What do you mean “You Don’t Have a Bike”?! That’s when the light came on. The ah-ha moment when I realized that personal finance, healthy living and efficiency can all be boiled down into one simple phrase: Ride A Bike.
I haven’t always enjoyed riding as much as I currently do. In fact, I actually took about a ten year hiatus from bike riding. When I was in elementary school, I spent hours after school everyday riding my sweet 12 speed Huffy through the woods near my house. It was pure joy. It wasn’t until gas took a nice little spike to six bucks a gallon that I decided to test out the two wheeled ride again. I snagged an old 80s road bike from the market and was surprised at how much I actually enjoyed riding. I was amazed how fast I was able to get around town and to work. I realized, I had been missing out for years because I had forgotten how great it is to ride a bike.
After you have been writing about saving money and living lighter for a while, you get the question in causal conservation: What is the first thing I should do? Or what is your best piece of advice? Or if you could only do one thing- What would it be? And now I finally have a satisfying answer. Ride A Bike. Except in America, I’m pretty sure everyone I know owns or has access to a bicycle. So, taking it one step further, take that old thing out of the garage, knock the dust off and actually Ride Your Bike.
Riding a bike is a mindset. I’m not talking about that once a year vacation ride. I’m talking about consistent, four-wheeled-gas-powered-machine replacement riding. Biking forces you to be efficient with your choices. It combines exercise, life prioritization, financial benefits, environmental consciousness, and being awesome all into one single outdoor activity.
Design your life with biking in mind. I remember when we were looking to buy our first house. We looked at plenty and almost decided on an ugly house in the county ivy league preschool district. What kept us from buying? I think the location of the house dictated that we would need a car to drive somewhere anytime we wanted to do anything. We are an active family and we love walking, running and riding. Being able to do this without firing up an engine is a priority in our lives. If you design your life around something as simple as transportation, you naturally place yourself close to friends (or develop friends that live nearby), schools, entertainment and public spaces. You position yourself to be active and healthy with a lifestyle filled with walking, riding and people. Biking forces you to be efficient.
Because this blog masquerades as a financial blog, I most often get asked about ‘Money savings tips’. I used to produce the canned phrases like ‘Don’t do debt’ or ‘Quit buying crap you don’t need’, but I’ve simplified my approach. And now my response goes something like this: Ride Your Bike.
In addition to all the other benefits to two wheels, replacing a few trips a week with a bike will provide an instant bonus to your cash supply. In my experience, driving cost our family about 50¢ a mile and biking is somewhere around 3¢. Not only that, developing your life around a biking culture will ensure that even if you do need to drive, you won’t have far to go. Because biking requires a bit more planning, you will be forced to prioritize your life and potentially remove commitments that are not actually providing you with appropriate value. For many individuals, just biking around town would provide more exercise than that expensive gym membership and allow you to get exercise, while you save money. Novel concept.
Once you have a bike, the cost of riding it is almost nothing. Tires last thousands of miles and tubes and oil are only a few bucks a year. For our family, riding our bikes has made our transition to going car-lite effortless; and we no longer consider or even miss having a second car.
Biking is dangerous. That’s a comment I get more often than you would expect. And the irony is that it often is mentioned as an excuse by slightly overweight, lazy people. Since we’ve already determined that biking is the safest form of transportation, lets go ahead and talk about the health benefits. Every time you bike you are improving your surroundings and adding minutes to your life. Biking is also a habit that leads to other good habits. Unlike television (and what I eat when I watch it), when you begin to bike it naturally puts you in a healthy mindset and removes many of the barriers for other physical activities. Now, when I bike home from work everyday I’m already in my gym clothes with my tennis shoes laced up ready to do anything outside. Before I started biking consistently, it normally took me about thirty minutes of watching sportscenter and winding down before I was changed and actually ready to do anything once I got home. Lastly, people who bike also tend to be healthy in other aspects of their life that simply correlate with a healthy attitude. For the exact same reason, insurers know, and charge for, individuals who choose to use tobacco- noting that smoking is typically a reflection of an overall poor attitude about health. Biking is the opposite.
Much like my epiphanal India moment, biking makes you aware of life. After the initial transition to becoming a biker, you almost start to feel bad for people trapped in their expensive, depreciating, inefficient closed-in boxes on wheels. Riding a bike lets you notice the sights, smells, winds and nature. I know I’ve fully transitioned when I actually feel bad for the people sitting in their metal cages waiting in traffic while I speed past in the bike lane on my way home from work. Being outside also makes you aware of how your life impacts your surroundings, and gives you the time to appreciate the beauty that surrounds much of life instead of passing everything by at 70 mph.
“I’m lazy, undisciplined and have no interest in living an awesome life.” – Probably need to read another blog first
“I’ve got kids.” – Yep, me too. No, really. Do you really want to teach them you need an engine to get everywhere? What kind of example do you want to set for them?
“It’s hard.” – I know people who will work out for hours at the gym, or run for miles and miles but are somehow intimated by riding a few blocks around town. The great part is that it gets way easier even after a week!
“I love wasting gas and pride myself on wastefulness.” – Here.
“I don’t live in a bike-friendly area.” – It’s worth it.
“I can’t create habits.” – Try it out for 30 days. I started with a short challenge and ended up loving it.
“My bike has a flat tire.” – Problem Solved.
“I don’t have a bike.” – I’ll let you borrow mine. $20 and Craigslist. Change your life.
Ride Your Bike. It will change the way you think. It will change the way you approach life and will improve everything from your financial mindset, environmental concerns to your health. Ride A Bike. Ride Your Bike.