP can buy a new bike instead of performing the repairs. Thus it's either buying a new bike or performing the repairs, for the car+petrol analogy this is not the case. Even if you buy a new car, you'll still have to pay for petrol – ROIMaison Feb 23 '17 at 9:18
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    @Criggie - for comparison IRD has set the mileage rate for 2016/17 at 72 c/km for total running cost of a vehicle. – DWGKNZ Feb 23 '17 at 10:44
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    @ROIMaison correct - its a logical test called "reduction to absurdity" which can show up the absurdities in the original. – Criggie Feb 24 '17 at 5:08
2

rear rack and swap out the tires. Total upgrade cost was about $200.

full tune up - $124. New chain, all new cables, new grip tape, new pedals, new brake pads, etc adds up to $320 total.

Unprofessional answer: wow.

Yes, this was expensive. I cannot say whether you spent "too much" as I don't know the average prices where you live. But the items you listed are very easy to do yourself. Some of these would be, in my book, essential to know how to do on a day in the wilderness.

Bicycles are remarkably easy to get into maintaining yourself. Go buy a nice thick book about bicycle maintenance, buy tools as you go (you do not need that many - basically a good multitool, which you should have with you on rides anyway) and a few very cheap other items. My tools live in my bicycle backpack all year long.

Except for a few things which are non-obvious (especially/mainly the area that connects the handle bar with the front wheel) everything else should be quite easy, painless and sometimes even fun to get into. Some things can be a bit fiddly, but for everything there is good literature, forums etc.

The point is not only for you to save money for the mechanic, but to get a feeling about which parts actually need regular maintenance (like, after every drive), and which are OK to let sit for a while (e.g., monthly, quarterly, yearly). After a while, it's all just a breeze.

  • You mean to say "labour is a significant part of the total cost" – Criggie Feb 23 '17 at 19:41
  • @Criggie, I meant what I said. I find those prices astronomical (especially as it is a $250 bike, not a $2500 one), and I intend to encourage the OP to do his own minor repairs. I mean, come on, $200 for installing a rack and swapping tires (!). At least the latter is a job any biker should easily be able to do, because you might need it on tour, occasionally. – AnoE Feb 24 '17 at 0:10
  • We're totally in agreement. Labour/workshop time at $60-$150 an hour is the main part of the cost. You're right that doing it yourself is the most frugal answer. I'm not one of the downvoters. – Criggie Feb 24 '17 at 0:45
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    Some people just aren't mechanics. Trying to do stuff yourself and mucking up your bike is more expensive. Without knowing the cost of the tires and rack, it's hard to say if it's reasonable or not. If it was 2x $60 tires and a $60 rack, $200 would seem very reasonable (basically $10 per tire swap and free rack installation, which was standard where I used to wrench). Similarly if chain, cables/housing, tape, pedals and pads are $70 and it's $50 for a tuneup, also very reasonable. – Deleted User Feb 24 '17 at 20:15

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