The Cost of Maintenence

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Twenty years ago I bought a Schwinn Sierra from a friend of mine. In 13 years of riding that machine I changed the chain every year. I think I changed the freewheel cassette once during that time. Maybe twice. That maintenance was sufficient to keep that machine running reliably and I was putting as many miles on the bike then as I am now. With my five year old Giant Cypress, I paid five times as much as I did for the used Sierra and am changing the chain twice a year and freewheel every year, just to keep it working.

What kind of crap are bike parts made out of these days? At the rate I’m spending on maintaining my bike, replacing “consumables” like the freewheel and chain, replacing cables and the bottom bracket and other things that wear out, I could buy a new bike every couple of years or so. Have bike part manufacturers given up on building quality parts for anyone other than the highest-end purchasers; those that pay thousands of dollars for their bikes? Do the more expensive bikes have lower maintenance costs? Should I just buy a $300 bike, ride it until it doesn’t work anymore then just leave it in a ditch and get a new one?

The first step in making that determination is by doing the math to find out how much it actually costs me for maintenance.

Freewheel cassette, $25.00 / 2,000 miles = $0.0125 / mile
Chain, $22.00 / 1000 miles = $0.022 / mile

“Consumables”, that is, those things that will wear out regularly and need replaced, total $0.0345 / mile. And at about 2,500 miles / year, that’s $86.25 / year. (Or a new Giant Cypress every 3.5 years) And that’s assuming I buy the tool to change the freewheel myself. I haven’t been as careful keeping track of when other things went wrong and how much they cost to repair or how often tires wear out but estimates of that could bring the total up to $0.05 / mile or more.

So now, how much do YOU pay to maintain your bike on a per-mile basis? That information would give me an idea as to whether I should maintain my current bike, throw it away every three year or so or purchase a more expensive bike.

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