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Buy and run a bike for cheap

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Browse the high-end bikes in your local shiny specialist and you can get the idea that cycling is a very expensive way to get around and get your exercise fix. Not so; with our money-saving tips you can buy and run a bike on the financial equivalent of the smell of an oily rag.

Use the Cycle To Work Scheme

Milk Bikes RDA - riding 1

By deducting the payments for your bike from your pre-tax salary, the Cycle To Work Scheme can save you at least 25 percent off the cost of a new bike. Recent changes to the rules allow you to buy accessories too, so don't think of it as a bike-only one-off.

You pay for the bike or equipment through salary sacrifice, generally over 12 months, and you save on income tax and National Insurance on the payments.
That means it's good for everyone who pays tax, and if you're fortunate enough to be earning enough to pay a higher rate, you'll save even more.

At the end of the scheme the bike is yours for a market value payment. Many providers extend the hire through a separate agreement for a further couple of years to take advantage of the much lower market value rates for older bikes (3% for bikes under £500 and 7% for more expensive bikes).

>> Read more: All about the Cycle To Work Scheme

Buy second hand

Thanks to sites like eBay and Gumtree and many classified forums including our own it’s never been easier to find a bike second hand, and while some people have slightly inflated ideas of what their used stuff is worth, there are plenty of bargains out there.

Any second-hand bike will need a thorough mechanical inspection. In particular, have a very close look at the frame. Any cracks or paint ripples are signs that the frame has been abused and you should walk away.

You should also ask the seller to show you the original purchase receipt for the bike, so you can be reasonably sure it's not stolen. Check the frame number at BikeRegister too. Ask questions about the history of the bike, what it's been used for and what modifications have been made. A thief won't know this stuff or will make silly mistakes.

Buy in sales and out of season

Bargains galore crop (CC BY-NC 2.0 Allen:Flickr).jpg

If you're planning on buying a new bike later this year, wait till about September and you may well be able to buy this year’s model at a nice discount. That’s when next year’s bikes start hitting the shops so dealers discount them to clear floor and warehouse space.

The caveat is you may struggle to find some popular models and sizes at the end of the season, so shop around.

Similar principles apply to accessories that have a season, like lights and clothing. The peak buying season for lights is in September; if you buy at the end of winter, they’re substantially cheaper.

The same goes for clothes. Buy your summer clothes in sales during the winter and vice versa and you’ll save, often very large amounts. Discounts as large as 50-60 percent are not unusual.

Sample sales are another source of heavily-discounted gear. Keep your eyes open and you could pick up gear from high-end brands like Vulpine and Rapha at prices considerably more wallet-friendly than usual.

Put up with a few more grams

Everyone likes the ‘oooh’ factor of lifting a light bike, but weight saving costs money, and makes little difference on the road unless you’re racing up l’Alpe d’Huez.

For example, say you need a new saddle. The base model seat from Wiggle own brand Prime will cost you £17.99 and weighs a claimed 225g. At the other end of the price and weight spectrum, a Selle San Marco Mantra Superleggera costs £295 and weighs 117g. You’re not going to be able to feel a 108g weight difference, but you’ll certainly feel not being able to pay this week’s rent.

Learn maintenance

Step18

Doing your own repair and maintenance work can save you loads in labour charges. You’ll have a better-functioning bike into the bargain as you’re more likely to notice things going wrong is you know how they’re supposed to be.

At the very least, you should learn how to fix a punctured inner tube, saving yourself a fiver very time you get a flat. If that’s too much hassle, buy spare tubes in bulk; you can usually find them for as little as £2 each in packs of ten.

>>Read more: All how-to guides on road.cc

Recycle

If a tube is damaged beyond repair, don’t bin it. A bit of old tube makes a good chainstay protector, while strips of old tube have uses like lining the hooks of your bike rack so they don't scratch the car's paint work (that's my job).

Fit mudguards

MPart Primoplastic mudguards - rear guard etail.jpg

If you ride in winter fit some mudguards. As well as keeping you cleaner and drier, they reduce the amount of crud that ends up on your drivetrain so it won’t wear as quickly or need cleaning as often. 

>>Read more: Buyer’s guide: The best mudguards to keep you dry when the weather's not

Check out Lidl, Aldi and Decathlon

German-based supermarket chains Lidl and Aldi regularly have seasonal special offers on cycling clothing and accessories. The quality isn’t stellar, but it’s decent enough for the price, which often undercuts anything else around.

If you want a bit more choice, then Decathlon’s cycling brand B’Twin offers low prices and quality that ranges from ‘not bad at all’ to ‘how is this so good for this money?’

The answer to the latter question lies in the huge buying power Decathlon has because of its chain of stores across Europe.

A lock’s an investment

Locked bike

Replacing a stolen bike is the biggest and most painful cost most cyclists ever have to face. Get a decent lock, and use it every time you leave your bike anywhere, however briefly you’re planning to leave it.

>>Read more: The best bike locks — stop your bike getting stolen with our selection
>>Read more: Beginner's guide to bike security—how to stop bike thieves and protect your bike

Consider taking out insurance on your bike too. Admittedly, this is a bit of a gamble, but it might save you money in the long run.

Cycle-specific insurance — Your questions answered
Cycle insurance: Is your bike fully covered?

Use the right kit

Use kit appropriate to the riding you do. For example, if you commute, then use mountain bike shoes and pedals not road ones. Road shoes may look more pro but you will wear the cleats out much quicker if you have to walk at all (and let’s face it there’s usually a least a short walk at the end of a commute).

In fact, you’ll find that the cleat on the foot you touch down at lights wears faster than the one that stays clipped in. Merely annoying if you run cheaper cleats like Looks; aggravating as all hell if you’re using, say, Speedplays. Sub-tip, then: learn to track-stand.

>>Read more: The Best Commuting Bikes and Kit

Go Merino

Jura Ecru jersey - riding

If you’re a daily commuting rider, then a Merino jersey is a sound investment. Merino doesn’t get smelly as quickly as synthetics, so you can wear the same jersey every day for a week without your colleagues reeling from the pong when you get to work. One good Merino jersey is cheaper than a week’s-worth of all but the very cheapest synthetics.

Carry zip-ties

You can fix any number of minor on-the-road mechanical problems with zip-ties — and then forget they're there and leave them for the rest of time. Cheap!

Don’t train or ride too much

Otherwise your food bill will go through the roof.

Don’t read cycle magazines or websites

Otherwise you’ll want to upgrade everything every year.

Like the Rapha look but put off by the price tag?

Impress fellow brand fans on your commute by fashioning a white armband out of a crepe bandage.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

67 comments

Avatar
philtregear [135 posts] 3 years ago
3 likes

forget the sillly n+1 twoddle. buy a bike that suits your needs, preferably second hand, and look after it.

Avatar
cyclesteffer [419 posts] 3 years ago
9 likes

Ride so-called "Mountain bike" pedals and cleats, such as Shimano M520s, the cleats last a billion times longer than plastic road cleats, and to be honest, I have never really noticed any difference in power. Much easier to walk in and you wont be shelling out 15 quid for new cleats every 2 months, you wont be risking the plastic cleat snapping, and your shoes and feet will thank you for it.

Avatar
mylesrants [501 posts] 3 years ago
12 likes

Save wear and tear on cassettes, tyres breakpads etc, by removing chain.

 

Lean up against a wall , spin legs and have a friend flick thru a travel magazine for you.

 

here all week

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Dantenspeed [14 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Stronglight Duval chainrings are excellent and very cheap, although they're described as for 'leisure cyclists' I've found them to be a very good replacement.

Wet lube might stay on the chain longer but it only serves to help crud stick to the drivetrain and destroy your cassette and chain, buy dry.

+1 for maintenance, consider tools a long term investment. Even fast tyres last longer than many would have you believe.

Avatar
andyp [1600 posts] 3 years ago
6 likes
cyclesteffer wrote:

Ride so-called "Mountain bike" pedals and cleats, such as Shimano M520s, the cleats last a billion times longer than plastic road cleats, and to be honest, I have never really noticed any difference in power. Much easier to walk in and you wont be shelling out 15 quid for new cleats every 2 months, you wont be risking the plastic cleat snapping, and your shoes and feet will thank you for it.

 

15 quid every 2 months? Snapped cleats? What on earth are you up to? Set of Look Keos are under a tenner and I find they last more like 2 years than 2 months. But then I use them  for cycling, rather than as a makeshift crowbar or something similarly stupid which could cause them to snap.

Avatar
JonSP [76 posts] 3 years ago
5 likes

Old tubes are great for lots of uses – tying trees and shrubs to posts for example.
And don't dump discarded tubes at the roadside – it's a great way to alienate more people against cyclists

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sidesaddle [91 posts] 3 years ago
15 likes

It turns out that that 'winter' bike will also work in summer.

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harman_mogul [304 posts] 2 years ago
3 likes

Unsubscribe from all cycle retailers' email drops!

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996ducati [13 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
urbane wrote:
cyclisto wrote:

Buy chinese ebay torch lights with eponymous batteries.

I swear at people using these crap, non-directional, Chinese blinding lights, I bet car drivers do too, just like I hate idiot motorists with un-dipped LED headlights in wet/cold weather at night!

If you are using a decent LED light (or Cree ebay special) always mount it under the bars.

Then the light points downward and not straight into other drivers eyes. Simples!

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alansmurphy [2248 posts] 1 year ago
8 likes

If you mount it under the bars you can point it up just like if you mount on top you can point it downwards

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Mungecrundle [1542 posts] 1 year ago
9 likes

Don't pay for road tax, insurance or licencing. Not only will you save money but you can also annoy car drivers on internet forums.

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Duncann [1487 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Rather than spend money on a Garmin, install the free OSM app on an Android phone, download the free maps of your choice and upload routes you created in Strava (which uses the same mapping). Bit clunky but it works well.

Spend a small fraction of the money you saved on a powerbank in case you run out of juice (it is heavy on a phone battery). Don't use the audio and text prompts - you can follow the route line and dot (that's you) to save power. Switch off the screen when not needing it.

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Mungecrundle [1542 posts] 1 year ago
15 likes

Don't waste money on expensive energy gels. Simply mix wallpaper paste with fruit juice and pack into a used condom* for a convenient 'on the go' boost.

But, and here's the clever bit, having enjoyed your mid ride energy gel, the sticky condom makes an ideal emergency puncture patch, especially if you allow 24 hours for the paste to dry before continuing your ride.

*wash condom first if you must.

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Simontuck [206 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

save loads of money on wear and tear items by putting your bike on the roof rack and sitting on it whilst your 'understanding' partner tries to find a low bridge.....

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ashliejay [74 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

instead of buying these name branded luxury bicycles, buy a £69 bicycle from sports direct, halfrauds or even a supermarket where you get clubcard points, as after all they do the same thing.

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shay cycles [418 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

Just don't bother buying the stuff that you don't need like:

  • GPS
  • Power metres
  • Turbo trainers
  • Cycle Helmets
  • Hi-viz
  • Gels
Avatar
ConcordeCX [1161 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
urbane wrote:
cyclisto wrote:

Buy chinese ebay torch lights with eponymous batteries.

I swear at people using these crap, non-directional, Chinese blinding lights, I bet car drivers do too, just like I hate idiot motorists with un-dipped LED headlights in wet/cold weather at night!

that's what comes from eponymity.

Avatar
srchar [1529 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

Don't waste forty or fifty pounds paying to ride in expensive, supported sportive events. Simply go for a ride with a multitool and a fiver in your pocket and buy some food in a shop.

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gmrza [36 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
urbane wrote:
denzzz28 wrote:

the best chain degreaser i have is a £1 oven cleaner from poundland. works the same as mucoff (if not better). 

It is a bad idea to use most household cleaners on a bicycle because they can contains acids, salt, abrasives and too strong detergents/solvents which will erode steel, remove inner chain bearing grease (not the same as outer grease/oil), trap water/cleaner inside chain bearings and damage paintwork/plastics.

It is a smarter to bulk buy a several litre container of concentrated bicycle cleaner, neat for drive chain cleaning and diluted for other bicycle cleaning, doing this will probably also work out cheaper.

I found that the battery powered car wheel cleaning brushes that ALDI occasionally sell save a lot of time and effort cleaning a bicyle, especially for wheels and the drive chain.

I also found that KMC chains last much longer than other chains, so save on Cassette replacement too.

For chain cleaning I still find kerosene the best.  It has the bonus of leaving a waxy layer behind.  After each cleaning, I let the gunk settle.  After a week you can pour off the clear kero, and then use it again to clean your chain next time.

As a result, my main consumption of kero is due to accidental spills and kerosone that soaks up into cloths used for cleaning chainrings etc.  I never really have to discard my kero, only the gunk that collects at the bottom of the bottle.

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huntswheelers [182 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Simple.... Have a commuter bike....  a proper Dutch Bike (not a fake one) one with enclosed chain, Hub gears, mudguards, racks, lights, rear wheel lock all in from day one.... good year or so old ones coming in now..... Mainly these run Marathon tyres and are really robust....with very little maintainence.....  If you go for a Transport type like the Cortina Milo as an example.... basket/box on the front and or panniers on the rear..... 

Then, have a road, MTB etc for the weekends and non commuting shopping trips....

Avatar
srchar [1529 posts] 11 months ago
3 likes
huntswheelers wrote:

Simple.... Have a commuter bike....  a proper Dutch Bike (not a fake one) one with enclosed chain, Hub gears, mudguards, racks, lights, rear wheel lock all in from day one.... good year or so old ones coming in now..... Mainly these run Marathon tyres and are really robust....with very little maintainence.....  If you go for a Transport type like the Cortina Milo as an example.... basket/box on the front and or panniers on the rear..... 

How much do you value your time?  I reckon riding a Dutch bike vs a road bike would add an extra 15-20 minutes, each way, to my commute, or three hours a week.  That's a LOT of maintenance...

Avatar
Deeferdonk [254 posts] 11 months ago
7 likes
srchar wrote:
huntswheelers wrote:

Simple.... Have a commuter bike....  a proper Dutch Bike (not a fake one) one with enclosed chain, Hub gears, mudguards, racks, lights, rear wheel lock all in from day one.... good year or so old ones coming in now..... Mainly these run Marathon tyres and are really robust....with very little maintainence.....  If you go for a Transport type like the Cortina Milo as an example.... basket/box on the front and or panniers on the rear..... 

How much do you value your time?  I reckon riding a Dutch bike vs a road bike would add an extra 15-20 minutes, each way, to my commute, or three hours a week.  That's a LOT of maintenance...

You take 9 months to reply to comments so you can't be that fast  1

Avatar
srchar [1529 posts] 11 months ago
7 likes
Deeferdonk wrote:

You take 9 months to reply to comments so you can't be that fast  1

Just a pregnant pause.

Avatar
janusz0 [343 posts] 11 months ago
0 likes
denzzz28 wrote:

the best chain degreaser i have is a £1 oven cleaner from poundland. works the same as mucoff (if not better). 

Eek!  Yes, if it's based on citrus oil (for a quid?)

           NO! If it's based on caustic soda: I predict rapid corrosion around the link pins and bushes!

Mucoff is not a chain cleaner!

Avatar
harragan [283 posts] 11 months ago
2 likes
janusz0 wrote:

 

Mucoff is not a chain cleaner!

 

Except Muc-Off Chain Cleaner is a chain cleaner.

Avatar
bechdan [255 posts] 11 months ago
0 likes
urbane wrote:
cyclisto wrote:

Buy chinese ebay torch lights with eponymous batteries.

I swear at people using these crap, non-directional, Chinese blinding lights....

Non directional? All my lights point forewards! You'll probably find that most lights are made in china regardless of who's brand label is on it

Avatar
John Smith [270 posts] 11 months ago
2 likes

Learn to wheelie properly, then you will only ever need to replace one tyre.

Never use your brakes. You will get places faster, save money on brakes and tyres.

Take up running. You may as well if you are not going to buy new shiney toys and talk endlessly about the merits of carbon vs steel.

Avatar
hawkinspeter [3909 posts] 11 months ago
1 like

Rather than using shop bought air to fill your tyres, you can just use ordinary breathing air.

Avatar
fenix [1199 posts] 11 months ago
0 likes

Don't believe the marketing hype.

 

eg. disc brakes are needed on all top road bikes now...

Avatar
Mungecrundle [1542 posts] 11 months ago
3 likes
fenix wrote:

Don't believe the marketing hype.

 

eg. disc brakes are needed on all top road bikes now...

 

Quote other people's postings on internet forums. It bulks out your own comment, making it look like you have something to add to the discussion without wearing out the keys on your own keyboard.

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