Is $3,000 on an e-bike worth it?

#1

Originally published at: https://www.ohmydollar.com/2019/04/24/ebike/

Are you thinking about taking the plunge into the world of e-bikes or cargo bikes? At $1,000 – $5,000, it can be hard to justify the expense. We hear from people about their own choice to get an ebike and why the expense made sense for them, and share some tips on figuring out if it’s right for you.

Thank you SO MUCH to the over 100 people who submitted their stories about getting an e-bike on the Oh My Dollar! forums and the PDX Cargo Bike Gang page. I couldn’t use all the amazing stories and keep this show a reasonable length!

Links Mentioned in the Show:
My longtail bike, Persephone, an xtracycle conversion, carrying a folding bicycle
What a Longtail bicycle looks like carrying a kayak!
AAA’s “Cost to Own and Operate a Car”

Below is a non-comprehensive list of the many, many bike models mentioned in the show.

Non-Cargo E-bikes:

Blix Vika+ – a folding ebike
AM1 Ebike
Genze.com
Bilenky Viewpoint (semi-recumbent with e-assist added)
Faraday

Box Bikes (aka Bakfiets):

E-Bullitt
Packster 80

Longtail Bikes

Surly Big Dummy
Xtracycle
Madsen Cycles
Bike Friday Haul-a-Day (folding)
Radwagon

We’ll continue this discussion on the Oh My Dollar! forums! We’d love to help you decide which bike to get (or not get) on this thread. We don’t bite, Join us at forum.ohmydollar.com. We’re a great non-judgemental place to ask questions or participate in our daily check-ins, show off your pets, and talk about money. It’s really quite fun. Most of the forum is hidden from view, so register to see more!

Ask us a question!

We love hearing from you! Email us your questions or cute bike pictures at questions@ohmydollar.com or tweet us at @anomalily or @ohmydollar

Other Episodes You Might Enjoy:

Transcripts made paw-sible by listeners like you

We absolutely love our Purrsonal Finance Society Members, the folks that generously support Oh My Dollar with $1 or more a month on Patreon – and have made is so we have free, full transcripts for every show on ohmydollar.com.

This episode was underwritten by patron Tamsen G Association. To learn more about being part of the Purrsonal Finance Society and get cool perks like a fancy icon on our forum and cat stickers, you can visit ohmydollar.com/support

Is $3000 on an e-bike worth it_.mp3

Download the “Is $3000 on an e-bike worth it_.mp3 audio file directly. This mp3 was automatically transcribed by Sonix (https://sonix.ai).

Will Romey:
This show is supported by generous listeners like you through our patreon. This episode was underwritten by the Tamsen G Association. To learn more about cool ways to support Oh my dollar! and get perks like exclusive livestreams and a fancy special icon on our forums, you can visit ohmydollar.com/support/

Lillian Karabaic:
Welcome to Oh My Dollar! A personal finance show, with a dash of glitter. Dealing with money can be scary and stressful. Here we give practical, friendly advice about money that helps you tackle the financial overwhelm. I’m your host, Lillian Karabaic,.

Will Romey:
I’m your other host Will.

Lillian Karabaic:
Okay Will, this was a topic that was suggested by people on the Oh my dollar forums which seem to be coming up a lot recently in shows –

Will Romey:
I like this topic.

Lillian Karabaic:
That’s because the forums are great.

Lillian Karabaic:
So one of the questions that people had, was how to figure out the tipping point at which you can justify the cost of an expensive bike. In particular e-bikes or electric bikes or cargo bikes. So, a lot of cargo bikes are pretty expensive, e-bikes.

Lillian Karabaic:
I think I’ve talked before and the show is that I have just a regular bike but it’s custom and so I have a pretty pricey bike.

Lillian Karabaic:
So I maybe we’ll talk a little bit about that, but we’re going to mostly dive into e-bikes because those have a pretty specific cost cost threshold. Like it’s harder, it’s harder to get them for less than say $2000. A lot of people go up to $5000 or so on an e-bike.

Lillian Karabaic:
And there’s a ton of different bikes and we’re not going to get deep into the debate on ebikes. We’re going to talk- because in the biking community – oh, man is there a debate.

Lillian Karabaic:
But what we are going to talk about is – people that chose to get an e-bike or a cargo bike, what they considered when they were trying to work out the financial calculus of what is a pretty big investment.

Lillian Karabaic:
And even some people who ended up deciding that calculus didn’t make sense for them. We’re going to walk through it. So hopefully, it will give you some ideas if you’re thinking about making the leap into an ebike or a cargo bike, to try to walk through different scenarios there.

Lillian Karabaic:
So transportation is one of the largest cost for folks in this country. It is – for- it depends on your income level, what percentage of your income it is, but if you’re in the lowest 20 percent of income, then it accounts for 13.4% on average all of your total expenses.

Lillian Karabaic:
And if you’re in the highest income category it actually goes up to 15.5%.

Will Romey:
And do you think that’s almost all car ownership? BVecause that seems way higher than I would have guessed.

Lillian Karabaic:
This is transportation across the board. This is an average, though right? So and cars are generally one of the most expensive forms of transportation. AAA estimates it cost nine thousand dollars a year to own a car, between parking, the car purchase, financing, insurance.

Will Romey:
Gas.

Lillian Karabaic:
A lot of people have been interested in kind of replacing car trips – especially as gas prices go up.

Lillian Karabaic:
I mean, Americans are very spoiled we pay one of the lowest prices for gas of any country outside of the Middle East- but it still really hits your wallet when you’re used to paying three dollars a gallon and if it’s jumped to four dollars a gallon, right?

Lillian Karabaic:
Like that’s a 30% increase – makes a huge deal. So a lot of people are looking into alternative transportation and a lot of people want to start biking. Obviously, I bike I’ve never owned a car and I bike for errands for work.

Lillian Karabaic:
And some people don’t want to-.

Will Romey:
It’s fun.

Lillian Karabaic:
For fun. I mean it seems like – it’s actually fun which I think is, it is one of the few transportation modes that I feel is genuinely fun.

Lillian Karabaic:
But the problem is that, if you live in the states if you live in North America, most of it is just not set up to accommodate bicycle trips right? So some cities are trying to push for it and do more urban planning.

Lillian Karabaic:
But if you live in the suburbs if you live in a less friendly city, that you might have a 10 mile or more trip just to get anywhere interesting.

Lillian Karabaic:
Will and I live in Portland, we’re very lucky it’s pretty easy to get around by bike here. But most people do not live in the biketopia that is Portland, Oregon and even in Portland, there are big hills, there are fast roads,

Will Romey:
rude drivers.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah a lot of majority people drive to get work in Portland still. Right?

Lillian Karabaic:
Or people are already biking and getting around, but then they have kids or they start needing to change their commute and they have a longer commute or a Hillier commute and they start thinking “Oh maybe maybe I need to change the type of bike I have.”

Lillian Karabaic:
Right. Because the average bike actually costs I think 300 dollars, which is significantly cheaper than the average car. But once you start getting into those fancier bikes, the electric assist bikes which help you by having a kind of quiet motor that will give you a boost either over hills or sometimes they will quietly run in the background all the time and just give you a little extra assist with your pedaling or a cargo bike which are one of those if you’ve seen them- They’re very common in Amsterdam and Copenhagen.

Will Romey:
And Portland.

Lillian Karabaic:
And in Portland those big box bikes or bakfiets as they’re known. And then there’s another kind of bike cargo bike called a longtail.

Lillian Karabaic:
I’m going to introduce those names because.

Will Romey:
I didn’t know their name, that’s good.

Lillian Karabaic:
So a long tail other also known as an xtracycle or a surly big dummy is one of the brand names. Those are bikes that that’s what my cargo bike is. It’s a bike that has an extended piece on the back that can haul cargo or passengers.

Lillian Karabaic:
So the rear wheel is set back about 20 inches or so from where it would be in a normal bike. And there’s a platform, and there is usually side cargo pockets, so there’s those are kind of one of the more affordable options.

Lillian Karabaic:
The most affordable option usually across the board for hauling cargo other than just a basket on the front or your bike – is a trailer. And that’s because kid trailers a lot of people get them just for recreational purposes, but they can actually usually haul a fair amount of cargo with them.

Lillian Karabaic:
But there are some downsides and some reasons why you might want to go with an ebike or a cargo bike.

Will Romey:
Interesting. I kind of want a trailer for my bike.

Lillian Karabaic:
Trailers are great. Aaron wrote in and said “I bought a trailer instead of a cargo bike but I haul 100 to 300 pounds fairly regularly. So I tell people my trailer is worth its weight in gold.”

Will Romey:
I mean it’s like the only time I use Uber or Lyft these days is to drag my laundry over to the laundromat when it’s a big load. And I don’t feel like putting it on the bus.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah that’s.

Will Romey:
Ebike could solve that. My my my seven bucks seven bucks a month.

Lillian Karabaic:
But I mean that’s one of the really big things is being able to just easily move things. I – I always say that when I moved from a messenger bag to a backpack, it was life changing.

Lillian Karabaic:
It was like “oh I don’t have to put all this weight on one shoulder”.

Will Romey:
Oh my shoulders twist all the time.

Lillian Karabaic:
And then I moved from a backpack to a pannier which is one of those bags that goes on to the weight of your bike. And they’re great because they let your bike carry the weight as opposed to your shoulders. That was life changing.

Lillian Karabaic:
And then when I moved from panniers to an xtracycle cargo bike – which I commuted 20 miles a day on my cargo bike for years, because I hauled- I commuted 10 miles across town. So I hauled everything I possibly could – so that I didn’t have to- Only once did I have to go back in the middle of the day and that was a long day.

Lillian Karabaic:
Forty miles is a lot to ride in a normal workday. But if that’s maybe your commute, maybe you’re in the camp of people who want to consider an ebike.

Lillian Karabaic:
One of the big things that makes people considering ebike is overwhelmingly.

Lillian Karabaic:
Two things stood out. Folks needed to make it easier to travel long distances so they had a long commute or they had a commute like over a mountain.

Lillian Karabaic:
Or they wanted to compensate for heavier loads. So they have kiddos that are getting heavier and heavier, harder to haul around in a trailer, or they have heavy loads that they’re carrying because of work.

Lillian Karabaic:
They have equipment to carry whatever – last but not least reasons, that people considered an ebike was mobility issues. So if they have asthma or arthritis and they found it easier to bike on an ebike than it.

Will Romey:
With the pedal assist.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah with that little pedal assist to make the bad days a little easier. So I – this was our most – we got the most listener input of any topic that we’ve ever done.

Will Romey:
Heck yea.

Lillian Karabaic:
Which probably speaks to the fact that I formerly worked in the bike industry so I knew a lot of people to ask – but we had over 70 comments.

Lillian Karabaic:
So there were so many good and interesting questions, and I thought it was best to just ask people who did make the jump into an ebike or cargo bike why they chose to do it.

Lillian Karabaic:
Overwhelmingly folks said that they were able to justify the cost of a ebike or a cargo bike as a replacement for getting a car.

Lillian Karabaic:
So either their first car or they didn’t want to get a second family car. Marni said my kiddo is too big to haul, he just hit six feet.

Lillian Karabaic:
But I had an all electric fiat that I was leasing and it was time to turn it in. I rarely drove to work anyway, but between the lease, insurance, and paying for parking just two days a week – seven dollars minimum, my bike was paid for in about six months.

Lillian Karabaic:
I haven’t driven to work since May 2018.

Will Romey:
Anne said we had two cars one very reliable and one terribly unreliable that was costing us 400 dollars a month repair averaged out over the year. I got fed up with it, and decided to donate the car and buy a cargo bike – an xtracycle radish in 2011.

Will Romey:
[Will commenting] These have great names by the way.

Lillian Karabaic:
They do.

Will Romey:
I figured it was only six months of repair bills at that point. We never bought another car. We added a Madsen when I became unexpectedly pregnant with a third child in 2016 and needed something that could carry an infant. All told, I think we have maybe spent a year and a half repair bills for the car we have got rid of.

Will Romey:
Never mind the insurance gas general wear and tear.

Lillian Karabaic:
Another note Kristi said our cargo bike was $2500 and the car was $400 but the bike costs may be hundreds per year to maintain at most.

Lillian Karabaic:
And the car is thousands. Insurance is $85, $20 to $30 in gas a month on average plus maintenance. And a lot of credit unions have short term loans to help with the initial outlay for a bike.

Lillian Karabaic:
[lillian commenting] I actually worked with the first bank to credit union to ever offer bike loan at my old job this year.

Will Romey:
And I never even thought about loans for ebikes. Yeah that that makes a lot of sense right at that price point.

Lillian Karabaic:
And you know ideally ideally we don’t like to borrow money for depreciating assets, but that can help lessen the initial blow.

Lillian Karabaic:
So for a lot of people Kristi said they are a car replacer, that it was just there are so many different price points in the market now and setups that it would it’s pretty attainable.

Lillian Karabaic:
Heather said “when I bought my eBay I didn’t have a car and I had to commute to a nearby suburb over the hills so I was able to justify the expense, but now we have a car and I drive to work. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to take my kid to his weekly therapy appointments.”

Will Romey:
Get your kid a bike.

Lillian Karabaic:
Esther said “We got a used e-assist bullit, yet another kind of cool name. Which I now think of as a small bike” –

Lillian Karabaic:
which is just be clear, it’s a pretty large cargo bike.

Lillian Karabaic:
But you it’s kind of one of those things.

Will Romey:
Apparently a larger bike is coming up.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah yeah. “Before kid number one and it was our around town in quotes “car.” So that was easy because it was cheaper than any reliable used sedan. After kid number one became daycare commute vehicle before he could sit upright.

Lillian Karabaic:
They don’t recommend a helmet before one year at the earliest so you need to be able to use a car seat in it. Then we got an actual car for out of town trips.

Lillian Karabaic:
Then we found out there was gonna be kid number two. Then the e-assist died. The car is more going out of town car. It’s gas hog large. Hard to park. It’s a camping van.

Lillian Karabaic:
So using it for commuting around town didn’t make sense. We upgraded to the fancy new mega giant assessed cargo bike – a Paxter 80.

Lillian Karabaic:
[lillian commenting] Which is a big bike.

Lillian Karabaic:
Which can carry both kids lunches, snacks, diapers, change of clothes, rain gear, boxes of outreach training materials, printouts, signs, swag, laptop. Me and husband both lug around for jobs, groceries – truly a mini mini van replacer.

Will Romey:
Sounds like a large bike.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah.

Will Romey:
Gonna Search some of these so I can see their pictures.

Lillian Karabaic:
“It made sense because brand new it cost about the same. As a rule a relatively reliable older sedan was six digits on the odometer”.

Lillian Karabaic:
So that was a huge factor as people noting that really a the price of a cargo bike is the price of a cheap used car. And so for a lot of people they just simply justified it if they could say that it was going to replace car trips for them.

Will Romey:
I see the Paxster 80, now that is a large bikes – it’s a cool one – I’ve definitely seen I feel like I’ve seen most of these models kicking around town here.

Lillian Karabaic:
So Genevieve said we really didn’t want to need to buy a second car, as expensive as an electric cargo bike was and we went pretty all out getting a Reise and Mueller Paxster 80.

Lillian Karabaic:
It was dramatically cheaper than another car, at the point we decided to go electric, we’d been using a not electric cargo bike for about eight months so we had learned what we liked and what we didn’t and knew that getting around kids primarily by bike was feasible and we were moving to a much more hilly area, and it felt like adding the electric assist was gonna be the difference we needed to complete the jump.

Will Romey:
Make Sense.

Lillian Karabaic:
We were right within a few months. I was riding the Packster more than 300 miles a month and by the end of that year we had sold our remaining car and gotten a separate second electric cargo bike instead. Almost two years in and our whole family, including my brother and his girlfriend, get get around primarily by ebike – with four adults and two soon to be three children. we have only one car used about one a week, once a week.

Lillian Karabaic:
At this point the only thing that’s hard to justify is the cost of the car.

Will Romey:
Yeah.

Lillian Karabaic:
We had a lot of people who talked about how a, the choice to get a e-bike rather than a regular bike – The cost was really for mobility reasons.

Lillian Karabaic:
So one of them was “I use mine for work. I transport orders to the post office and run deliveries so the orders can be pretty heavy. I used a long tail for years for kid transportation, groceries and loved it – but as I got older and my achilles tendons were acting up more and more, I found myself occasionally driving the car simply for that reason.

Lillian Karabaic:
This limited my wife’s options since we’re a one car family. So I started to look on craigslist to see what a used Nissan Leaf might go for since my needs were low mileage and in town, while I was searching I stopped myself and thought “What am I doing?” I should get an e-bike since I liked the long tail setup. I got an xtracycle edgerunner and it’s been amazing. I own my own business so I was able to have work buy it, which was a bonus.”

Will Romey:
Let’s cool. Cheaper than a company car.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah. Caroline and Paul said “financially it felt like if it would save them from buying a car – they don’t have a car at all – they were able to take their toddler daily today to daycare and convenience was key.

Lillian Karabaic:
Plus they were able to see the kid and carry on a conversation with him, while biking in a way that they couldn’t with a cheaper trailer.

Will Romey:
Not with him 15 feet in the back or whatever.

Will Romey:
I will.

Lillian Karabaic:
It’s not 15 feet away – long trailer. That’s if you’re carrying your child on a cargo trailer.

No I mean overwhelmingly a lot of the parents said that one of the big reasons that they used a box bike or a backfire yet was because bike choice made a huge difference in their ability to get their kids on the bike, to have flexibility as their kids got older and got heavier, and for their ability to just have a good conversation – keep an eye on their kids.

Lillian Karabaic:
And a lot of people that were carrying kids before they hit that one year mark when they’re not supposed to wear a helmet yet. The box bike was really the only option in order to have that kid in a car seat easily.

Will Romey:
I didn’t know that kids under one shouldn’t wear helmets.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah I mean they also like don’t really make helmets but you don’t want to like.

Will Romey:
Squish their squishy heads.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah their heads are all squishy right.

Will Romey:
So I had some formative years in the back of a burley trailer.

Lillian Karabaic:
Oh yeah.

Will Romey:
Little brother., too,

Lillian Karabaic:
just- just say you know my dad tipped me over on a bike when I was a kiddo and I still grew to love bikes, so parents out there if you accidentally fall with your kid on the bike. There’s still hope they won’t be scarred for life. Hopefully.

Lillian Karabaic:
A lot of people said that they tried several different types of cargo bikes to try to figure out what was best for their needs.

Will Romey:
Oh yeah. I wouldn’t wanna spend that much money on a bike without trying lots of options.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah. Ralph said “We tried trailers but ultimately we ended up with a used bakfiets and a viewpoint with backseats. And both had E-assist added.”

Lillian Karabaic:
One of the big things though people said when considering bikes was that they if you have to go on transit suddenly an e-bike or a cargo bike make a lot less sense.

Lillian Karabaic:
So Mary said “we’d been really happy using kid seats and occasionally a trailer with our regular bikes. We live on the west side of Portland and therefore we have to take the max, our light rail through the tunnel every workday during rush hour so a cargo bike wouldn’t be practical because you can’t put it on the train, even if they weren’t so expensive.

Lillian Karabaic:
And Marni chimed in and said “I found not being able to take my ebike on Max to be one of the only things that’s a downside. It’s too heavy to put on the bike hooks. I have a 40 pound Faraday which is one of the lightest ebikes that you can get and I can’t get it up there.”

Lillian Karabaic:
And that’s the big thing. Even like a longtail, I’ve taken my long tail on- I’ve taken it on the max and like hung it on the bike hook. But I would only do that not during rush hour. And you have to do kind of a weird angle thing to get it up there.

Will Romey:
I’ve seen that. Yeah it is. It is a weird angle.

Lillian Karabaic:
And and please remember that I am really tiny. So even my my cargo bike is a lot smaller than maybe Will’s cargo bike would be.

Will Romey:
Definitely long

Will Romey:
Oh yeah my hypothetical cargo bike about would definitely be very large.

Lillian Karabaic:
So but yeah but mine is still shorter. So like that’s one of the reasons I can fit my long tail on the train. So that’s one of the big things, to think about is like how you’re going to use the bike – are you going to have the functionality of of it.

Lillian Karabaic:
Other people said for mobility reasons they aren’t necessarily hauling kids but that they just found that the Ebike helped them on bad days.

I really liked Ellen who has arthritis and asthma’s story about why she got an e bike to bike on bad days. She has a car that she uses for her commute. “But biking is sometimes easier than me on walking and always faster- especially if I’m having a flare and avoids the exhausting logistical issues that transit involved. If it’s a matter of getting to the coffee shop I can still go, if I want to go up to the farmer’s market and get a load of heavy stuff, I’m not ruining my stylish farmer’s market look by struggling to get at home.

Will Romey:
That is my stylish farmer’s market look – Showing up all sweaty and exhausted, and then jamming some frazzled vegetables –

Lillian Karabaic:
You blend with the farmers you know I think that’s important.

Lillian Karabaic:
She said “I can get up and over Tabor” – which is our local giant hill in the middle of town – “and to work, unless I am actively dying. I don’t have to worry about timing the bus dragging myself to a stop or yet another bus or train driver pulling away instead of waiting waiting the 20 seconds for me or trying to finagle a seat on the bus or the train.

Lillian Karabaic:
“I think one of the last straws was having a bad arthritis flare and trying to get up the last hill to my office. I got off my bike and started pushing up the hill on the sidewalk. I thought I had the situation under wraps but someone stopped to ask if I needed an ambulance. I had a small group of people watching me assuming I had been hit by someone in a car or possibly a truck.”

Will Romey:
Yikes that’s all a very compelling argument for an ebike

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah I – There are quite a few people that mentioned that they live in hilly areas and they have asthma and e-bikes allow them to ride when they otherwise would not be able to ride over those hills with asthma.

Lillian Karabaic:
So that seemed to be a big thing. A lot of people just mentioned the marginal shift that an E bike gave them towards deciding to ride versus drive. So. Like they already liked biking, but they would choose to drive for speed reasons or something like that.

Lillian Karabaic:
Matthew said “it was a big enabler in getting an ebike to bike 80 plus percent of the time to work in the Bay. Anything I could do in a car commute I could do in an ebike commute just as easily.”

Lillian Karabaic:
Time was another big reason that people did it. So one listener wrote in and said “I live in Cambridge and commute to Boston 4.5 miles, 2 buses ebiking kept me warm and active through the winter often oftentimes between bus connections, It was up to 30 minutes which was about the amount of time it takes to bike.

Lillian Karabaic:
I wasn’t go – I wasn’t going to bike but the colder it gets, the crankier my arthritis in my knees my wrist get. However I was able to find a genze.com bike on sale to 50 percent which dropped it to approximately the cost of a bus pass over the course of a year.

Will Romey:
Oh Yea when you start doing that comparison.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah. “And it dropped my time outside from 45 to 60 plus minutes. Buses are canceled sometimes.” – She notes.

Will Romey:
Yea that sounds like Massachusetts

Lillian Karabaic:
“To 35 minutes max. So that’s a big deal. You know a lot of people think of biking as always taking longer.

Lillian Karabaic:
But one of the big things is that Ebikes can really shift that that negotiation right? And a lot of people mentioned that transit just is a lot more logistically challenging and.

Will Romey:
You gotta know what time it is and budget that into your schedule for getting somewhere on time.

Lillian Karabaic:
Right.

Lillian Karabaic:
And it and that would for a lot of people, if they had a car and their other option was transit or biking, they would end up taking the car because they didn’t want to deal with transit and they didn’t feel up to the bike ride.

Lillian Karabaic:
But getting an ebike allowed them, to make the choice to bike more often than taking a car.

Lillian Karabaic:
So that was a big thing. Car replacement was the overwhelming reason that people said that they were willing to do it, and a lot of people noted just that it was about six months worth of a car to get an ebike which is – kind of maps to the fact that the AAA says is about $9000 is the average cost of a car and the average the average ebike is about 4000 dollars, so that makes a lot of sense.

Lillian Karabaic:
Anne said we had two cars one very reliable and one terribly unreliable that was costing us 400 dollars a month for a pair average jet over the years. We never bought another car after we bought a cargo bike. All told I think we have spent maybe one point five years repair bills for the car we got rid of. Never mind the insurance gas general wear and tear gas.

Will Romey:
Sounds like a win. Someone should buy me a bike. And I’ll say things about it on the radio. Putting it out there.

Lillian Karabaic:
I think Sarah that we – just so you know we had probably the most overwhelming number responses to this to anything, and I think one of the big things is that people get really passionate about this, people cargo bike.

Lillian Karabaic:
People once they identify as a cargo or an ebike person, they really feel pretty strongly about it and that is largely because biking is still pretty fun. And I think that’s one of the big things is that like, it’s not very fun to talk about 401Ks.

Lillian Karabaic:
I don’t get 70 responses within two hours.

Will Romey:
yea Guys.

Lillian Karabaic:
When I ask people for like Hey how did you end up deciding to go with your 401k provider.

Will Romey:
Versus how did you decide your cool bike.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah exactly. I think Sarah did one of the best simple responses which is “a new car cost thirty thousand dollars. My ebike cost thousand. It takes me 20-40 minutes to get downtown in a car, depending on the time of day. On my ebike, it’s 20 minutes every time.

Will Romey:
Yea the consistencies huge. I find that even with my my my analog bike. It’s uh-

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah. I know what time I need to leave the house on I don’t have to worry about like oh is there traffic blah blah blah.

Will Romey:
Twenty 20 minutes river downtown not what time does the bus get here. What’s the traffic like.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah. And Sarah also noted parking is free and it makes me happy. And that was a big thing is people talked about just really enjoying it.

Lillian Karabaic:
So we’re going to walk through advice from some of our listeners on how to evaluate if this makes this jump makes sense to you after this break.

Lillian Karabaic:
Ways to test things out.

Lillian Karabaic:
Number one you can see if you can borrow or rent an E bike and try it on your usual commute, during your usual time. See if you feel comfortable – the cargo and ebike community is super into sharing and evangelicalism, so if you don’t – So if you don’t have a local shop you can still test things out make sure you try out your different options.

Lillian Karabaic:
That was a big thing that people said is that it took a couple different options to figure out what kind of bike worked for them. And some people even shifted and changed as like their kids grew or their needs grew.

Will Romey:
It does seem like there’s a very wide range. Even past like the types of motors but it just in like the overall body shape of the bikes.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah. There’s a bunch of different things and you know one of the things that Paul and Caroline mentioned is they’re radically different sizes – Caroline’s about my height. And they wanted to be able to switch bikes back and forth.

Lillian Karabaic:
So, finding a cargo bike that worked for both of them. That’s a big thing is just like they wanted to be able to be able to switch back and forth to to have the logistics of like carrying around their kid because switching you know all of their kids stuff between bikes would have been very frustrating.

Will Romey:
Oh that’s true.

Lillian Karabaic:
Here’s a big thing. If one if you have a local you bike or a cargo bike shop, I almost guarantee that they have some sort of test drive program. One of the big things though is I would say if at all possible, try to not just do a test ride around the block what you need to do is be able to figure out if you are comfortable, on your usual commute route, during your usual time.

Lillian Karabaic:
If you’ve never biked before, because it didn’t seem practical without an ebike, then a big thing is do your research. Local bikers – we’re evangelists. Right?

Lillian Karabaic:
And so quite often people will be willing to try to ride with you or help you figure out a route. Google bike maps is OK in a lot of places, but.

Will Romey:
I Don’t always love its choices.

Lillian Karabaic:
It’s not always great. I think it’s a little better in Portland because our city shares the data with Google. But if you don’t have it as an option where you’re at or you don’t really like their route, another thing to do is there will be local bike maps produced by whatever your state or city’s bike advocacy group is – hopefully you have one.

Lillian Karabaic:
But almost overwhelmingly they or your city’s bike advocacy committee, usually there is some sort of government mandate to increase the number of people getting around by bike, and because of that they will usually produce some maps or something like that.

Lillian Karabaic:
And so just test it, during your usual time. Because that’s one of the big things – is that we did find some people that said, they really wanted to switch but then they felt uncomfortable, you know carrying carrying their kids across busy traffic or they felt too vulnerable with vehicles going too fast close to them.

Lillian Karabaic:
And so really making sure that you can test it out because before you make a big investment like that you want to make sure that you’re actually going to use it right? So that is one of the big things if you don’t have a local shop, you can probably find a local group that, like a Facebook group or a listserv of people that ride cargo bikes, and I almost guarantee they will let you test out their bikes.

Lillian Karabaic:
That is one of the big things that you should try out and the next thing is to do the calculations – for not only the different types of bikes, so obviously on the cheapest end of hauling cargo or just bikes is a regular bike plus a trailer, on the most expensive end is something like an e-assist bakfiets bike.

Will Romey:
Right. Right. Brand new brand fresh off the rack brand in chrome.

Lillian Karabaic:
And you have to get it mailed over from the Netherlands because that used to be true before there was U.S. distributors. Portland has the first U.S. distributor of buckets.

Will Romey:
I didn’t know that but I would’ve guessed.

Lillian Karabaic:
But do the calculations for the different types of bike, but also compare it to the different modes. So maybe you want a bike that can go on transit in which case you’d need a lighter ebike like the Faraday or you need something that’s like an e-assist motor you put on a normal bike which is totally a thing you can get.

Lillian Karabaic:
Or maybe you some need something that’s really easy to throw kiddos in because you know that like if you have to argue with them about if they’re going to hold onto the back of your bike, you’re just not going to bike, Maybe you carry a kayak or a ladder in which case you’re probably going to want a long tail. Believe it or not the xtracycle founders, which is the type of long tail I have, they’re world famous kayakers. And the reason they invented the xtracycle was so that they could hold their kayak on their bike.

Will Romey:
You couldn’t put a kayak on your bike.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah totally can. On an xtracycle. It’s great.

Will Romey:
A small kayak wouldn’t it just like be hanging off of it?

Lillian Karabaic:
Well it goes. Yeah. It’s long but things like this thing called a siderunner so it goes out it goes next to the bike essentially.

Will Romey:
Okay okay. It’s like a lengthy paneer.

Lillian Karabaic:
We will link a picture in the shoulders of carrying it. And it also can carry ladders and things like that. So if you have to carry those kind of things just think about what your daily life is going to be like.

Will Romey:
Could it carry a kayak large enough to fit the bike in it? Like what if I needed to cross a river.

Lillian Karabaic:
So I know you but do they carry their bikes on inflatable boats. So when I was there when I worked at the bike valet in downtown Portland, because this is the most Portland thing ever a nurse commuted to work with a folding bike on her inflatable raft down the river and she paddled a raft to work every day and then she dropped both the raft and the folding bike off at the bike valet.

Will Romey:
Okay. Okay. No this this solves my hypothetical. Which of course comes up all the time from me- How do I cross this river with my kayak and my bike?

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah I. I know quite a few people that have done combo bike kayak trips.

Will Romey:
So all right touche.

Lillian Karabaic:
It is possible and but the next thing you should do is figure out the time and money differences against driving in transit. So if you’re trying to do this because you’re thinking oh this is a car replacement or oh like it’s getting harder and harder for me to bike, but I would be able to bike this much more if I had an ebike or something like that, then figure out the time and money differences against driving transit or whatever your other options are.

Lillian Karabaic:
So driving – you want to think about the full cost of driving. Parking downtown, your insurance. Things like that.

Will Romey:
Gas.

Lillian Karabaic:
Gas. If you’re replacing a car and transit you want to think about not only the cost but you want to think about time differences, so often especially compared to an ebike- Transit may take a lot longer. And there’s also the benefit of like “oh if you had an ebike you might be able to commute after the last bus runs or something like that.”

Will Romey:
So it’s true that this definitely saved me a couple times.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yes definitely. Like when I think about how much easier it is to to not have to plan when I leave somewhere. The other thing I like about my longtail is that sometimes it made things a little easier for me because it was very easy for me to carry another bike on the back of my bike. And so sometimes I would use. I would carry a bike to a friend or I would ride with a friend and then I would take their their bike back home because they were – I took a lot of friends to the airport, things like that. And then you know strap the bike on and bring it.

Lillian Karabaic:
It was my way to get my bike to the shop and be able to ride home.

Lillian Karabaic:
So those are things to figure out. I would recommend list out your cheap version of whatever these these trips are or you know maybe the cheap version is just keep riding a regular bike. And you know drive the car I have. What your medium term version is.

Lillian Karabaic:
And then what your dream version is, and actually plot out against the different amounts because maybe the difference between your cheap version and your medium version is reducing the amount that you drive by 50 percent or reducing the amount of lyfts you have to take by 50 percent and suddenly it makes a lot of sense.

Will Romey:
So yeah bikes are awesome. my conclusion.

Lillian Karabaic:
I think one of the big things is have some backup plans. So if you’re new to biking like if you’re thinking about getting an ebike because you’ve never commuted by work.

Lillian Karabaic:
If you’re using it to like upgrade something already used to it’s a little different. But if you’re new to biking as someone who has taught hundreds of bike commuting one to one workshops – that used to be my old job.

Lillian Karabaic:
I always recommend figuring out your backup plans, if you are used to commuting by car. You might not think about the fact that like you have to be able to fit everything in in kind of a smaller platform. So you know if you’re on a regular bike you need to be able to fit your backup plans on your panniers. And generally I’ve just noticed that people that bike regularly tend to have more backup plans in the back of their head.

Lillian Karabaic:
They kind of they kind of know the different.

Will Romey:
Know which bus I could hop on if I get a flat tire.

Lillian Karabaic:
Exactly. So things to think about are one you can figure out your boundaries which is like maybe you decide you’re not going to bike when the windchill is below 20 Fahrenheit or the chance of rain is above 50 percent. Like you know what make your boundaries so that you can kind of encourage yourself – know what you’re going to do if you need to get home from work on transit. If you can’t take your bike or what friend you can call, if you’re stranded and you need someone to carry your heavy ebike home.

Lillian Karabaic:
Think about where you’re going to lock your bike, during the day – ideally hopefully you have a safe place you played.

Will Romey:
In sight.

Lillian Karabaic:
At the very least in sight. And what – how you maybe are going to store your bike if you do take transit home. So those are things to think about is just what your backup plans are.

Lillian Karabaic:
One thing to know is that just like there is roadside assistance for cars there’s also roadside assistance for bike. So if you’re getting ebike because you you know live outside the city or you have a long commute, you can get different plans. I believe AAA, A Better World Club. A lot of them have ones and they will come pick up you and your bike and transport you up to 100 miles. So that is a good thing to know about if you are in a situation where you’re like. Well I definitely can’t call a lyft because there’s no lyft around here. There’s no transit.

Will Romey:
Or something like nothing would fit my giant ebike and Kayak. Right.

Lillian Karabaic:
And your other bike.

Will Romey:
How I roll there’s a river. I can’t jump.

Lillian Karabaic:
All of the different things.

Lillian Karabaic:
And then last but not least a lot of people talked about the fact that ebikes and cargo bikes and just bikes in general retain their value a lot better than cheap cars do.

Lillian Karabaic:
So that’s a big thing is that we’ve talked before. Cars depreciate as soon as you drive them off the lot. And that’s one of the reasons why you know we generally discourage people from, if possible taking out a big loan for a depreciating asset simply because you know you’re paying interest on something that’s going down in value. But generally people talked about having cargo bikes that they bought for two thousand dollars and if they maintain them in a decent in decent shape selling them for almost the same price 10 years later and so which is.

Lillian Karabaic:
Yeah very hard to find with a car. So that is a big thing that people talked about was just generally replacement costs. Kristi said they retain a lot more value than a car. So the main investment is upfront $1-5K seems like a lot for a bike. But now that we have a car it is still way more expensive to own and maintain than the bike.

Will Romey:
That makes sense. Yes.

And a lot of people said that the reason that they you know there’s kind of a pervasive myth that ebikes don’t give you a workout or something like that – but they’re not motorcycles. They’re not mopeds. You do still get to work out, especially on hills on an ebike. And so a lot of people did this because it was both a car replacement, but also a gym replacement for them – especially folks that are hauling kiddos. Or heavy equipment.

Will Romey:
Yea, that’s added weight.

Lillian Karabaic:
So that was one of the big things. There is so much interest in talking about this topic. I’m sure we will continue talking about this on the forums. So if you’re interested just tune into the thread when this episode airs on the forums and people you can compare different types of ebikes to your heart’s content.

Lillian Karabaic:
We’d love to hear if you have shifted to an ebike or or have shifted away from one – if you have a cargo bike. How you decided to make the financial investment. I think, as always it depends on your lifestyle and values. And it’s always good to run the numbers.

Will Romey:
Yeah.

Lillian Karabaic:
As usual right.

Will Romey:
I’m. I don’t know if this was quite what this episode was about but I’m now I’m considering more buying a burley or some trailer would be nice to be convenient. I don’t think I need to go fully ebike.

Lillian Karabaic:
Trailers are pretty great. There is also some trailers that are like foldable so they’re hoping for like apartment dwelling but the the big thing is like the more compact the trailer stores, the less it hauls generally. Yeah.

Will Romey:
So I’ve got a big house. It would be nice to haul some things around and I don’t think I’d need to modify my bike much to put it on there.

Lillian Karabaic:
Oh that’s one of the big things is yeah. You don’t have to modify a bike usually to put a trailer on right- versus panniers or something.

Will Romey:
Yeah I’ll report back.

Lillian Karabaic:
All right. We’re gonna find out if Will gets a trailer. \

Will Romey:
Wait till next episode.

Lillian Karabaic:
I’ll post a picture of my gorgeous gorgeous cargo bike.

Lillian Karabaic:
She’s very cute and I definitely did not pay thousands of dollars for my cargo bike I built it out of scrap from from a bike dumpster here in town. There’s like a local used bike shop, which was actually later the one I worked at. That’s a nonprofit, that on Sundays will let you for five dollars a pound come get things out of their bike dumpster.

Lillian Karabaic:
So that’s what I built my xtracycle out of.

Will Romey:
That’s a good way to do it.

Will Romey:
Does that wrap our show?

Will Romey:
that wraps OUR show for today. *Giggles*

Lillian Karabaic:
*GIGGLES* Let’s try that again.

Will Romey:
That wraps our SHOW for today – that wraps our show for today. We love hearing from you.

Will Romey:
E-mail us your financial worries, successes, bike pictures, thoughts at questions@ohmydollar.com or you can tweet us at @anomalily or at @ohmydollar

Lillian Karabaic:
Our producer is Will Romey, our intro music is by Aaron Parecki. My bike’s name is Persephone. And your host and personal finance educator is me, Lillian Karabaic.

Lillian Karabaic:
Thank you for listening. Until next time – remember to manage your money, so it doesn’t manage you.

3 Likes
#2

Yay! I’m listening to this one this morning.
I forwarded it to my mom. :slight_smile: She’s considering an e-bike and needs a push, I think. They can afford it, but she feels guilty spending $$ on herself, haha. She broke her arm a couple of years back and has dealt with some neck/shoulder issues ever since and needs to be on an upright style bike now. I think an e-bike would be perfect for her to tool around and keep up with my dad on his ridiculous GO FAST carbon fiber bike. :smiley:

4 Likes
#3

My son’s girlfriend’s dad just bought a Trek upright with e-assist and LOVES IT. He’s had an overnight sedentary job for years and when he started trying to be more active realized his body just wasn’t having it. He was really surprised to find there are quite a few options for commuter/hybrid style bikes with e-assist right now that aren’t boutique brands (like Gazelle which are popping up everywhere here).

4 Likes
#4

I have a chronic health condition that means I get muscle weakness in my arms and legs. I can’t drive, and I use my e-bike to commute a ~12 mile round trip daily. It’s completely changed life for me - my partner cycles everywhere and now it means we can do it together. Here in the UK we’re lucky to have at least two national schemes wherein via your employer you can get a voucher of up to £1,000 to buy a bike, and then payments are taken from your wages monthly, pre-tax. I topped mine up to get the e-bike. Potentially, every e-bike is a car off the road so worth it in my eyes :slight_smile:

6 Likes
#5

Thank you so much for this episode! I’ll be making much use of the transcript for this one…

#6

This episode was super interesting. I’m currently a non-cyclist for several reasons, but an ebike would solve several of them… the only remaining issue is that I never really leaned to bike and I don’t want to be all wobbly on city streets.

2 Likes
#7

I don’t know about where you are, but in town here we have a few groups that will help adults learn to ride in a safe environment (the answer is a slightly sloped parking lot, a very low seat, take off the pedals, and patience!) Adults can learn to ride usually fairly quickly once they get over the fear if they feel safe.

2 Likes