The main reason I began to cycle around London years ago was to save myself some cash. I was a student and just getting myself to Central to go to lectures and back was costing me more than a fiver every day.
So I dragged out the bike of my teenage years, raised the seat and set about learning how to safely cycle the busy roads and navigate the confusing one-way systems of my city. And I caught the cycling bug.
Over the next few years, I went through three bikes – but made substantial travel savings.
The Old Bike Knocking Around In The Shed
Though very basic, my first bike saw me through my first year of cycling around London. It cost me nothing, though I did invest in a helmet, decent lock and hi-viz jacket at around £70 for the lot.
But after this initial cost, cycling saved me around £25 week in bus and Tube fares, not to mention time I avoided hanging around at bus stops and walking to and from the tube station.
Even if you assume that there were weeks I didn’t use public transport quite so much, or was on holiday, I’d still estimate I saved £1,000 that year, minimum. Not bad for a bike wheeled out of my parents’ shed.
If you do have a bike in working order knocking around, you’re likely to make the most significant savings, as you don’t have the initial outlay. But even if you need to buy a bike, over a few months it will pay for itself, and with the Cycle To Work scheme, you won’t even notice the initial cost (more on that later).
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The eBay Bike
The second bike I bought second hand off eBay for £75. I had a few improvements and personalisations made to it (£60) and had it serviced after six months (£50) and a year later (another £50) – yearly services are definitely recommended if you’re not one to faff around under the bonnet as it were.
In two years I never got a puncture (lucky, though getting them fixed costs as little as £10), and never needed to make further improvements. So the £235 a spent on the bike ended up saving around £2,000 compared to my Central Line commute from Bethnal Green to Tottenham Court Road. It may also have saved my sanity.
Cycle To Work
Not everyone has the time or inclination to spend hours on eBay scouring for the best bike deals.
But if you’d like a new bike, want to be reassured that it’s definitely not going to fall apart, or just want to be able to ride it away from a showroom, the Cycle To Work scheme is probably for you.
After almost five years on two wheels I decided it was finally time I treated myself to a shiny new bike. I had moved further out by this point too so the commute was more intense and I needed a more reliable bike.
I registered for the C2W scheme, chose a £450 spend and excitedly received my voucher.
The scheme works by giving employees a voucher for the full amount of the bike they want, plus accessories. They can spend this up front in a variety of cycle shops, and then the cost is taken out of their monthly pay over the year. But it comes out of the gross pay making it essentially tax-free. So for my £450 voucher, I paid back £25.50 a month.
When you take into account the tax saving, my new bike and accessories ended up costing me £300. I worked out that using it to commute to work has saved me £2,464 in the year, less £50 service and £45 for insurance. And let’s be realistic and admit that there are days when I can’t find my bike keys or waterproof trousers or am just too hungover to get in the saddle. So say I don’t cycle religiously every day and round it down to £2,000. That’s still an awfully big saving.
Currently on a daily basis, my 40 minute commute works out at just £1.15 a day, or 8.22p a mile.
It also saves me 11 hours a month in reduced commute time.
By comparison, if I don’t cycle I have to take the bus to the Tube and then walk, which takes around 55 minutes and costs £10.60 a day (capped at the TFL rate for zones 1-4).
There are occasional extra costs for cycling. You might need a new helmet, some proper cycling gloves or good-quality cycling shorts or tops, say, or you might get a puncture or need to replace a tire. But even with these incidental costs, I save a huge amount by cycling to work and would recommend you give it a go and see how much you can save.
If you want to work it out in advance, check out the Cycle To Work calculator, where you can input your comparative journeys by bike and by public transport or by car.