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8 Bikes You Should Buy Instead of an Annual Oyster Card

The “great value” London zone 1-6 travelcard costs £2,364, and comes with a year’s worth of life-sucking commutes and rush-hour madness. But what if you got a bike instead?

Doing the math

Let’s crunch some numbers. If you were to set aside a generous £300 for some top-of-the-line cycle clothes and, say, another £300 for yearly maintenance & servicing costs, you’d be left with about ~£1,750 to splurge on a brand new two-wheeler.*

So what sort of a bicycle can a cool ~£1,750 get you?

I’ve sorted the bikes by type and listed what I feel are the best on-budget bikes for each category.

Note: I'm not in any way affiliated with any of these bikes. They are just really nice bikes.

(*Btw, if your employer is part of the cycle-to-work scheme, you can also get a serious [I’m talking 20-40% serious] discount & up to 12 month interest-free finance.)

Low on space

1. Tern Verge X10 - £1,500

Speed: +++

Weight: ++

Convenience: ++++

Light and relatively compact with road-racing oriented components and modern styling. The X10 strikes a good balance between the convenience of a folding bike and the performance of a full-sized racer. And it’s well within our price range.

2. Brompton M6L Nickel - £1500

Speed: ++

Weight: +

Convenience: +++++

The old British classic. Timelessly good looking and folds down to the most compact size. On the flip side, its traditional manufacturing techniques & materials does mean it is one of the heaviest folding bikes out there. BUT IT’S SO PRETTY THOUGH.

Need for speed

3. Giant TCR Advanced Disc 2 - £1775

Speed: +++++

Weight: +++++

Convenience: +

The Giant TCR may not have the best component specs with most parts being produced in-house. But that is not what you’re paying the premium for. The frame, disc compatibility and ride quality of the TCR are all punching waaaay above its price point.

4. Wilier GTR Team 105 - £1800

Speed: +++++

Weight: +++++

Convenience: +

The Italian answer to entry-level, high-performance carbon bikes. Flashy paint job and better specced as far as parts are concerned makes this one of the nicest looking bikes for our budget. Be advised however - the money spent on bling has been saved on the frame.

Adventure edition

5.Salsa Vaya GX - £1450

Speed: ++++

Weight: +++

Convenience: +++

Salsa is calling this a “road-adventure bike”, and that sums it up pretty well. The Vaya GX is able to eat road miles while dealing with off-road trails with ease. With a steel frame and some burly components it is not the lightest or the fastest bike out there - but it will take everything you throw at it.

6. Surly Ogre - £1800

Speed: +++

Weight: ++

Convenience: +++

More mountain-bike than anything else, the aptly-named Ogre is a bicycle meant for the harshest of commutes. Riding through rooty paths, over logs, down flights of stairs, basically anything short of 1m drops. Fat tires and a bombproof build make this a heavier but more capable bike than the Salsa.

Smart & Stylish

7. Cannondale Bad Boy 1 - £1500

Speed: ++++

Weight: +++

Convenience: ++

When it comes to smart-looking city bikes, Cannondale is the king of cool. Simple, understated, low maintenance. Sure, the benefits of a mono blade fork on this kind of bike are questionable, but boy does it ever make it look badass.

8. Canyon Commuter 7.0 - £1620

Speed: +++

Weight: ++

Convenience: ++++

There is so much innovation going on in this bike that I can’t possibly do it justice here. This is quite possibly the most city commute-specific full-size bike out there. It features a welcome shock-absorbing seatpost, integrated lights, full mudguards, and a cool rack for bags. Nothing says “chick magnet” like a stylish bag rack.

Moving forward

But wait - you get a new travelcard each year, right?

Just as an added thought experiment - what if you were to set aside this same amount of money (~1.75k) for a brand new bike: Every. Single. Year?

Now this is where things get good.

Bikes have a very active second hand market. If you were to sell your well-maintained (thanks to that £300 we used on servicing) bike at the end of the year, you’d easily get back %60 of the cost. So that means you’d have (quick bit of maths: £1.75k + (£1.75k x 0.6)) - about £2800 at the very least to spend on a brand new bike for the new year!

I’m not going to list all of the many (oh so tempting) options for a bike in that price range. But this should give you a pretty good idea:

Do this for 5 years and - thanks to the magic of compounded resale values - you’re riding a very, very nice ~£8k bike. Something like:

Colnago C60 PLGL (custom-built)

Tip: Don’t commute on an £8k bike - it’s stupid.

And what do the tubers have to show for their ~£12k spent over the same 5 years? Other than a higher-than-national average blood pressure and an increased risk of stress-related health issues - not very much indeed.

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