Unrecognizable businessman with bicycle in the city. Photo: Westend61 (Getty)
It was roughly three months ago. I was handing over the keys to a young couple I had just met the day previous. As a grown adult man, I wanted to cry.
I was selling my baby.
Sure, my “baby” was a machine made by General Motors, but it had life. It meant something. Watching it pull out of a Bank Of America parking lot and out of my life forever was a brave new chapter.
Am I being bit melodramatic? Possibly. But are you living day-to-day without a car? If you’re reading this article, I’m assuming you’re not.
Why my Pontiac G8 was important:
It was the first car I ever bought on my own.
I met my wife in that car.
I got the car initially in California, where my wife is from, and where part of my heart still lies.
I had the car paid off.
I put countless hours of thought in that car, game-planning career moves and clearing headspace.
Most importantly of all, I grew up in that car. Owning it for seven years, I truly became a man. If you’ve owned the same vehicle for several years, I’m sure you can relate.
This was the car that I had to let go of.
Cool, ain’t she?
Why I got rid of her:
The short answer is money.
The car had 142,000 miles and was starting to regularly need repairs. More importantly, I had just gotten married. Our lifestyle now involves traveling as much as we can before we have kids, while saving up for them — and a house — in the process.
I guess it was so hard to let go because in a way, I was officially letting go of my ’20s. This entire process was something I spent months discerning — even though my family thought I was nuts. “What will you do without a car?!,” they’d ask. Howeve, after consulting with my wife and friends, the sell made sense.
It was planned. I would sell the Pontiac G8 and make a big lifestyle change. For the first time since I was 16-years-old, I would live without a motorized vehicle and ride a bicycle.
What’s crazy is that while I was sad to see my car go, I was super excited to buy a bike. Not only have I wanted to get into cycling and do an eventual triathlon, but I could also use it as a cheaper means to commute to work.
Now, I must say, it’s nice to know I’m not alone in this endeavor. According to Forbes, millennials are buying fewer cars than previous generations. But it’s a lifestyle that wouldn’t be right for everyone.
Why the transition made sense:
We live 1.5 miles away from my work. It’s just a seven-minute bike ride.
We also live in the city where grabbing public transportation or hailing a ride-sharing service is incredibly easy and convenient.
So I bought a Kona Esatto, a helmet that lights up (even with turn signals), and all the bells and whistles that fit a road bike which could double-up for commuting and competitive purposes.
After living in the suburbs in our previous city, we now live in a loft in the inner-city just one block away from a brewery, I own a burgeoning record collection, and I now bike to work — I joke to my wife that I’m a mustache away from going full-blown hipster.
Here I am below posing with my new ride, giving my wife some kind of smile that screams “dork.”
Why I don’t regret it:
While I would love to pat myself on the back and claim I’m ditching the car to save the environment or rebel against corporate America, not surprisingly again, it comes down to money.
With all of the money we are saving without a car, the bike paid for itself in a matter of weeks.
Here’s what we’re saving:
Roughly $80/month in gas.
$75/month in car insurance.
Roughly $100/month ($1200/year) in car maintenance costs.
$80/month in downtown parking at work.
Depending on what we would have purchased to replace the old car, at least $300/month in car payments.
Even considering bike insurance and bike maintenance, that’s roughly $500 a month in savings (or $6,000 a year). Yeah, wrap your head around that number. Plenty of money to take the trips we want to take, pay off any remaining debt and save up for the ol’ house and kids — ya know, the American dream.
I should also add the benefit of fitness. Biking to work burns an extra 100-200 calories a day, which can really add up over a week’s time. My legs are as strong as they’ve been in years. And my cravings for In N’ Out have never been as extreme.
What to prepare for:
Of course the downsides to ditching the car are obvious. If it’s raining, you’re tired, or you don’t have time to bike 37 miles, you need a car. If the wife has her car, you’re paying for a ride.
There are also days when you start your ride and out of nowhere it rains. Or it’s incredibly hot and humid. There’s also this terrible thing called “winter.”
Some believe biking can be dangerous. So can driving a car. Just be smart.
Here’s what you’ll need:
A helmet. Don’t be stupid. It’s like driving without your seatbelt while looking at your smartphone with two screaming kids in the back seat. I’ve never seen this scenario, but aside from eating moving sushi, is there anything more dangerous? Also for safety, buy bright head and tail lights for riding at night. Some people also wear yellow vests while they ride.
Buy your bike from a local shop. They’ll take care of you, ensuring you get the right fit (literally, you have to get fitted for a bike that fits your height) and they’ll assemble the bike for you — sometimes they’ll even give you discounts on extras. If you order online, this won’t be the case.
A bike lock and bike insurance. It’s very cheap. I purchased mine for the entire year and bundled it with my wife’s car insurance. It’s full coverage, so if it gets stolen or someone crashes into it, you’ll get a replacement with a $0 deductible.
Learn hand signals while on the road. BikeLeague has a lot of great resources.
Know the laws. Bikes have the same rights on the roads as automobiles.
A backpack with room for a change of clothes and grooming essentials. If you work a desk job, you’ll need to pack fresh clothes, along with dry shampoo and other hygiene needs to clean off after those hot days when you get sweaty after a ride.
Finally, a drive to want to cycle. If you don’t like the exercise, you’ll hate the change.
It’s okay to want to look like this:
But end up looking like this:
If you’ve thought about getting rid of your car but are still on the fence, look at this move as an adventure and embrace the change. It will get easier when you see the money you’ll be saving.
If you’re simply a “car guy” and having one — or several — make your life fulfilling, then by all means keep the lifestyle. But if you’re like us and live close to work and would rather spend money on flying to new countries and raising little “mini-me’s” (even if they have four legs and are covered in fur), then seriously consider trading in four wheels for two.
We did, and so far it’s been the best decision we could have made this year.
Josh Helmuth is a sports reporter in St. Louis who contributes to Mandatory. Follow him on Twitter here.