Thinking About Buying a Bike for the City? Here’s the Cost Breakdown and a Few Valuable Tips
The initial cost of owning a new bike totals at least $400, while yearly maintenance costs come to about $70, depending on how handy you are.
With the weather warming up, some Somerville residents might be considering buying a bicycle. On a yearly basis, owning a bike is considerably cheaper than owning a car or using a T-pass. Still, there are several expenses that future cyclists should include in their budget.
First, the bike itself
Charlie Denison, the vice chairman of the Somerville Bicycle Committee, said soon-to-be cyclists should expect to spend between $300 and $400 on a new bike.
“You don’t want to spend much less than that because you’ll have something really cheap that will break and that you don’t want to ride,” he said.
Denison advised aspiring cyclists to buy a bike at a local bike shop. Somerville has several, including Ace Wheelworks, between Porter and Davis squares, Paramount Bicycle Repair, in Ball Square, and Park Sales and Service, near Union Square.
Ace Wheelworks employee Joe McGrane agreed that $300 was the least someone could spend for a quality bike.
“You’re not going to find a bike here cheaper than that anyway,” McGrane said. “And when it gets stolen, it won’t break the bank.”
The most popular bikes at the store, hybrid bikes with sturdy tires, fenders and a basket, start at $300, McGrane said.
Of course, bike shops aren’t the only place to buy a bike. McGrane, 27, has bought and sold qualify bikes on Craiglist. However, he recommended that route only to seasoned cyclists. “If you buy a bike on Craigslist, you have to know what you’re looking for,” he said. “And if you haven’t bought a bike in 10 years, you probably don’t know.”
McGrane said that new bike owners should expect to spend at least $100 on a lock, fenders, lights and other accessories.
To hold on to that new bike, McGrane urged Somerville cyclists to invest in a lock. “A $70 lock will keep your bike from getting stolen around here,” he said. Next, McGrane said that cyclists should learn to lock their bikes securely. He said he often sees bikes locked by the wheel instead of the frame, which makes them susceptible to theft.
“The people we feel terrible for are those who by a $25 lock for an expensive bike, which gets stolen the next day,” he said.
McGrane said that local cyclists riding on rough city streets should replace break pads and tune up their bikes once a year, which includes lubing the chain and pumping the tires. But riding in the rain or the snow will require more frequent maintenance, he said. “If you ride just on nice, sunny days,” he said, “you can ride your bike forever with only pumping the tires.”
McGrane said he spends only $50 a year maintaining his old, steel, single-speed bike and said that the more cyclists ride, the cheaper the bike becomes.
“The most expensive bike is the one that sits in the garage,” he said. “Every time you use it, you should be saving money on your health and on not owning a car.”
Further reducing the cost of bike ownership
Somerville resident Matthew Berry, 30, paid $500 for the bike he was riding in the rain in Davis Square last week. To lower the cost of maintenance, Berry repairs the bike himself. Last summer, he patched a busted tire three times with $3 kits from local bike shops before buying a new one.
To become even more self-sufficient, he took classes at Broadway Bicycle School, in Cambridge, to learn how to tune up his bike. The school offers basic and advanced repair classes for $150 and also allows cyclists to reserve time to repair their bikes with and without instruction.
Estimated initial cost for the bike and accessories: at least $400, unless you find a deal on Craigslist.
Estimated yearly maintenance cost: about $70 for a standard yearly tune-up at a local bike shop, or less if you've invested in a bike repair class.