Saturday, December 24, 2016

Too Fat to Wear Them

Did a bit of digging through boxes recently, and discovered a couple gems from my ancient past that have now become decor in The Cycle Test Laboratory:

As the post title indicates, I am well beyond the point where these jerseys will stretch over my ample girth. The one on the right is slightly larger, so I made the mistake of trying it on. Let's just say it's a good thing polyester doesn't get stretch marks.

I keep these around, though, because they take me back to my cycling past. The one on the left came from my very first bike shop gig at the now-defunct Grummert's Cycling and Fitness in my hometown of Sterling, Illinois. We weren't much of a bike shop, just a corner of a local hardware store, but that little corner is where I caught the bug for bike mechanicking. The jersey was team kit for the Northwest Illinois Bicycle Club team, co-sponsored by us and the other shop in town, the also-defunct Mr. K's Mud, Sweat and Gears in neighboring Rock Falls, Illinois. The two shops had a bit of a falling out around the time I started working for Grummert's, so there really wasn't a "team" any more, just a box of jerseys. A much younger, much thinner me still wore that tennis-ball-yellow abomination with pride, though.

The jersey on the right was the team kit for the now-defunct (are you noticing a pattern here?) Laurel Highlands Schwinn in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, a shop where I worked for my pal Bill. I never actually raced for Bill (he had more sense than that), but the jersey was the uniform for our weekly shop rides. We even wore them during our legendary Coasting Contests, which was probably the worst advertisement for a shop ever: "Hey, look at all those idiots in matching shirts, desperately trying not to fall over at 1 mile per hour!" The shorts that went with the jersey were perhaps the most comfortable cycling shorts I have ever stretched over my arse, and I should have cleaned Bill out of them when I left.

Of course, these days, I'm happy to slap on a t-shirt and baggy shorts when I ride, but it's nice to see these memories hanging in the garage every time I head out, reminding me of old friends, fun times, and a much skinnier me.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Writing a Bicycle Blog is Just Like Riding a Bicycle

... which is to say that I often fall down and skin my knees while doing it.

So, um, let's just pretend that long hiatus never happened, and get back to our usual drivel, shall we?

When last we left our intrepid blogmeister, he was returning from what he described as a "commute." Turns out, that was a fib. Something untrue on the Internet?!? What?!?

I was actually returning from *class* (which is technically a commute, but still). See, starting this Fall, I decided to take advantage of a little tuition benefit I get thanks to Dear Spouse's employer and return to college, studying the Computer Sciences. I have it on good authority that while these computer things may seem like a flash in the pan now, they're gonna catch on, so I want to get out in front of it.

Being as this is a blog about bikes (and that you likely couldn't care less about my midlife crisis), how about something related to both my schooling and bikes? The institute of higher learning I attend happens to be one Drake University (go Bulldogs!), and one of the cool things Drake (the school, not the rapper) has instituted just this year is a Bike Library, which looks a little something like this:

Show your student ID, and you can sign one of these practical-looking beauties out for free, ride it wherever your little heart desires, and return it whenever you're done. Being a bike nerd (duh), I had to ID the brand and model, which (as far as I can tell) is the Sun Fritz 5-speed... upright riding position, equipped with urban necessities like fenders, rack, and kickstand, low-maintenance internally-geared hub and caliper brakes. Basically, a Raleigh Sports for the 21st century. Smart spec for this application.

I haven't taken one out for a spin yet since I'm usually astride my mutant take on a Raleigh Sports when I'm on campus, but perhaps in the Spring, I'll test ride one in the interest of blog fodder. I've seen them quite far afield from the Drake campus (which is barely big enough to warrant wheeled transportation), out on the network of trails around Des Moines, so it would appear that my fellow students are putting them to good use.

Oh, and here's a gratuitous bulldog picture:

That charming, jowly fellow is Griff, the current Drake "live mascot". The mascot-for-all-eternity is named Spike, but he is represented in actual mortal dog-form by a series of real-life bulldogs, a position currently held by our man Griff shown above. Let me just say that if you find yourself in Des Moines during the Drake Relays, the Beautiful Bulldog Contest is a must-attend event.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Bugging Out

Got home from the commute Tuesday astride the Red Sled, and noticed that I wasn't the only one enjoying the ride:

A stowaway! Egads!

Once I was able to loosen his surprisingly vice-like grip on my brake cable (which explains why he was able to hang on during my blazing sprint), I released him into the yard to start a new and exciting life in a different part of Des Moines.

(Astute readers will note the use of male pronouns above. I have no idea if this was a he or a she, I had no idea how to check, and even if I knew how to check, I'm not emotionally equipped for that level of insect intimacy. Call me a tool of the patriarchy, but I figured that a bug dumb enough to participate in the extreme sport of bike-surfing was probably male.)

Monday, September 5, 2016

Best New Bike Day Ever

My pal Amy first appeared in these pages after she handed me a pondering question about whether or not I'd keep going with the whole bike thing even if it meant risking my life (more than it does already on streets shared by idiots texting behind the wheel, that is).

In addition to her kayak habit (which inspired the original question), Amy also liked to bike before her big accident. Unfortunately, the brain injuries sustained in the post-accident recovery gave her some balance challenges that made getting back up on her old hybrid challenging. She consulted me as resident bike-nerd-friend, and I promptly went down the rabbit hole, researching everything from trikes to adult training wheels (excuse me, "stabilizer wheels") to stuff so weird that I've since blocked it from my memory. Somewhere in there, I must have pointed out the potential in bikes like the Electra Townie, since they let the rider stand flat-footed while still in the saddle.

Long story short (too late!), this happened today:

"So the big excitement for me this weekend was supposed to be getting adult training wheels on my old Cannondale. But since the wheels would not fit the bike I have, we thought about finding a bike that would play well with the training wheels. While adult trikes exist, they are annoying to transport.

And then I sat on a lightweight bike with a much lower riding position, different frame, and smaller wheels. It was so cozy that everything clicked and I didn't need the training wheels AT ALL... which I only realized when I had been riding the bike around the parking lot completely unassisted. Then I came to a safe stop and had a nice cry, because this has been a long time coming. (Shut up! Crying when you're happy is NORMAL.) I was even able to breathe well! It was a GREAT a-ha moment."

I like making new-bike-day happen (even when it's not for me), but this one is going to be damn near impossible to top. Now if you'll excuse me, I think my allergies are acting up. My eyes are all watery.

(Oh, Amy's taking suggestions for a name for her new bike, so if you have ideas, stick 'em in the comments and I'll pass them along.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Taking It To The Streets

Believe it or not, that is a former car parking spot not far from The Cycle World Headquarters that has been staked out as dedicated, protected, on-street bicycle parking. Not only that, there are several of these bad boys in front of local businesses on a strip that already features dedicated bike lanes. It ain't the Netherlands, but I'm down. Heck, I parked there (that's the ol' Rockhopper at the hitching post) even though I was going to the store next door that had its own bike rack. Don't want to give the anti-bike crowd any "that was a waste of space no one uses" ammunition.

It's just further proof that this sign in front of local snarky t-shirt purveyor Raygun is oh-so-true:

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

My Mojo Museum

It was a "thing" back in the 90s amongst the MTB set (at least where I was from) to adorn one's bike with some kind of little trinket/figurine. Usually known as a "mojo", these decorations were part good luck charm, part bike personalization, and usually all silly. The most extreme example was pro downhiller Missy "The Missle" Giove, known for (among other things) wearing the body of her dead pet piranha around her neck during races.

Being far less EXTREME (dude!) than Ms. Missle, I never took the concept to the point of wearing dead pets. However, even now, the bikes in my garage each have a little extra personality added on in the form of a mojo. First up, Dear Spouse's single bike:


Nothing beats a basket for sheer mojo-attachment possibilities. She could have an entire army of Muppets up there, but chooses just one, her personal Spirit Muppet, Super Grover, positioned front and center where he can offer his trademark "Hello, everybody!" greeting to all he encounters. (For the safety enforcers, note that he even wears a helmet.)

My daily driver/commute beast Cannondale (a.k.a. The Red Sled) has a less risk-averse passenger:

That radical dude is Domo, which I honestly know nothing about, but Wikipedia tells me he's the mascot of Japan's public broadcast TV station. Who knew? I just found him amusing, and the curve of my rear rack strut seemed like an ideal skateboard ramp.

Last but certainly not least, the mojo I'm most proud of rides along on the tandem:

Obviously, a two-seat bike needs a his-and-hers mojo. When the two-seater in question is green, named Frank, and was brought to life thanks to parts from several other tandems, that mojo pretty much chooses itself. Plus, the captain of said two-seater has a few nice scars from his aftermarket femur. (And yes, I did intentionally choose zip-ties to match each figure, because I have a problem.)

Which brings me to the CRUCIAL point of the mojo: If you have a problem with zip-ties, a mojo may not be for you. I'm convinced that artful zip-tying is the basis of all good mojo installation. So if your bike needs a personal touch and you don't mind tying one on, give a mojo a try! (And if you have a good one, send it my way. Maybe I'll feature it as a traveling exhibit in my mini mojo museum.)

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Original?

Tuned up a bike for a friend today, and was amused to see this:

(Yes, I cleaned the schmutz off the chain and cogs, just not before taking the photo.)

After a hard tandem ride this morning, I'm feeling a little too lazy to get up and dig through my paper-based bike knowledge collection (yes, I know, I'm on the Internet, but I'm even too lazy to open a new browser tab... it was a long ride), but I'm not so sure Shimano can prove that they made "the original bike components." They sure tried on this Tourney-equipped hybrid, though... the rear derailleur mounting bolt also featured the same boast. Who brags on a rear derailleur mounting bolt?

In Shimano's defense, the Tourney derailleurs paired with their Revo twist-shifters tuned up with ease and performed quite nicely. I even like the concept of the MegaRange freewheel shown above (and I'm in good company, since the late, great Sheldon Brown liked them too)... a fairly tight cluster on gears 2-6, with a big pie-plate-sized bailout 34-toother in position 1. Granted, it takes some derailleur engineering shenanigans to make that shift from the corncob to the pie plate, but nobody does derailleur engineering shenanigans as well as Shimano. The Tourney (with some pretty gigantic pulleys) ate up the big shift like nobody's business. Plus, now that these new 1x11 setups with 42-tooth big cogs (and, sheesh, 1x12 with a 50) are all the rage, no one would look askance if you showed up to a ride with this measly little 34.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Red Sled Is Rolling

When last we left your intrepid narrator, he was waffling on the horns of a dilemma (and apparently mixing metaphors). A new-old Cannondale had found its way to The Cycle's Home for Wayward Vintage Mountain Bikes, and I was trying to decide if it would inherit the go-sorta-faster parts kit of my Rockhopper (relegating the Rocky to second-bike status) or if it would become the second bike in its own right. To put it in vaguely Shakespearean terms, the question was, "To beater, or not to beater."

Given my inherent laziness, the thought of coordinating a full cross-bike parts swap in the meat of the season lacked appeal, so I decided to leave well enough alone on the Rockhopper and finish off the Cannondale in an Ultimate City Bike build. Thus, I give you...

I know the non-drive-side photo is gauche even by my amateur (and amateurish) bike photography standards, but I wanted to capture the 18-year-old Jandd pannier stuffed with groceries, and if I'm running a single pannier, I like to put it on the traffic side to be a visual nuisance.

Before I delve into the yawn-inducing details, I should note that this build owes a debt of inspiration to my blog-pal bikelovejones. It dawned on me that I've admired her beautiful, utilitarian (Grant Petersen would probably coin some annoying portmanteau like "beautilitarian") city bikes for years, but never tried one for myself. Now that I have one in my garage, I totally get it.

This was a remarkably low-key resto-mod for me, incorporating a lot of reduce/reuse/recycle and barter. I kept the stock 3x7/thumbshifter drivetrain intact, trading the beat-up pedals for an old pair of BMX platforms from the stash. The Planet Bike Cascadia fenders came from the Rockhopper, which now gets clip-ons from the stash thanks to its status as go-sorta-faster bike. The rear rack was traded from Steve F. (a.k.a. Local Steve) in exchange for my old messenger bag. The only real whim was trading out the stock cantilever brakes for a set of cheap V-brakes from the stash. Sure, I have an uncanny knack for setting up old, low-profile, smooth-post cantilevers (some would call it a gift, albeit the sort of gift you wish came with a gift receipt), but with a perfectly good set of Vs lying around, I figured I had better things to do with my time.

The biggest expense of the build came in the form of 26x2.0 Panaracer Tour tires (full disclosure, that Amazon link makes me a couple shekels if you use it to spend money) in place of the knobby Tioga Psychos, at something like $20 a pop. These were also a bikelovejones recommendation, and (so far) they seem like a lot of tire for the price. My better half rides the 700x32 version on her wayward Cannondale, so we kinda match. Aww, how cute.

But the most eye-opening part of the build for me was the cockpit. The stock riding position with flat bars was way too long and low for this creaking geezer and his oft-bulging lower back disc. It was great when I was half my current age, shredding dirt, but now? Not so much. Luckily, I had an inexpensive set of upright bars lying around (I think they were from the initial setup experiments on Better Half's Cannondale), so I plugged them in.

There's the drive-side photo you purists have been waiting for, with terrible lighting and a garage door to make sure you know it was taken by me (this was pre-tire-swap if you're also tracking continuity errors). I've always resisted swept-back, upright bars on my own bikes -- despite raves of how amazingly comfortable they can be, they just never worked for me. But here? Bliss. I don't know what magic position I discovered this time, but I'm not moving it a micron. With the swept bars set up on that long, low stem, the bike can feel like a casual cruiser or an aggressive hammering machine depending on my mood. There's even a vaguely aero position if I hook my thumbs over the forward bends and rest my palms on the shifters/brake levers. I never understood how other blog-pal Pondero could do his long, rambling country tours on bars like this, but now I get it.

Oh, one other thing (thanks, Columbo)... I don't know who first invented lock-on grips for flat bars, but I owe that person a big hug. I know these things have been around forever and I'm just a late adopter, but I'm kicking myself for the years I spent dealing with hairspray and air compressors. Though I will miss the quizzical looks at the drugstore when my bald self checks out with just a can of industrial-strength hairspray...

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Bottom-Feeder Strikes Again!

He followed me home, so I'm keeping him!

Yes, another midrange mountain bike from the days before my hairline became a peninsula, then a snow-dusted island. Yawn if you must, but old mountain bikes are a crazy value on the secondhand market these days. I've now scored two quality examples of these super-versatile bikes at less-than-department-store-crap prices.

I'm a softie for old Cannondales. My late-dad was obsessed with the brand, and that obsession imprinted on me early. When I later worked in a shop just down the road from their Bedford factory and got the opportunity to take a tour, it was like a pilgrimage to Nerd Mecca. How I came out of that tour without ordering a bike (or several bikes) is beyond me.

These days, that soft spot has manifested itself in a couple Cannondale tandems (probably the best tandem frame ever made by a non-tandem-specialist), a 90s-era hybrid piloted by the tandem's stoker when she's tired of looking at the back of my homely head, and now Big Red shown above.

I'm undecided as to what role Red will fill in the fleet (alongside my similar-vintage Rockhopper) as of yet. For now, I'm just going to tune it up and ride it as-is. I suspect that whichever frame offers a nicer fit/feel will get the nicer parts kit and drop-bar conversion currently on the Rocky, while the leftover parts will turn the less-preferred frame into a beater/townie/cruiser/backup/winter bike.

Friday, March 25, 2016

559s In The 515: Weirdest Compliment Ever?

Continuing my critically-unknown series on the bikes of Des Moines sporting 26" wheels (the One True Size), an anecdote:

Went out for an evening ride last week, hoping to convince Spring that yes, it's time to arrive. I wend my way through downtown Des Moines, headed east, and find myself stopped at a light. I think I can sense another rider behind me, but I'm giving car-based traffic the stink-eye, so I don't want to look back (and I haven't rocked a mirror in years -- there are even limits to MY nerdliness).

Rider behind me announces himself with the following compliment: "Nice bar-ends!"

Huh? For a minute, I think he's jerking my chain (metaphorically speaking), since my default mode is sarcasm. But I say "thanks" as the light changes and ride on.

Within the next block, he puts the drop on my laughably slow and corpulent self, and I see the reason for the compliment: He's on a 90s-era Trek mountain bike, rocking (of course) 26" wheels, converted to drop bars, shifted with some gloriously old-school Suntour retrofriction bar-ends. Even had a vintage suspension fork and what appeared to be original 747 SPDs. This was clearly one of my people!

I didn't get a chance to chat or grab a photo, but clearly, 559 is a THING in the 515. You saw it here first.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Snow Commute Follies

Just a bit of photographic evidence that I'm not normal, like you need a picture to know that.

If I knew anything about photography, I could do something artsy with this "tracks in the snow" shot:

You can see near the top where things got deep and sketchy. Guessing I swore there.

That little jaunt led to one of my favorite effects of winter riding: Rim fairings!

Gear nerds: Those are 26x1.95 Nokian Mount and Grounds. Not much to say about them other than they work. Haven't been on my tuchus yet this winter, knock wood.

Here's something I'd never seen before:

This happened during a morning commute when fresh powder was falling. As near as I can tell, snow hit the front of my seatpost as I was riding, melted, and then refroze. Of course, it probably re-melted, ran down my seat tube, and is rusting out my bottom bracket shell as we speak. Circle of life.

More fun with precipitation: Here's proof that my latest bag purchase (yet to be reviewed, but give it a few more months of abuse) is waterproof as advertised...

That's melted snow beading up on the outside of an Arkel Signature D backpack. Neat effect that -- again -- could be documented better by someone with more photographic talent than an orangutan.

Spring's coming, I hope. In the meantime, keep the rubber side between you and the slippery stuff, dear reader.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

559s In The 515

In case that's a bit too cryptic for you, here's a guide to the geek-speak of this blog. 559 refers to the bead seat diameter (a.k.a. BSD) of a 26" wheel (or at least one of the flavors of 26" wheel) expressed in millimeters. If this flummoxes you (and it should), your homework assignment is from the late, great Sheldon Brown, Patron Saint of Confused Bike Mechanics. 

515 is (of course) the area code for the Greatest City in the World, Des Moines (French for "The Moines"), Iowa. So a series on 559s in the 515 is (logically enough) devoted to bikes wearing the traditional mountain bike 26" wheel here in the Capitol City. Given my own odd proclivities, I also give bonus points for 26" MTBs rocking drop bars, but let's face it -- I'm a sucker for just about any classic mountain bike.

The first entry in the series ticks all the boxes:

This fine steed is sometimes found in the parking cage where I work. It's a Gary Fisher Cronus, which my research tells me is from 1995, in the early-Trek-buyout era (thank you, Vintage Trek website). The owner's used a threaded-to-threadless adapter to plug in a drop-bar cockpit, added some clip-on fenders and a rack, and voila -- instant super-commuter/all-surfaces fun machine.

Laugh if you will at the seemingly dated tricolor fade paint job, but that look was a signature Fisher finish back in the day, one that I still kinda like in spite of my usual distaste for all things Fisher. I'm also usually not a fan of tricolor splash handlebar tape, but here, it works. So, good on ya, Cronus owner. I give this bike my Seal of Approval.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Iowa Bike Expo 2016: Meh

Yesterday was the Iowa Bike Expo here in scenic Des Moines, and -- as your source for all the bike news I happen to notice in central Iowa -- I girded my loins against the cold, saddled up the old steed, and headed downtown to check it out. After all, last year's Expo yielded a phone full of photos and not one, not two, nay, not even three, in fact, not even four, I dare say not even five, but yes, a whopping six posts. Yep, a critically-yawned six-part series. So it was with high hopes and a fully-charged phone battery that I breached the threshold of the exhibit hall, figuring a couple hours walking the aisles could keep my reader(s) happy for months.

Um, not so much. In fact, when I left the hall, I realized that nothing had caught my eye to the point that I even bothered taking a picture. If you were looking for the sort of eye candy you saw in last year's first Tom Teesdale Handbuilt Bike Show, you'd be left scratching your head (as I was). Iowa builder Jeff Bock was there, showing the orange bike I photographed at last year's show and a couple more like it. Other than that? Bupkis. I literally left the show thinking that maybe I'd missed another row or a room off to the side where all the custom handbuilt bikes were hiding, but roving local correspondent Steve F. tells me there was no such row or room and that the small builders just didn't show up this year. Disappointing. Maybe the cost of a booth wasn't borne out in orders last year.

That left a lot of booths which were little more than local bike shops loading up inventory from their showrooms and trucking it down to the convention center. Even Ichi Bike (one of my favorites from last year) only brought a few electric bikes, leaving their more interesting and unique creations at the shop. Beaverdale Bikes (another of last year's favorites) brought in a few things that caught my eye (including a 26"-wheeled Long Haul Trucker in one of the older and, to my eye, nicer colorways), but my overall takeaway was, "I froze my genitalia off for this?"

Granted, as an elder curmudgeon, maybe I find the inventory of bike shops less interesting than most folks might. I'm convinced that I have a rare form of narcolepsy that is triggered by disc brakes, fat bikes, or electronic shifting. In fact, even proofing that last sentence is enough to...


Oh, sorry, where was I? That's right, disc brakes, fat bikes, and elect...


Anyway, given that most of shiny new things that bike shops want to sell you feature one of my sleepy-time technologies, I guess I'm not entirely surprised that I was able to buzz by their booths without hearing the siren song of commerce. I guess I can only hope that the organizers are embarrassed enough by a handbuilt bike show where only one builder competed that perhaps they'll offer better incentives to participate next year. Otherwise, it's kind of a sad commentary on what passes for bike culture in central Iowa.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Bikes In My Head: Cannondale Gravel, Circa 1999

The risk of writing a post about how few bikes one needs (a.k.a. my last post) is that it starts the gears grinding on bikes it would be cool to build up and/or own. Given that I still believe what I wrote in my n=1.5 post, I'm keeping these bikes as thought exercises (akin to my Surly LHT-redone-as-vintage-mountain-bike idea from 2013).

Today's weird idea was sparked by Cannondale's newish Slate series... basically, a road bike with 650B (gag, 27.5") wheels, fat tires, and Cannondale's mono-legged Lefty front suspension. Yep, it's one of those super-trendy (gag, again) "gravel" bikes. If you have $3k just burning through your pocket, you can get this one with Shimano 105 (that's the budget model).

The concept, I'm on board with -- make a road bike that's ready to handle anything (though I find it hilarious that the Cannondale marketing team has decided to call this category "New Road" -- um, why does one need fat tires and suspension on a "new" road?) But I'm no fan of disc brakes, and I've always found the Lefty fork weird and off-putting (even though - brag mode on - I worked in one of the first bike shops to ever see a Lefty in the wild, since we were just down the road from Bedford). In this case, it's a Lefty crunched down to only 30mm of travel, which seems like a lot of fork for not a lot of function. So I got to wondering, didn't Cannondale do "suspension road" before? And couldn't that platform be turned into a capable all-surfaces bike?

Answer to question 1: They did. Exhibit A, the 1999 Silk Road 500...

(Image horked from

Of course, that's no all-surfaces bike. The tires are 700x23, and the bars are so freakin' low, it makes my back hurt just looking at them. But the bones are there... light, wide gear range, and a 25mm-travel suspension fork to take the edge off, without the weirdness of the Lefty.

So how do you answer question 2? Through the magic of those 650B (argh, gag, 27.5") wheels. A 650B wheel has a diameter of 584mm, while the 700c wheels on the Silk Road are 622mm. Math is hard for English majors, but even I can figure out that 622-584=38 (the difference in diameter between the two wheel sizes) and 38/2=19 (the difference in radius between the two wheel sizes). A smaller radius is going to need more brake reach, so if you can find a brake that will reach an extra 19mm, you can put the smaller 650B wheels on the Silk Road and create a ton of tire clearance. Being a race bike, the stock brakes are 39-49mm reach (positioned with the pads around mid-slot, likely 54mm or so), so you could plug-and-play the Tektro R556 brake (with its 55-73mm reach) and probably get there just fine.

Are you seeing it now? Race bike, chubby tires, some suspension. It just needs that slammed stem flipped over, and voila. Cannondale invented the gravel bike in the late 90s and didn't even know it.

(Credit where credit is due: I didn't come up with this idea on my own. iBOB list member Ed Braley was an early proponent of using 650B wheels to make otherwise useless road race bikes into something more fun, and you can see examples of this conversion in real life on's 650Blog. But I've never heard it attempted on a Silk Road, in theory or in practice.)

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.