Biking is a great way to strengthen your family bond while promoting good health through exercise. Create a fun and healthy new biking habit with your family to get in some quality time together.
Even though most biking trails are free, there’s still the issue of cost when it comes to outfitting the whole family with bikes. Then, there’s the often pricey equipment and accessories everyone will need to make your on-the-trail time a success. So, what’s necessary, what’s not needed, and how do you make biking as budget-friendly as possible (while keeping it comfortable and fun)? Whether you’re just starting out or ready to upgrade old equipment, we’ve rounded up the top tips from experts guaranteed to make your summer totally bike-tacular!
Just like a new car dealership, buying a brand-new bike isn’t necessarily the most cost-effective way to grab yourself a set of wheels. Rather than paying hundreds of dollars of overhead, look for gently used equipment at a number of locations. Before buying, it’s important to know bikes come in different sizes. Visit a bike shop, or do some online research to determine the size that best fits each rider in your family.
Size isn’t the only thing that matters. What a bike is made of (and how it is made) is also important to consider. Steel- or aluminum-framed bikes will always be cheaper, but where possible, hunt down lightweight carbon frames. They cost a little more, but last a lot longer, are less likely to rust, and save your legs on those uphill climbs!
When buying bikes, keep in mind there are generally three basic bike categories:
- Road bikes are made for riding on smooth, paved roads. With thin tires, rounded handlebars, and several gear options, these bikes are made for comfort on extra-long rides.
- Mountain bikes are made for off-road trail riding. They are typically heavier and studier than road bikes with larger tires to maintain stability on rocky terrain. Look for carbon frames and full suspension bikes for max comfort, though hard-tail mountain bikes are typically the most inexpensive option.
- Cruisers. Perfect for buzzing around city or beach sidewalks, cruisers are generally set-gear bikes made for long, straight paths. When it comes to cruisers, weight doesn’t matter, but size does. If this is the bike for you, be sure to buy a bike that fits. You don’t want one that’s too big!
Where to find bikes on a budget
Know which bike you need? Here are a few of the best places to buy used bikes:
- Used sporting goods stores. Scope out used sporting equipment stores. You’ll find great prices on used fitness gear, and they may have a wide selection of bikes for everyone in the family at very reasonable prices.
- Yard sales. Chances are you’re not going to find bikes for the whole family all at once this way, but with a little patience you can cruise neighborhood yard sales for used bikes at rock bottom prices. Don’t be afraid to haggle! This is the best way to get cheap kids bikes.
- Bike store trade-up programs. Some bike stores offer trade-up programs if you initially purchase bikes through their store. Trade-up every 2 years and get 40% off your next new bike purchase. Ask if they offer whole-family discounts too.
- Post-holiday sales. If you have your heart set on brand new bikes, the best time to purchase is after the Christmas season, at the end of January and beginning of February. Stores want to move out old stock to replace with newer models. The downside? You’ll have to wait until next summer to bike!
- Community collectives. Many large and mid-sized cities offer nonprofit bike collectives. These volunteer-run organizations take donated bikes, repair them, and sell them for cheap — most won’t charge more than $100 for a just-tuned bike. They’re not only a great way to buy a bike: ask your local collective if they hold mechanic classes, as well. They’ll often host free clinics where you can learn to repair your own bike, which will save you even more money in the long run.
- Craigslist. Watch for bikes on Craigslist, which is a free internet service offering for sale items in various categories. Look for bikes at the beginning of the weekend and respond right away if the price is right. You can narrow your search by geographic area and price, so this is an easy way to shop from home. When buying on Craigslist, be sure to compare your purchase with other online websites to be sure you’re getting the best deal.
While you’re at it
When shopping on Craigslist, don’t forget to hunt down a used bike rack. They can cost upwards of $500 new, but a gently used bike rack does everything a new rack does! Do some online research and find which bike rack best fits your vehicle. Smaller cars work best with roof racks, while SUVs fitted with a towing package are ideal for convenient, larger racks. If you already have your eye on a specific style, be sure to look online for the lowest price. A lot of websites offer the same racks, so you can window shop until you’re certain you’ve gotten the best deal!
Once you’ve purchased your bike, there are a few must-have accessories that should accompany you on every bike ride. Though many of these items can be purchased used, it’s recommended that you pay a little extra and buy them new to ensure maximum safety. To save the most cash, price them out online with outdoor retailers. If at all possible, buy in the fall months, when summertime sports equipment is sold cheap to make way for wintertime gear.
Here are some items for your bike adventures:
- Repair kit
- Extra tubes
- Mini bike pump
- Bike shorts
- Bike jersey
- Bike gloves
- Sporty sunglasses
- Lightweight rain jacket
- Mini first aid kit
- Nonperishable snacks
Affordable bike trail guides
You may have ridden a bike when you were a kid, but learning “how to ride” bikes as a recreational sport takes practice, expertise, and a lot of trail knowledge. Learning where to ride is best done with someone who knows the local trails, and who can teach you proper bike etiquette. You can always hire a bike tour company to take you around until you’re familiar with an area, but organized tours often cost hundreds of dollars per person.
Save cash and get sporty all at once with these inexpensive options instead. They’ll teach you the trails in no time at all, and help you make memories that don’t break the bank!
- Free local clinics. Bike shops in bike-friendly areas will often host free summertime clinics. Call shops in your area to see when their next clinic will be offered, or see if they’d be willing to schedule one for new riders. You can even offer to assemble a group, if they’re willing to provide a ride leader!
- Facebook groups & meet-ups. Road and mountain bike riding is rarely a solo sport. Look for groups that gather in Facebook groups or on the Meetup.com website, and ask if you can join. You’ll find a whole gaggle of friends plus seasoned riders that can show you the ropes for free.
- Online bike websites. If you’d prefer to go it alone, hundreds of trail websites make it easy to find the best rides for your level. Search for “best bike trails” in your local area. Google is likely to turn up several sites for mountain and road biking that will show you all the best places to go — for free!
By the time you get your bikes, gear, and other goodies, the initial cost for bikes can seem to add up. Even with these saving tips, prepare to set aside $150-$500 per person to get your family outfitted with bikes this year.
Though that initial price tag may seem expensive, the pay-off is immense. Not only does biking keep your heart healthy and enhance circulation — it’s incredibly fun! Once you have the gear, you can go again and again. Chances are, you’ll discover (as so many other people have) that biking is an incredible form of ecotherapy. It’s exciting, thrilling, and a great way to spend time with companions you adore.
Follow these tips, spring for bikes this year, and save! You’ll have a fleet of sweet wheels plus you’ll have all the makings of sweet memories, hours of enjoyable exercise, and a hundred-thousand incredible pedals through the great outdoors.