Sunday, 22 December 2013

Buying a Bike - Part IV. Practical considerations

Having had a think about what bike to get next, and doing some investigations into size, it is perhaps time to look at some practical considerations.

Perhaps the first thing to look at is the risk of theft
It is all very well getting an expensive, fully equipped superbike, but if it got stolen, then I have nothing but heartache to show for my empty wallet.

I have fairly secure storage at home:
  • We have a garage to store things in. I could also install reinforced mounting points in the wall or floor of the garage as required, as well as an appropriate level of alarm system.
  • We live in a quiet area with a VERY low crime rate, too, so, if suitably modified, our home storage is about as safe as one can get outside a bank vault!

However, if I am using the bike to get to work, then I also have to consider the facilities there:
  • There is a pretty secure space next to my desk which is about 750mm wide (about 30 inches).
  • There are bike racks, with a simple corrugated metal roof, outside at work that a bike can be locked to. The structure of the racks is such, though, that a set of bolt croppers or no more than ten minutes with a hacksaw would got through them.However, my bike is often at work for 12 hours or so, some of that time being in the dark in the winter when the office isn't very busy.  The security arrangements at work are best described as "usually good enough", rather than excellent.
Then there are all the other things I use a bike for - getting a bit of shopping being the most usual:
  • The bike will be locked up outside supermarkets for up to an hour or so, sometimes attached to a cycle rack, sometimes attached to "street furniture" such as railings and street lamps.
  • A guy I used to work with had a nice £500 ($800) bike, which he locked to some railings with one of those expensive, super tough locks. the thieves simply cut through the railings and stole his bike, lock and all! That was in another town, though 25 miles from here, which has a higher crime rate, but it is still a risk to bear in mind.
  • Another guy I used to work with had a £5000 ($8000) "club" bike for time-trialling at the weekends, but he was afraid to ride that bike to work, so he bought a £500 ($800) bike as well for commuting.
  • On a similar note, I was discussing cycling with a "friend-of-a-friend" recently, who lives in our town, and he said he would never cycle to the supermarket because his bike was too valuable to leave locked up somewhere like that. For me, going to the supermarket is part of the point of having a bike in the first place!
  • I've never had a bike stolen, but then again, I've never had a "fashionable" bike :-) When I was younger I had a second-hand run-of-the-mill Falcon tourer that was already showing its age (at the time "Eddy Mercx" bikes were the "in" thing amongst my richer school friends) - a decent enough bike, on which I covered many, many, happy miles, just not particularly "trendy". About 20 years ago I bought my little folding Cinzia, which, to be fair, was a heavy, simple, entry-level three-speed folding bike which was never that popular even when it was new. It was great for getting into the small "city car" I drove at the time, and it was easy and safe to store in the various low-cost places that I used to live in - usually just renting a room in a lodging house and some such, with my little Cinzia tucked in the corner.
Then there is funding and cost.
  • Quite a few years of "prudent" living have left me with a good credit record, and the ability to buy just about any bike using bank finance.
  • I could get a subsidised loan from my employer, through one of the Government-backed Cycle to Work schemes available in the UK. The "official" rules mean that someone like me gets an interest-free loan over 18 months, AND about 25%, overall, of the "list price", for a bike costing between £100 and £1000 ($160 to $1600)
  • If the bike is under a few hundred pounds (say, about $500) I could always just buy it with cash.
  • With a fairly large mortgage on our house, and our daughter in secondary school (think "junior high"), there are always plenty of other things to spend money on :-)
So, in conclusion, it is a case of balancing the benefits against the cost and the theft risk.
  • A reasonable cap to the budget for "average" folks like us would be the £1000 ($1600) limit of the Government scheme.
  • A small folding bike, which I could store next to my desk would have higher security than one which has to live outside - I think for funding reasons I would still like to keep it under the £1000 ($1600) level, though.
  • A lower cost bike, or an "unusual" bike that would be harder to sell through ebay etc. would have a lower theft risk than a common mainstream bike that was expensive (even within the budget cap outlined above).If it were to be parked outside at work, I would give serious consideration to limiting the budget to about £500 ($800).
  • A cheaper second-hand bike costing less than, say, £150 ($240) isn't very likely to be stolen from outside racks, especially if it is a 20 years old or so - especially so if it costs less than £50 ($80). 

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