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Recession Cycling

May 12, 2009

These are hard times we’re living in.  U.S. Unemployment is at a 26-year high.  Depression is on the rise.  50 Cent is having trouble selling his new video game.  Gun enthusiasts are stocking up on arms.  We’re freaking out, basically.  This shit is completely fucking out of control and we’re all probably going to die.

But as the dire Google News headlines pile up, and our hours at the bike shop/record store/coffee shop/parents money get cut back, there is a silver lining to this fiscal cloud: more time to ride.

But this is a recession and times are tough, we’re reminded.  We’re going to have to buck up and make sacrifices (I’ve given up my front STI shifter in favor of a more modest-seeming downtube shifter).

Here are some tips to keep your cycling booming in these bust times:


Recession cycling tip #1: DON”T BUY ANYTHING! (except food)

Sure.  Consumer confidence is at an all-time low.  But that’s Obama’s problem, not mine.  I’m broke.  And the best thing we can do right now is hunker down, dig out the duct tape and the cardboard box full of crappy old parts and NOT BUY ANYTHING.  

Not buying anything is fun!  See how many times you can patch a single tube.  Test out the handling difference between new Michelin Pro Race 3s and cracked wire-bead Panaracers that you found in your Dad’s storage unit (you might be surprised).  Instead of buying a new $43 chain every time it gets a little stretched out, try switching to a more affordable  and perfectly compatible SRAM quick link chain that you stole off a rich person’s Cervelo and replaced with your old one (come on.  They’ll never notice the difference..).

Bicycle companies are perpetually trying to spread the myth that buying their product will make you faster.  And maybe they’re right.  For instance, my former roommate Sheldon Deeny rides a Pinarello Prince outfitted with Campagnolo Super Record 11.  


It’s a monumentally expensive, intimidating, and drool-inducing bicycle.  And Sheldon is fast on it.  In fact, Sheldon is a professional road racer for the Bissel team.  He beat Lance Armstrong in a stage of Gila two weeks ago.  His Pinarello must be fast, right?

Probably.  But I’m pretty sure that Sheldon would kick most normal people’s asses on just about any bike.  He trains hard, he’s been racing for years, and he juices daily.

And since most of you aren’t racing against Lance Armstrong, you don’t need a $12,000 bike.

You do, however need food.  

I’m a lazy, image-conscious man with blandly “healthy” and “cosmopolitan” tastes.  Therefore, when I’m reaching for calories, I reach for Whole Foods’ prepared food by the pound.  At $7.99 a pound, I could buy 1,501 pounds of Whole food instead of a $12,000 Pinarello Prince.  If I trained like Lance Armstrong, I’d need to consume 8-10,000 calories per day.  Let’s say that an average pound of food equates to 3,500 calories (even though it doesn’t really work that way).  And let’s say that I want to train harder than Lance, so I want to consume 11,000 calories per day.  

For the price of a Pinarello Prince, I could afford to eat boringly overpriced Whole food for 477 days, just enough time to get ready for the 2010 World Road Championship.  And if I did well in the 2010 World Road Championship on my current 9-speed, lugged steel road bike, Team Bissell would probably fire Sheldon, give me his spot and give me a free Pinarello Prince.

Then again, if I spent all of my $12,000 on a Pinarello Prince, I’d ride slightly faster for maybe two hours, then I’d bonk and have to limp my dream machine home embarrassingly.

Luckily, thanks to the recession, none of us can afford a $12,000 bike anyway.  Better save those duckets for food!


Recession cycling tip #2: Don’t race (except for cheap local events)

But I have to get my upgrade points to get into the 3s!  But I have to get my upgrade points to get into the 2s!I have to get my upgrade points to get into the 1s.  I have to go to Sea Otter to get points because Tyler Hamilton shows up at all my local crits.  I have to race so I can race better.  I have to win!  I have to win!              

No you don’t.

Racing is expensive.  The USA Cycling license is $60.  The ACA license is $45.  Races are $30 a day.  A tubular race wheelset is $500 or more.  Gas costs money.  Cars cost money.  You break stuff.  You crash.  Medical bills cost money.  Racing is expensive.

Racing does have its benefits, though.  Competition is incredible training.  Competition motivates you to ride more.  Racing builds bikefag communities.  And racing motivated me to quit smoking cigarettes.

But during these trying times, you can still get all the fun of racing without spending nearly as much money if you’re smart.  

The first step is living somewhere with a big racing community like Portland, OR or Boulder, CO.  But most places with bike racers have regular, fun races.  Fort Collins has the New Belgium Brewery Short Track Races that cost $5.  Boise has a weekly criterium series that costs $8.  These kind of races are all over the country.

The good thing about these local, not-that-crucially-competitive races is that they are still racing but you get to seem faster because of the easier level of competition, you get to pay next to nothing, and there are fewer and not as dangerous crashes because the competition isn’t as fierce.  Sure they aren’t “real” races, but who cares?  You’re racing people, aren’t you?  Well then shut up about it.

Again, if you’re a pro cyclist like Sheldon, then you’ve gotta race.  It’s a recession and you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do to put Whole Food on the table.  But for the rest of us, it just seems like a very low fun per dollar value.  

Riding a century, for instance, costs as much as the Cheesburger you buy in Estes Park and the $2.50 patch kit.

Racing every race of the 6 Day Oval Races series in Fort Collins, CO costs $30, and there’s a good opportunity to make your money back and then some in prize payout.

Whereas racing just ONE day of the Mountain States Cup, let’s say the Chile Challenge in Angelfire, NM, will cost you $50 for the XC race, $20 for on-site registration and $10 more if you need a one-day license.  Then you have to pay the gas to get there from, say, Colorado.  And then there’s $10 more for camping.  And since you’re there anyway, you might as well race the Short Track: $40 for probably less than 40 minutes.  Assuming you already have a license and registered ahead of time, that’s about $160 to get there and race both days.  Bummer.  Personally, I’d rather just buy a hundred dollar pair of tubeless MTB tires and just ride for the next three months for free.


Recession Cycling Tip #3: Don’t get a job (or a second job.  Or a better job.)

If you’re reading this, you’re probably some privileged white boy who can go crying back to his daddy in Boulder, CO any time you get in a tight spot.  

These are tough times, and the few positions that are hiring are better left to single mothers and disabled citizens.  Have some compassion.  Just because you’ve got a college degree doesn’t mean that you need to take a single mother’s server position.

Just live frugally off of your 25 hours of bike shop wages by taking my above suggestions.

With all that spare time, what could you possibly do?


I know that we’re supposed to succeed in life and make our parents proud.  But that’s because they’re old and slow and jealous.  You can succeed when you’re old.  For now, it’s time to ride – even more.

It won’t be easy to keep everything rolling with little to no money.  And your 1998 Trek 5000 OCLV certainly isn’t the coolest bike in the peloton.  But if you spend your time riding while everyone else gets another job so they can afford a Pinarello Prince, your OCLV may be the fastest in the peloton.

I realize that taking my recession cycling advice might turn you into a lone wolf.  I understand that the entire cycling industry would argue against my thinking.  But Mike Sinyard needs to feel the pinch too, I say.  

Until the economy turns around and we can all afford Pinarello Princes; until we can all get back our jobs bartending wild Aspen cocaine parties and making $500 a night in tips; until Euro pros can once again attend wild cocaine parties without fear of the UCI’s wrath; until professional cyclist Sheldon Deeny is no longer forced to live in a basement on his meager team Bissel wages, my advice is to keep putting miles on your 1998 OCLV, grow out your leg hairs, reuse your old brake pads, and enjoy the weather.

You don’t need 11 speed.  You Don’t need a Pinarello Prince.  You don’t need a Cinelli Vigorelli.  You don’t need Dura Ace high flange hubs.  You don’t need a belt-drive 29er.  You just need your legs.

Riding is free.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. bikefag permalink*
    May 13, 2009 12:32 am

    BTW, here’s some ACTUAL advice if anyone is interested:

    • June 10, 2009 1:15 pm

      Ha! thanks for the referral. I was a bit sentimental that day. Funny when I look back. Not much tangible money saving stuff in there…Just needed something to write about that day I guess.

      Great blog Bikefag. Bookemarked and subscribed.


  2. May 13, 2009 3:24 pm

    I’m really digging your new blog, David. A couple of things I’m doing right now are:
    Race, but try and volunteer on race day in exchange for free entry fees. Most organizers are psyched to have you wear an orange vest or drive a bunch of wheels around in a circle.

    Brown rice syrup: it’s gu. We started a few months ago using brown rice syrup (from Natural Grocers) instead of Clif Shots and it works like gangbusters. Add coffee grounds for caffeine or sea salt for sodium. It’s 5 bucks for about 40 shots worth in a reusable shot bottle.


  3. May 21, 2009 3:47 am

    Awesome blog David!


  4. May 30, 2009 9:37 pm

    With wild coke parties on the fall, making a living in America’s a bitch, ain’t it? I’m the words of Mr. The Way, “show face & talk story.” David, your meeting both of those requirements here.

  5. Harold Oigfh permalink
    June 6, 2009 4:55 am

    hey dood u shud czeck owt mai blog!!!!

  6. June 30, 2009 7:46 am

    I found very informative. The article is professionally written and I feel like the author knows the subject very well. keep it that way.

    • bikefag permalink*
      July 6, 2009 9:25 pm

      Thank you, Cash Advanced Lenders. I should have also mentioned that during these trying times, pawn your bike at Cash Advance enders, everyone. Their rates and knowledge of bicycles are both unsurpassed!

  7. Cyclegoddess permalink
    February 25, 2010 10:10 am

    Also, if you have had glandular fever, use honey and agave instead of brown rice syrup( stay away from grains.) Add some cheap electrolyte tablets from chemist( ask for kids diarhoea tablets). Works great!!


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