Homestead Bicycle?

I’ve been contemplating ways to avoid the fuel pump.  One option I’m thinking about is getting around the homestead on a bicycle.  This is not a typical homestead topic, and I’m hesitant to post about this.  On the other hand, how can I know what interests you?

I’m not preaching an earth muffin message here.  I’m looking for something practical.  Here are the factors I’m considering…

Time: a mark against walking

I like to walk, but there are only so many minutes of daylight.  It’s a 7 minute walk down the hill and another 7 minutes coming back.  Sometimes I’ll do this three or four times a day.  I’ve blown an hour just moving from point to point.

This is why I’ll drive down.  It’s a longer route, wastes gas, but the trip is half the time.

Money: a mark against driving

It costs to drive.  It’s also hard on the engine.  The engine never gets a chance to warm up unless I let it sit when I start it (more fuel used).  15 mph isn’t the sweet spot for fuel savings either.

Capacity: a mark against a bike

I can carry more in my arms generally, than I can on a bike.  The same is true for a car, even my Miata.

I’m against losing time and money, so I’m going to need to plan carefully if I’m going to sacrifice capacity.  Maybe I’ll store tools and materials at the bottom of the stead.

Maintenance:  a mark against the internal combustion engine

I’m not talking about money, but effort.  I can change hoses, belts, spark plug wires, filters, etc.  This is a lot of work.  Admittedly, it has to be done, because I need the cars/pickup for other stuff.  I just don’t think a vehicle’s total cost of ownership is justified for this application. (sorry for the jargon, but it fits)

Ability: a mark against me

I am 40 years old.  While I’m not a couch potato, I’m no athlete either.  I need to lose a few pounds.  Frankly, I’ve had some bad experiences with bicycles as an adult as well.

I’m considering a tricycle build that will run off of an electric motor, but that’s in the future.  Right now, I can see if I’m compatible with a mountain bike.

The one thing that I know is that I don’t want a department store bike.  They are heavy, equipped with poor quality parts and have no re-sale value.  I also am not going to spend $500 on a new bike (I’ve paid less for cars).  Other than that, I’m completely ignorant.

Luckily, I have a friend who’s an expert.

He’s given me some tips…

Lighter is better  Chromoly and aluminum frames are great.  Double butted means that thin tubes are used, but reinforced in all the right places.

Also, remove what you don’t need.  I was surprised to learn how much the front suspension can weigh (5-10 lbs).

Good parts are key  Each parts company has a quality range of parts.  Shimano is a good example.  Shimano makes brakes, gears, shifters, etc.  You don’t want a Shimano part if it says only “Shimano” or “Tourney”.

The right tire for the right applicaton  Those knobby tires are for off-road.  I don’t just mean off pavement, but off the trail.

Some bikes cost more because of the brand  There are quality bikes and poor bikes.  This doesn’t always correspond with the brand.  Some quality brands fly under the radar, especially on Craigslist.  This isn’t where the elite shop for bikes.

Here’s a link that can be helpful when researching… Bikepedia

Armed with some info and with Nick’s help, I went to Craigslist.

Here’s what I got…


This is a Marin Eldridge Grade.  I think it was made in 1994.  Then, it retailed for around $900.  If everything was original and worked, the bike should be worth about a third of original price ($300).

The front shifter wasn’t working.  The other shifter wasn’t original (or as good) but worked fine.

Luckily, the front shifter isn’t a priority.  I can use the middle gear for almost everything.  The big gear isn’t needed at all (for going downhill faster).  I’d like the wee gear to work eventually, but not a priority.

The brakes needed to be adjusted, but I didn’t have to put money into them.

The tires held air, but they are knobby tires, and I’m not interested in wearing myself out for nothing.  I was able to get new tires for a total of $40.

I dropped $16 on a couple of puncture-resistant tubes.  I also purchased puncture tape.  This goes in between the tire and the tube.  $18 for two tapes.

I’ve also spent $25 on some tools.

All the above were expenses that I consider necessary, at $150.

I’ve also added a headlight and taillight to be legal in town, a couple bags, seat, bike rack, water bottles and an air pump that mounts on the bike.  I didn’t keep track, but I think this is another $65.

My bike mentor and I jumped on our bikes and I went for my first ride on the Marin.  I warned Nick that I might only go a mile or two.  My last experience on a mountain bike had been a horror show and I wasn’t up for extended torture.

Four miles later, we turned around.  I had a grin on my face.  Clearly, a good bike makes for a good experience.

Something to understand is that my biking conditions are perfect right now.  I ride on a paved bike trail along the American River.  I’m not on uneven ground, dodging rocks and gravel spots.  Still, I think the bike is a success.

I’ve put about 45 miles on the bike so far.  My smartphone dutifully keeps track of my stats.

Something that surprised me is how my body has taken the exercise.  No clicks, pops or grinding from my knees or ankles.   This is low impact exercise.

We’ll see how this works out on the stead.  For right now, I have a pleasant way to improve myself.




5 thoughts on “Homestead Bicycle?

  1. Like the looks of that mountain bike, Jeremey, and you make a good argument for using it. I’ll have to share this post with Bob so he can read just how savvily (not a word but I like it) you’ve written about your homestead and your transportation needs/thoughts. :)

  2. The bike is best…you will get stronger. :) I would put a trailer/wagon on the back. I had one for my toddler and 9 year old at the time. That was over 120 pounds and I glided along like floating on a cloud. It would be easy enough to make something awesome for very little cash.

  3. From someone who just recently had only a bike to get to work, shop, etc, for an entire year (and on Northern Calif coast with almost daily rain) here are my 2 cents worth. You mentioned weight being a factor in the bike. I guess after everything you have on that thing now, you realize thats not much of an issue. Function 1st! The rack is a must. I’ve seen some cool trailers for bikes…maybe look at the baby carriers, definitely multi-function in those things! I’ve even seen someone hauling their kayak with their bike! (My kayak still goes on the car)

    Run! Forest, RUN! The only answer I have for your walking issue. And you are never too old. 46 and I’ve never been in better shape in my life, even better than those army days! Long distance too, like 30 milers (still working on those REALLY long ones). Don’t believe your body or what anyone has told you, if you can walk, you can run. Don’t believe that running is high impact either, change your form and its as low impact as biking. Diet, plays a huge part with me for ability. Feed it right and the body will reward with bonuses! Don’t eat right, you not only won’t be active, you’ll pay more at the doctor (someone I haven’t been to in over 10 years).

    YES! A bike can make all the difference! Although I did pay over $1000 for my mtn bike, you get what you pay for and its still rocking hard with a couple thousand miles on it! And with me riding it, those are hard miles (they call me toppling Tom for a reason).

    Ok this is your blog not mine….ramble on!

    • Just a note for anyone that read Tom’s comment above and takes it negatively: Tom knows me from a long time back. His comments are motivational and not critical. :-)

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