Loyal Steed

Day 8 | $0 paid | $90,717 till freedom

I bought a new Trek FX 7.2 from Bicycle Sport Shop on Lamar and am one very significant step closer to being a pedi-cab driver. It cost $519 excluding tax, and I saved $30–it was originally $549–by going with last year’s model which Trek left basically unchanged for 2012. It’s a hybrid, so unlike a mountain bike, it has a rigid front fork  that is lighter and will conserve more energy than a suspension fork, it has smooth tires that will roll better than knobbies, and it has higher gears so I can top out at a higher speed. And unlike a roadbike, it has v-brakes for better stopping power, a stronger aluminum frame that (hopefully) won’t crack, and lower gears for climbing hills more easily.

I added a bell because the pedi-cab drivers said I need it to get customers’ attention.

I think I might have overanalyzed my bell choice a bit–I was trying to figure out what bell would sound the most inviting to potential customers as I ride up behind them without being either 1) creepy, or 2) completely emasculating. I’m convinced that there has to be some sort of marketing study that has analyzed bell sounds and found the ones that optimize take-up rate. Unfortunately, I don’t know where to get that data. I probably spent about ten whole minutes testing the huge selection of bells at the shop and irritating the hell out of every single customer within earshot–which would have meant every single customer in the store because the bells were loud and the store was fairly small. Sorry I’m not sorry, folks–this is my livelihood! My livelihood!!!

I also added bar-ends–they’ll be helpful during out-of-the-saddle hill climbs.

I also added a couple of inner tubes just in case. Having an operations background–I supervised a team of 25 material handlers in a computer assembly plant as my first job out of undergrad–I know that equipment downtime can make or break a shift.

Out-the-door costs totaled $600 (including tax).

The Cost of Pedi-Cabbing
Up-front fixed costs
• Bike and accessories: $600
• Criminal background report: $35
• Defensive driving (since I got a ticket within the past 6 months): $25
• Driving history: $12
• Another set of bar-ends because I stripped the threads on the first set: $20

Total pedi-cab fixed cost investment: $692

Variable costs
• $35 trailer rental on Fri/Sat ($10 Sun-Mon, $20 Thurs)
• Brake pads: $TBD
• Chain lube: $TBD
• Energy bars: $2/ea

Income: $100-150/weekend night + $TBD for special events (e.g., games, ACL, etc.)

There will also be a salvage value (net of depreciation) that I will hope to capture next July. $200, maybe?

Payback Period
If I make $200/weekend, it will take me three and a half weeks to pay back the bike before I start generating positive cash flow. I’ve heard that game days can be lucrative, and that during the three-day ACL event, pedi-cab drivers can make $600/day. I really hope that’s true, as my original calculations assumed pedi-cabbing would be only a $500 investment and I overshot that by $200.

Why New?
Tom, the pedi-cab driver I quizzed two nights ago, told me he bought his bike for $70. Let me see if I can make a pre-emptive strike on any of the flack I’m sure to get in the comments section for getting a brand new bike at $519. 🙂

I went new because I wasn’t finding what I wanted on Craigslist. I wanted a hybrid bike for the reasons already mentioned in the beginning, and there were about three hybrid bikes to choose from on Craigslist which were either in poor condition, the wrong size, or not priced to move.

I’m going to be using this pedi-cab to pull human lives. Having everything in working order–especially the brakes–is critical. If I plow into an intersection and get into an accident because I bought a bike that had bad brakes, that’s on me. (And I could technically get away with–oddly enough, the city inspects trailers but not the bikes.) Sure, a brake job might be only $50 to $100. But what condition is the chain in on these CL bikes? The cables? Cogs? Hubs? Are the wheels true? Pulling a trailer full of people is going to put a lot of stress on the bike, and I want to start from a good place.

I’m going to be using this pedi-cab to pull 300+ pounds of weight for five+ hours at a time. If it’s not the right size, I could get hurt–knee and wrist ergo injuries come to mind–and spend thousands of dollars in medical bills to fix injuries resulting from a mistake that could have been prevented with $500.

Why $500? Cheap vs. Frugal vs. Excessive
I had a tough time finding the proper definitions of “cheap” and “frugal” online that will help express what I want to convey, but I feel like the entire bike decision came down to a choice between being cheap or being frugal. I could have been cheap, spent $70, and regretted it later (no offense, Tom). Or, I could have spent $1,000+ and bought way too much bike–truth be told, I came very close to buying a bike for $800 because it had disc brakes.

I think the $519 purchase was a sound one. A cheap person buys the cheapest thing they can find without regard to anything other than the cost of that object or service at that point in time. A frugal person buys the thing that might cost a little more, but will ultimately deliver greater value in the long run than whatever is cheapest at that moment. Hemorrhaging $600 on the bike when I’m facing such an audacious goal was not easy, but I think it was a better decision than spending only $70.

Why Now?
This was a time-sensitive purchase decision. I couldn’t patiently wait for a deal to come along, or even wait to order something online. I have to train with the pedi-cab company this week if I want to be hired on and assured of getting on their ACL schedule, where $600/day opportunities supposedly exist.

$1200 Parts Bike
I bought a full-carbon roadbike on Craigslist for $1200 last October as my main mode of transportation when my license was suspended for three months for accumulating four moving violations within 12 months. I haven’t gotten a chance to ride it as much as I would have liked to this summer because of the ridiculous heat, and now that it’s going to start cooling down, I was looking forward to putting some mileage on it.

Today, sadly, it became a parts bike, and I won’t be riding it until I’m done pedi-cabbing in ten months, when it will be July. And if next July is anything like this past July, it’ll be too hot to ride it again, and I’ll have to wait till the fall. Woe is me!

Step one of taking the roadbike out of commission was transferring its pedals to the pedi-cab bike. That way, I can wear special shoes that clip into the pedals so that I can apply pressure on upward strokes as well as downward strokes, basically increasing the efficiency and doubling and smoothing the power application. I also transferred the tire pump, water bottles and cages, headlight, computer (to track distance), and the bike bag to hold the innertubes and a small tool set.

Nickels and Dimes
I reviewed the bike receipt today–not for the blog, but out of curiosity. I literally can’t remember the last time I actually took the time to review a receipt. Anyway, I’m glad I did because the cashier charged me $549 for the bike. I called the shop, they confirmed the mistake, and told me to come in for a refund. I live up north, the shop is downtown, and I have a very full day. What a PITA! The old me would have said screw it, not worth my time, keep your lousy 30 bucks. Not the new me! Off to the shop I went.

It turns out I had to go back to the shop, anyway. While I was putting one of the bar-ends on the handlebars, I over-torqued the bolt and ended up stripping the threads and ruining the $20 set. I flipped out! 20 bucks is basically the equivalent of two or three pedi-cab rides downtown, I already have a fair amount of money sunk into the bike, and with that amateur mistake, I’m only extending an already long payback period. The old me would have not have made a big deal about that and minimized it by equating it to about three drinks downtown. The new me was not so understanding…

Next Steps
I’m picking up my criminal background report tomorrow, then calling up the pedi-cab place to get signed. I hope to train on Thursday and start pedi-cabbing on Friday.

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