So how much does it cost us to bicycle in the United States for six and a half months (about 6200 miles / 9980 km)?
For WanderWheels the average cost was $64/day (as Sarah says, our life is on a spreadsheet so the actual average was $64.37/day). To me, this average was surprisingly high.
Could we have travelled for less than this on the bicycles? Absolutely!
Except for being homeless, we continued living about the same on the bikes. When we met with friends along the way, we tended to spend a bit more. When friends joined us to bike, they were on vacation, so we splurged a bit as if we were on vacation and spent accordingly.
The company was priceless. However, if we were just out for the summer crossing the country, we probably would not have spent as much.
Let’s take a look at where all the money went:
Our lodging averaged $7.93/day (if you take out our “vacation” hotels the number would drop to $5.38/day)
Food & Drink averaged $36.03/day (if you take out my beer consumption and our “vacation” meals, like the Caesar’s Palace decadent Bacchanal Buffet, the number would drop to the $20 – $30 per day range). If we never ate in restaurants and always cooked meals, made sandwiches, etc. I estimate that we could have hit the lower end of that range. But when you’re on a bicycle, food fuels the body so skimping on food can be counter productive.
We averaged about $8.16/day on bicycle, camping gear and photography related stuff. This included bike repairs and consumable parts (like tires, chains, etc.), clothes and gear replacement. This number is high and merits some explanation. Prior to entering Mexico, I preemptively replaced the tires, even though we could have ridden them for 2k to 4k more miles.
Additionally, some of our gear was old and should have been replaced before we started out. In fact some of it went on my England to Singapore bicycle trip, like my pump that required replacement during this trip. We both started out with old helmets (5 to 7 years old) that had to be replaced. Also, I started out with the old wheels from my prior touring bike that had in excess of 10k miles on them. They had to be sent back to the manufacturer for repair (I should have done the preventative maintenance prior to leaving).
Finally in the bike & gear category, the average also included the cost to ship back the BOB trailer to Elliot after he let us try it out.
Take out the helmets, a fluke bar-end shifter replacement, the BOB trailer experiment, premature tire replacements and the average drops to $4.82/day
We used Sarah’s old T-Mobile, pay-as-you-go, flip phone and spent about $1/day.
Finally, in the miscellaneous category we averaged $11.23/day. However, this figure included our $181/month health insurance policy. As we are unwaged, we are no longer subsidized under an employer’s policy. Take out our health insurance and the miscellaneous category drops to $4.70/day.
To summarize, I’ve created the table below. It shows the WanderWheels actual average costs compared to what I estimate a more realistic extended tour (cross-country or along one of the coasts) in the United States would cost.
I’ve met people who toured on a lot less. Your mileage may vary.