Sunday, December 7, 2008

Bicycles and Missionaries: Why Are They So Expensive?

My daughter who is leaving shortly for a mission to Taiwan Taipei received a letter from her mission president telling her to bring $300 for a bicycle for her mission. She was very concerned by the high price and wondered what kind of bicycle costs that much money. You can buy the lightest bicycle for that price range. Haven't they heard of Walmart in Taiwan where a pricey bike is $175. Even if you throw in the price of a helmet and knee pads that is around $200-225. I wonder if they get an administrative charge of $50-75 or do bikes really cost more in Taiwan. I thought since most goods were made in China they would be fairly inexpensive. Does anyone know why they are so high in that mission?

Bikes are a major form of transportation among missionries. I thought it would also be fun to see missionaries with their trusty cycles. Enjoy!


Anonymous said...

Well, because I still pay tithing and all that and still hope to be included in that narrow gate someday, I'll be anonymous with this comment. But....I served a senior mission and to me...and correct me if I'm wrong...that it's asking the extra mile to make them buy their own bikes. LOTS of them do not have the money; their families don't have the money; so they obediently buy a very expensive bike. Then comes the time of going home. No one wants to buy their bikes because the incoming missionaries know the outgoing ones won't take them home and ... no. They're not going to buy them if they can help it from an outgoing missionary. So that plan isn't going to work. We had many many expensive bikes just left in apartments. The church buys the cars for them plus upkeep and gas. I sure don't see why they cannot purchase bicycles and give those missionaries a break.
The old adage that they will take care of them better if they buy them is not true. They're still boys at heart. The bike situation in the mission field is ....with regard to having lightning hit my head in the next minute....a rip-off.

Anonymous said...

I know in some missions the mission provides bicycles.

I served my mission in the US, and spent about half my mission on a bike. $300 for a bicycle is not expensive. While a significant expense, a cheapie bicycle will not last. I had a few companions who purchased the walmart special whose bikes were constantly breaking, leading to a waste of time and additional expense in repairs. Further the cheapest bikes cannot really be repaired and must be replaced.

At least in the US shipping a bike was not significantly expensive and many missionaries took theirs home.

Also, the mission office Kept the bikes the missionaries didn't want to take home - and sold them on consignment - sending the money back to the missionary. These bikes, which sold for $400 or so new, went for $150-200.

A company came up with the idea of marketing generic bikes to missionaries, naming it after a book of mormon item, with decent equipment and a decent quality bike, at about $300 new.

This is all based on US bike prices about 10 years ago, so I don't know what they are now - or what they would be in Taiwan.

Coffinberry said...

As a mom of a current missionary, and quasi-mom to current missionaries in our ward, I don't need to be anonymous on this. $300 is about what one would expect to pay for a quality bike that will last through daily use on a mission. We've tried to fix the cheap-o Wal-mart types for local missionaries, and they just don't have the wherewithal (think mostly in the gear, shifting, and brake systems) to hold up to the wear of daily use.

We bought our sons quality Trek bikes in their late teens (about the time they got drivers' licenses) as alternative transportation, and when oldest went on mission in the states, shipped it to him (about $90). I figure the second will do the same if in the US (if not, he can buy one there and pass it down when he leaves).

Look, the youth should be training their behinds to tolerate biking anyway. This is an investment that should be put to use longer than just two years.

Anonymous said...

I'll echo what the others said. I bike a lot and do all my own work on bikes. $300 is a reasonable for a bike from a bike shop that would be ridden every day. The bike will probably have more durable parts, will likely be set up better by the shop, and will likely be sized to fit the rider better.

It's true that if you're handy you might be able to keep a "Wal-mart special" running as well, but most missionaries don't have the time, know-how, or tools to do so. Skimping to save a few bucks up front would be foolish in my opinion.

Biker RM

Michael said...

$300 for a missionary bike is not expensive at all. I would never subject a missionary to a walmart bike no matter how much I disliked them. It is just not right.

Clark Goble said...

Those cheap Walmart bikes won't hold up. They'll cost more over the length of your mission than paying a fair bit for a good one. Personally I think paying less than $600 for a bike is kind of insane if you are going to be riding it hard. Almost all the missionaries I knew in my mission were paying $400 - $600 and that was 20 years ago!

Peter LLC said...

Since this is probably the wrong place to note that one can easily spend thousands of dollars on a good bike, I'll just go with what Michael and Clark Goble said.

$300 isn't doesn't buy you much bike in the US, though I suspect your daughter will get a pretty good bang for her buck in Taiwan considering that is where most of the world's bikes are manufactured.

And regarding the first comment, I would think twice about buying a used bike from a missionary myself--while it might sound like a lot, $300 is only about 5–8 hours of labor at the bike shop and sometimes you're better off buying new than repairing a neglected and worn-out piece of junk.

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