Opportunity Cost…

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I want to do more of this…

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.

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16 thoughts on “Opportunity Cost…

  1. There was an old Jansport advertisement that read, “Get out, while you can!” This IS a finite trip, so make the best of it.

    You do have high standards. All my outdoor gear doesn’t come to $5k, let alone my bike.

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    1. I’m not saying you need a $5K mountain bike, but at some point [probably $3-4K if bought new] you get something that’s doesn’t have the full range of adjustments in suspension and will not last under heavy use.

      My GF and I are riding the same model bikes mine cost 50%-60% more than hers and came with better parts. Mine is 8yrs old and has had 20% of the problems her 5yr old bike has had despite being ridden less often, less aggressively and by a rider 60lbs lighter. Looking back I don’t think she got a better “value” than I did from that purchase even though she saved money.

      The extra $$ to get you to a $5K-$7K bike add refinement and performance that isn’t strictly needed, but that I appreciate every ride.

      If I couldn’t swing more than a $3.5K bike I’d just buy one and ride it.

      The opportunity cost process is all about weighing the pros and cons fully.

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  2. Vik, I have read your blog for a while but don’t comment often. This post really talked to me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Although I’m not buying $5k bicycles (most of my bikes have actually been old stuff in the $100 range that I spend time restoring), I have the same problem with accumulating gear.

    To your points, I’ll add: the time to maintain all this gear adds up too and detracts from the more important things in life.

    I wrote an essay on this topic a while back at http://samplacette.com/letting-go/, back when I downsized my bike collection to one bicycle. Since then my bike collection has grown back… up to 4 bikes and a frame ready for a build. Your post has inspired me to reconsider the opportunity cost before building up that frame.

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    1. Thanks for the comment Sam. I read your post and I can commiserate I went through a fleet down size over the last few years. I grieved both for the bikes I sold and the fact that they represented dreams I did not fulfill. I think that has to do with working too much and using bike purchases as a mental outlet for the damage I am doing working 40hrs+/wk.

      I’m not against buying or owning gear as long as you have all the free time you want already to use them. If you don’t have the time free to use the stuff you already have than buying more is counterproductive.

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  3. Good article. You need a job reviewing bikes, trails, and gear. Perhaps Singletracks or Mtbr is hiring? Or maybe Bikepackers Magazine? You should apply! We have to live and enjoy life while we can. Tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us. I just got back from a cold wet ride in the mountains. Good thing I had my $180 Dakine Caliber rain jacket! 😀

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    1. I don’t know that I would last at a job like that. I suspect I would get fired pretty quick for not saying some BS about a product. I like being able to say something is a total piece of shit you shouldn’t waste your money on. That’s not possible as a professional reviewer. 😉

      I’m all for sweet gear that works well though. Glad you had that jacket along. 🙂

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  4. Fiscal responsibility can be a drag. Ride what you have and upgrade as you go. Buy quality and we know that can cost more up front it is usually less expensive in the long run.

    Vik, it’s guys like you that I appreciate. You take the time to review the products that you use and that saves me a lot of time and $$. Thanks.

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  5. Hello Vic, Enjoy your reads here. Good Job. I do have a question though. I did not see any email address as I would have used that instead of the post.

    Question on your post on MTB as below.

    Did you use a Rohloff tensioner on your Surly with VERT. dropouts? If so how did you avoid the wheel sprockets hitting the tensioner? It seems it would be a hassle. Putting a Rohloff on a Surly Disc Trucker and am at that stage of install. A road bike for touring.

    Thanks in advance. My address is below. My last tour wordpress blog also:

    http://www.mrames.com

    Marlowe

    Quote Originally Posted by moose2008 View Post
    Don’t know if this is a dumb question but do I still use my speed bone if I have a monkey bone?
    I have both at the moment and can’t see how I’d get my rear wheel to slide out horizontally if I put the OEM2 upwards into the monkey bone and did away with the speed bone.
    The Monkey Bone and OEM2 axle plate are all you need. On my Surlys with horizontal dropouts I just push the wheel forward slightly and rotate the OEM2 plate forward then I can pull the wheel out. On my Surly with vertical dropouts I just let the wheel drop down and the Monkey Bone will disengage without any attention.

    Safe riding,

    Vik
    http://www.vikapproved.com

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  6. I completely agree with all the sentiments expressed in this post, so I won’t dwell on those, but good on ya, sir!

    My only issue is the “getting time” part. For example, for many people, myself included, it’s not possible to have a full-time job and work “less” while maintaining that job. The employer will mandate that the employee work 50 out of the 52 weeks, granting a measly two weeks off for vacation (sometimes which cannot be taken consecutively); thus, the employee can’t take any more time off than that, save for the occasional sick day, national holiday, etc. There is no option: either work 50 weeks of the year and be employed full time, or work zero weeks of the year and be unemployed. Most companies* are not going to offer such flexibility.

    My dream would be to work about six months a year and have the rest of the year off for cheap bike travel, then return to a state of employment. I could easily make that work financially. But the difficulty in finding regular temporary work upon return has prevented me from doing so. The best I think I could hope for is work three to five years, then take a year off for travel, or something like that.

    * I suppose people who are self-employed, freelancers of some kind, or skilled in a specific, in-demand trade could give themselves some flexibility here. Or maybe there are employment options that I am not thinking of … and if so, I’m all ears!

    Anyway, I enjoy your posts like these and your “Freedom to ride” article about saving, investing, reducing work hours as you age, etc., and wanted to finally leave a comment!

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