The idea of opportunity cost has been on my mind a lot lately. The term describes the situation where making one choice means you give up something else in exchange.
If you work overtime on the weekend you get more $$, but the opportunity cost is not going riding with your friends. Conversely if you go riding with your friends the opportunity cost is the lost overtime $$.
As I get older I cannot help, but notice changes in myself and my peers that are subtle reminders life is a limited time engagement. In particular I’ve had some health issues crop up that highlighted the fact that mountain biking is a demanding sport that I will not be able to do forever. My riding career could end tomorrow or in 25yrs, but the longer I wait the more risk there is for a life altering change.
I don’t write this to be morbid and I am generally speaking an optimistic person. I point this out because I’m someone who loves to ride and to travel. I’m also someone that has to work to pay for my adventures. The more I work the fewer adventures I have time for. The less I work the less money is available to fund my adventures.
So I have been thinking a lot about how to find the best balance between working and riding given the realities of my situation.
One thing is for sure…it’s very easy to spend pretty much any amount of money you earn as evidenced by all the celebrities that made millions and ended up bankrupt.
The other thing that is for sure in my life is that my traveling tastes are inexpensive. I’m happy to dirt bag around and free camp or grab a cheap primitive campsite. I can cook for myself or do very nicely on low cost taco stand fare.
Where I spend my money is on gear.
A new mountain bike costs $5K – $7K. Heck these days with the shit-tacular CAD-USD exchange I could spend $10K without trying hard on a bike that would make me happy.
I have noticed that I buy very little gear when I am actually out and about with my bikes riding them. I’m almost always buying gear when I am working hard at home dreaming of my next adventure. Since I am making money and not doing what I love buying new gear is a mental health salve making me feel like all this work is meaningful.
To be fair that’s not crazy talk. I love sweet gear and I do believe quality stuff enhances my outdoors time. High end gear is expensive so I do have to work to buy it.
Where the problem lies is buying more than I need.
I want an awesome trail bike. I want a decent back up trail bike since I ride 365 days/year with no off season. I want a bikepacking bike for my dirt touring adventures. I want a utility/commuter bike for around town use. I want a folding bike for multi-modal trips. I want a tandem to ride with my GF.
I haven’t even started in on the fly fishing, surfing, sea kayaking, kiteboarding, outdoors clothing or camping gear areas of my life. And let’s not forget the constant stream of new and improved products in all these areas that you want to stay up to date on.
Where the fuck does this end? We’ll the simple answer it ends with me working full-time until I die or get sick and I get a few fun trips a year making meager use of my mountains of gear.
Ever heard of a S24O [sub-24hr outing]? That’s where outdoors folks that work too much so they can buy new gear go out for a blink of an eye to use some of the shit they bought so they can then go home and buy new fancier shit comforted by the fact that they are using it all…barely. It’s a sad sign of our consumerist times.
Okay so enough rambling about the problem. What do we do about it?
Step one we admit that every time we buy something new that costs us time outside with our family and friends. Buying new bike #3 is not getting you an amazing tool to let you be outside riding more. It’s a heavier chain attaching you to your desk.
Step two we start buying less stuff and saving that money.
Step three we start using the saved money to buy ourselves some extra free time.
Step four we enjoy our lives more.
The math behind this is pretty simple. If you make $25/hr and want to take an extra two weeks off a year to go to Moab with your friends you need to spend $25/hr x 40hrs/wk x 2 wks = $2000 less a year. That’s a wheelset upgrade and a new suspension fork. You’ll also save more by paying less taxes which will give you some extra $$ to spend during your dirt bag vacation.
The more you can reduce your annual spending the more free time you can have.
So next time you are looking at a bling new bike online and thinking about upgrading your existing ride look at the new bike for what it is…more time at work and your trusty old stead as your ticket to more freedom.