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Monday, May 11, 2020

The n+1 Struggle Is Real

A common cyclist joke:  How many bikes do you need?
n+1, where n = the number of bikes you currently own.

But it's not a joke. It's an addiction.

At one point in time, not long ago, I owned 11 bikes, including five different types of single speeds and two different fixed gears. I could always find a reason to add a new bike, but not to subtract an old one. I usually kept the old bike as a backup or loaner or, better yet, modified it for a new purpose.

After 30 years of living in conventional n+1 land, I commit to a new mindset and embark on a brave new journey to dramatically reduce my fleet. It isn't all at once and it isn't easy. Definitely the hardest to let go is my beloved classic Italian, lugged steel cyclocross bike. Letting Go. But I persevere. Eventually, my fleet bottoms out at three: a 2014 Black Mountain Cycles MonsterCross geared for roads, a 2008 Kona rigid 29er single speed for trails, and a 1991 Specialized RockHopper fixed for commuting.

One reward for subtracting all those other bikes is to add a custom built Jones 29 Plus LWB, geared for all purpose mountain biking and outfitted for bikepacking. Jones 29+ LWB - What It Is. None of my prior or existing bikes possessed the capabilities of the Jones 29+ LWB, especially for day long single track rides and multi-day camping. It is a big add, and a lot of fun. All is good.

Salsa Stormchaser single speed gravel hauler. (photo by Salsa Cycles)

Then Salsa announces the arrival of the Stormchaser for 2020. Introducing the Stormchaser.

What's so special about the Stormchaser? It's a rigid single speed bike designed from the ground up for long rides in bad conditions on rough unpaved roads, from a bike maker in this field for as long as anyone. There's no other production bike like it, in function or form.

It's singular. It's striking. It's simple. It calls to me.

But I don't need it. No, I really don't need it, I repeat to myself. My Black Mountain MonsterCross sets up readily as a single speed. Indeed, for the last couple of years, I have regularly switched it between geared and single speed, depending on my planned rides and races. It isn't difficult and isn't time consuming. The Black Mountain is a great road bike for me, both geared and single speed. I don't need another.

However, pictures and reviews of the Stormchaser flood the media. It beckons. My mind drifts. I start thinking that it would be nice to have two all road bikes - one dedicated single speed and one dedicated geared. Oh, yes, that would be nice. Really nice. So signals the Siren Song of n+1.

It's alluring. It's seductive. As I stray closer to those treacherous n+1 rocks, a persistent thought lurches me to my senses and steers me clear. I simply don't want one. That is, I realized that I did not want a Stormchaser, because I did not want a bike that I did not need.

My Chaser Of Storms - Black Mountain Cycles MonsterCross set up single speed.

The day may come when I acquire another bike. But it is not this day. This day I stay at n.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed reading your thoughts about N+1. I, too, have been on that merry-go-round in the past. I've been the fat bike, B-plus, full aquish MTB and gravel bike route but, having had a go around with serious medical issues about 2 years ago, I personally, had to reassess my fleet and needs. So, I sold off some of those bikes and have found myself, at times, missing them because they represented adventures and riding styles I used to be able to enjoy. I'm a confirmed tinkerer and enjoy envisioning a particular style of bike and acquiring the bits to put such a bike together. My first fixed gear/single speed bike was such a project; but nothing fancy. I had a lot of fun rides on that bike but, years ago, I stripped it down and gave the frame away. Lately, I have just completed a single speed build that would fit well into what types of rides I'm dong these days. That bike was built from a frame and older parts I've squirreled away from past projects. Well, that's all the room in the garage, so I've reached my capacity and I've got some bikes I haven't ridden since a year ago; but keep them around because they still fit in a place that I'll use them. Also, they are emblematic of past rides and have fond memories attached to them. I have a good friend who has owned many really fine bikes and has gone the custom frame route with his last two. His bikes get used and he keeps his stable simple. I look forward to reading what you decide to do and how that works out for you. I hope you "N" joy the next one or two or wherever N+1 leads you.