Sunday, May 06, 2007

Bicycles vs. Cars: Which Is The Better Value?

Yesterday a friend informed me that she's purchased a Schwinn bicycle, and she's loving it. It looks like this:

We talked bicycles for a bit, and she said her father once did a value exercise: he figured out how much we paid per pound for bicycle technology, then contrasted that with the per pound price of automobile technology. Strictly on this basis alone, the car is a vastly better value.

Here's how this exercise works in my circumstances, in Canadian dollars: the sticker price for a new Toyota Yaris is $14,995. Its curbside weight is roughly 2,080 lbs. That works out to about $7.20 per lb.

The sticker price for a new Fisher HKEK is $1,299 (Cdn). Let's say it weighs 50 lbs (bearing in mind it's probably a shade lighter). That's a value of $26 per lb.

Of course, the sticker price is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to automotive costs: it doesn't take long for gas to add up, and were we to keep our car for 20 years it's likely the cost of maintenance would exceed the sticker price. Still, if we contrast the resources that are poured into a car's manufacture vs. that of a bicycle's, this is quite a staggering disparity. (Tangential note: using the Inflation Calculator, the bicycle I bought for $900 twenty years ago ought to cost me $1600 today. So it could be argued that bicycle values are improving, albeit very slowly.)


trentreimer said...

I wonder which consumer item wins the all time prize in value per pound then? Would it be something from the grocery store, hardware, manure, gravel perhaps?

To make a comparison to my own contracting business, tiny jobs are just not profitable unless I can charge a higher hourly rate than I do for the larger jobs. I am pretty up front about this and people are understanding. When you can charge $35,000 for a single unit of product your logistics are naturally different than they are for a $350 unit. At the same time, for the higher priced bikes you have to imagine the markup is magnificent compared to entry level motor vehicles, no? Anyone with some inside dope here?

BTW - they say one of the primary factors making Toyota more profitable than its (North American) competition is that its factories are not unionized.

Whisky Prajer said...

Toyota isn't just more competitive because of the absence of unions, it's vastly more innovative, too.

But don't get me started on unions. When the janitors and secretaries went on strike a month or two back, they'd spend their non-picketing time in the cafe and I'd hear all the whining and bitching. My co-worker said it best: "Why is that unions attract union people?"

DarkoV said...

Now I'm not trying to be a wise ass, but is the comparison of the Fisher HKEK to the Yaris a fair one? Just asking! It's not like comparing a BMW 3 series with a Yugo, right?

Or is is like comparing, objective weight wise I mean this with this?

Just trying to get ot that oranges-to-oranges stage.

Whisky Prajer said...

Weeeeell ... it's not exactly like comparing a Beemer with a Yugo, but you raise a good point. The Yaris is Toyota's "economy" model (which has replaced the Echo, our car). Back when I bought my HKEK it was being touted as Fisher's economy model, so I assumed that was still the case. After doing a little searching, it seems his company is now manufacturing bicycles that sell for $328 (Cdn). Assuming the cheap bike is still in the 50 lb range, we have a value of $6.56 -- value!

Whisky Prajer said...

that was supposed to be: "value indeed!"

DarkoV said...


I'm curious. The next time that you run into your female friend, please ask her why she has a bike with the scooped bars in front. I know way back in the past somewhere, men's and female's bikes were mainly identified by the scoop or by the straight bar. But that was when women still wore dresses while bike-riding. Nowadays, no woman in her right mind would wear a dress. To cumbersome and too likely to get ensnared in greasy chains or muddy frames.

Why do they still make bikes with swoops? I'm probably setting myself up for the grand ribbing by the bike gear-heads about my "swoop" terminology, so forgiveness is requested. But, besides forgiveness, I'm requesting an illuminatory exposition. And if the explanation is sound and logical, why can't we men-type be riding those kind of bikes or is that too much of a show of our feminine side for the world as we now know it?

DarkoV said...

If you go to the many beaches blessed with boardwalks in Jersey, Delaware, or Massachusetts, you'll see both men and women driving around with big tired "scoop/swoop" frames. And nary a dress between the sexes. Is that just because our relaxation meters are on HIGH when we're near salt water?

Anonymous said...

I ride this to work:

$1100/20lbs => $55/lb. Worth every penny.

It is interesting to note that lighter bicycles cost more. A $3000 racing bike might weigh 18lbs ($166/lb), while a $300 cruiser might weigh 25lbs ($12/lb). Which makes perfect sense when you consider that serious bicyclists will gladly pay a premium to save a few pounds.


Whisky Prajer said...

DV - "swoop" sounds good to me. I haven't talked with my friend yet, but I can tell you she is certainly the sort to wear a skirt or dress while biking (she's described herself as a "hippie"). I wouldn't bother with the swoop myself, but just take another look at that Garry a few posts back. I can tell you, when I first got my bike I wished it was a girl's bike. It was quite a trick for a six-year-old to mount: you couldn't broach the left side and swing your right over the back the way cowboys mounted their horses, thanks to the sissy bar in the back. No, you were forced to lift your leg over the cross-piece (while wearing blue-jeans, of course).

ジョエル - those OCRs are mighty nice. And that lighter weight makes such a difference. I can remember trading bicycles for a month with a friend who needed something for trails. I rode his Miele for that time, and couldn't believe the speeds I was getting. I'm not sure how well either of these bikes would take to gravel roads, though.

DarkoV said...

Yes, WP, I was wondering about how you mounted that steed of a bike at a younger age. That crossbar seems like a brutal instrument without any visible source of anesthesia, unless one considers the tremendous amount of testosterone thrilling through your body when you're riding the rough trails.

I was then wondering how the combination of that non-propogating crossbar and your fine two daughters was possible. Was it a miracle or was Kawartha still making home deliveries.

Whisky Prajer said...

Arg - Kawartha Dairies and their damnable Florida-sized ice-cream cones!! But getting back to the matter at hand: I've always considered my progeny to be two shining miracles.