With high-end bikes costing more than some cars, it's easy to make the argument that cycling is an expensive hobby. It can be, and there are plenty of ways you can spend some serious cash on your bike, but it doesn't have to be that way. With these thrifty suggestions, you can keep cycling without quite so many worries about your bank balance...
By deducting payments for your bicycle from your pre-tax salary, the Cycle To Work Scheme can slice off at least a quarter of the price of a new bicycle. Recent alterations to the regulations permit the purchase of accessories as well, so don't view it as an exclusive bicycle-only arrangement.
The bicycle or equipment expenses are covered through a salary sacrifice, usually spread over 12 months, resulting in savings on income tax and National Insurance contributions. This makes it a beneficial option for all taxpayers. If you're fortunate enough to be earning a higher income subject to an increased tax rate, your savings will be even more substantial.
At the culmination of the scheme, the bicycle becomes yours for a market value payment. Many providers extend the lease through a separate agreement for an additional couple of years, capitalising on the significantly reduced market value rates for older bicycles (3% for bicycles under £500 and 3% for pricier bicycles).
Thanks to the internet, it has never been easier to find a bike second hand. While some people have slightly inflated ideas of what their used stuff is worth, there are plenty of bargains out there. Facebook Marketplace, eBay and forums are great places to hunt for bargains, and of course, you can always just ask your cycling friends if they know of any bikes going in your size. Many cities also have cycling charities that refurbish and sell used bikes.
Perhaps the most common reason people steer away from buying a second hand bike is the fear it's got some hidden faults. A thorough inspection is always needed, and if you feel you're not sure what to look for then ask for a friend to come along. With carbon frames especially, cracks might be hidden so it's always important to ask about any scratches and whether the bike has been involved in a crash.
Ask questions about the history of the bike, what it's been used for and what modifications have been made - and of course in the social media era you can check if the bike is visible in any profile pictures, or on Strava activities.
If possible, 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. Healthy suspicion is good, and if a bike seems too good to be true, it perhaps is. You can also check the frame number at BikeRegister too – but bear in mind not everyone uses this service.
If you are planning to buy a brand-new bike, there are certain times of the year when snapping a bargain is more likely. New models are often released before September, which means that the old models will get discounted – sometimes very heavily.
That said, you may struggle to find popular models in the right size at the end of the season, so shop around. Google is your friend!
The same applies to accessories that have a season, such as bike lights and clothing. The peak buying season for lights is in September; if you buy at the end of winter, they’re substantially cheaper.
This is also the case for clothing. Buy your summer clothes in sales during the winter and vice versa and you’ll save, often very large amounts. Often, you can find major brands discounting their stock down to half-price, or even more!
It's no doubt a great feeling to lift up a light bike, but weight saving costs money, and greatly increasing your spend to buy or build up one of the very lightest road bikes will often make very little difference, unless you’re racing up some alpine climbs. As a recreational or even elite club cyclist, you're better off saving your money for something a little more important, or making some more affordable weight saving upgrades. This might not mean your bike is the lightest money can buy, but the gains and weight savings start to diminish significantly the more you spend.
Take saddles. The Specialized Power Comp with MIMIC saddle, for example, weighs 227g in a 143mm width, and retails for £90. If you want the top S-Works Power MIMIC model with carbon rails, you need to pay £255 but you're only saving 57g. In the grand scheme of things that's not so much, so you're better to go for the pretty light version rather than the very light one if you're in any way budget-conscious.
The same goes for drivetrain components. If you opt for the heavier groupset, you will likely spend less replacing parts such as the cassette than if you opt for the top-of-the-range Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 or SRAM Red eTap. Often second or third-tier groupsets are only a few hundreds grams lighter than their top-end counterparts: for example, the latest Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset weighs just over 2,500g, while Shimano 105 Di2 weighs 2,995g. The price difference is almost two grand, and you could easily save 500g for much less than that on other areas of your bike.
Doing your own repair and maintenance work can save you absolute bucketfuls of money, especially if you're fortunate enough to own more than one bike. Basic things like repairing punctures or replacing cables, brake pads and drivetrain parts are super simple once you learn them. They don't require a workshop setup, either, so you can easily do the maintenance at your flat or garage.
Once you know how to do basic maintenance, you will also notice when something is needing attention on your bike before it's too late – and the bill would have then crept up a lot, too. A bike that is always clean and well-lubricated will save you money in the long run, as you don't have to replace parts as often.
Stocking up and buying in bulk is usually cheaper than buying every inner tube or cable individually, so consider investing in those when you know you will be needing the spares over the years. The same goes for brake pads, cassettes and chains: if you see a good deal, consider buying two.
There are a lot of things that cannot be repaired on a modern bike. Components are increasingly made to be replaced, not repaired but the likes of inner tubes are definitely still repairable - or recyclable.
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 can be used lining the hooks of your car bike rack, your bike's front rack, or any other thing that needs a little cushioning. Or, you can get inspired and create something completely new from those used inner tubes.
If you ride in winter fit some mudguards. As well as keeping you cleaner and drier, they reduce the amount of dirt that ends up on your drivetrain so it won’t wear as quickly or need cleaning as often - so even if they might cost you money to start with, you'll save in the long run.
Supermarket chains such as 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. You can get bike cleaning or maintenance products for quite good money during these campaigns.
If you want a bit more choice, then Decathlon’s cycling brands BTwin, Triban and Van Rysel offer low prices and quality that ranges from not bad at all.
Replacing a stolen bike is the biggest and most painful cost most cyclists ever have to face. Although the initial investment in a decent bike lock can be hefty, it will save you from losing your bike.
Consider taking out insurance on your bike too. Admittedly, this costs you money every month but again, losing your whole bike without getting any of your money back would be far more costly.
Cycling clothing and accessories can rack up a pretty bill if you want to be fully colour-matched and rocking the newest and trendiest garments. Consider investing in key items such as great quality bib shorts, a short and long-sleeve jersey and a couple of good baselayers. If you choose neutral colours, they are unlikely to go out of style so quickly, and you can keep riding in your trusty kit without looking 'retro'.
The quality of cycling clothing varies massively, and as a rule of thumb, the cheapest of the cheap options are not quite as well-performing and durable as those that cost a little more. You don't have to spend hundreds of pounds, though. Cycling clothing, like any garments in the world, run in seasonal cycles, and you can grab great bargains on the premium brands on sale.
You can also buy jerseys (and bib shorts, if you so feel!) online, and that's again a great way to get something good quality at a cheaper price.
As good as cycling- and sport-specific nutrition products are, you can get quite far with supermarket supplies. If you love long distances, fuelling yourself can become quite an expensive ordeal with dedicated carb mixes and hydration products.
At the simplest level, you can buy a chunk of icing sugar or marzipan for about £2.50 per kilogram. Both of these have heaps of carbs in them - icing sugar has about 87g of carbs per 100g. Compliment that with the likes of bananas and some electrolytes in your bottles, and you might be saving a pretty penny…. and possibly be put off sugar forever.
If you're partial to indoor cycling, you can often get free trial subscriptions for platforms such as Zwift or Rouvy. If you just want to get your training done, you could get one month free at one, and then move onto the next provider for another free spell, or take a free month on a different platform each year between renewing subscriptions to mix up your training experience. Just remember to cancel those trials on time if you're not going to take out a subscription, though...
When it comes to components and clothing, you can sometimes save by joining a mailing list or simply getting a discount code from a friend or newsletter, so keep your eyes out for those.
Mates rates is certainly a very common phrase amongst cyclists, and you might hear people say they got something for their bike on "trade". If you have friends who work in the cycling industry, you might have access to their discounts on components and parts, sometimes even full bikes!
So it's worth seeking out those friends and keeping them -- but remember that if they do a favour for you, it's only polite that you pay it back if you can. By offering to buy them a coffee at the next few rides, for example!
What are your top money-saving cycling tips? Let us know in the comments below!
Suvi joined F-At in 2022, first writing for off-road.cc. She's since joined the tech hub, and contributes to all of the sites covering tech news, features, reviews and women's cycling content. Lover of long-distance cycling, Suvi is easily convinced to join any rides and events that cover over 100km, and ideally, plenty of cake and coffee stops.