The Experiment – Full-year Review

Review of cycling to work on a road bike after one year!

Yep, the road pictured above is actually part of my daily commute to work. It’s a beautiful stretch of green next to a relatively large lake in the car-free park of Tervuren, which also houses the Royal Museum for Central Africa. Now can you understand why I ride 32km to and from work every day? And that’s not even the best part: I’m getting paid to do so!

About one year ago I decided to purchase a road bike – or a race bike to be more precise. Since the time of purchase the beautiful Trek Madone 2.5 has been put through its paces. Being a full-bred race marvel, it has helped me crush my personal records over and over. Even though I’ve always been pretty fast on a bike, I’ve seen my average speed and power climb week after week.

For reference: I ride to work in one hour – that’s 32kph on average on relatively hilly roads.

Of course, fun and speed comes at a cost with the Madone coming in at an upfront investment of €1,583 last year in May. Then there’s bike specific clothing, safety gear, maintenance and a whole other host of expenses to keep the thing going.

Trek Madone 2.5During my half-year review in December of last year I did point out that on top of the initial purchase price I had spent over €800 on miscellaneous and bike-related things. And of course, that number has grown even larger. As you can see, hobbies come at a cost.

However, two financial advantages offset this high cost – when you compare the total cost to my usual monthly expenses, it truly is massive.

First, I don’t own a car. Together with living arrangements, car ownership is one of the bigger household expenses and I’m happy to keep it off my books for the time being. The luxury of having a car parked outside your front door usually costs about €400 every month in Belgium, which is a mind-numbingly large number for a heap of deteriorating steel and rubber.

Second, my employer pays me a royal €0.21/km for riding to work through a tax-free incentive scheme initiated by the federal government a couple of years ago. So every workday I earn an additional €13.44, or more than what I make after taxes in one workhour. That’s €240.80 on average every month, or almost 15% on top of my net salary – mind blown.

So let’s take a look at the numbers with a little over €8,000km on the clock:

Cycling renumeration +1,720.86
Purchase price -1,583.06
Maintenance -226.33
Tools and gear -556.00
Clothing and safety gear -536.49
Balance -1,181.02

Boom, that’s €600 less in the hole than six months ago!

Considering that I’ve since bought a new chain, cassette, and a brand-spanking new Garmin 520, which also included a heart-rate monitor and a speed and cadence sensor, I’d say that’s pretty impressive. At the moment I’ve recuperated my initial purchase.

So, even though I’m still not “making any money by spending money”, I’m getting closer and closer. If you subtract the one-time purchases, such as tools and safety gear, I’m making money hand over fist simply by doing something I love – or, if you prefer, my hobby is earning me cold, hard cash.

And to me that’s by far the best part of this entire experiment. The fact that I get to enjoy myself while going to work and at the same time earn additional income is amazing! On top of that, I’m also building my health. I sleep longer and more stable, my physical fitness soared to new heights, and my resting heart rate dropped back below 50.

It’s true that I missed my 2015 savings goal because of the Madone, and it’s likely that I miss the same 70% savings rate in 2016 because of it, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Honestly, the only downside to riding this much is having weird tanlines on your legs, arms, and even face since I wear glasses.

Let’s see if I manage to break even before the end of the year!


  1. Cool thing NMW!!

    I hate cars (from the financial perspective) they destroy your whole financial goals, if you have “only” an average income… That`s the reason why i also don`t own a car…It`ll be terrible for me to see that much money wasted every month just for a fu**ing car!!!
    I go to work by bus and train and pay 80€ per month for it, ofcourse with a bicycle it`ll be the best thing, but the weather is often very bad… And… i`m to lazy for that.. xD


    1. DK,

      Car usage is really expensive indeed, even with a second-hand car. The insurance and maintenance alone are way more than I’d like to spend on it.

      Funny thing is I could get to work for free since my employer also pays for train or bus subscriptions, which I previously took advantage of. So if this experiment fails or if I can’t ride my bike to work anymore I’ll still enjoy a free commute. 🙂

      The weather isn’t too bad actually… Only 6% of my rides have been in the rain, with just two of them so bad that I was soaking wet. Good winter/wet clothing helps, of course.


  2. I really admire people who take their bike to work, and from a financial point of view, it’s definitely one of the best things you can do. However, for some people there is no way around owning a car. Especially if the distance to your job is quite substantial or you live in quite a rural area which means most places are pretty far away.

    Buying a new car is infamous for being a terrible investment and is really frowned upon in the “investment” community, but I think buying a decent (!) second hand car isn’t too bad of an idea. You’ll still need to pay car insurance, taxes, maintenance costs etc, but owning a car is damn handy. I’ll probably be buying a second hand car soon, and even though it will probably set me back around 10k, there are certain (German) brands which are fairly priced on the second hand car market, are decently equipped, and still retain a good chunk of their value should you sell them later on.

    1. ciamician,

      Car ownership sometimes is mandatory indeed, especially if you have a larger family or need to travel longer distances to get everywhere – although that would make me question the place you live, ha. 🙂 Many people consider my commute to be too long, but I’d happily ride 50km each way to be honest.

      A decent second-hand car is definitely the way to go, in my opinion, if you’re forced to buy a car. At least you’ll get the first years of depreciation out of the way and you can then drive that thing into the ground for the next 15+ years. Personally I wouldn’t go for a German car though because they’re quite expensive to maintain. I’d rather purchase Toyota or Honda.


  3. Some things can’t be assessed based on the numbers only, and in my opinion, using your bike instead of a car is one of them. Think of the health benefits, being outside instead of inside a small sardine can etc… As a resident of the Netherlands, using your car within the city is rather uncommon, and I would never change this great habit. Good luck with the bike, and your journey towards FIRE!

    1. FV,

      Ha, I knew my Dutch visitors would jump on this post since they’re so bike savvy, especially in the city. Even though Belgium is as crazy about the Netherlands about biking we’re severely lacking in the infrastructure department compared to you guys (apart from Limburg to the east).

      Thank you for dropping by and taking the time to leave a comment!


  4. Hi NMW,

    I’m a huge fan of Jacob Lund (ERE) and how he calculates costs. With his approach, you’ve already won some money biking because you can sell your bike and gear for more than those 1,181.02€

    Indeed, if you calculate your net worth adding the market value of your shares, why don’t add also the market value of your bike? At the end, both things are paying you some dividends each month.

    1. Juanjo,

      Hmm, that’s an interesting perspective! It’d be fun to see how much my current bike and setup would fetch, but I think it would be nowhere near the €1,000 mark. Belgium is full of second-hand road bikes and I personally would never purchase one second-hand, especially if it’s a carbon frame.

      I’ll definitely run the numbers though, simply because it will look much better than what I’ve written down here. From a cashflow perspective I think the above is correct though.

      Nevertheless, I’ll definitely start earning money (i.e. total income > total expenses) in a couple of months regardless of how you calculate it! 🙂

      Best wishes,

  5. Wow that is pretty awesome. I think it’s a great investment in your health as well. I ride on the weekends and it’s amazing exercise, I can only imagine the shape one must be in to ride as much as you do. It would be annoying riding in the rain though. Keep up the great work.

    1. Captain,

      Healthwise I’ve seen the largest return on investment indeed! Even though I’ve always been lean and fit, I’m absolutely flying at the moment.

      Rain is a bit of nuisance sometimes, but it’s nearly not as bad as most people think. Only 6% of my rides have been in the rain this year (and summer time is just around the corner). Besides, good clothing really helps to keep you warm and dry when it’s pouring outside.

      Glad to hear you enjoy riding in the weekend! I hope you go out with a couple of friends or even a club?


  6. That’s a cracking tax incentive for riding your bike, here in the UK we have a scheme referred to as ‘salary sacrifice’ where our government allows for a tax saving to be made on certain goods and services, this includes the purchasing of a bike. It works by paying through your employers payroll reducing the taxable salary giving a saving between 20-40% on the item or service depending on the employees income tax rate.

    When there’s a need for a car, I don’t agree that car ownership can destroy financial goals of those on average income. I’ve been through the minimum to average income stages, planning approaches to owning a car from choice of car, purchase, the running/maintenance costs and how you drive can be manage to help continue on with the financial goals. And you’ll get to a point where a large purchase like this will just be a blip in the networth, noticed one month gone the next.

    1. Reckless Saving,

      Awesome incentive, right? It’s one of the best out there in my opinion.

      I follow the Global Cycling Network on YouTube (UK-based) and they’ve explained the cycle-to-work scheme in the past. Sounds like a pretty good deal too, but not nearly as nice as what we’re accustomed to over here in Belgium.

      You’re right that car ownership doesn’t destroy financial goals, but it certainly makes them more difficult. I’d lose about 20% of savings rate simply for owning a car… That’s a lot when you put it into perspective.


  7. Kudos for making this last already one year!
    By next year, you really start making money.

    The park of tervuren is really beautiful! I grew up closeby and pass every day in my car commute. Looks like I can improve still a lot.i dream of doing bike commute. Now I need to make it real.

    I will honk the horn when I see you! We can go for an icecream in the centre if tervuren.

    1. ATL,

      Ha, if you ever see someone riding in a Proximus or Lotto Belisol outfit, you’ll know it’s me! 🙂 And I’ll take you up on that ice cream offer!

      I hope to be in the green by next year. From then onwards I’ll only make money cycling to work… That is if I don’t buy a new bike, ha.


  8. Wow that is a fantastic idea and incentive to do that. You live in a very bike-friendly country. The bike would be worth the savings anyway, it’s fantastic you earn so much. Wow.


    1. Tristan,

      Cycling is part of our culture, but mostly as a spare-time activity. I’m glad government is trying to push more people to consider the bike as an all-round means of transportation. And the extra income isn’t too bad either! 😉


  9. Hey NMW, that is some pretty good commuting on the bicycle, your beating out the Dutch! 😉

    Looks like the bike will end up being a good investment, even if you won’t break even by the end of the year, you will in the next year! You must be in pretty good shape by now if you are averaging about 32km/h. Hat tip to you sir.

    1. Team CF,

      You know you’re doing something right if you beat the Dutch at cycling around town, ha!

      Breaking even by the end of the year is going to be tough as I had to buy some more equipment (both tools and replacement parts), but at least I’m healthy, learning some new skills and I’m having fun.

      I’ve always been in good shape, but my fitness is getting back to my 16 year-old self. Great feeling!


  10. NMW,

    I’ve started biking to work a few days per week in the US capital. Its nice, good exercise. I got a hybrid road/mtn bike back in college for $200. So its been a savings machine, and now its really starting to save me some cash – about $6 / commuting day. Easy to save a hundred $ every month and that does account for the time it saves me for various reasons!

    – Gremlin

    1. Gremlin,

      Damn, that’s a pretty cheap bike and a lot of money you’re saving every day! Sounds like a no-brainer. Good on you!


  11. 64 km cycling every day is quite a feat! In an average month you cover well over 1,200 km on a bike! Your yearly cycling distance approximately covers the distance Belgium – Singapore. My estimation is that you probably burn around 1000-1,200 kcal each day just by biking. This equals to 4 nice pints of Belgian beer or roughly 2.5 servings of Belgian waffles. I am impressed.

    1. Singestor,

      You’re right on the money! Average kcal burned every day hovers around 1,200. Four pints of beer? Too bad that would break my savings right or I’d be all over that! 😉


    1. DFG,

      Exactly! Just have to keep this up and it’s a win-win. In a year’s time I expect to make about €200 on average every month in pure profits.


  12. Nice going! Good for health, good for fun and good for finance.

    I have a racing bike to, but I don’t use it to go to work. It’s only 5km and I would need to take a shower and change clothes. It’s not worth if for that short of a distance, so I use a normal bike although I don’t like it. No speed…

    I asume you have facilities for taking a shower at work? Or how do you cope with that? 32 on average is quite impressive, so you probably need some facilities I asume.

    1. DutchDiv,

      Healthy, financially sound and a lot of fun – why isn’t everyone doing this!? 😉

      If I had to ride 5k to work, I also wouldn’t jump on my race bike, but take my normal city bike. The hassle of having to put on cycling-specific clothing would just be too much and I’d get tired of doing it really quickly.

      My offices do indeed provide a shower and changing room – otherwise I really wouldn’t be able to bike to work. I often arrive dripping in sweat. 🙂


  13. Im averaging 40km per hour by using a bafang middrive electric on my regular bike 🙂
    1000w bafang with a 20ah 48v battery. Charging it 1 time a day.
    That 15km that i have to go through is done in around 22 minutes
    Totalling 30km a day is for me about 44 minutes of cycling a day.
    Normally I had 20 mins a day in the car. 10 up 10 back.

    Sold my car last week after trying it out for 3 months and I’m enjoying it by being carless!
    Saved me about 160 euro a month including 300 yearly repairbudget.
    Was about 10% a month of my salary..

    Only wish I got payed here in Holland for going by bike.
    Even by car I was not getting any money for it.

    1. DividendDutchy,

      Glad to hear from another bike commuter!

      40kph is really fast for an electric bike, you must be zipping through the city like nothing else. I believe that kind of speed requires a driver’s license, helmet, number plate, and insurance in Belgium – even if it’s still considered a bike.

      The best part of your setup is that you get to save a lot of money from your monthly salary – 10%!! Now imagine if your employer paid you 21 cents per km like mine does. You’d be rolling in money.


  14. Hi NMW,

    I really enjoy your blog and your journey and progress made so far have been amazing and are very inspiring. So keep up the good work!

    One thing that really surprised me is that on the basis of one of your examples given in this article, you seem to be making €1,600 net per month (salary). You come across as a very intelligent guy and I recall you wrote somewhere you have a decent job. Given that you are quite young still i can only imagine you are paid as a “starter”. But is 1,600€ the average for a starter salary in Belgium for the sector in which you work (financial sector?)?

    Apologies if this comment is too direct, but just curious about this.

    Cheers, Dave

    1. Dave,

      Thank you for the nice comment, I really appreciate it! People like you make me push myself harder and continue my journey.

      I’m not really sure what gave you the impression that my net salary per month is €1,600, but I can asure you it’s higher. At the moment it hovers around €2,100 per month. You can check my saving rate reports for more details (although I haven’t updated them in a while):

      Starters with a master’s degree usually make €3,000 gross, which equates to around €1,800 net, in my experience. This of course depends on the industry or sector you work in and doesn’t include any other benefits like bonusses or health care insurance.

      This might surprise you, but I’m actually a civil servant. 😉

      Hope this was helpful!

      Best wishes,

  15. Hi NMW,

    Thanks for the transparency 🙂

    I infered the 1,600€ from the latter part of your text below:

    “So every workday I earn an additional €13.44, or more than what I make after taxes in one workhour. That’s €240.80 on average every month, or almost 15% on top of my net salary – mind blown.”

    Re-reading it again, i see now that the first part of the above text indeed aligns with roughly 2,100€ (assuming 40h workweek), but the latter part where you basically equate €240 to 15% of your net salary suggests a net salary of 1,600€..

    But the exact figure really doesn’t fact also on the basis of the higher 2,100€ your accumulatd net worth is frankly really astonishing.. When i was your age i could only dream of that.. You are definately on the right track (i know net worth accumulation is not your key objective, but your result so far is really solid)

    On another note, Is there no way that you can avoid these ridiculously high Belgian taxes on dividend? It’s extremely high.. I myself purchased some shares of InBev without verifying the Belgian tax regime ( as a foreign investor I am also subject to this relatively high dividend tax, and reclaiming it with Belgian tax authorities appears quite a hassle) and it was very disappointing to discover how these taxes eat away the dividend.

    Do you do anything with options by any chance? Covered calls and/or short puts (to enter into a stock position)?

    Cheers, Dave

    1. Dave,

      You’re welcome! Hope everything is clear now.

      The Belgian taxes cannot be “avoided” since I’m a Belgian resident, but foreigners should receive a reduced tax rate of 15% I believe (down from 30%). Check with your broker since there’s a change they offer this service for you.

      Glad to be a fellow shareholder of InBev! 🙂

      I don’t do options or any other type of derivative. I feel they complicate things for me without providing enough of an upside. I know they can be groot tools and can even boost your return, but slow and steady wins the race for me.

      Best wishes,

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