Monday, January 15, 2018

Of Bikes and (Wo)Men

As a person who tends to make decisions about selling and purchasing bikes from about mid-fall through winter, we are now smack dab in the center of bike chaos in our household. Maybe it's the colder weather (though we've had an incredibly mild season in Colorado) or perhaps it just tends to be a natural time of reflection, purging, and renewal, but I've already said goodbye to three bikes in the fold and have one on its merry way from the UK as I type.

In some sense, I don't enjoy having too many bikes (what too many is defined as is still up for debate, I suppose). Options are always nice and if there's a flat or mechanical to deal with at the last second, it's easier to put the fix off until a later time and just make another selection. The problem is, these troubles don't materialize as often as one might think and then bikes tend to sit around gathering dust and I forget why I own the superfluous bike(s). Usually, this means a round of rides to find out if I still enjoy the bike or not, whether it's a near-duplicate of another, and generally results in selling something off (and more often than not, also buying something else).
Definitely not an all-inclusive photo collage of the bikes that have come and gone, but a smattering nonetheless.
These rounds of purging and starting new have become a rather bad habit. If one has the means to do so, I suppose there's nothing wrong with the cycle, but it still feels rather wasteful of funds (and, we don't really have the funds to be wasted). The reality is, however, that there always seems to be a reason for the exchanges being made. The bike doesn't quite fit properly, it doesn't perform in the exact way we expected, it's a too-close duplicate of another bike, and on the list can go. They are perfectly valid reasons to sell or exchange a bike, but I can't help but wonder where it ends.

We have had conversations about the amount of money being invested in bikes and parts and discuss whether putting more into something could result in a better outcome, or in the possibility of finding that mythical one-bike-to-rule-them-all. However, we've both had frames from the very inexpensive to those that required a more substantial investment and there doesn't really seem to be a correlation between cost and enjoyment necessarily. Granted, our "expensive" frames are still not considered costly by many in the cycling industry, but most everyday people probably aren't forking out thousands for a frame, I'd guess, unless it truly is a once-in-a-lifetime, keep-it-forever sort of frame - and even then, I'd guess there's a lot of faith being put into the outcome of the build and a lot of crossed fingers.

While I do enjoy having the opportunity to ride different bikes, I don't know that I want to own a multitude of bikes that aren't being utilized. Evaluating what is actually usable seems to be more of a conundrum than one might think. How many different types of riding can a person truly do? And yet, I'll find myself perfectly ready to move forward with a similar bike purchase, despite having just rid one from the stable. Sometimes it is because I have need or want to replace a particular type of bike that just went wrong, and other times it feels more like a bout with insanity - repeating the same mistake and expecting different results.

I remember a time when I had one bicycle that was used for whatever type of riding I may have done. It was not suitable in theory for most of the rides I undertook, and yet, it was one of the happiest riding points in my life. There are times when I miss those days, but I also understand that I cannot turn back the hands of time and recapture the sort of innocence that existed then. Knowledge is power, but there is a sort of bliss in ignorance as well. While I don't wish to release information from my knowledge base, I do find myself longing for the simpleness that existed with having one bike to ride everywhere.

Realistically, I understand it is unlikely I will ever be a one-bike-only person in the future, but I do have hope to settle in to a small number that get used on a regular basis. The problem seems to come in finding that "right" number and the ideal combination, and so the cycle continues each fall/winter in which I reevaluate, purge, and restock. I know it's possible to have a bike long-term, but finding the right one(s) to keep around seems to be the portion of this puzzle that eludes me. Perhaps it's just in my nature to want fresh starts, or more truthfully, it is that there is always an aspect of each bicycle that doesn't quite suit me or my needs, and since needs and wants can change over time, maybe I'm trying to fix something that isn't repairable.

Still, I forge on, believing that one day the right tools for the right jobs will be apparent and will stabilize this madness that lingers and repeats. Hopefully, information and experience will settle the revolving door, and rides will become less about feeling out a particular bike for its workable/non-workable characteristics and more about enjoying my surroundings on a bike.


  1. "Knowledge is power, but there is a sort of bliss in ignorance as well." I certainly understand this - we rode whatever we had and only had to deal with upkeep of one bicycle. But even 30 years ago choices were limited so I wouldn't berate yourself too much. Knowledge and choice are power - so many cool types of bikes to experience, so little time!

    1. Very true - on all accounts, Annie! Hope your winter commute is improving or that you are at minimum finding ways to get through the cold season. :)

  2. "one on its merry way from the UK" -- how can you tease us like this?? ;)

  3. :) What is amusing as well is that I was seriously contemplating an Enigma and thought of you. It didn't end up going that way, but the company was quite helpful with providing information, which I very much appreciated. They even stated they would have models available for viewing at the NAHBS in Connecticut next month, if I'd like to have an up-close view before purchasing.

  4. I love hearing the stories about how you acquire and shed bikes. Even more so I enjoy reading about your experiences riding different bikes. It’s so great that Sam is mechanically inclined and can build up a new frame for you, often using parts you already have around. That likely saves you quite a lot of money.

    One of my favorite thought experiments that occupies my mind when it wanders off on its own focuses on what the “perfect stable” of bikes would look like for me. I’m content with the two bikes I have now, but there are a few options that would tempt me to make a change. The first is a bike that doesn’t seem to exist, at least not yet. I really want a steel mixte with 26-inch wheels (to help with toe overlap) and disc brakes (because it rains a lot where I live). All the better if said bike is low trail, or otherwise set up to handle a front load. Velo Orange has hinted in the past that they might make mixte version of their Polyvant disc. If they ever offer that, I will order it on day one! I’ve already warned my spouse about it. The second bike I can imagine adding to my stable is a gravel bike. Recently some lovely gravel paths have opened near me, and my Bianchi Volpe, which I dearly love for my daily commute and for long road rides, isn’t quite up to the task. I honestly believe I could spend hours out on gravel trails if I had the right bike. Of course, that’s how I imagine it. We’ll see.

    1. I feel very fortunate that Sam is so capable when it comes to building bikes! While I theoretically know/understand what needs to be done, the actual act of doing always seems to bring problems. Ugh.

      I am with you and your wish for a mixte frame with disc brakes. I recall VO talking about possibly making one in the future, so it'll be interesting to see if it happens. It would be difficult for me to pass that up as well, so I understand completely.

      Finding he right bike for the right task can be complicated, but when it finally is found, boy, it is really something great! Sometimes I really do think I just need to stop looking. If I would stop reading so much, that would probably help! :)

  5. I feel your pain. In the same situation. - Liz


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