Staying fit on a budget; mountain biking, hiking and working out at home

Mountain biking

On the path to FI, keeping fit is a good investment

Everyone wants to keep in good shape but it’s a challenge to find workouts that can keep us motivated and interested. Today I am going to share how I keep in shape while staying frugal towards getting FI.

Mountain biking has major advantages

If you enjoy cycling but don’t enjoy riding in traffic and do enjoy the woods, mountain biking may be for you. One of the big advantages over running is the lack of impact on your knees. Riding up 1000 feet elevation getting your aerobic workout can be followed with a thrilling descent on trails. This is one reason why I enjoy mt biking over hiking. Once I’ve put in the effort to get to the top of and see the view, I am usually only a fun 25 minute quick descent back to the car. The downhill is the reward for the climb up. And everyone can pick their chosen approach in terms of how to descend. Nowadays people tend to think of downhill mountain bikes that bomb down steep inclines. But there are plenty of winding, smooth, banked trails around that allow for fun but controlled descents.

mountain biking in the Palouse
Fast flowing downhill, the way I like it

Mountain biking can be a low expense sport

You can spend over $10,000 on a mountain bike, but you don’t have to. My mountain bike is over 10 years old and it still fits my needs. I do recommend getting a bike with quality components and I would recommend spending a minimum of about $1,500. I do plan to upgrade my bike in the next few years and will probably spend closer to $3,000. But I have kept my last two bikes for over 10 years each, and my original Specialized ‘Rockhopper Comp’ still gets used for rides on paved rail trails. So if you pay $3,000 and keep your bike for 10 years, it’s only $300 per year. Not a bad upfront cost for such a great sport.

Mountain bike maintenance

Mt bikes do require some maintenance and you can choose to have your local shop do it, or learn to do much of it yourself. The amount of maintenance does vary with your riding style, and also with the type of terrain and local conditions. When I used to ride in western Oregon where there was alot of rain and mud, I went through more components than I do now in dry eastern Washington State. The major maintenance I do myself includes changing tires and tubes, changing and adjusting disc brake pads, replacing brake and shifter cables and cleaning and lubricating the chain, chainrings and rear cassette.

Where to ride

If you are fortunate there may be an area that allows mountain biking near your home. For me the availability of a mountain biking area is a major consideration in where to live. I have two main areas I ride, but there are several within a 1 hour drive. The first ride I do is right out my door. In the Palouse there are miles of gravel roads that are great, especially for training early in the year. Later on when the roads get drier and dustier and there is more farm machine traffic (and I am in better condition), I move onto my main area. My second area has a trail system especially for mountain bikes and has about 2000 ft of elevation. This is ideal, as when trails are shared use, (for example between horses and mountain bikes) they can get rutted. If you want to see what areas are available near you check out: MTB project.

mountain biking near home
Biking from the homestead, riding up 600 ft elevation total


Hiking is obviously a cheap outdoor activity and I like to mix it up re: hiking and mountain biking. I don’t have much to say here except that I tend to choose hiking when the weather isn’t great, or the area does not allow biking. One tip is to identify a fun hike you can do from your front door. Even when we lived in Seattle we found a 3 mile urban hike that took us up a hill for a view and was a good workout. It wasn’t a known hike, just one that we identified by doing some walking around the neighborhood and picking a route with low traffic.

Palouse hiking
There are some nice hikes in the Palouse, but please don’t tell anyone

What about exercise in the winter?

In the Palouse we do get some snow, and even hiking is not feasible at times. My approach is a nice rowing machine. I own a Concept 2 rowing machine and it works great. The workout equipment is in the basement. So if you are considering a ‘tiny house’ keep in mind some of the limitations of said house. Another approach we have for the early Spring is to drive south about 45 minutes to a town called Lewiston, Idaho. Lewiston is on the Snake and Clearwater rivers and sits in a valley carved by these rivers about 1600 ft lower than where we live. It’s thus a few degrees warmer and melts out earlier in the year. This allows early year mt biking and hiking. Maybe there’s an ‘early year area’ near you?

Early season hike in Lewiston, Idaho in March


I don’t consider myself a weightlifter, but I do workout regularly with weights. The Stronglifts 5×5 site has the workout I have used for the last 4 months. I love the simplicity of it, and the Mon-Wed-Fri schedule that gives me the weekends off.


Hopefully this will provide some ideas for how to integrate more fitness into your routine. I track my workouts, hikes and bike trips in excel. I also put together an excel file that has the drive times to hikes and bike trailheads within 2h of my house, determined by Google Maps. It’s not always obvious which trailheads are the closest in terms of driving times.

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