Electric Bikes And Becoming Less Carcentric
My primary mode of transportation is biking though recently, I have taken to hoofing distances up to 3 miles – just seems easier. In this post, I’d like to send a shoutout to my pink folding Brompton bike and talk about transportation expenses.
Commuting in Portland
I moved to Portland 2 years ago (1/2015) and have enjoyed the incredible luxury of not having a car. Before leaving San Diego, I considered the possibility of going car-less but that little guy in me kept saying “Nah, that’s too radical! Keep the car, it’s a tiny Smart Car.”
Well, fuck you little guy, life has been amazing without owning a car … I suppose I’m not 100% car-less because I take advantage of Car2go and Uber in dire circumstances.
The Trimet bus and light rail system here is incredible. Especially if combined with some walking or biking, it’s a perfectly viable mode of transportation.
There are only a few pockets in Portland which are tough to travel to/from. Even for those, adding a little Uber/Lyft to the walking/biking can adequately replace car ownership.
I find that most households in PDX like having a car because people are quite outdoorsy, have a lot of outdoor gear they like to haul and want the flexibility of having their car right when the weather turns beautiful.
Cost of Bike ownership
Some are blown away by the price I paid for my bike, a little over $1,700. To me, that doesn’t seem that high even if it was a weekend rider. For my primary mode of commute, it’s actually a steal!
I bought the bike back in 2015 when I first moved to Portland. I upgraded air-less, solid tires for it. Bought a clip-on bag, a rechargeable tail and front light and tools for repair. This all set me back probably $500.
Gloves, waterproof clothing, pants which can withstand the seat-to-ass assault and a bell were the accessories which I added later. This cost me another $500 in 2015.
In 2016, I had pretty much no expense. I think I bought oil for the chains for $3. No registration, no insurance, no towing, no oil change.
Today, April 2017, I decided to take the bike in for a little TLC. The chain is on its last leg, the front light is weak and no longer works off of my dyno hub, the rear hub needs adjustment and the bike needs a bath. Total cost, $300.
I was also going through my pants really quickly, I tend to buy Levi’s commuter pants which just don’t last long enough. Today I decided to shell out $450 for 2 pairs of pants which should last me quite a long time.
I’m all about buying things which will last me a long time, are made in a socially conscious manner and don’t use any animal products.
Cutting back on driving
I think it’s tough to rely less on our own vehicles simply because of the lack of time and it’s just damn convenient to have a garage where a cozy car seat is just waiting for your ass to kiss it.
Over time, I have realized that it’s better for my sanity to walk most places and bike the rest rather than rely on a car. Even when driving in the backseat of an Uber, I can totally feel the difference.
I have consumed a ton of podcasts and audio books because of my bike.
When in a car, everything feels distant and disconnected. That dry shitty air from the vents isn’t the same as the cool breeze on your face. The drizzles of rain on the skin is so invigorating.
It’s tough to commute by foot/bike in most US neighborhoods, so I feel for those who want to but just aren’t situate in a safe city to do so. Electric bikes make offer a great alternative – read below.
I tried commuting by bike in San Diego and besides being incredibly scary, I had to contend with some major road rage because I was getting in the way of the drivers. Shit, they had every right to be pissed, the roads aren’t generally designed for bikes and cars to share the road.
Own the car but drive it less
I think any step you take towards relying more on a bike or your own feet is better than relying on a car.
Biking is better for your mind and it’s better for you health – well, as long as you don’t get hit by a car.
I don’t have anything against car ownership. Though, it’s such a resource-intensive item that I think 1 vehicle for every 10 people would make a lot more sense than the nearly 300,000,000 cars we have operating in the US.
95% of households operate a vehicle. 85% commute to work by automobile. There are as many cars in the US as there are humans – fuck!
If I may suggest, even if you own a car, try to use car-share services, public transportation, commuter buses to popular destinations or simply share a ride with someone.
Start by taking trips to the grocery store, library, gym, and cafes with your bike and go from there. A car is a lot less efficient for short distances. Wear and tear is higher and so is the gas consumption when you drive shorter distances.
I know what I am saying sounds tedious, but once you try it the process is actually easier than you imagine. Well, some cities, unfortunately, will always have tougher times. I am quite fortunate to be living in Portland – though admittedly, it was somewhat intentional.
The cost of driving
Owning a car involves the following factors, none of which excite me:
- price of the car when purchased
- depreciation of the car value
- reliance on oil
- environmental consequences
- car accidents
- chipped windshield
- car washes
- flat tires
- getting towed
- driver’s license
- dealing with car salespersons
- getting tailgated
- road rage
- paint and body damage
- parking hassles
- parking costs
- speeding tickets
- STD’s from unprotected sex in the backseat
- parking tickets
- dealing with shady mechanics
- safety recalls
- smog checks
I swear, it’s easier being in a relationship than owning a car! It’s that much more obvious to me now after I have been car-less for over 2 years.
Let’s not forget, anytime we are sedentary, we are adversely affecting our health. Not that we need to constantly be running and moving, but driving isn’t exactly relaxing. Who feels refreshed after an 8-hour drive from SF to LA?
Perspective on biking expenses
I spent nearly $800 on my bike today, that seems like so much money. It’s half of what I spent buying the bike. But is it really that much?
That exhausting list of things mentioned above all have some sort of cost. And a car doesn’t give much back. Sure, there is good music and occasionally a drive is really relaxing.
Biking is exercise, it’s meditation, allows you to connect with pedestrians, wildlife, get intimate with bugs, enjoy fresh air and feel more independent. A car… meh, you’ll corner much better in a car!
I had a 7 am dentist appointment today 7 miles from my house. If I had a car, I would have driven because at 6 am I could give a fuck about my health, the environment or my wallet. But biking was so much more fun (once I got on it). I smelled and saw a ton of cherry blossoms and got a good sweat going.
On the ride back, mostly downhill, I saw a nice old-school cafe, stopped in and had a coffee and a delicious vegan sesame bagel with avocado/hummus/spinach with my bike neatly folded next to me. Then off to the bike shop to get my tune-up and pantalones.
I could have paid $30,000 for my bike, spent $300/month on maintenance and I would still be far ahead of a car.
This is budgeting, this is personal finance – understanding the value of an expense rather than focusing on the cost irrespective of the value society puts on it.
Ways to get started With bike commuting
I highly recommend having electric assist on your bike. With today’s fantastic technology, there is no need to huff and puff, depending solely on your muscles.
You won’t be picking up honeys with an electric bike but… well, you just won’t so get over it.
With electric bikes you can always pedal and the more you put in, the less of the battery juice is used up. It’s just that some days, you want to be on a bike but don’t feel like pedaling – like at 6-fucking-am, on your way to have some dude drilling into your face!
You can add a battery back and a hub motor to damn near any bike for less than $1,000, often for around $500. Check out Clean Republic. I owned one, bought it for $500 and sold it for $250 – loved it!
Most cities will have electric bike stores, many of which will even do the electric conversion for you or sell you really dependable electric bikes.
Alternatively, check out NYCE Wheels for their electric bike selection. Whether you want to do more mountain biking, road biking or urban biking, they will have the right bike for your fit or help you with a conversion kit.
My favorite option would be this one, below. I think having a larger presence is ideal in cities where drivers aren’t used to bicyclists. I was in Phoenix recently and unless you are biking in a raised truck, I wouldn’t brave those roads.
This mofo isn’t cheap, but we’re doctors, $9k should be nothing when it’s going towards a good investment.
I mean this thing is the Maybach of electric bikes. It has a solar panel, internal hub, LED lights, a place to plug-in USB stuff, you can add speakers and you’re protected from the weather. You can pedal or you can let the electricity do all the work.