I saw a post in an online forum today from a guy who wants to calculate how long it will take for his new bike to “pay for itself.” He’s measuring the distances of all his errands and trips as a way of figuring out how much money he saves by riding instead of driving, and when those savings will equal the cost of his bike.
On one hand, that’s a pretty cool idea. You've gotta love seeing someone get excited about his bike’s utilitarian value. Parking your car so you can pedal a bike is a beautiful act.
On the other hand, measuring a bicycle's worth in dollars and cents would—for me, anyway—detract from the beautiful act of just riding the thing. I know I’m saving money when I ride to work or the grocery store, and that’s part of why I do it. But only a small part.
As soon as you start talking about quantifying all the benefits of riding bicycles, you’re on a slippery slope toward measuring carbon footprints, calculating insurance and vehicle-maintenance costs, fuel prices, yadda, yadda, yadda. Next thing you know, you’re creating spreadsheets and printing pie charts—the kind of stuff that many of us like to escape by riding bikes.
I’m probably just lazy. I’m glad there are people who want to figure that stuff out and provide stronger arguments for bike commuting. But I’m not gonna do it. The older I get, the more I'm content to simply measure my rides in smiles, stories, scars and post-ride beers.
Hey, I’m a bike geek, too. I can stand around for hours talking about my bikes and how much they cost.
But what they're worth isn’t printed on any receipt.