Thursday, June 27, 2013

How many bikes do you need?

One of my favorite writers is Peter Egan from Cycle World, and one of my favorite articles of his is, "How many bikes do you really need?" In the article, he settled on five: a sportbike, a sport touring bike, a dirtbike, a great big hog, and an old crock. Similarly, I spend an irrational part of my waking hours trying to determine the correct size and composition of my bike fleet. I'm currently at an uncomfortable seven. They are (oldest to newest):

1. Surly Cross Check:

I've the CC about four and a half years, and it's done most everything: fixed gear, touring bike, cyclocross bike, town bike, etc. It's not perfect--I'd like to drop the bottom bracket, lengthen the head tube, and lighten the tubing up a hair, but it's so versatile and fun that it's earned its spot in my constantly churning fleet.

2. Soma Juice:

I've had the Soma only over a year, and it's mostly been a rigid/single speed mountain bike, with a brief foray into bike camping. Is it bad that my second oldest bike is barely a year old? Maybe I shoulda kept the Fargo...

3. Specialized FSR

As I mentioned earlier, I picked this up on a whim about a year ago, but I've really been enjoying it. Clearly, it's pretty much used only for riding single track. Quickly.

4. Soma Double Cross:

Currently set up as a child puller and around-town bike.

5. Rawland Nordavinden

My pure, geared road bike for those long, solo road rides I always think I'm going to do, but rarely actually do. Yes, it has toe clips--I ran out of clipless pedals. These things happen with seven bikes.

6. Specialized Globe Vienna

Another child puller, but a cheap one. And it's actually a dedicated hybrid, not a repurposed 'cross or mountain bike.

7. OS Blackbuck

Er, another rigid/single speed mountain bike.

(A quick aside to my wife: seven bicycles take up much less space and money than five motorcycles!)

I've long maintained to myself (and the few people who will stand around to listen), that I really only need three bikes: a mountain bike, a road bike, and an around town/utility bike. However, when I seriously think about my riding patterns, I could actually get by with just two: I'd drop the road bike in favor of the utility bike, since most of my road riding is actually just errands around town, short hops through the metro park, or pulling the kids around.  Forced to radically downsize like this, it would be the Surly as the town bike and either the FSR or the Soma as the mountain bike.      

Insightful readers will see the downfall of the two bike plan in that last sentence: I have to choose between the FSR and the 29er? But some days I want the pure simplicity of the single speed, while on others I want the speed and comfort and ease of the FSR. Selling one might just cause me to buy some variation of it back later, which isn't the smartest economics--I should know, as I've done this many, many times.            

So right now, I'm working on a plan to get down to just four:

1. Mountain bike: FSR--too much cheap fun. 26" full suspension bikes are at a sweet spot for buyers right now, with great technology at blowout prices.

2. Alternate mountain bike: Soma or Blackbuck. I say this like it's a tough decision, but the Soma will win. I'll give the Blackbuck a few more rides to somewhat justify getting it, then it's going on the block.

3. Road bike: Rawland--I need to do more road rides, and I want to try out the new brakes I just got for it. Also, it "planes" like a Chris-Craft. Whenever I get inspired by my issues of Bicycle Quarterly, I can jump on this bike in all its flexy glory (and none of its 650B silliness)

4. Town bike: Surly or Soma or Globe. Another easy choice: the Surly is the only definite keeper here. But then what do I do when I want a fixed gear ride?

Such are the the dilemmas I wrestle with.


  1. I like this set. I have four bikes, and only ride three of them. And mostly two, a Quickbeam fixed gear and a mongrel fat-tired road bike. The mountain bike doesn't get out much anymore, and it doesn't even have rear suspension. The low-trail porteurish fixed gear hasn't been out of the shed in a year. Thanks for the inspiration - I think I'm going to do my chores and ride the Bontrager!

    1. I've always lusted for a QB, ever since Riv announced the prototype way back in the reader. But, I've always had to be content with my CC as a budget QB. It does that pretty well, but I would like the lugs and threaded stem!


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