This was part of what drew me to cycling (not very much, I admit, I was mainly after the weight loss) – the dream of actually saving money by not using the car.

Several people come to the conclusion that bicycle commutes are cost effective:

The only critical voice I’ve found so far is The Simple Dollar, which says you might save a bit of money, but you’ll be generally more fit.

I’m with that fit thing, but I think the saving money part is wrong. Disclaimer: In my case, at least, and I’ll point out why.

Let’s start with the basics:

  • Distance travelled 14km one way.
  • Time spent on the bike: 36 minutes one way (this is averaged from 32 in the morning and 40 in the evening).
  • Time spent in the car: 40 minutes one way (this is also averaged from 30 in the morning and 45 to 60 in the evening).
  • Amount of money my employer would pay per kilometer traveled if I were using it for a business trip: 0,3€/km. This easily covers petrol, but is also allegedly enough to pay for my oil, services, tyre wear etc. etc.

Soo …

A trip in the car will take 80 minutes per day and cost 8,40€.

A trip on the bike doesn’t cost anything and take 72 minutes.

At 230 workdays this would mean I save 1932€ a year and 1840 minutes (30 hours, 40 minutes).

However …

My car is payed for and sits in my garage even if I don’t use it. I still do the oil-change and put snow tyres on in the winter. I still use it occasionally (when getting the big load of shopping or when taking the little one to his swimming classes at -10°C to make sure his hair doesn’t freeze into a spiky hedgehog shape).

My bike is also payed for, yet the model I currently use does not have the robustness and reliability I would wish for. Partially, this is self-inflicted. When I bought the bike I was expecting around 300km/year and the people selling it me chose well for that amount (which incidently is the German average use per year – I heard, so no quote).

I have spent quite a lot of money on new tubes, two new tyres (Schwalbe Marathon), two new snow tyres (Continental Nordic Spike 240), new brake shoes, two sets of panniers (one bad, one good), gloves, cycling shorts, long cycling pants, wicking shirts, a jersey, a softshell jacket, and shoes.

I’ve also had to visit my bike dealer shop about every 1000km (roughly every two months), as my shifter was not “doing what it was supposed to do” (this is the short version – and I’m not technically minded enough to figure out everything that went wrong). This is likely in part caused by the relatively cheap components, my excess amount of fat and a rather steep hill near the end of my morning trip. I’ll be headed out there again today, as my rear wheel is no longer true.

I’d say my total amount spent every month was about 100€ – possibly more in some months. This comes out approximately equivalent to the petrol cost per month. And the rest of the cost of the car I’ll be paying anyway.

Added problem: I now eat more. My breakfast has increased from a cup of coffee and a muffin to a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal. This drives cost up. The same is true for afternoon break: cup of coffee turned into a cup of coffee, a sandwich and some fruit. In total, the cost of food has gone up.

I’ve still failed (completely) to do a proper calculation of the _real_ cost of cycling. However, the fitness and weight goals are coming along nicely.

As of today, I lost 13.5 kg (from 102kg to 88.5kg over seven months) – only 8 or so kilos to go (roughly 56.000 kcal – or 56Mcal – or twice Paris-Brest-Paris with some snacks).