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Cycling can be an expensive sport. It’s obvious you need to get a bike, but there are tools, clothing, parts and gadgets competing for your hard-earned cash, too. Knowing where to invest for the best return in comfort, fun and value is important.
When you know how to spend your money wisely, you will perform better and enjoy long-term savings. Here are the items in which you should invest — plus the ones to grab for cheaper.
SPLURGE: YOUR BIKE
Buying a decent bike up front is a good way to ensure you don’t have upgrade costs in the near future, especially if you find yourself riding longer or more aggressively than the bike was designed (and thus, overusing cheaper components). Lower-end bikes are generally intended for gravel or paved bike paths and not for long-distance road cycling or technical single-track riding. These lower-end options will quickly require service or new parts if you push the limits of their design. Buying a new fork or wheelset is very pricey compared with initially investing in a complete bike that’s appropriate for your riding style.
SAVE: LATEST TECHNOLOGY AND LIGHTEST WEIGHT
While the latest and lightest are pretty awesome, they’re not a must if you are on a budget. There are heavier saddles that are much cheaper and identical in comfort to the lighter versions. Similarly, many nonmechanical parts, like stems and bottle cages, come in much cheaper versions of the premium, lightweight models with little difference in your ride experience.
SPLURGE: CONTACT POINTS
Saddles, shorts, grips, shoes and pedals are worth spending on. If you are comfortable, you will want to ride more — and contact points are where comfort can count the most. If you are racing or riding for long distances, not having saddle sores or numbness will let you focus on pedaling and enjoying the scenery.
While some cycling shorts can cost several hundred dollars, the difference in the construction is noticeable to the eye — and even more pronounced when you ride in them. Generally, $80 is a good starting price for shorts.
SAVE: CLOTHING ACCESSORIES
Your splurge on shorts can be offset by looking for lower-cost helmets, jerseys, caps, socks and arm warmers. In the last few years, many brands brought out very solid styles at the lower price points that fit and look great.
Gradually learning to clean, lubricate and tune your bike could potentially save you hundreds of dollars a year and prevent you from losing ride time while waiting for your bike to get back from the shop. Spend on a nice multi-tool and pump to ensure you are ready to repair any minor issues you have on a ride or between trips to your local bike shop.
SAVE: BASIC UPKEEP
By learning to do basic cleaning and service for things like flat tires, you can save money on minor mechanicals and also prevent a major issue due to worn parts. A simple flat change can cost $20-40 to get fixed by a bike mechanic, while a more serious repair to a worn and broken chain can cost hundreds if left to wear out the whole drivetrain.
With all things related to money, there are different theories and rationales for how to use your funds. Cycling is healthy and fun and can offset travel expenses, so it’s an investment that can return many times over if you pick the right areas to splurge and save.
Written by Peter Glassford, a cycling coach and registered kinesiologist from Ontario, Canada. Follow @peterglassford on Twitter, or check out his online and in-person coaching at www.smartathlete.ca.
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