Holy Moly! Mountain biking is one expensive hobby.
Today I want to share with you a couple ways that can help you in saving money on cycling gear and hopefully prevent breaking the bank. This is advice you can use at any experience level, though my example is for a beginner rider.
When you start adding up all of the things you need it adds up quick. So how do you keep your mountain biking hobby affordable?
These are some of my best tips for saving money on cycling gear, but I’m sure that you have some yourself. Once you finish reading please leave your own helpful tips as comments at the bottom of this page so we can all benefit from them!
Let’s assume that you are purchasing a beginner level bike at mid-entry price being bought new from a local bike shop. What we are looking at is a bike made by a reputable brand like Giant, Specialized, Trek, etc. that has an aluminum frame with a lifetime warranty, a good front fork, disc brakes and a mid level component set like the SRAM X.5 or Shimano Deore. Price tag = $750 to $1000
You also have to have a helmet. The Bell brand helmets are extremely popular for a new rider so we will use that as our price point. Price tag = $45
In addition to these essentials you need a way to transport your bike to the trails. So a good bike rack is a must, this is one area that I definitely encourage you not to skimp on. I’ll write a lot more about this in the future, but I will say that it is 100% worth it to spend a little extra to get a really good bicycle rack. Price tag = $100+
Then there is the gear that isn’t really a necessity, but does help you stay more comfortable on the bike. Things like shorts with a proper chamois, ventilated jerseys and most importantly gloves. Let’s assume you get the most affordable gear to start off with. Price tag = Shorts $50, Jersey $30, Gloves $25
And of course we can’t get any riding done without water, that means your going to need water bottles or a hydration pack. A good local bike shop will typically give you 1 or 2 water bottles when you purchase a bike from them, not the case with a hydration pack though. Price tag = Free to $50
Finally, there is all the stuff that you need for your emergency kit. Things like a spare tube, a couple tire levers, and a CO2 cartridge and valve. Price tag = Spare tube $5, Tire Levers $3, CO2 Cartridge $4, CO2 valve $4
Oh yeah, and the bag to put all that stuff I just mentioned into. If you chose a hydration pack above then congrats, everything should fit in there. If you didn’t then you really need to get an under-the-seat bag where you can store these things. Price tag = $30
So let’s add it all up.
$750 for a new bike
$50 for a helmet
$100 for a bicycle rack
$50 for shorts
$30 for a jersey
$25 for gloves
$10 for water bottles
$5 for a spare tube
$3 for tire Levers
$4 for CO2 cartridge
$4 for a CO2 valve
$30 for a under-the-seat bag
$1,061 = Total initial investment for a beginner mountain biker.
And this of course is before any maintenance is done or any parts are replaced due to wear and tear. Those things cost you monthly and I swear it seems like your paycheck goes directly to your bike shop.
Now imagine that you are a seasoned rider and looking for performance oriented gear for your upcoming race season. Take the total that we have above and total it by about 3 to 5. Yeah we are now in the $3,000 to $5,000 dollar market.
That’s the price of a used car!
I don’t know about you, but I’m not Mark Cuban or Donald Trump, and I sure as heck don’t have that kind of money. Something has got to budge and unfortunately its not going to be my salary increasing.
So how are we going to be saving money on cycling gear?
Everything that follows is my personal experience and has worked for me in the past or continues to work for me today. Your results from each of these could be different. If I wasn’t positive that these worked or happy with the results I’ve seen then I wouldn’t share them with you.
I personally recommend buying as much from your bike shop as possible. You’ll see why in point #3 below.
But buying everything at retail price just doesn’t make sense, I will be the first to admit that. A lot of gear can be found for a much better deal when bought elsewhere. Especially in our current economy we have to be a bit frugal sometimes.
Ok, no more chit-chat, lets learn to save!
You don’t have to have that $5,000 carbon fiber bike made of authentic unicorn hooves. Or insert any other number that seems just as ridiculous to you. Obviously all people’s financial states are not the same, for some people that 5k could be cheap.
But, no matter what your financial situation you need to establish your budget for what you are going to spend on a bike well before you consider making a purchase. Be real about what you can afford and decide to stick with it. A good quality bike can run anywhere from $250 all the way to $10,000 if you’re a real high roller.
Be honest with yourself and get what makes sense, try not to overspend on more bike than you actually need.
You would be amazed at how much money you can save by buying your gear from people on Craigslist, via your local MTB club, or on an MTB websites forum or classifieds page.
Be careful when looking on Craigslist though and please do your research via Bikepedia and Ebay completed auctions before making any purchases. There are a lot of bike flippers on Craigslist that try and hike up prices to absurd amounts. I saw a guy trying to sell a Wal-Mart bike on the DFW Craigslist for $250, and it was used! At the same time there are some amazing deals to be found on Craigslist, when some people are ready to stop mountain biking they will just sell everything they have. For example, just a few months back I bought 2 bikes off of Craigslist. Both a mountain bike and a road bike for only $400 plus it came with a free repair stand. These were great quality bikes, a Kona MTB and also the prettiest Orbea road bike I’ve ever seen. Those bikes together are valued at around $1000. Seriously a stunning deal where I got around 60% off!
Local MTB clubs are my favorite source for great deals. These are typically people that know their bikes and are just looking to get a little money to spend towards their new bike. You can find all kinds of gear from people in your local club, From cranksets to tires or even hydration packs and complete bikes, this is just the absolute best way to buy gear in my opinion. If you don’t believe me check out some of what the DFW community is selling right now over at DORBA.
Although I haven’t bought from these places, another option is buying from mountain biking websites like MTBR, Pinkbike and others. These sites usually have either a forum or a classifieds section where you can find some pretty great deals. Pinkbike really caters to more of the downhill crowd, but there are some good XC finds there on occasion.
#3 Love your shop
Yes, buying from your local bike shop is more expensive than buying online. BUT, and this is a big but, if you do shop at your local bike store then shop at one and stick with them. I have spent A LOT of time at my bike shop, Cadence Cyclery, and former bike shops in the past. I have seen this neglected quite often.
Take the time to build up a relationship with the guys at your bike shop. Know them by name, join them for group rides or volunteer to help them out with something at the shop. If they get slammed with a ton of customers and you see someone walking in who looks lost, go introduce yourself and try to help point them in the right direction. If they are putting on a race, help them setup and breakdown before and after. Small stuff like this goes a long way.
If you don’t have a great relationship with your shop, then don’t expect your shop to go the extra distance to cut you a big discount.
And this one leads to the next two points as well…
#4 Don’t be a douche
This is just good advice for life in general, but I have seen it very specifically in bike shops. Don’t be harassing, accusing or just an all around jerk to the guys at your shop. Furthermore, and this really hits back on #3, if you have a relationship built up with a bike shop don’t run across town to save $5 by shopping somewhere else and then bragging about it to other people at your regular shop. That’s just being a douche.
Instead, be open with your bike shop. If you find a part you need somewhere else for a lower price, let your bike shop know. Most of the time they will match the price on that product, and if they can’t match the price on that product they may be able to give you a discount on something else you need to help offset the difference.
Also, if your bike is getting repaired don’t yell at the mechanics because you think its too expensive or think something doesn’t need replacing. These guys aren’t trying to screw you, but if you really think they are then go shop somewhere else. Just like your auto mechanic, you need a certain level of trust.
I’m going to reveal a big secret with you here.
In the bicycle world, beer is almost as good as cash. I’m not condoning drinking or the encouragement of drinking, but this is a tip that works.
I occasionally will enjoy a cold brew every now and again, and most of the guys or gals at your bike shop probably do to. If you want to jumpstart building a relationship with your shop grab a six pack on your way and give it to the guys at the shop. I don’t recommend doing this on your first or second visit, it would probably just make you look creepy. Once you know your shop’s employees by name and they recognize who you are, then give it a shot.
If you’re a minor or take a strong stance against alcohol, grab some popsicles or ice cream bars or maybe a hot cup of coffee in the winter. Treat them to something unexpected and from the heart.
Share a beer or a snack with them and talk about their favorite trails to ride or their favorite bikes they ever owned. Get them to open up about who they are, what dreams they have and just have a real conversation.
#6 Shop around & be patient
This is for those purchases that you are going to make online. Do some good research on who has the best pricing and make sure you include the shipping costs. My favorite place to shop online is JensonUSA which I recommend A LOT. I buy quite a bit from them and have always had great interactions with their online support and purchasing.
Some other sites that I recommend shopping around at.
- Department of Goods
- Chain Reaction Cycles
- Competitive Cyclist
- Performance Bike
#7 Learn to work on your own bike
If you are a true renaissance man and handy with some tools then you may want to give being your own bike mechanic a shot. It’s actually a lot of fun to pull parts off your bike and try and put them back together. I have been trying to learn more and more myself, partially so I can share those tips with you.
Besides, if you can’t remember how to put it back on correctly you can always take it back to your bike shop and have them put it back together for you.
That concludes my tips on saving money on cycling gear. I hope that it helps you make our beloved sport a little more affordable.
If you have any additional helpful tips, please leave them as comments so we can all benefit from them!
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