What if I biked to work?
Before becoming officially Mrs. FM I always enjoyed riding a bike, and Mr. FM is even more enamored with bicycle riding. Back in 2006 or so, I didn’t keep great records of big purchased back then, I went to a fancy bike shop and bought my first adult bike.
My big girl bike was a basic blue Schwinn cruiser, with a big comfortable seat and a basket on the front. I knew nothing about bikes, researching bikes, or gears and the like. I was a biking amateur. All I knew is that I wanted a comfortable seat and $400+ later I shoved a bike into my tiny Accent and drove home with Chris squished in the front. From there my foray into the world of adult biking began.
At that time, we lived in a relatively okay area for biking, though the roads were all rather high-speed town or county roads, with few shoulders, and lots of traffic. The food store was down a huge hill and up another major hill, so the ride home always was a walk because with 1 gear and straight up there was no way I could get myself and gallons of milk up safely. I also worked nearby, about a 10-mile roundtrip commute and my goal was to ride to work on a regular basis, as well as to the food store and oftentimes, even to the gym.
I did make it to work a handful of times by bike, but since there was only one road that led there and it had no shoulders with high-speed traffic including massive trucks, after a few rides it felt quite dangerous. I then opted to continue riding my bike to the gym and the food store, which worked out somewhat. We’d also drive our bikes out to the beach areas, and we tried to ride as many places as we could.
This was well before our frugal journey, but I feel it was one of the things that started to lead to our conscious consumption at a time before gas prices ticked upwards of $4 per gallon in our area. A few years after, the gas prices skyrocketed, and while my job at the time was then 20 miles away, we biked to everywhere we could within a short distance to save on gas.
Cut to a decade later and I decided to attempt commuting to the food store and work by bicycle again a few weeks ago. This time, we live in an entirely new area, mostly perfect for biking and my current job is within a 7-mile roundtrip commute (with some relatively steep hills), and I am finally not pregnant during the spring/summer season!
I knew my old bike was falling apart, as the chain fell off regularly to the food store and back, but I didn’t want to dive into buying a new bike until I tried riding to work first. If I felt safe to ride to work, I’d look for a bike that would provide me the best of both worlds: comfort and commuting. If I didn’t feel safe, I’d just look for a casual comfort bike for around town.
Riding to work was so fun, except that my chain fell off as I crossed the 1 major highway I have to cross, whoops! And after that, I instantly knew I wanted to get a new bike that would make this more of a regular commitment.
Though, being frugal as I am, I did not want to go out and just buy the first bike recommended to me. I attempted at first to fix my bike to keep the chain from falling off.
After spending an hour or so following YouTube videos on chain repair and tightening, I still ended up with the same problems as before. Every bump the chain would pop off. Since my bike was well worn in and rusted, I decided I gave it my best shot but if I wanted to ride more regularly I was going to have to look into something different. I took off all the kiddie additions and placed it by the curb.
I posted my old friend on Craigslist for free, with the notice about the chain. Within hours, it was gone, and my search for a new bike was on.
I scoured Craigslist to see what was available, which wasn’t much actually. I looked at used and new bikes, though I would have loved an electric bike! I researched brands, types of bikes, and what my options were. I knew I needed a few gears, but I definitely thought 21 was way too many for me for my uses. Just too much to think about!
I went to a local bike shop an hour before they closed and tried out a few bikes. I was heavily considering a hybrid commuting bike, but since it was closing I didn’t want to rush any decision. I told them I’d come back the next day to take a further look. That night I researched again online all of the bikes I saw and liked at the store and decided I’d go for the bike I tried and thought was ok, though at 21 gears it was a bit more than I wanted.
The next morning, I popped over to the bike shop yet again and said while I liked that bike, I just had to try a few more to feel like I am making the right decision. I used to always buy the first thing I set my eyes on before this frugal journey, but not I hem and haw, sometimes to my own detriment, about what I want and usually get exactly what I need.
I tried several more hybrids and commuting bikes, but man those seats are so uncomfortable. I like an upright ride, and more casual, as most times my rides are not going to be time sensitive. I wanted a few gears for some hill work, but seeing as how I got around all the steep hills on 1 gear, I didn’t think I needed a huge amount of options, as I’m okay with a bit of work and sweat.
After testing out about 5 bikes for an hour, there was one last bike I wanted to try. It was a comfort bike, with a slightly pedal forward design, only 7 gears, and good for 7-10 mile rides. I had researched it but was hesitant to look at it since it was a “comfort” and not commuter bike. I took it out for a spin anyway…
And I feel in love. So comfortable. So easy to ride. So perfect for my needs. I rode it longer than the rest, feeling like, wow, this is what I need and it should be perfect for the hills and the distances I plan to go. I went back to the shop and tried this bike and the hybrid several more times, but felt I met my match. We set-up the bike to my size and I rode it around for a bit, feeling like it was home.
There was only a slight price difference, this one being cheaper, so I opted to add on a rear rack so I had more storage options.
My old bike had a front basket, a rear child seat and trailer hitch, which I used to haul things. The child seat was often used for milk or other larger items I didn’t want in my basket. I didn’t plan to put the child seat back on, now that we have a double trailer for the kids (as when will I ever be without one!). And the baby will be too big for the child seat in a year, so no sense in forgoing other storage options for such a short time.
I purchased the Electra Townie 7D if you’re wondering.
I walked out of the bike shop happier than ever, feeling like this was the perfect fit for me. The bike shop was not pushy at all, I think the young surfer would’ve been happy either way, “For sure, for sure” he kept saying. He just wanted me to find the right ride and educated me in the process. I put the bike in my car, and off we went.
Since that day, my bike and I have been inseparable. I’ve ridden it each night just to spend time outside. I almost enjoy biking more than running these days. I’ve tested it out on the second steepest hill in my area and made it up in a snap; receiving a nice woman’s compliment when I reached the top! I cannot wait to take it to work and for food shopping this summer as well.
What I’ve learned in this process is that it pays to find the right bike and know what you want, what the language is (gears, hybrid, commuter, road vs. comfort) before going into the store. Just doing my research ahead of time and finding the right fit, I know this bike will last me far more than a decade.
For a few hundred dollars, I bought an amazing bike that’ll pay for itself in a year or less. Using this commuting calculator, I’m saving about $3 per trip to work over using my car. If I factor in trips to the store, the indoor pool, or to my family’s houses around the area, it becomes even more.
I’d always been envious of those who worked close enough to home to commute by bike. When I realized I finally have that option in a safer area, I wanted to take advantage of it. You might not have this option, but I bet there are one or two short trips you can replace by bike in your area if you think about it. If not, just getting out for a ride to move your body will do great for your health.
While I won’t be able to commute by bike every day in the coming few years with a time sensitive schedule for child drop-off without even 5 minutes to spare, I will be able to bike when I am not on child-duty. For example, today I had hoped to ride to work as the kiddos are at their grandparent’s house, but flashes of lightening stopped me this morning. I will be biking the next 2 days until my school year ends. This bike will be around for years, so I am sure in the coming decade I’ll get the opportunity to bike regularly.
Now I just have to figure out what to name her… I chose green for “going green” and also because she just fits my Frugal Momster style. My aunt gave me the free orange milk crate from her basement to round it out, too. Any name ideas? The Monkey says “Speedy Gonzalez!”