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Buy and run a bike for cheap

Image CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 marcmo:Flickr

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

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

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.

- The best 2015 road bike sale bargains - as picked by our tech team

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 Cosine, with steel rails, will cost you £14.99 and weighs a claimed 254g. 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 137g weight difference, but you’ll certainly feel not being able to pay this week’s rent.

Learn maintenance

Step18

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

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 store across Europe.

A lock’s an investment

Locked bike

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.

>>Read more: The Best Commuting Bikes and Kit

Go Merino

Jura Ecru jersey - riding

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.

50 comments

Avatar
bikebot [2118 posts] 2 years ago
11 likes

Taking part in a sportive?

Phone some households along the route the week before to see whether they'll need anything delivered, and arrange for a deliveroo box on the day.

 

 

Avatar
kitkat [493 posts] 2 years ago
12 likes

buy a car then marvel at how much cheaper it was when all you had was a bicycle

Avatar
bikebot [2118 posts] 2 years ago
35 likes

To make them last longer, every couple of weeks remove your inner tubes and turn them inside out so that you use both sides.

Avatar
gazza_d [473 posts] 2 years ago
5 likes

Look for deals, and look for value rather than outright cheapness.

For example, cheap tyres are between 5 and 10 quid. If you shop about online line you can find Schwable Marathons for as low as £11. They'll last longer and be more reliable and puncture resistant.

Invest in a hub dynamo instead of battery lights. complete kits oncluding readybuilt wheels with Shimano hub generators in can be had from Germany for 60-70 quid. Everlasting lights!

 

Avatar
vbvb [621 posts] 2 years ago
2 likes

My town bike uses 3 x 7 gears. That stuff lasts forever and is virtually free. Even the road bike, with a 9 speed block, peanuts.

Avatar
cyclesteffer [330 posts] 2 years ago
8 likes

Stick to 9 speed, everything is a bargain!

Buy second hand - older models like Caad 5s, or Caad 8s are dirt cheap, but awesome bikes.

Buy 2nd hand clothing, shoes etc, from ebay - especially retro cycling tops - look way cooler than the pro-kit w*nker stuff anyway.

 

 

 

 

Avatar
mingmong [312 posts] 2 years ago
12 likes

Ride only with the wind and not against it, ergo less money spent on expensive food.

Avatar
CygnusX1 [802 posts] 2 years ago
5 likes

Don’t read cycle magazines or websites

Says a cycling website.  Reminds me of my youth and saturday morning TV ... "Why Don't You? ... just switch off your TV set and go and do something less boring instead"angry

Avatar
kil0ran [858 posts] 2 years ago
2 likes

+1 for local eBay bargains and dyno lights. Recently got a decent front wheel, ultegra-level hub dynamo and a very battered but completely functional front light for £45.

Also if you have the time and a friendly LBS to do fiddly stuff like headsets and steerer cutting BYOB from bits sourced online. You'll be able to build an Ultegra level bike for Sora money.

Avatar
Dr. Ko [207 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I do agree with Decathlon,  like this bib I got on sale. Not too sure about Aldi/Lidl and fit. In respect to second hand and retro looks check out Prendas, currently they have Exteondo original team kit (mind the sizing!) at excellent prices. 

 

Avatar
cyclesteffer [330 posts] 2 years ago
1 like

Look for second hand team kit, from a few years ago. Pro level quality gear for utter peanuts on eBay, Gumtree or Cycle jumbles.

Avatar
cyclisto [391 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Buy chinese ebay torch lights with eponymous batteries.

Buy used bikes if you know your size

Find the saddle you need and don't care about how much it cost, or simply buy directly a Romin or an SMP

Rear clusters with more than 9 gears will only lead you to longer cleaning time

Carbon is good only if your sponsor is paying for it

If I haven't conviced you yet, just go buy a Cervelo R5, it still cheaper than commuting on car.

Avatar
Simon E [3300 posts] 2 years ago
4 likes

Inexpensive walking boots do a better job than overshoes at keeping your feet dry and warm in winter. Don't bother with clipless pedals.

Bollé £8 safety specs make great cycling glasses.

You can clean your bike perfectly well with washing-up liquid and other household cleaning products.

When you need to replace your wheels wheels search locally on ebay using 'by distance' to find OE wheels (e.g. Shimano or Giant PR2) that have hardly been used before the owner upgraded.

Aldi's Racer bar is just like Snickers and provides a yummy mid-ride energy boost  1

 

[edited - I wrote Bloc but meant Bollé]

Avatar
denzzz28 [29 posts] 2 years ago
10 likes

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

Avatar
Leviathan [3058 posts] 2 years ago
2 likes
cyclesteffer wrote:

Look for second hand team kit, from a few years ago. Pro level quality gear for utter peanuts on eBay, Gumtree or Cycle jumbles.

I know, 10 years ago Lance Armstrong USPS kit cost a fortune, you can now pick up some classic retro team gear for almost nothing on ebay!

 

 

Avatar
Disfunctional_T... [307 posts] 2 years ago
9 likes

"Out of sight, out of mind."... The best way to save money is to stay away from cycling web sites. Looking at all the new, cool stuff makes you want to buy all the new, cool stuff.

Avatar
rix [226 posts] 2 years ago
1 like

Pool for purchases from german sites. I use forum members to pool together for one large shippment thus saving on shipping costs (1,5 EUR instead of 15)

German sites are cheapest and with the best customer service (in English). Just google your part and add "site:.de"

Share google Sheet on forum, so that everyone can list parts that they need.

Example

Avatar
drjohn [52 posts] 2 years ago
3 likes
bikebot wrote:

To make them last longer, every couple of weeks remove your inner tubes and turn them inside out so that you use both sides.

Also, when your track bike tyres start to wear out, turn them round so you can wear out the other side.

Avatar
rix [226 posts] 2 years ago
8 likes
bikebot wrote:

To make them last longer, every couple of weeks remove your inner tubes and turn them inside out so that you use both sides.

The same goes for bib-shorts

//www.bikesportmichigan.com/features/saddlecomfort-06/9saddlecomfort.jpg)

Avatar
BertYardbrush [60 posts] 2 years ago
4 likes
bikebot wrote:

Taking part in a sportive?

Phone some households along the route the week before to see whether they'll need anything delivered, and arrange for a deliveroo box on the day.

 

 

Don't do Sportives. They are far too expensive. If you must pay to ride, do an Audax.

Avatar
fukawitribe [2386 posts] 2 years ago
2 likes
BertYardbrush wrote:
bikebot wrote:

Taking part in a sportive?

Phone some households along the route the week before to see whether they'll need anything delivered, and arrange for a deliveroo box on the day.

 

 

Don't do Sportives. They are far too expensive. If you must pay to ride, do an Audax.

Often very different things, e.g. closed road event vs epic journey.

Avatar
AJ101 [278 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Good article on a subject close to my heart. As an addition, don't forget to have a hunt around for any ex demo, ex hire or shop soiled kit. Shops tend to keep it in good condition and if buying online you've got the added benefit of the distance selling law behind you giving you seven days from the time you recieve the goods to send them back if you don't like them.

Avatar
The _Kaner [1165 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
BertYardbrush wrote:
bikebot wrote:

Taking part in a sportive?

Phone some households along the route the week before to see whether they'll need anything delivered, and arrange for a deliveroo box on the day.

 

 

Don't do Sportives. They are far too expensive. If you must pay to ride, do an Audax.

 

Or...https://www.facebook.com/groups/132243146796683/

 

Just blag it....I'm not saying take advantage of the food stops etc...be self sufficient...but nothing to stop you riding along any stretch of road...is there??

Avatar
cyclesteffer [330 posts] 2 years ago
1 like

Save money on being in a cycle club, just start a facebook group for like-minded cyclists in your own area and arrange informal group rides on there. You'll make a load of new friends and have a blast for free.

Avatar
cyclesteffer [330 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Look out for Halfords, "buy 2 get one free weekends" - they even do it on stuff such as complete Wheelsets and Oakley Sunglasses. Pool together with friends, add on the British Cycling discount and you will get stuff crazy cheap. You could even sell the third "free" item on ebay if there are only two of you, and split the proceeds.

Avatar
bikebot [2118 posts] 2 years ago
9 likes
The _Kaner wrote:
BertYardbrush wrote:
bikebot wrote:

Taking part in a sportive?

Phone some households along the route the week before to see whether they'll need anything delivered, and arrange for a deliveroo box on the day.

 

 

Don't do Sportives. They are far too expensive. If you must pay to ride, do an Audax.

 

Or...https://www.facebook.com/groups/132243146796683/

 

Just blag it....I'm not saying take advantage of the food stops etc...be self sufficient...but nothing to stop you riding along any stretch of road...is there??

Indeed. Also road kill can be a great source of protein.

Avatar
Edgeley [532 posts] 2 years ago
22 likes

Avoid expensive chain oil.   Used bacon fat is much cheaper.

 

And no need for separate winter and summer gloves.  Cut the fingers off your winter gloves in March and sew them back on in September. 

Avatar
matthewn5 [1190 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

When your tyres are worn, turn them inside out for fresh new treads!

Avatar
urbane [98 posts] 2 years ago
3 likes
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.

Avatar
urbane [98 posts] 2 years ago
5 likes
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!

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