Strategies to spin your wheels on the cheap

Runners are starting to log miles for the 5K or half marathon they plan on participating in later in the spring. And my favorite people of all — cyclists — are starting to appear.

I love riding on the open road with friends or on my own, watching the scenery pass by and waving to the people I see. I’m so crazy about taking to two wheels that I’ve been known to ride all 160 miles across the state of Indiana in one day, more than once.

Cycling can be a pricey hobby if you’re not careful. But there are plenty of ways for you to spin your wheels without spinning right through your bank account. If you love your bike, too, or would like to take up riding, you probably want to think through these money-saving strategies.

Know when to buy used and when to buy new

More than once, I’ve had an eager friend who knows about my passion for biking send me an email or online message. What sort of bicycle should I buy? How much should I pay? Where should I go to get it? The cold, hard truth is that if you live in a Midwestern state, more than likely, you’ll end up stashing your bike in the garage for at least three months out of the year or more. People new to the pursuit should think hard and long before buying a bike that costs as much as a small used car (they’re out there, I promise).

As you begin to think through your purchase, it’s wise to consult someone who has been cycling for a while, perhaps a friend or a knowledgeable employee of a bicycle shop. Their expert advice will help guide you through what type of bike you should be in the market for, whether that be a road bike, mountain bike or a cruiser that you can take for a spin through the neighborhood.

When you can, consider buying your first bicycle used until you decide if you’d like to make a more firm investment. Within a few months, you should know if you want to spend big bucks on a spiffier model. Look at yard sales. Check in at your local cycle shop to see if employees or regular customers have second hand bikes available. Often, passionate riders upgrade and want to pass along their earlier wheels.

Never purchase a used helmet. Protective gear actually has a set life cycle and can expire. That also means if your helmet (or your child’s or grandchild’s) has collected dust in the corner of the garage for a decade, you need a new one. I know you never wore one when you were a kid, but protecting your brain is much less costly than paying for surgery or losing your marbles.

Find equipment on clearance aisles

From the handy racks you can place on the back of your car to seats and accessories, many of the extra bells and whistles to make your ride smoother can be found in the clearance aisles. Newer riders don’t need the top end devices and doo-dads. Instead, settle for something much more basic.

You also can head to the Internet to find what you’re looking for. Inquire on your social media networks if anyone is looking to rid themselves of a rack, child’s trailer, or even training wheels. Oftentimes, the items you need are just waiting to be picked up from someone else’s storage shed.