Don’t Buy a New Bike, Buy New Experiences [The Balance]

Buying a different bike is not about getting a new toy. It's about widening horizons.

Photo: Matt Miller

Most of us are faced with this decision at least once every few years, if not once every year or two. For myself, it’s typically every winter. This isn’t because I buy a new mountain bike every winter, but because I have built up a versatile stable and I’m usually thinking about replacing one of my bikes every year. 

Winter in Colorado is the perfect time for me to slow down, bleed the brakes, overhaul suspension, maybe throw on new tires, and hang it up. I can snap a few attractive photos of the bike, and put the word out.

‘For sale: a pre-owned, but well-loved bike that has given me countless smiles over the years. There are a few scratches, but maintenance was performed at recommended service intervals and only needs a new, passionate owner to keep it spinning.’ Or, something like that. I try to convey that I ride my bike hard, but take care of it, and hope someone will still buy it.

Part of me always feels that upgrading my bike is a bit vain and unnecessary. It really doesn’t matter how I do the math either. I’ll be losing money, spent on upgrades, maintenance, and lost resale value on the old bike, not to mention that the money I’ll make from the sale will only cover a fraction of a new bike, whether that fraction is one-fifth or three-quarters. 

As someone who is pretty frugal in other areas of my life and tries not to spend money on a whim, it also makes me feel a bit spoiled to get rid of one technologically advanced bike in good working condition to get a more expensive and more technologically advanced bike.

Then there’s justifying it to my loving girlfriend, who never really seems to care too much — which also makes me positive she’s a keeper. Though, when you’re in a committed relationship, it’s a good idea to first put the idea out to your partner before it’s put out to buyers and sellers.

This is how it came about this fall when I was ready to trade up. Not only was I talking the upgrade over with her, but hearing the words come out of my own mouth made it easier to convince myself I’m doing the right thing. 

“See babe, if I get rid of my road bike, I can get this gravel bike thing. It’s still kind of like a road bike, but it’s got these bigger tires! Then I can spend a little bit more time on dirt roads, and trails, rather than around angry drivers. It just sounds safer, ya know?”

What I’ve enjoyed the most about growing as a mountain biker and a cyclist is that my two-wheeled interests change over time. And when that happens, I find it’s best to capitalize on those changing feelings because it only keeps my passion and motivation piqued longer, and gets me on the bike more often. 

This was the case when I argued for myself (against myself) for the gravel bike, and the same reason I upgraded my mountain bike last year to get something with less travel. I sold my previous full-suspension for less than half of what I paid for it, which is a significant loss of money. Some of this was because there was a little bit of damage to the frame. Also, I am in a position of privilege when it comes to obtaining bike components these days and it would be relatively inexpensive for me to purchase a new frame and build it up. The damage was disclosed, the buyer was still interested, and very stoked to get a kickass mountain bike at a great deal. I was excited because it meant that it was time to buy a new frame. 

It would have been silly for me to sell that bike, and get a new bike with the same specs and travel, for the sake of having something newer, and that’s where it would have felt vain. My new bike, with less suspension travel, is a more appropriate match for the trails I ride the most and is a good choice since I want to put in longer days on the bike. 

A year later, and I don’t regret the trade at all. I have the bike tuned to my liking and formed a bond and affinity for it, and I’m sure that my old bike made someone else smile all summer long.

As for my new gravel bike, my plan is working seamlessly thus far, even if I still have a few credit card payments left to cover the purchase. While I wouldn’t say that my new bike is outright better than my old bike, it’s certainly better at a lot of things, which widens the amount of opportunity I have. That makes me excited to ride it, to get more experience in a different discipline, and to try new things. So, while it may not be cheap, at least it came with some reward points.

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