Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Why Mr Money Mustache's biggest secret of financial freedom is to ride a bike

Summary: Most people can benefit greatly from simple, candid and accurate guidance on how to really achieve financial freedom and put earning, spending and saving money into perspective with regard to what's really important in life. Mr Money Mustache (MMM) is one of the most popular personal finance bloggers in the world for doing just that. The connection with cycling and transport is simple - MMM advises that if he had to strip down his financial advice and philosophy to just one tip it would be to ride a bike. I agree and have a few insights that help clarify that it's not primarily about the money savings, it's about cycling's potential to transform your life for the better. This post will collate MMM's most salient posts and arguments about cycling vs driving in one place. This is especially important as many devotees of MMM or similar blogs struggle to fully understand how riding a bike can be so critical to a better life and financial freedom. Hence, they don't fully implement this element and I think they're really missing out. Also, if struggling to overcome the barriers to cycling, note that MMM doesn't write a transport cycling blog and his biking advice has some shortcomings that I've corrected in this post.

Mr Money Mustache

Related Posts:
> See the saving money category of this blog.
> See the lifestyle choices category of this blog.
> See the cycling benefits category of this blog.

Details:
1. The collected works of Mr Money Mustache on cycling vs driving
- Mr Money Mustache (MMM) is a family-man called Pete living in Colorado who retired from having to work (his family could afford to live off their savings) at the remarkable age of 30. It's an interesting story so, if unfamiliar, you should read one of the articles explaining it (also in Further Info at the end) and watch the Yahoo video.
See:
> Mashable: Mr. Money Mustache tells you how to be a badass with your finances
NY Mag: Meet Mr. Money Mustache, the Personal-Finance Blogger Who Wants You to Spend Like You’re Poor
Yahoo Finance: How I retired at 30 (video); Related MMM post

- One tip that stands out is MMM's focus on eliminating driving and instead using a bike to get around. Indeed, for the Yahoo story above, he insisted the reporter join him for a bike ride as a condition of doing the story. MMM's most salient cycling and driving blog posts are linked below:
What Do You Mean “You Don’t Have a Bike”?!
Get Rich With… Bikes
Curing your Clown-Like Car Habit
The True Cost of Commuting
MMM Challenge: Try Getting Your Groceries with a Bike Trailer
How To Ride Your Bike All Winter – And Love it
Electric Bikes: Gateway Drug to Bike Commuting?
Bicycling: The SAFEST Form of Transportation
> MMM Challenge: Can You go Car-Free This Weekend?
> Posts tagged with "bicycles"

- It turns out, MMM's most important advice for achieving financial freedom is to cut (preferably eliminate) car use and bike more:
Mustachianism has many facets. It’s a lifestyle and a fake religion all in one. And it is packed with an unlimited number of deep and interesting nuances, which is why you and I still have something to talk about after 13 months of this blog’s existence and 224 published articles. But if I had to strip it down as far as possible, down to just one single action, and I wasn’t allowed to talk about anything else, the choice would still be simple: “Ride a Bike”.
What Do You Mean “You Don’t Have a Bike”?!
Ride a bike, walk, or run whenever you can, and use your car only as the last choice. By planning errands in advance (like "Wednesday evening is Car Errands Night"), you avoid making several trips daily.
The bike is an automatic life-balancing machine. A money-printing fountain of youth. The health and financial benefits can make the difference between “broke" and “millionaire.” within a few decades. And in many areas, you can travel 5-10 miles faster by bike than by car, because you are immune to traffic jams and can maintain a constant 20mph without being bound to regular roads. You can always design a mostly-bike lifestyle. San Francisco hills? Bikes have gears these days. Sprawling LA? Loads of bike paths. Detroit winters? A mountain bike with knobby tires works great in the snow. Choose your house and job around bike transportation, rather than around the car.
Forbes: 12 Money Tips From Mr. Money Mustache

- Even if you don't go car-free, simply reducing car usage and upgrading costs, and spending carefully on a reliable, value-for-money car with great mileage can significantly reduce your transport bills:
You don’t even have to totally give up the automobile. You just have to use it less. So, instead of the usual strategy of buying two expensive cars and living far from work and then replacing your cars every five years, you can buy two old cars like I have. Bike to work. And that can make a difference in your auto costs of somewhere like $12,000 to $15,000 a year,” he calculates.
Yahoo Finance: How Biking Saves Me $10,000 a Year
2. First get enlightened as to the ultimate purpose of frugality - it is the philosophy of voluntary simplicity and intentional living
- Reducing your car use and using a bike instead isn't about sacrifice, extreme frugality or simply targeting the most expensive financial elements of your lifestyle. If it were, then it would be easy to reject this particular advice on transport as unsuitable for you and move on to the next tip on the basis that your use of a car adds sufficient value to your life (in time saved, convenience, comfort, access to opportunities, etc) to justify the financial cost.

- Instead, take a moment to understand the instigating philosophy of life - it's about actively designing a fulfilling, healthy and resilient lifestyle that doesn't require having to spend a lot of money or consume a lot of goods. Financial freedom is a natural consequence if you combine this philosophy with several years of income-earning work and invest the resultant savings. Because our current economies, social norms and lifestyles inherently cause "money stress", most people discover blogs like MMM when searching for financial freedom and advice about money. Nevertheless, the real value is in the introduction to a different philosophy around lifestyle and its relation to money, consumption and a genuinely rich life.

- Neither MMM, nor other bloggers who focus on frugality, invented this philosophy. It has a long history and in contemporary times is best known and searched for under the terms:
- Voluntary Simplicity (aka Simple Living)
Downshifting
- Intentional Living

See:
> The related ideas and useful links I've collated here: How to contribute to genuine, transformative sharing
> The Simpler Way - A practical action plan for living more on less (pdf)

2. If bikes cost far more than cars they'd still be far preferable and the key to a better life
- Here's something that may surprise even MMM acolytes: MMM would choose getting around by bike to using a car even if a suitable bike cost a lot, lot more than a suitable car1. (e.g. Let's say a suitable bike cost $50,000 just to emphasise the point.) So would I. I could afford a dozen cars but am delighted to be car-free and will only ever own one in the future if it is absolutely necessary - for example, if we relocated to the country and had regular trips over 25km. And, even if I had to own a car, I'd choose to use it as little as I could.

1Update: MMM advises he would gladly pay $100,000 for a bike. See: Get Rich With… Bikes

- The philosophy of voluntary simplicity explains why people like MMM and I are primarily attracted to biking. It is value-driven - about achieving better health, relationships, independence, happiness and natural, local experiences by being able to get to everywhere you need to with a simple, efficient, reliable and long-lasting tool you can fully maintain yourself with minimal costs. MMM explains his rationale in one of his best, clarifying posts about his philosophy:
We don’t use our bikes for transportation and hauling instead of our cars, even in the dark and even in the middle of winter because it saves us a few dollars of fuel. We do it because it’s an awesome way to connect with your own town, stay in proper condition, adapt naturally to your own climate, and live like a real human instead of a sanitized, flabby car clown.
MMM: If You Think This is About Extreme Frugality, You’re Missing The Point
- The really amazing thing is that this single tool, that has the potential to unlock so many valuable benefits, doesn't cost a fortune and is affordable by everyone. There is no comparable life-enhancing tool like it. Suitable, long-lasting, utility bikes cost between $300 and $1000 brand new not $50,000. Ironically, for the devotees of MMM who don't quite get the unique value of biking, if bikes did cost $50,000 and people like MMM bought one, then they might reassess their value. In this way, bikes are the most outstanding example of the fact that there is no connection between spending money (or the price of goods) and happiness or satisfaction of human needs. There is no transport vehicle (e.g. helicopter, jetpack) or service (e.g. Uber life membership) that either exists or is conceivable that can get close to the existing benefits and advantages of a bicycle.

3. Some utility bikes have reached peak design but you need to carefully choose a bike that best suits your needs and you really enjoy riding
- There are existing, affordable utility bikes that are already close to peak design. You can buy a basic, inexpensive one for $300 or obtain design and functional perfection for $1,000 ($3,000 if you need electric assist). See: The best existing design solutions for transport utility bicycles. However, that doesn't mean a cheap, department store mountain bike is a worthwhile option for everyday use. Low quality "bike shaped objects" not suited to your needs will have too many deficiencies and just put you off cycling. Nor are most bikes designed for recreation best suited to cycling for transport (e.g. road bikes). What you need is a utility bike - a bike designed for usefulness and practicality that suits your needs and circumstances. You can find the best type of inexpensive, utility bicycle for your needs by following logical decision-making guidance:
See:
Key decisions that will help narrow down the most suitable bike to buy
Designing a better utility bike in developing cycling cities

4. Cycling for transport is a catalyst that has the potential to reshape much of your life in the optimal direction (voluntary simplicity, intentional living)
- What does often need radical design improvements are our lifestyles and our urban environments. This exposes the flaw in almost every objector's arguments about biking being unsuited to their circumstances due to barrier X and deficiency Y. The issue is not with bikes or with cycling for local transport, it's with defects in people's current lifestyles and urban environments. The appropriate resolution is not to maintain the benefits of cycling are inapplicable to your circumstances but to make the conscientious efforts to change your lifestyle and urban environment so that you can obtain these benefits. You won't do this long-term if you view cycling as just one of many ways to save money, even if it's the best one. You should and have to do this if you genuinely want to live in accordance with the values of voluntary simplicity - where things like health, relationships and self-sufficiency matter more than status and income/career-maximising jobs far from home.

- For an analogy, you can think of cycling for transport as an acid that will expose these lifestyle and environment defects and facilitate your redesigning actions to eliminate them. Rather than seeing the challenges and issues posed by cycling as a problem, this is actually its principal gift - it throws all of these hidden lifestyle and environment deficiencies into stark relief. Cycling is tractable too, it isn't an all or nothing affair. It simply requires that you start this journey of figuring out how to deal with each barrier or defect and then resolve it, experience the benefits, and move onto the next barrier.

Some examples of the lifestyle and environment changes that cycling may trigger include:
(a) Changing where you live, work/study and other destinations so that they are walkable or bikeable.
(b) Changing your attitude to conventional employee jobs vs home and where you should be aiming to spend the most time.
(c) Changing your approach to "life exercise" vs "synthetic exercise" such that you consciously try to maximise walking and cycling as part of getting around rather than avoid "life exercise" and isolate it to certain times/places (e.g. the gym).
(d) Changing your decisions about recreation, socialising and family leisure/holidays so that they involve more active transport, more physical activity and more experiences in nature.
(e) Changing your approach to physical and mental health such that it comes from cooking and eating healthily and daily life exercise rather than medication and healthcare services.
(f) Changing your expectactions and habits around the importance of feeling well and energetic every day rather than overindulging in alcohol, food or not getting enough sleep.
(g) Changing your consumption habits to eliminate low-satisfaction and impulse purchases and acquiring goods that are difficult to transport home on a bike.
(h) Changing your decisions about housing/home costs, size and amenities as you don't have a lot of stuff and your weekly recreational activities don't involve "home entertainment" facilities and do involve things like biking trips to the local library.
(i) Changing your attitude to cars and the risks and downsides of car-centric lifestyles and choices.
(j) Changing your connection with neighbours and your local area such that you seek more value through shared activities (productive and recreational) in your local community.
(k) Changing your approach to money, time, services and skills such that you find it much more rewarding to learn the skills to meet your own needs or swap non-monetary skill-sharing and services with neighbours rather than pay for all services (doing your own bike maintenance is a catalyst).
(i) Changing your attitude toward status, social norms and asserting your right to optimise your life even if it's contrary to other's expectations. (e.g. From the clothes you wear to work when biking to flexible working to not having to look like you get everywhere in a taxi).

See:
> The lifestyle choices category of this blog
> The barriers and solutions category of this blog
> The cycling benefits category of this blog
> The reducing car dependence category of this blog

5. The enablers, solutions and lifestyle choices that facilitate cycling for transport
- Some readers of MMM's advocacy of biking just read the anti-car posts and handful of bike-specific posts and are still at a loss as to how to really get started tapping into the supposed endless well of cycling benefits. This isn't surprising, as maximising the feasibility, benefits and advantages of cycling for transport requires redesigning your life, destinations and trips, as well as solving various practical problems (identifying the most useful bike, finding safe and efficient routes, eliminating punctures). The aim of this blog is to provide practical examples of these enablers and solutions, based on my experience, as I use my bike for 99% of all trips between 2km and 20km each year. You can explore all of these practical challenges using the relevant blog category. E.g. barriers and solutionsbuying a bike and gearsafety and healthroutes and mapsprotecting your bikecommutingcomfort; how to ride; etc.

- MMM also has various posts that relate to changes in thinking, decisions and lifestyle choices that facilitate biking.
These include:
A Lifetime of Riches – Is it as Simple as a Few Habits?
The Tyranny of Having a Real Job
The Principle of Constant Optimization
Weekend Edition: Health = Wealth
‘Stashtown, USA
Are You Giving the Shaft to your Future Self?
There’s Something You Need to Know About The Rules
How Big is your Circle of Control?
The MMM Reading List

Flickr CC by 2.0 - Robin Robokow

6. Is biking instead of driving or using transit as simple as MMM implies? What does MMM get wrong about transport cycling and where can I get the best advice?
- Pete is a smart guy and on most topics I've read is a very reliable guide. However, his MMM persona and unique experiences does mean he can sometimes proffer his Mustachian audience with "one size fits all" advice that doesn't fit all circumstances, deal sufficiently with all obstacles, or includes some highly useful tips. Due to his writing style, some of his claims are also exaggerated or oversimplified. If you really want to maximise the extent to which you use your bike for all types of trips then you need to find a few blogs/sites with accurate, comprehensive, circumstance-specific guidance that meets your needs, written by people with the most relevant and broad experience. It's even better if you can learn from such people in your local community. Note: MMM also sometimes admits his current biking for transport experience has limitations:
I WAS a little bit embarrassed when I noticed my commuter bike had only racked up 2400 miles in 4 years!...I don’t have a job to commute to (this is the biggest factor I’m sure as that used to add 50 miles/week!)
- my son’s school is only 0.8 miles from my house, and the library is only about 1.1
- I don’t go shopping very often, so there aren’t as many errands to run
- I’m a wimp and need to find ways to bike MORE!!
What Do You Mean “You Don’t Have a Bike”?! - Comments
- A few of the most valuable corrections or refinements to MMM's guidance on biking are listed below. Note: I tried to add some of these in a comment on the post - What Do You Mean “You Don’t Have a Bike”?! - but MMM rejected my comment, I'm not sure why.

(a) "How can anyone with sufficient mental capacity to pass a driver’s test, or indeed to dress themselves in the morning, not realize the folly of living a life that includes a working car, but no working bike?" - MMM Source
- MMM really does seem to think that not having a bike or at least a working bike is one of the major reasons why people, including MMM devotees, don't cycle for transport. Thus his solution in his post is to simply tell you how to obtain an affordable, working bike. TADA, all fixed! In reality, not having a working bike is just an excuse. Bikes have outsold cars routinely for over a decade in the U.S. and Australia. Though the types of bikes most people choose (e.g. mountain bikes; expensive road bikes) and the purpose they originally buy them for (recreational not transport) is not ideal. However, the much bigger issue is what the real reasons are for people (including MMM readers) not taking up or persisting with cycling. The worldwide evidence over decades is clear: there are many barriers, subjective safety being the biggest, followed by confidence/skills to ride with vehicles, distance, time, weather, comfort, lack of enjoyment, carrying stuff, end of trip facilities, clothing and appearance, theft risk, bike parking, etc.
See:
> Bike Portland: Why bikes outsell cars in the USA, too (and why it doesn’t matter)
"Interested but Concerned" potential cyclists need to take action themselves
Solutions to common barriers to cycling

(b) "Of all the objections I get from people about why they can’t ride a bike to get around, perhaps the most frustrating is the claim that bicycling is too dangerous. But luckily for all of us, we don’t have to choose between safety and freedom. They both come together perfectly in the form of bicycle transportation, and once we work our way through the statistics of the matter, all talk of choosing cars over bikes because of safety can be banished from the face of the Earth – forever."
"Sure, mainland US biking infrastructure (as represented by Atlanta) is not as good as it is in Denmark or Holland. But it is enormously better than Mexico or Hawaii! I’ve been able to do effective bike travel in every US city I have tried it in. Suburbs in general are a great place for cycling. You don’t need a bike path to be able to bike safely."
"Strangely enough, bike helmets don’t seem to have a statistically significant effect on bike safety. I think it’s great that most people wear them in the US, but I only use mine for the longer inter-city rides or on the mountain bike. Otherwise I wear an old fishing hat with a brim that keeps the sun off." - MMM Source
- MMM tends to be dismissive of biking safety concerns due to his own long experience and above average biking skills and risk tolerance. Instead he points to shaky statistical calculations that trade off the greater risks of biking in typical U.S. cities against the health benefits of free exercise. But just as he was definitively wrong about helmets (which he admitted in the comments) so too can he be misguided in primarily addressing these safety queries by simply pointing to his argument that "guaranteed health benefits > a slightly higher but still very low risk of a serious road accident."

- In reality, people's subjective safety assessments of the risks of cycling have to be addressed seriously through measures like: (a) moving to a more cycling-friendly (infrastructure, rules/policies and motorist behaviour) city or neighbourhood; (b) changing your work/study and other regular destinations to ones that can be safely reached by bike; (c) carefully finding and refining safer routes; (d) spending time learning about the most relevant cycling safety risks and how to mitigate them; (e) improving your biking skills and confidence through experience, riding with friends and courses. I provide many examples of these serious approaches to enhancing your cycling safety on this blog which provide honest, accurate answers to legitimate concerns. For example, regarding George's common issue below, I would argue he'd need to move to a more cycling-friendly area to safely maximise his cycling:
Thus, even though I do a decent amount of biking myself, in my area it is definitely dangerous at times; I go on Google maps to plot out the safest route, however usually somewhere along that route I will be forced to take at least 1 stretch of road that is somewhat dangerous (i.e. high speed, high volume traffic or a road that has no berm or shoulder). So it kinda of bothers me when MMM says that he specifically brought his house and lives where he does; he just cruzes down his trails and bike paths get his groceries so easily; then he talks about how easy it is to bike to everything yet he tells the rest of the world oh its just so easy for me to bike why are you not doing it as well; I would love to have some sweet bike lanes that would be awesome but in my town, I don’t recall ever even seeing one of them; so yeah I really get pissed off sometimes.
George commenting on Bicycling: The SAFEST Form of Transportation
- In some cases, you'll find the informed safety lessons are contrary to the casual suggestions of confident, risk-tolerant riders like MMM - such as emphasising the speed you can go by bike. Excessive speed is actually one of the major risk factors in serious injury and death for cyclists.
"Bikes convert a slow human with a walking speed of 3.5MPH into one of the fastest creatures on land, with an easy cruise of 15MPH and a top speed of over 40MPH on level ground and 50+ downhill for athletic people." - MMM Source
See:
> The safety and health category of this blog.
The most important tips on how to ride safely
How to find a safe, convenient route to a regular destination
When should urban cyclists wear a helmet?
How to reduce conflict with motorists and pedestrians

(c) "Bikes are virtually free, and require no insurance, registration, license, parking spaces, or any other hassle" - MMM Source
- Actually bikes can easily be money pits if you aren't very careful to avoid the traps. Insurance laws and options vary massively based on which country and state you are in. In litigious countries like America, you should be particularly careful to assess your liability for injuries to persons. Some localities do require registration (including MMM's). Parking is a major issue for most people (especially work commuters) due to the risk of theft, vandalism and weather damage. And there are various hassles (sweating, work clothing, helmets, getting your hair messed up, punctures) to work through and find effective solutions for.
See:
> See the saving money category of this blog
Self-insurance usually beats paying for bike insurance
What to do if involved in a bike accident
Where to park if commuting to Melbourne CBD
Puncture-proof tyres are the key to reliable transport

(d) "How much maintenance has she required for this virtual bike ride from our home in Colorado to somewhere near the tip of South America? … once again, virtually zero. So the point is, while bike maintenance is fun and many bike shops provide free tune-ups for life, in reality you will find that a good bike does not demand too much from you." - MMM Source
- MMM's personal anecdote's of riding thousands of miles over 4+ years and virtually no significant maintenance or part replacement being necessary are the exception not the rule. Most utility cyclists will advise you that when riding a bike daily, all year round, and having it exposed to weather and dirt, maintenance is a big issue that takes careful decision making, compromises and regular upkeep to effectively manage. The biggest factor in achieving low maintenance, reliable cycling is to carefully choose your type of bike and components to suit your circumstances, trips and preferences. This is something that MMM's posts on biking provide inaccurate and incomplete information on. For example, if you want to commute year-round in all weather conditions, be free to park outside and want to minimise your maintenance, then you generally shouldn't get an exposed drivetrain - such as on the bikes MMM mentions on his blog. You'd be best off using an internal gear hub - this isn't mentioned even as an option on the MMM blog. Also experienced utility cyclists rave about the benefits of fenders/mudguards for good reasons - yet fenders or mudguards are neither pictured on MMM's bikes nor mentioned (ironically, there are fenders on every single bike in the Amsterdam photo he links to).
See:
Designing a better utility bike in developing cycling cities
The best existing design solutions for transport utility bicycles
Finding effective fenders that fit your bike
> See the low maintenance category of this blog

(e) "These people need a instant gratification bike that will work reliably for long enough to get them hooked into the biking habit.
"Gear ratios are the best invention ever, and I use all 27 of mine frequently! I think the real reason singles are popular is something much dirtier: they’re considered “cool” or “in style”, just like brand-name clothing or Apple products. Therefore I try to avoid them." - MMM Source
- Choosing the most suitable, useful bike and components for your specific circumstances, trips and preferences is one of the most critical prerequisites for maximising your use and enjoyment of cycling for transport. Unfortunately, MMM takes an oversimplified approach, recommending "instant gratification" bikes including mountain bikes, excessive numbers of gears and basic setups that aren't optimised for utility (e.g. carrying stuff). He also warns against single speed bikes and lumps them together with fixies.

- I'll clarify. Instant gratification bikes should generally be avoided as getting hooked to transport cycling (unlike recreational cycling) is more challenging to achieve and the right bike, setup/sizing, comfort and equipment can make a big difference for novices. Stock mountain bikes are generally a poor choice for riding significant distances regularly in cities with redundant gears, shocks and unsuited tyres (smoother tyres have better grip on smooth roads). Bicycle gears are badly misunderstood by novices. MMM's bike may have 27 "speeds" but it has a much fewer number of useful gear ratios. Utility cyclists rarely need more than 8 actual gears, let alone the 24+ "speeds" provided by many hybrid, road and mountain bikes with three chain rings at the front and 8-9 at the back. Regarding actual gear ratios, the less gears you need and simpler the setup the better, and ideally they should match your riding (not be a stock setup resulting in unnecessary cogs and changing). Internal gear hubs (even 3 speeds) have wide enough ranges for most cyclists in many cities. The cursory dismissal of single speed bikes is also very telling. Single speed (not fixed!) bikes equipped for utility not style are one of the biggest secrets to optimal utility biking as they are the lowest maintenance, lowest cost and most reliable. Additionally, each rider can choose the $15 rear cog size that best suits them. E.g. I ride a 17 tooth rear cog while my girlfriend rides an easier 18 tooth rear cog. There was no extra cost or difficulty involved in opting for an 18 tooth cog. And it is simple and cheap to change them.
See:
Key decisions that will help narrow down the most suitable bike to buy
Designing a better utility bike in developing cycling cities
When is a Single Speed bike most suitable and how to make the most of one
> Dutch Bike Bits: The stealth "near-fixie". An efficient bicycle for everyday use

(f) "My bike lock, I just hang on the handlebars or frame (it’s just a good long cable combination lock -> you can stretch it around tree trunks and there are no keys to lose!).
Oddly enough, I had to deal with frequent bike theft problems when I lived in Canada. Here in the Boulder area, nothing." - MMM Source
- While a cable lock may be fine for MMM in small-town Longmont, Colorado, they are worse than useless in the cities where most people live as they provide zero protection (can be cut with scissors) yet offer a false sense of security till your bike is inevitably stolen. Thus, cable locks should never be recommended to another cyclist. Bike theft (both actual losing it and the potential risk) is a major reason why people give up on cycling or don't bike for more types of trips. There are thousands of posts on the internet with advice on preventing your bike being stolen; most of the advice is good, some is terrible (e.g. put ugly stickers on it). But all of the good advice is encapsulated in my post below. Also, there's a simple answer as to how to carry a U lock: buy a quality one with a U lock bike mount.
See:
How to prevent your bike being stolen
What type of bike lock should I buy?

7. Get started with cycling for transport for an easy, regular trip then expand. See cycling as a keystone habit that you let build out as you obtain the benefits
- My personal cycling experiences documented on this blog (just like MMM's) are only one example of how someone can make cycling and their lifestyle work together to optimally achieve many benefits. However, they are at the more advanced end after a few years of solely using my bike for local transport. For people starting out, the aim is to find the existing routine trip that is most likely to be converted to being completed by bike. It could be the easiest (e.g. a short trip to a nearby store) or the one with the biggest immediate benefits and motivational pull (e.g. your work commute) but you should ignore the most difficult (e.g. riding to the airport).

- Apart from working through the practical requirements (a suitable bike and equipment; a safe-enough route; seeking help from experienced friends) the big psychological challenge is to turn this into a habit. Happily, cycling for transport and getting "life exercise" are both suitable keystone habits - habits that automatically trigger chain reactions and positively transform other habits in reinforcing circles. MMM has written about this himself and also created a visual example of how habits can be broken and formed (e.g. make picking up the car keys and accessing your car harder and make biking easy and obvious).
So if habits are so automatic, biological and hard to break, how do we do it? Distilling all the books and the science down to a tiny list, the answer seems to be this: Habits are like little loops. They start with a trigger, which sets off your automatic behavior. They end at a reward, which is the little pleasant occurrence that reinforces your habit.
MMM: A Lifetime of Riches – Is it as Simple as a Few Habits?
MMM: A Lifetime of Riches – Is it as Simple as a Few Habits?

8. My own quantified benefits of using a bike for 99% of my annual local trips between 2km and 20km
- I update a yearly statement to summarise my calculated benefits of cycling. The update for 2014 has now been published and provides quantitative estimates of the gains in money, time, convenience, safety, health and enjoyment. See: My calculated benefits of cycling for transport

- As I've emphasised in this post the really important benefits of switching to cycling are to one's health, relationships, freedom and quality of life. However, regarding just the financial benefits, the calculations are dead simple:

(a) My direct operating expenditures on cycling in 2014 were $0. I do all maintenance myself and didn't have any servicing, part replacement or running costs. You could claim that food is a running cost but I doubt I'd save much money if I switched to a passive mode of transport; I think I'd eat about the same and just put on weight due to getting insufficient exercise. As the saying goes: "cycling runs on fat and saves you money; driving runs on money and makes you fat."
See: How to reduce your cycling operating costs to less than $150 per year.

So that just leaves the amortized operating expenses that I estimate at $110/year - $75/year of which is purely the depreciation of my bike over an artificially-shortened 5 year period (its lifespan is around 15 years but I will buy a new bike approximately every 5 years because I want to and can easily afford it).

(b) There were a few direct capital expenditures in 2014 (total value of $263) but the bulk of this was for a complete bike repair tool kit and repair stand that will be amortized over 20 years (i.e. costing $12/year). (See: Actual cycling expenditures prove how cheap cycling can be). It is too complicated to provide actual amortized yearly costs for all of these CapEx spends I've documented, so I've erred on the conservative side and will use $50/year as the cumulative amortized CapEx spend.

(c) I didn't use a car for any local trip under 20km in 2014 (including taxis, Uber, etc). I promise there is no cheating involved in these calculations. I really do deliberately bike everywhere I can because I prefer it.

(d) My public transport costs for local trips under 20km in 2014 were $3.58 - a single roundtrip after 6pm on a tram with my girlfriend to a party. The few other trips recorded on my public transport smartcard (Myki) were taken by others (my sister when visiting town, my girlfriend) or were well over 20km (e.g. a train-bike trip to do cherry picking out of town - 30 Nov to Lilydale)2. For 2015, my aim is to keep one Myki reserved for my trips and then show a complete Jan to Dec record that is pure.

(e) So my total local transport costs for 2014 were: $110 + ~$50 (other amortized CapEx spend) + $3.58 = $164.

2My Myki Transactions: April 2014 - Dec 2014

- For comparison, anyone can use the comprehensive aggregate figures compiled by motoring organisations in their country. According to Victoria's largest motoring organisation, the RACV, the lowest Total Standing Costs for a car ("micro cars") available in Australia (for the Suzuki Alto) are $74.71/week = $3,885/year - that's before you ever turn the engine on! The lowest Total Running Costs for any available petrol car aren't materially cheaper than the Suzuki Alto which is 14.17 cents/km. I did around 4,000km on my bike in 2014 so that equals $567. The combined total minimum driving costs to replace my 2014 cycling = $4,452So my minimum annual saving by cycling rather than driving is $4,452 - $164 = $4,288. See: RACV's car owning and operating costs guide for 2014

- If your household owns multiple cars then you can multiply the Total Standing Costs and also factor in that greater car access results in greater mileage and usage (a mythical car-using equivalent of me would actually drive more than 4,000km of local trips a year).

RACV's car owning and operating costs guide for 2014 - Micro cars (cheapest)

- So let's take that minimum annual saving and accumulate it over 10 years (I've been car free since 2008 and intend to be for as much of my future life as is feasible). It's easy to do this math yourself with your own figures using any online compound interest calculator. I've used the one on the MoneySmart website and plugged in ultra conservative and simplified numbers. Even so, the 10 year gain is $51,482.

ASIC MoneySmart Compound Interest Calculator

- However, the above was an absolute minimum. According to official Australian statistics, the average Australian household spends $193/week on transport costs with some households spending well over $300/week. $193/week equals over $10,000/year. If we plug in a household saving of $180/week (from switching to cycling) into the compound interest calculator, then over 10 years we get a saving of $114,885! The math can't be escaped: using cycling to go car-free will save you a massive amount of money over your lifetime while transforming your life and health for the better. That massive amount of money saved directly translates into freedom to minimise time spent earning money which you then can spend on much more important and enjoyable things in life, including pursuing your own passions and values. See: Working less and more flexibly is desirable and a key to going car-free

ASIC MoneySmart Compound Interest Calculator

9. Is earning a high income a valid justification for declining the potential benefits of cycling instead of using cars?
- Naturally, the people with the most to gain financially from reducing their car use and switching to cycling are those earning less than the median income. However, those on high incomes still have much to gain from switching to cycling wherever feasible, even if they can easily afford not to in purely financial terms. As mentioned above in point #4, cycling for transport is a catalyst that has the potential to reshape much of your life in alignment with both objective values (e.g. improved physical and mental health, greater independence) and your own subjective values (e.g. how you choose to spend the additional free time or take advantage of the opportunities cycling provides).

- These non-financial opportunities are far more important than the financial savings for those fortunate enough to be earning high incomes. Indeed, high incomes are not an unmitigated positive, they typically have adverse impacts on people's free time, families, relationships, potential hobbies/skills and mental and physical health. So if you eschew cycling altogether you are also rejecting one of the best tools for exposing and correcting these deficiencies. In short, people earning high incomes have the most to gain from the more important non-financial benefits of cycling. And they often have the most to learn about the detrimental impacts of being so invested in their jobs, careers, income-maximisation and cars. See: Working less and more flexibly is desirable and a key to going car-free

- Let's also be honest about categorical rejections of the value of cycling for transport. The few valid reasons for not cycling for a specific trip (e.g. it takes a lot longer and that directly costs you time you spend with your family) don't apply to all trips. High income earners always have at least one feasible trip to try cycling and see how worthwhile it really is as a tool for redesigning and optimising their lives. By all means reject transport cycling after you've given it a genuine go, assessed its value as a tool yourself, but then determined there are better tools for improving your life.

- Finally, as a high income earner myself (per hour in the technology job I am moving out of), I can speak from experience on this topic. I wish I'd started escaping earlier from the seductive trap of devoting so much time and energy to working as an employee just because being productive and well-remunerated are rewarding in a narrow way that accords with social norms and expectations. I wouldn't claim that all aspects of my changes in priorities regarding work and income-maximisation relate to switching to cycling but cycling certainly fits priorities around voluntary simplicity perfectly while I consider being car-dependent antithetical to them.

- Also, be aware that it's questionable whether you really know why you work and what job you do and that your current priorities are rationally justified and defensible.
See:
YANSS 037 – Drive, Motivation, and Crowd Control with Daniel Pink

Further Info:
Articles about Mr Money Mustache
NY Mag: Meet Mr. Money Mustache, the Personal-Finance Blogger Who Wants You to Spend Like You’re Poor
> Marketwatch: How to retire early - 35 years early
> Forbes: How Mr. Money Mustache Retired At Age 30 And How You Can Too
> Washington Post: Meet Mr. Money Mustache, the man who retired at 30
> Yahoo Finance: How I retired at 30 (video)

Streetsblog USA
Mr. Money Mustache on Retiring at 30 By Riding a Bike

Other MMM Posts
What is Stoicism and How Can it Turn your Life to Solid Gold?

Simple Economist
> Ride your bike

Get Rich Slowly
Biking vs. Driving Calculator

Money Crashers
Bike Commuting: Health, Time & Safety Considerations of Biking to Work

The Guardian
How much money (and time) does cycling to work actually save you?
Need to save? Get on your bike

Ask Metafilter: Deciding to transition from car to bicycle

Give me back my five bucks: How much is your car costing you?

Personal Blogs
> Urban Simplicity
> New Urban Habitat
Velophile Australia: How to: Become an unimaginably frugal bike-riding superhero

Books
> Changing Gears; Crikey article

Voluntary Simplicity
Simplicity Institute
> The Simpler Way

Simple Living in History (Samuel Alexander , Amanda McLeod)

Intentional Living & Intentional Communities
Becoming Minimalist: The Helpful Guide to Living an Intentional Life

Fellowship of Intentional Communities

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