Biking: The not so cheap sport

19409855_94ed5148e9_zI love biking. I like that you’re outside — like running — but you’re moving faster. We’ve been diligently trying to turn biking into a family activity these past few months.

But boy, has it been an expensive hobby, both in terms of money and time.

First, we had to buy bikes. That’s fine — I’m happy to have one. But we also needed gear for the kids: a Burley for the two little ones to ride in, and a tag-along bike for the 6-year-old, who hasn’t quite gotten the hang of non-training wheel biking (and in any case, would probably not be able to go 10 miles or so on his own).

Then, after buying all this, we realized we needed a way to carry it. For a few trips, we took two cars, and put the gear in the trunks. But this seemed inefficient. So we got U-Haul to attach a hitch to my car. Then we got a 5-bike rack for it.

Needless to say, this 5-bike rack also required a special lock.

But with all this gear finally installed yesterday, we could drive in one car up to the Poconos to go biking. The leaves were glorious on the drive. The kids were decent in the car for the 90 minute trip. Not great, but decent. We finally got to our trail and took off to enjoy our newfound family hobby…

…only to have a lot of whining from the Burley because, in our zeal to load the bikes on the new bike rack, we forgot to bring the 2-year-old’s pacifier. And at 3.5 miles, the trail with great reviews just stopped at a road and railroad track, with no obvious way through. We asked directions at a home by the trail, and the gentlemen there had no idea. So we turned around.

That’s a lot of gear, and a lot of driving for 7 miles of biking. But we drove around and found the rest of the trail later (a mere 200 yards from that guy’s house, by the way) and it looked nice. So hopefully we’ll get up there again sometime soon. That won’t lower the transaction costs of driving, but at least it will amortize the cost of the gear.

Photo courtesy flickr user Salim Virji

8 thoughts on “Biking: The not so cheap sport

  1. Sounds to me like you may also be describing, “Young kids! The not-so-cheap companions.” With 3, and if you think you’ll stick with it (and given that you can afford to), it probably makes sense to spend the money on the gear, even the gear for the kids. But with just 1 kid and some propensity to engage in the activity pretty minimally, we’ve limited ourselves over 6 years to (a) 3 adult bikes (one bought new, 2 used, none very good) totaling $265 for the 3; (b) an off-brand trailer ($100); (c) 3 kid bikes (one gift, one used, one new), $120; and a hitch picked up through freecycle (it wouldn’t carry all your gear, it does carry our 3 bikes). The one “big” trip we did (VA Creeper trail), we took 1 adult bike and rented 1 + the tagalong (and the ride to the trailhead); I forget the cost, but it was pretty cheap (certainly under $100). So there are other ways to pursue this activity. We bike pretty short distances locally (maybe 4 miles r/t at the high end); if we did more, we’d want better bikes. And DS does need a new one pretty soon as he’s outgrowing what he’s got and is really ready for gears.

    1. @bogart – yep, little kids aren’t cheap. One of the reasons we started buying gear is that we had been renting bikes and kid-hauling equipment, and taking a shuttle bus up the Lehigh Gorge trail. But with 5 of us, it had in fact been well over $100 every time. So we thought, hey, over the long haul it will be cheaper to get our own stuff! But it’s going to be quite a long haul. Guess we better keep biking…

  2. Yes, either way (rental or purchase), more people is going to cost more money! Sounds like you tried the sensible rent-before-you-buy approach, so I hope/trust the amortization will end up making it a less costly pursuit for you over time. Certainly a beautiful place to bike!

  3. Once the kids outgrew it, the burley came in handy for garage saling, grocery shopping, picnics, etc. So it’s a good investment!

    We bought a used tandem which we used a lot (with the burley attached too! We looked like a train!), but it took up a lot of real estate in the garage so we sold it. Regretted it immediately after. All the time the kids were growing up, I thought how nice it would be to be able to get them to/from school and friends’ if they weren’t biking on the opposite trip. Still wish we had it for getting DH or DS to the train station without leaving a bike there, at risk of being stolen.

  4. maybe you don’t have to go so far with them.. or you can go with one kid and it doesn’t have to be such an entire family activity…I have done the last 3 sundays with just my son and we go to the canal path that is bikeable to my house… and it is beautiful … and I honor it as our time just he and I and it is a very spiritual thing for me to get exercise this way while also having him “with” me.. my other one we just go up and down the street as she learns.. and I accept that she is not the age for a long bike ride.. and try to live i the joy that is the 5 year old on a bike with training wheels… sometimes as ambitious people who are also parents we have to learn to sit with parenting and in the moment and to me this is the spiritual aspect of parenting.. that it demands of you to enjoy it to not be always trying to make it bigger than it already is when it is small… also if you ask the universe (aka facebook or your network) oftentimes someone will have the bike trail… etc. also I always ask myself.. would my mother have bothered with this.. and if the answer is hxxx no I re-evaluate to see if this is something I want to push the envelope on or if it is energy best preserved for something else… or example a lto of the stuff that you describe on here.. our parents answer to it was… wait until you are old enough to have your own bike.. and live in the parenting moment in which you are … that is appreciate the age they are… for the bike trailer or any equipment you don’t feel in your gut return it – a weekend day with kids is not a thing to check off your list or to create for a post but to enjoy and try to sit with… I see what you are trying ot do here but you might just be trying too hard… this sat. a friend of mine knew I was looking or one and she found it at a yard sale and put the $40 down on it so then I picked it up later.. it was a bit of effort to return the one I’d already bought but it was a real gesture of friendship on her part… as parents there are some things that should be say “handed down” to other parents who come behind us and this seems like an area where if you sit with it someone should give you some of this stuff…

  5. It’s a big initial investment, but over time it’s worth it. Trail a bikes are pretty in demand in the second hand market, so you can resell when you don’t need it any more. Same with the kids’ bikes when they outgrown them. I’m still riding my 20+ year old touring bike that I bought for $600 in 1994, and have put major kilometers on (I rode from Kingston to Halifax in ’96!). My husband and I have been cycling since age 16 and continued right on with it when the kids came along. For 3 yrs it was our major form of transportation when we didn’t own a car (and the kids were at the bike trailer/trail-a-bike stage). Our annual cost for cycling as a family has been extremely low when averaged out over the past 16 years. And we did use our bike trailer for hauling groceries, etc once the kids outgrew it. BONUS: I now have two teenage boys who are used to cycling to get places and can take themselves to a lot of their sports practices, etc so we don’t have to chauffeur them all over the place and they get the satisfaction of being independent.

    1. @Karen- I like the idea of not having to drive the kids (eventually!) Thanks for your comment, and sorry it took so long to haul out of the moderating queue. I was traveling this week.

  6. Sounds like what can happen w/hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities that potentially involve lots of gear for multiple people!

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