Two years of commuting – costs and benefits
A year ago I wrote a retrospective. That first year involved lots of learning and discovery. The second year has been more of a ‘business as usual’ period, but I still enjoy every day as much. For me the benefits are fun, no frustration, fitness, friendliness (of other riders), freedom. Maybe financial too. Summary: f’ing good.
Lately the bottom bracket and pedal bearings have got wobbly, so I replaced the whole drive train from pedals, cranks, bb, chain for its 2nd birthday. I was advised to pre-emptively replace the rear freehub assembly. It’s like a new bike again! I also replaced the brake pads. This set of Kool Stop Aero Kool organic pads lasted over 17,000km. By contrast, cheap pads last less than 1500.
I had a second slide on a benign corner, so I investigated different tyres, ultimately going for a premium softer compound Schwalbe Almotion tubeless-ready – they don’t last as long as say a Marathon Plus but I got 6500km from the rear and the front is still looking good. And the really do seem to work, grip in the wet is much better and the ride is comfortable.
I had to get rear hub engineered by Bruno at CycleXpress due to wobbly disc mounts – 6 months on it seems to be holding out well too. Dodgy brakes are not something you want.
An advantage of direct drive motor (which is also what Stromers have) is that there are no moving parts in the motor assembly, making it largely maintenance free. One day its bearings will give out, but large-diameter quality bearings will last many years. On a car you would expect a few hundred thousand kms out of wheel bearings. (Bottom bracket manufacturers, take note!)
Apart from a new battery ($900), engineering on hub ($200), new tyres ($200), new drivetrain ($400), new freehub and minor professional service ($200) my expenditure has been relatively low. It is probably in the order of $2000 this year, but that is commuting a long distance 5 days a week. I don’t expect every year to be that much. 9000km at 40c/km in the car is $3600 (or nearly $6000 at the full recommended rate), and parking the bike is free saving another $5000 per year. What a bargain! But it is worth noting that an ebike isn’t entirely free – a quality bike costs $5-6k to purchase and lasts 5 years or so. That would put my per km cost at almost 30c. A car is 65c and trending upwards. I’ve done some analysis below on my own scenario and a lighter commuting scenario: a cheaper bike and 3000km a year.
Flip side is that I have had to learn to do my own maintenance. It really isn’t hard, a bike is a simple thing and for everything you want to do the is a YouTube video or forum post to help. But is does need to be relatively frequent: chain lube every two weeks or so, pump the tyres, check for wear. Then perhaps every six weeks I might do a deeper clean and lube, tweak here and there, deal to scrapes and creaks. But really, once set up well it all seems to go well day-in and day-out. I only take it into the shop to do things I don’t have tools or skills for. I replaced the bottom bracket and cranks myself, but I took it in to have the brakes bled and freehub replaced.
I’ll have to admit that my weight has crept up a bit as I enjoy life and give myself way too much credit for my riding. As long as keep up some recreational riding (on acoustic bikes) on the weekend I tend to be all OK. My base fitness remains really good – if I wanted to get competitive it would involve a relatively minor uptick in intensity.
|Component||Cost||per KM||Cost per KM in c|
|Rear tyre||75||6000||1.3||Marathon Plus will do around 12,000|
|Servicing and maintenance||300||9000||3.3||Bike shop, brake pads, repair spokes, non-warranty stuff|
|Battery||900||30000||3.0||May be avoided if you sell the bike before replacement|
|Bike||6000||54000||11.1||Assume 6 year life of bike & motor|
|Other parts||400||12000||3.3||Drivetrain, plus other seemingly non-wear items like pedals, bottom bracket, seat|
|Insurance||300||9000||3.3||Assuming you have it. This is for bike-specific policy at 5% of bike value|
|Other gear||200||9000||2.2||Clothing, helmet, footwear, gloves, rainwear, panniers, lights|
|$2,577||Cost per year|
|Component||Cost||per KM||Cost per KM in c|
|Rear tyre||65||12000||0.5||Marathon Plus will do around 12,000|
|Servicing and maintenance||300||3000||10.0||Bike shop, brake pads, repair spokes, non-warranty stuff|
|Bike||3000||15000||20.0||Assume 5 year life of bike & motor|
|Other parts||300||7500||4.0||Random stuff|
|Insurance||75||3000||2.5||Assuming you have it. Gone for cheaper option at 2.5%|
|Other gear||150||3000||5.0||Clothing, helmet, footwear, gloves, rainwear, panniers, lights|
|$1,281||Cost per year|