Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Cost of Being Fred

Here we go again.

Every year about this time I get paralyzed by spending decisions. Buy a new bike; don't buy a new bike... Are my wheels too old, or can they go another year? And what about the ultimate toy of all, an SRM power meter???

Even with "pro-deal" pricing, we're talking thousands of dollars.

How can I justify dropping that kind of coin when there are people working six months a year in strawberry fields for the same amount just to feed their family? Or more selfishly, what about my kids' college fund? All the bike-racing expenses could equal the difference between Stanford and, say, Cal State Bakersfield!

Off to Phoenix now, but when I get back I'll have decided about this year's purchases.

In the meantime, here's what I posted on RBR a year ago when going through the same struggles:


As I contemplate purchasing a TT bike, the high cost (literally) of this silly sport is getting me down. Let's consider Fred, who is basically anyone that doesn't race for a living. Now if USCF demographics are correct, Fred is a 30-something high-tech professional living in Northern California and races at the Cat 3.5 level. And he's hooked, which means he trains 15 hours a week and he races at least 25 weekends a year.

Let's do the financial math for Fred...

Equipment: Got to keep up with the other Freds so Fred buys a new bike every two years at a annualized cost of $2,000. Plus new $1,500 race wheels every two years because, well, he's Fred and so he crashes sometimes. Add in regular replacements of training and racing tires, chains, and cassettes for another $750 a year. (Note: Fred wins bar tape, tubes, and patch kits in primes, so we don't need to include those costs.)

Annual equipment cost: $3,500

Team Kit: Let's figure on 3 bibs, 2 jerseys, skinsuit, arm & leg warmers, socks, undershirts, gloves, helmet, and glasses. Plus new shoes every two years, carbon-soled of course. Now Fred's sweat is pretty caustic (and he crashes) so let's add an extra 3 bibs and another skinsuit.

Annual kit cost: $1,000

Food: Training as much as he does, Fred has to eat more at home and on the bike. Now, Fred doesn't just eat bananas and drink water, he needs individually packaged gu's and powerbars, and bottles filled with cytomax. Plus pre- and post-ride high-tech drink concoctions.

Annual cycling-food cost: $500

Racing: Big-time Fred races 50 days a year (2 per weekend average) at a typical race-day entry fee of $30 accounting for individual and stage races. On average, race weekends require 200 miles of driving and let's say half also require an over-night stay. Fred drives an SUV and stays in nice hotels, but he's sensible so he shares these costs with his teammate named Fred. Because he's cool, Fred also wants to race once a year in a different part of the country, requiring an airplane trip.

Annual race cost: $2,500

Miscellaneous: Naturally Fred needs to buy a racing license (international of course, just in case) and pay club dues. He also has to subscribe to a variety of cycling publications for reading material when evacuating his gu and cytomax. Plus satellite TV to get Euro race coverage. Plus stuff I can't think of right now...

Annual misc. cost: $500

So far we have Fred spending $8,000 per annum to race his bike. But it can get worse...

Fred gets his ass kicked in TTs, so he NEEDS a TT bike with dimpled aero wheels and airplane-wing front end, which ought to last at least four years or so before he has to buy something better.

Annual TT-arms-race cost: $1,000

Also, since Fred lives in Northern California and thinks the Velo Bella ladies are hot, he needs to buy a cyclocross bike and do some CX races in the winter.

Annual CX cost: $1,000

Alright, Fred is now into bike racing at $10,000 per year just accounting for the easy-to-calculate costs. It would be much worse if we added in opportunity costs, such as being productive with the 15 hrs per week training time, and not being so tired at work. Fred's not married (obviously) so we don't need to consider the relationship and family costs.

Now I'm depressed so I'm going for a ride...

(not exactly Fred, but probably within 50%)


Here's the original thread on RBR.


Gianni said...

And I gravitated to cycling because I thought it was simpler...
great post.

Marco Fanelli said...

So true... that's what attracts us in the first place, but I think it's the complexity (on so many levels) that hooks us!

powerglide said...

Nice write-up. I got into cycling because I estimated it to be a relatively cheap hobby/sport. I didn't count on "upgrade fever" and "aparrel madness" adds up quick. BUT, still cheaper and healthier that many alternatives...Fred can afford it :)