Friday, January 15, 2016

How Many Bikes Does Anyone Need?

The question above was recently posted (with a very thoughtful response) by blog-pal and partial-inspiration-for-the-stuff-you-read-here bikelovejones. I started to respond over at her house, but my answer grew beyond a comment, so I'm taking the inspiration back here where it is sorely needed.

The joke amongst the bikenerderati is that the number of bikes one needs is expressed by the equation n+1, whereby n=the number of bikes currently owned. I totally get that. Poking around the bike shop or the interwebs, I find any number of bikes that, given unlimited funds and a much larger garage, I would want to bring home with me. But when I was a younger man and my BAS (Bicycle Acquisition Syndrome) was at its worst, I was still constrained by the realities of low wages, bills to pay, and limited space. At the most, I think my n reached 3: one road bike, one off-road bike, and one townie/beater. Even today, when I'm lucky enough to have something left in the bank after the bills are paid, those years must have made an impression. I still lust for bikes I don't have, but my "fleet" is pretty tiny by bike geek standards.

Right now, what I consider my "fleet" is at n=1.5: my trusty old Rockhopper and half of a tandem. The Rocky does everything I need a solo bike to do, given my need to get to and from work and my limitations of speed on the road and courage off. The tandem provides quality on-bike time for me and my better half. If I gave up either one, the loss would be felt in a pretty big way. So, in answer to bikelovejones, my "need" threshold is 1.5.

But here's where we get into what a project manager would call a "nice to have": Bikes sometimes fail, even those pieced together from the relatively simple (nay, almost Paleolithic) technology I prefer. When that happens, it would be nice to have a fallback bike rather than feel the pressure to fix the problem like an Indy car pit mechanic. So I'm often tempted to make n=2.5. If nothing else, it would be a luxury to have one bike that could be dedicated to studded tires through the winter months with the "nice" bike wearing regular rubber for the rare day of pleasant weather.

Of course, bikelovejones is right that with additional bikes comes additional hassle. More maintenance. Less space. And when one is saddled (no pun intended) with a touch of obsessive-compulsive disorder, additional bikes means additional things to worry about/obsess over. Frankly, I do enough of that with 1.5 bikes (and even have a bit of OCD left over to obsess over my wife's bike). If I had a massive collection, I'd have to figure in the cost of anti-anxiety medication as a bicycle-related expense.


bikelovejones said...

So if you had to pare down, what could you do without, and what would you absolutely NEED to keep? Sometimes it's hard for me to remember the real differences between need and want. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Is Nunemaker still alive?? Judging from the amount of dust on his blog, I figured he was either dead or in the witness relocation program!

oh yeah... "need"....

I don't "need" any bikes.

How many bikes do I want? Well, when I had to abandon my upright bikes and just do recumbents, I spent a year on a single heavy utilitarian 'bent. It got me to work and did fine in bad weather and could do some shopping. It was g*d-awful heavy and slow, though, so I did get a go-fast 'bent. Shortly thereafter, I think I sold one of my uprights to some guy in Des Moines.

Two bikes was pretty good. One was utilitarian and one was fun. Not too much maintenance or complication. They used different size tires, so that was a minor complication.

Compared to having 7 upright bikes, it is easier to have two.
On the other hand, the uprights used mostly the same tires and gear, so it wasn't much more work; just more space required.

Like all of the stuff that you tend to acquire in life, it's best to keep the quantity down to a manageable amount. If it takes up too much space or time or money, perhaps you should consider finding a new home for it.
Right now, I'm working on getting rid of some old books and magazines and such. A few old/vintage bike parts too. Anyone looking for a semi-vintage Brooks (made during the Brooks scare circa 2000)?
I do still love having my vintage upright bikes.. they are just so beautiful! (and I do ride them)

Steve in Peoria

Skip Montanaro said...

My "need" is such that my wife often texts me pictures of bikes she sees at estate sales. "What do you think of this one?" She brought one home just yesterday. :-)