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Extreme Communting Costs

January 29, 2013

Continuing yesterday’s thread about the Times’ extreme bike commuters, I was curious about how much it would cost to purchase all of the gear mentioned in the story:

Having sheathed his legs in NASA-worthy Capo bib shorts — woven from high-tech fibers that compress leg muscles to minimize fatigue — he pulled on a pair of winter cycling tights lined with fleece from the waist to the thighs. Next came over-the-calf Smartwool ski socks under Sidi Genius 5.5 shoes strategically packed with chemical toe warmers. To shield his torso, he wore a wool base layer under an Italian long-sleeve racing jersey, and a windproof vest reinforced in front to block freezing gusts and meshed in the back to vent excess heat. On his head, an Assos Fuguhelm racing cap with vents on top to minimize sweating, and a pair of Oakley Jawbones sunglasses. The final touch: a pair of $19 insulated work gloves, coated with beeswax to make them water resistant.

So what would you have to shell out if you used this commuter as an example for your ride to work?  A heckuva lot.  I pulled prices from a variety of sources — Amazon, big-name cycling stores, and general outdoor retailers such as L.L. Bean and Campmor — and came up with a total.

  • Capo bib shorts: $169.95
  • Winter cycling tights: $49.99
  • Smartwool ski socks: $25.95
  • Sidi Genius 5.5 shoes: $149.95
  • Chemical toe warmers, pack of 40: $35.75
  • Wool base layer: $54.95
  • Italian long-sleeve racing jersey: $90.96
  • Windproof vest: $64.96.
  • Assos Fuguhelm racing cap: $149.95
  • Oakley Jawbones sunglasses. $200.00
  • Insulated work gloves: $19
  • Beeswax: $4.99

The damage? $1,016.40.  And almost all of that total goes to cycling-specific gear that can’t be re-purposed as office wear.  Spending that much is certainly any individual commuter’s prerogative — I have certain expensive wardrobe items that I believe are worth the cost — but the laundry list of luxury items has to be off-putting to the average would-be bike commuter.

As the title of Sarah Goodyear’s piece on the subject states, “You Don’t Have to Be Superhuman to ride to Commute by Bicycle.”  You also don’t have to be rich.

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7 Comments
  1. Nick permalink
    January 30, 2013 8:12 am

    Nitpicking the cost of this guy’s gear as off-putting to would-be bike commuters is ridiculous in comparison to the off-putting fact that he chooses to ride 40 miles to work. Even if you dressed him in casual clothes and a Linus bike, this guy will never be your model citizen cyclist with a commute like that.

  2. Joe C permalink
    January 30, 2013 12:58 pm

    This article wasn’t really about the phenomenon of extreme bike commuters; it was about status driven consumption. That you were able to list the merch and easily price the items is pretty telling. And it wasn’t even in the style section! Awful.

    And I agree that such features are counterproductive because they promote the stereotype advanced by cycling adversaries that cycling is now largely the elite hobby of high fliers, thus stoking class resentments; and because in creating new consumer norms many would be cyclists will come to believe that that they can’t afford the now necessary accoutrements, and thus won’t take up cycling.

    It can’t be repeated often enough but if cycling in American cities is ever going to approach the mode share of northern European cities it will have to be promoted as an ordinary, safe, non-niche, non-countercultural, anti-elite form of transportation accessible to the masses.

  3. Brick permalink
    January 30, 2013 3:05 pm

    Agreed, the main points in this article seemed to be long distance, and winter cycling, not a gear focus.

    The gear is necessary really only for long rides in the winter, and also doesn’t have to be purchased at retail. There’s a treasure trove of discount sites that sell brand new gear for over half off.

    I’d say that I’ve got 90% of what this guy has for half the price – granted, it was accumulated over a few winters. And some of it even falls into multi-use (wool base layer, gloves, socks…)

  4. January 30, 2013 3:09 pm

    Like I said – I don’t fault the guy for buying what he wants and can afford to make his commute more enjoyable. It’s the Times’ focus on stories like this, however, that leave a general impression that one needs to gear up in order to ride. And even at half price, you’re still talking over $500 and a lot of effort.

  5. Joe C permalink
    January 30, 2013 4:49 pm

    Well, the way the Times has changed in the past 25 years with ad copy merging with content in the lifestyle sections makes me wonder if the soft news, that largely tracks/promotes upscale consumer trends, isn’t now bleeding into the hard news sections. It was a little weird to the see the detailed litany of gear–and in what, the second, third paragraph?– knowing as they know that most people only read the opening paragraphs before moving onto another feature.

    And you have to wonder if Hamill read that article before launching his screed against pampered, richie rich yuppie cyclists.

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