There’s no getting away from it – cycling isn’t a cheap sport. But, especially these days, everyone’s looking to save money so we’ve come up with a few ways you can spend less on cycling without cutting corners.
As the unbreakable rule goes: “light, strong or cheap – pick two but you can’t have all three.” With cycling, trying to buy kit or equipment on the cheap can mean sacrificing performance or safety – or both. And cutting the wrong corners means you end up spending more in the long run.
But there are some ways you can spend less on cycling overall by spending strategically and treating your kit right.
Take your bike’s chain for example. If the drivechain wears down, it stretches, increasing the side-to-side shifting between the links. This increased movement stops the chain’s rollers from meshing with the teeth of the cassette and wears that out faster plus wearing down the chainrings before their time. (And we’re talking a small stretch – just 0.75 cm on an 11-13 speed chain or 1 cm on a 6-10 speed.)
So, to save yourself money replacing the chain, cassette AND the chainrings, check your chain with a chain checker and replace it when it’s stretched to 0.5 cm. Just this cheap fix will mean you get three chains to one cassette.
Brake pads are another example of when replacing the cheaper, smaller component will save you money elsewhere. “Once 50% of the meat of the brake pad is gone, the brake pad is basically 100% used,” says Dave Walsh, owner of Pro Cycling Outlet in Girona and the buyer of thousands of brake pads in his career including one set he wore out in a day (riding down glaciers).
You want to change the brake pads before that 50% point to avoid spending more later on. Riding with worn brake pads, and pulling harder to stop, eventually damages the calipers, the rotor and the pistons of a mechanical system leading to expensive repairs.
With a hydraulic setup, you also have to pull harder to achieve the same stopping power, risking over-extension. If hydraulic brakes don’t pull back, they can come out of alignment aka the wonk.
Checking brake pads once a month, or every 500 miles, whichever comes sooner, is the best way to spend less money on wheel and braking system repairs. Plus, crashing your bike because your brake pad tread has worn smooth has obvious costs!
How to save money on tyres
Bike tyres vulcanize over time as sunlight, wear, and oxygen all harden the rubber. Store them in a cool place out of direct sunlight when you’re not using them. And when you are using them, keeping them inflated helps them last longer, And, of course, don’t wear tyres down to the nub or you’ll be spending even more money on fixing your damaged rims.
Lycra isn’t a long-lasting material, not if you want it to be skin tight, but its importance isn’t just because cycling kit looks terrible when its baggy, it’s because of how it affects your performance by increasing air resistance.
Lightweight and strong/durable won’t be cheap – and the fact you need to replace lycra gear frequently potentially makes it even harder to keep costs down. That is, unless you buy ex-pro kit secondhand. Then you can get round the unbreakable rule of three and get more bang for your buck.
It’s not just the lycra that means shorts have a short (!) shelf-life. A worn out chamois is downright dangerous and it’s cheaper to replace shorts than take time off work or riding because of infected saddle sores. Some pros have even had to have surgery because of saddle sores so replace shorts that no longer fit or are wearing thin.
Cycle shoes are another piece of kit that needs replacing every six months or so because too much flex in the shoe leads to foot pain. Rather than overusing cycling shoes to save money, spend the same amount but get two pairs in a year by buying ex-pro kit.
Spending strategically will save you money on cycling in the long run and you’ll see returns in a few months so following our tips makes both sense and cents.