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If you're an American who lives outside of Manhattan… you probably drive. Driving is so common, many of us don't even realize it's actually not a mandatory part of life. We just do it. Day in. Day out.
Why am I challenging this idea?
Because driving is expensive! According to the latest numbers from AAA, driving a medium sedan costs 58.5 cents per mile to operate. For most people, that's $8,780 per year! What could you do with that money if you weren't driving?
I've been biking nearly everywhere in my city for three years. Not only does the habit save money but I actually really enjoy it. Come to think of it – I've never been happier, healthier or wealthier than I am now. Coincidence? I think not. This post explains how I got here (and how you can get here too).
When you start biking, bike with junk. I used my brothers neglected bike, a helmet I got when I was 14 (still fit) and I didn't buy any special clothing. I just rode. When you start biking, it's best to prove to yourself that you'll actually stick with it. If you buy the proper gear and don't stick with riding – you'll actually lose money in this venture.
Where will you bike to? I found it easy to commit to biking to work every single day no matter what. Work was only 3.5 miles away via a pretty bike path. After a few days, I never considered driving to work. Where could you bike to? The movies? To the gym? To the grocery store when you only need a few items? Commit to going to one place. Pretty soon, you may bike everywhere like I do.
Your muscles will build. Biking may be difficult at first, but you won't really consider it a workout pretty soon. This is great, because you can either stay healthy without really trying or you can bike + get another workout on top of that. Integrating something like biking into your lifestyle makes a big difference. I liken it to paying off your credit cards each month. Once you make the transfer automatic, it's easy. There's a lot to be said with making things automatic.
Here's a very practical pro tip. Slow down before reaching your destination. This will keep you from sweating. As you ride, the breeze keeps you from sweating. As long as you're going at a decent pace (probably a minimum of 7 MPH when most people ride at probably 14 when they are on trails, streets, etc.) you won't sweat. But if you stop – instant sweat show. While sweating is healthy – it's not great to sweat before a business meeting. So to keep from sweating, slow down a mile or so before you arrive.
Once you've been biking for awhile congratulation yourself! You've probably saved hundreds of dollars so far. It's also time to buy nicer equipment.
Buy a Sweet Bike
Buy a quality bike. The rule of thumb is to buy a bike that has a MSRP of at least $500. You can buy it for less but make sure the MSRP is at least $500. This means you'll have a bike that will last.
Get the Proper Add-Ons
Next, buy the proper gear. Using a backpack can be hard on your back and make your back sweaty. Make sure your new bike has a rack on it or get saddle bags to carry your cargo if you need to bring stuff to work. Find a used kid trailer if you'd like.
Lights Are a Must
Get lights. It's illegal to ride without them at night in most cities. All you need is one for the front, one for the back. They are pretty cheap. I would steer clear of human-powered (via the pedals) lights because they are pretty dim from my experience. You also want light when you've stopped at times.
Helmet and Clothing
Get a helmet and some clothing you're proud to wear. This will encourage you to bike more often. What I also found is people will spot you as a biker. Then they ask how you do it. You tell them and BAM! You've made a new friend.
Biking is fantastic. Use the AAA link above to see how much you could save per year. Maybe you'll discover you won't even need a car… Talk about a huge savings.
Written by Will Lipovsky for MoneyNing and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.