Pimp my ($170 Schwinn) Ride!


Hey YNAB community! Jeremy here, and I’m kicking myself for not remembering to share this early in the summer, but it’s better late than never.

Years ago, I lived 1.6 miles away from where I worked. I rode my bike regularly, but realized the huge benefits of skipping the car altogether while in town. Less ga$, less repair$, fewer oil change$, and rippling calf muscles, to name a few. It was around the time An Inconvenient Truth came out on DVD, so I certainly wasn’t the only one thinking this way.

I figured out what was stopping me from becoming a full-on pedal pusher:

  • Sun/heat/pitting out on the way to work (I live in central Washington State).
  • Snow/cold/getting frostbite on the way to work (I live in central Washington State).
  • I don’t feel like pedaling sometimes.
  • It takes too long to get places. If I’m running late, I grab the car keys.

A friend of mine got a little scooter he drove around town. It was a cool, Vespa-looking type and got a bajillion miles per gallon. His gleaming white helmet reminded me of Wallace from A Close Shave. I was seriously tempted that direction until I priced the scooters out at $1,200 not including tabs, licensing, maintenance, etc.

I was randomly scanning eBay one day (I don’t recommend this) and finally found what I was looking for: an electric bike conversion kit. (That’s a non-affiliate link and the particular one I bought is no longer around. I can’t vouch for any of the kits listed because I haven’t used them.)

Since I already had a cheap Schwinn mountain bike, I got a front tire electric motor kit for $300 and was ready to rock. The main reason I got the front tire version (as opposed to the rear tire) was to easily shed the 40 lbs of weight it adds. I don’t always want it on, so being able to disconnect the wires and swap out the front tire is a huge plus. It took me about an hour to install and I was on the road.

It uses a thumb throttle, so I control how much power I’m using at all times. I’d love to tell you I don’t use it all the time for the sake of personal fitness, but keeping up with 20-25 mph traffic is too dang fun.

It broke through all the reasons I didn’t bike and paid for itself in three months from fuel I didn’t buy. In the summer, I pedal less and go fast enough to get a breeze going. In the winter, I pedal enough to get my body warmed. With both tires being powered, I cut through snow much easier too. Plus, my calves are rockin’.