Friday, November 2, 2012

Bike splurge

Last weekend, before the storm blew through, we did my husband's three favorite activities:
We bought me a bike.
That is, his three favorite things are (1) buying, (2) me, and (3) bikes.  Not necessarily in that order, mind you.
From the front, it doesn't look like much.  Darned skinny.
With this purchase, the future triathalon becomes more and more real, more tangible.  And there's a part of me that's all excited, but there's also a part of me that's thinking "oh geez, this is totally not me".  It's not the exercise part of me that's nervous, surprisingly, even though I've nicknamed my bicycle SPDM (Sudden Painful Death Machine).  No, it's the financial side of this purchase.

The bike/helmet/tail-light conglomeration cost us $1,447.  This total amounts to what is by far the most money I have spent on myself on a single day in the past decade.  It's probably the most money I've spent on myself in a year in the past decade.  It's true I am the big-ticket purchaser in our family; I'm the one who purchased the new stove when the old one burned out.  I'm the one who decided to insulate the home. I'm the one who picked out the new high energy gas furnace (more on that later).  But those are family purchases.  This bike is mine-all-mine.  And it's pricey.
Staring my purchase right in the face.

Why did I spend so much?  I think this is an interesting exercise in psychology.  Here are my top several reasons, which I think might be common (in their generality) to why many of us make non-frugal decisions from time to time.
  1. Peer pressure.  My husband is SO excited about this bike.  He thinks it's cheap (he has a half-dozen bikes, most of which cost twice as much).  He wants me to get all the coolest equipment.  It's hard enough to resist keeping up with the Joneses when you're just looking across the street at their stuff; it's even harder when the Joneses come right into your living room and argue with you that you ought to keep up with them.
  2. Ignorance.  As I described in my two banjos post, I have very little idea what I'm doing.  I did try to rely on my husband's vast biking expertise when I made the purchase, and I rode a bunch of other bikes first.  But I'm not really plugged into any "frugal cyclist" networks the way I am into "frugal food" networks or "frugal clothes" networks.  [I'll add that my husband's connection with the bike shop did net us a 10% discount, so if I had been even less connected/more ignorant, I certainly would have paid more for the same bike.]
  3. Haste.  There's part of me that would be very happy to wait until next summer to buy the bike; to keep riding loaners and price shopping for a while.  But it's looking likely that my guy could get called up to go to Afghanistan in November or December, and I really do want to be able to ride around with him before he goes.  So, hearing the ticking of that clock, I pushed up the calendar quite a bit.  And that haste almost certainly means that I paid more than I would have if I'd kept poking around.
  4. More ignorance, plus fear.  I think, if I knew how to fix a bike or even how to shift gears or such, I would be happy to do all repairs myself.  But I don't know the anatomy of a bike (yet), and I just want to be able to take the bike back to Frank and Chris (the guys at the store who sold it to me) and say, "Fix this!"  I feel like a total wimp for saying that, but there it is.  I'm a bike wimp.  And so I wanted to buy the bike from them, so they would be willing-and-happy to help me when I'm stuck.
  5. High performance (or perceptions thereof).  I'm sure I could get a decent commuter bike for way less than I paid for this bike.  I am totally convinced of that.  And I am pretty sure I could do the bulk of my triathalon training on a $700 bike instead of a $1400 one.   But come the summer of 2015, I'm planning to jump out of a lake after a very long swim and ride 112 miles.  And when I get off the bike I have to run/walk/hobble another 26+ miles.  And so, I am getting a bike that Frank-and-Chris tell me will help me do that distance and live to tell about it.  
If I wanted to make frugal excuses, I could claim that riding the bike will save me money over driving, and in theory this is true.  For many people who are Not Me, this would be even truer.  But I don't drive a lot now:  I walk to work; I walk to church; I don't much go to stores.  It's hard to save money over driving when, already, I don't do a lot of driving.  

More specifically, in 2011, I drove 7666 miles.  Of those miles, 2271 miles were for out-of-town business trips (for which I got reimbursed), so I that means I drove only 5395 personal miles.  Spending $1500 on a bike-set-up is approximately equivalent to driving 2727 miles less (at the IRS rate of 55.5¢ per mile).  So to "recoup" my investment this year, I'd have to cut my personal driving in half.

I've been thinking a lot lately about how I drive.  Last week, we drove 150 miles (round trip) with the family to visit C-son--I don't see that as a potential bike trip.  I drove the dog 6 miles round trip to the vet--again, not a likely bike thing.  And I drove to 4 miles round trip to Market -- this I could do on a bike.  But that's 4 miles out of 160 that I could see converting from car to bike.  This week, the only driving I've done so far is a 6-mile trip to the doctor to pick up pre-hurricane meds; I might or might not have done that on a bike.  I am not going to recoup my "investment"  by reducing my car driving by a mere 4-6 miles per week.

Which goes to say, the Sudden Painful Death Machine is a total splurge.  Not a purchase that fits in the "payback" time category; and despite my early intentions, it's not even a thoughtful, painstakingly researched purchase.  What a way to wind down this blog -- with a live-for-the-moment, pricey purchase.   Twenty more posts, and I'm starting to write about spending.  Sheesh.

But, the weather is finally getting good again.  So I'm going to go ride.
Ready to go; the SPDM just needs a rider.


  1. I don't think #4 is being a wimp - especially when linked back to #3 - your husband is the bike specialist in the family, and if he's likely to be deployed in the near future, you've got to be able to handle that on your own - even if the way you're choosing to handle it is to let someone else take care of it because you don't know how. That's just smart thinking in my book.

    1. . . . except that I'm the person who does a lot of our own plumbing work. A few years ago, I learned how to install a new circuit breaker. I learned to can (even pressure can) food. So compared to all that, I *am* a wimp when it comes to the bike. But, perhaps you're right that it's also smart. I'm a smart wimp! -- MM

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