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spring is here and a bike conundrum

March 17, 2011

Spring is here, Fiona is back :)

Spring is finally here! This week’s temperatures have risen into the 60s and bike rides have been absolute bliss. Bare legs, light-weight layers, sun… I’m reminded of how much fun summer and fall cyling used to be and am so excited for all of it to return. Bike rides to the lake, impromptu picnics on the campus green, reading outside in the park, and not needing a zillion layers for every trip taken.

In fact, I’m so determined to believe that Spring has come that I returned Nerp (my winter mountain bike) to storage in our basement and have pulled out Fiona once again. I love this vintage 3-speed Raleigh and I had tucked her away for the winter months to not ruin her paint with the salt on the roads and to spare her all the grit, slush, and dirt of winter riding. But I think we’re ready to be reunited and to enjoy Spring together.

I do feel a little excessive talking about Winter vs. Spring bikes and T. and I are very cognizant of the fact that we have far too many bikes for just the two of us. I’m embarassed to admit it, but we currently house eight bikes in our garage and basement. We each have our commuter bikes, our road bikes, our mountain bikes, and there’s his childhood Huffy.

I do believe that one needs different bikes for different purposes; I would never undertake a 70 mile day-ride on a mountain bike when a road bike is decidedly in order for that kind of venture. But a road bike wouldn’t do for a gravel trail ride and isn’t always the most ideal commuter bike either. For my commuter bikes, I want fenders, baskets, a comfortable seat, and possibly upright seating. I don’t need most of those things for weekend trailrides or for those times when speed (and not bulk) matters. Hmm… what do you think?

Do you own multiple bikes for multiple purposes? What is your minimum number of bikes to feel like you have all your bases covered? And if you only had to have one bike (yikes!), what kind would you choose?

I’m asking this as I’ve been thinking more about our future and pairing down the amount of items we own. As we’re adding a new little family member to our family and our accumulation of things increases, I’m tempted to simplify and pare down in other areas. We’re spoiled right now in having a lot of storage space (Midwest reality be thanked), but some of the destinations we have in mind for our future domicile would likely be in more urban spaces where square footage is pricey and space limited. So when the day comes, which bikes do I keep and take with me? Which would you leave behind?

~S.

24 Comments leave one →
  1. March 17, 2011 15:43

    …Not to mention the bakfiet you’ll want after the little one comes. ;) I am a horrible, HORRIBLE influence… pay no mind to me.

    We have been there and done that (and will likely get there again as it seems to be a habit). If you have the space though, I honestly see nothing wrong with keeping all of the bicycles. When space is at a premium, however, you may want to determine what works best for your needs. Ask yourselves what you really need and perhaps that will help. For example, we had two mountain bikes, however, only one was ever really used, so, it went by the way side. One of the city bikes wasn’t really used, so it too left to free up some space. I suppose when we have to choose out of necessity, it makes the ones we really use stand out (or at least this seems to have been my experience thus far). Perhaps you can change out tires on a bicycle and use it for both trail riding and road rides? I think you’ll find your way when the time comes… and until then, definitely enjoy the variety. :)

  2. March 17, 2011 15:56

    Well, that’s a pretty personal decision based on what you actually do or don’t do with your bikes. I mean, if you regularly use them for recreational or sporting purposes, then it’s worthwhile having the racing bike or the mountain bike.

    If you only use the mountain bike for winter riding because of the snow, then you might consider if that will be needed in the future (if you move elsewhere). For Portland, for instance, a bike like Fiona is actually better for the winter than a mountain bike (except possibly for the brakes). A bike like Fiona may also be better for winter in many European cities, as they do a better job of clearing roads and accommodating cyclists (again, possibly excluding the brakes).

    We currently have an approximately 850 square foot apartment, and have to store our bikes inside, as there is nowhere outside to lock them nearby (Portland has commercial bike parking down well, not so much with residential), so we currently have one bike each, plus we’re storing a friend’s old Schwinn. Of course, we also don’t ride recreationally or for sport, so we wouldn’t have much purpose in owning those types of bikes. We would like to get rid of the Schwinn at some point, and get a WorkCycles or Gazelle omafiets in order to have a bike with a little more carrying capacity, as we are getting rid of our car soon.

    So yeah, I think it is just a matter of looking at how you use your bikes, and thinking about which make the most practical sense for you to have – for instance, maybe if you put a little money into Fiona and got a drum brake and dyno-hub, she could be a feasible year-round utility bike, and you could get rid of the mountain bike, as you don’t use the mountain bike for sport.

    We’ve definitely found that it feels very good to get rid of excess and clutter in our lives (that’s kind of an ongoing effort), so I hope that you come to some reasonable conclusions with this, and end up happier in the end with the simplicity of fewer things.

  3. Tiffany permalink
    March 17, 2011 16:00

    I only have one bike, not because I don’t want more, but because I live in NYC and don’t have the space to justify storing more than one. It’s a single-speed Specialized with a back-rack and fenders. I don’t have a basket, again not because I don’t want one, but it increases the problem with storing it in a tight space. I’d love to get back into distance riding, but since I’ve lived here I rarely even have the chance to escape from new york, it’s quite a ride to even get out of the city and I don’t have a car. So in the meantime I just wheel around town going to work and running errands and whatnot on my bike.

  4. March 17, 2011 16:23

    My wife and I have at least a dozen bikes between us. Some serve different functions, others we just have because we want them. And some don’t even work.

  5. Aibrean permalink
    March 17, 2011 16:24

    I live in the city and own a mountain bike, which I tend to use for commuting, though I trail ride in the summer. It is not ideal, as it has no fenders, chain guard, or basket. However, my lack of funds prohibits me from purchasing a commuter bike and I do not know where I will move after I complete my academic career, so a commuter bike might become unnecessary.

    If I had the space and money, I would own a road bike, commuter bike, and mountain bike. I find, however, that I have never lived in a location with a combination of suitable conditions for mountain biking, road biking, and commuting, so unless I lived in that ideal location, I couldn’t justify taking up space with three bikes.

    Downsizing can be as easy as asking yourself some simple questions:

    Do you trail ride? If not, ditch the mountain bike. Buy some studded tires to get Fiona through the winter months.

    Do you road bike? Yes. If you move to another city, will you continue to do so? If yes, keep your road bike, and rack up the miles.

    Do you commute on your bike regularly? Yes. Obviously, keep Fiona.

  6. 300 Pound Gorilla permalink
    March 17, 2011 19:41

    Do you own multiple bikes for multiple purposes?

    Nope. Can’t afford it. One day, I will have a whole stable. :-)

    What is your minimum number of bikes to feel like you have all your bases covered?

    One, I guess. I have only one. I make do.

    And if you only had to have one bike (yikes!), what kind would you choose?

    Easy Racers Tour Easy

    So when the day comes, which bikes do I keep and take with me? Which would you leave behind?

    I’d keep the commuters. I like bmx better than mountain bikes for off road. I like anything better than road bikes for on road. Commuters are worth their weight in gold every day.

  7. Charlotte permalink
    March 17, 2011 19:54

    We have a tiny urban space, and a storage locker. The mountain bikes and one spare road bike live in the storage locker. They don’t get ridden as much as we wish. But they do get out.
    We each have a single city bike, mine full sized in the alley and his a folding Brompton in the baby’s room.
    We each have a road bike, there’s nothing that can replace those. They have a vertical rack in the living room. When the baby gets mobile this will become a hazard and we’ll need a new plan.

    Oh, and there are all the off-purpose bikes living in my mother-in-law’s barn, but we won’t mention them… :)

  8. Barbara permalink
    March 17, 2011 20:33

    I only have one bike – a Giant Elwood hybrid with front and back
    baskets (my husband has the men’s version of the same bike). We
    don’t have a lot of extra storage space so every time I’ve bought
    a new bike (3 in the last 20 or so years) I’ve given away the old
    one. I use it for everyday transport and only on roads and bike
    paths so it suits me fine but I do have friends who have multiple
    bikes for different purposes.

  9. March 17, 2011 21:38

    No offense, but I’m so glad your Raleigh is back. It’s so much nicer to look at to my vintage-style-loving eyes.

    Girl- You know I’ve only got ONE bicycle and we pushed through the whole year! She is about to meet the fancy store Adeline Adeline for some swank accessories for the freshness of spring.

    I do look forward to possibly living outside of New York City someday and having a thrasher mountain bike. I also wish my husband had a bike that matched mine so we could be more coordinated on couples excursions & dates.

  10. Eduardo permalink
    March 17, 2011 21:42

    I have 2 mtb, 2 seven speeds and a bmx.
    If I could have only one bike it would be a mtb no suspension and I’ll have 2 sets of wheels to switch betwen road and trails.

  11. March 18, 2011 04:25

    I think it is important to have multiple bikes as most bikes are designed with a specific task in mind.
    I own three myself: a Raleigh DL-1, heavily modified Free Spirit, and a Raleigh Record fixed-gear
    My wife owns two: a Schwinn mountain bike and classic three speed I refurbished for her
    My daughter and son each own one each: cheap huffy’s

  12. Dawn permalink
    March 18, 2011 05:22

    I own two bikes but if I had the room, I would have several more. I have my cross-country hardtail for hitting the trails at the weekend, and my hybrid for commuting around the city. I would add two more mountain bikes to my garage; a full-suss all-mountain bike and a downhill bike; a road bike and a retro bike like the Raleigh for cycling in skirts and heels.

  13. Geneviève permalink
    March 18, 2011 09:07

    We also owned way too many bicycles for two people and since we’re moving into a tiny condo in a few weeks, we had to make the same tough decision… We decided to sell our mountain bikes, since we weren’t using them as much (lesss than 10x a year…). Which left us with our two road bikes, our two commuter bikes, plus a fixed gear mountain bike (it’s stupid). We can still do some light mountain biking with the fixed gear and my commuter (I change the tires and handle bar) and we’re lucky to have many friends in the cycling world/bike shops so we can always borrow mountain bikes with more suspension if we feel like hitting bigger trails.
    We’ll see if we live…

  14. Blume permalink
    March 18, 2011 09:11

    My husband and I each have three bikes. I’ve got a racing bike (no racks/lights, aggressive geometry), a hi-ten mixte set up for commuting (upright position, swept-back bars, racks and basket and lights), and a fixer-upper 531 mixte that sort of splits the difference between the two. The last one has no clear purpose, but I can’t imagine selling it. We each store one bike in the entryway of our Boston building and then have our other four bikes in the apartment itself. And I must admit… I really want to get a fixed gear as well.

  15. Erin permalink
    March 18, 2011 10:40

    I have one. And she is a real junker. I hope to have her refit a little this year to make her a bit more use-able. If I have a bigger budget, I would love to have three. My junker, named Victoria, fixed up (or other upright posture bike), a road bike and a cargo bike of some sort for going for groceries. I would like to have Victoria and the cargo bike be able to transport my daughter too. So either the ability to tow a trailer or have the cargo bike be a Madsen or bakfiet style of thing.

  16. March 18, 2011 11:54

    I currently own one bike, the same as Fiona (aren’t they just beautiful!). Right now I’m only getting limited riding in, as I live in the mountains and find it hard to ride such a heavy bike up the hills (either that or I’ve just gotten really out of shape). I’ve also started finding problems with the gears disconcertingly popping into neutral while I’m riding, so it’s about time to take her back into the LBS.
    Luckily I’m moving to a flatter area and will be able to ride her regularly.

    If I could own another, it would be the Rivendell Sam Hillborne. I haven’t heard a single negative review from people who own the Sam. Of course, the only strike against it right now is the price. I’m trying to decide currently whether I want to start saving up for one so that I can own it in the very distant future. Until then, I dream.

    Also, if you come to decision of getting rid of a bike, I vote to sell the mountain bike and just get snow tires for one of the bikes. You can help protect the frame from damage by cleaning it and using car wax on it.
    http://bostonbiker.org/2009/12/07/winter-riding-in-boston-winter-bicycle-maintenance/
    But until then, if you use all your bikes and they’re not just lying around, keep them until it comes to the point that you feel comfortable letting go of one. (Your internal dilemma of having too much may find some answers in this blog post I stumbled upon: http://www.missminimalist.com/2011/03/arete-minimalism-and-the-pursuit-of-excellence/)

  17. March 18, 2011 13:18

    I own two bikes: a road bike that is light and fast and a commuter bike with a rack and a basket. I wouldn’t get another one but if I had to keep only one it would definitely be my commuter.

  18. March 19, 2011 10:41

    I went through this “trying to pair down” last year, but it was utterly useless. I shed a few bikes only to gain more. But as far as basic needs go, I need at least two: an upright step through commuter bike and a diamond frame roadbike with drop bars. Ideally I’d also have a mixte, and a fixed gear diamond frame roadbike. So I guess that makes it four…

  19. March 19, 2011 20:30

    Thanks for all your comments, everyone! This makes me feel better about the number of bikes we have, and I think that most likely I would get rid of the mountain bike and make Fiona somehow more winter friendly. But that still leaves me with Fiona (the Raleigh), the Mixte, and my roadbike, and I really don’t know how I could get rid of any of those. But I guess we’ll cross that road when we have to :)

  20. March 20, 2011 14:34

    My wife and I just hit a total of eleven bikes in the garage. One belongs to our roommate, two are our mountain bikes, two are our road bikes, there’s one cargo bike, one recumbent (on extended loan from family), one Dutch cruiser (my primary commuter), and three folding bikes (two we’ve had for quite some time, and one very recently purchased Brompton).

    We’re thinking of moving sometime in the not-so-distant future and will probably get rid of a few of these bikes before we do. At least one of the folding bikes will be sold (the Brompton was to replace an existing folder – we just han’t had time, the two mountain bikes never get ridden and probably should be passed on to a new loving home, and the recumbent will likely be un-loaned sometime in the future.

    I agree that different sorts of bikes are essential. Although, I could probably get by with no more than three: the Dutch cruiser for daily riding, a folding bike when I need to go on busses and trains, and a cargo bike for larger grocery shopping trips.

  21. March 21, 2011 23:16

    I’ve somehow accumulated seven bikes on my own. Three aren’t rideable (yet), I picked them up at garage sales because I saw their potential. The fourth is the first bike I bought new after I got my first jobby job, although it’s nothing fancy. Now it’s my guest bike that I lend to visitors. Number five is a Miata road bike that I’m very sentimental towards but I can’t ride much because of a pinched nerve in my neck. We did some great touring together though. Number six is my Soma mixte that I had built out last summer. I ride it everywhere and consider it the perfect bike. Finally, I just got a Dutch Oma which I plan to use as my winter/foul weather bike because it is a single speed and very heavy duty. It was featured on Groupon for a killer price and I couldn’t resist.

    I love all my bikes and am fortunate to have a ton of storage space in our condo’s basement. However, we’re talking about moving and then I’m afraid I might find myself in the same predicament of having to narrow down. But I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

  22. March 24, 2011 14:20

    I have 5 bikes, and live in a (fortunately) large studio. I’ve often thought of what bike(s) I would pare down if I needed to. If I had to go down to only ONE bike, I would make it my Brompton…because it is so versatile. If down to TWO bikes, I would make it the Brompton and my Bike Friday (since it has 24 gears and can still be folded and travel). Since I live in the Washington, D.C. area, we (usually) don’t get a lot of winter snow, so I could take public transportation on the wintry weather days. It IS nice to be able to have different bikes for different uses. :) I did live with only ONE bike in my life for a long time (a hybrid), but have accumulated different kinds of bikes over the years and DO use most of them from time to time. :) Charmaine

  23. March 25, 2011 15:10

    One question for consideration regarding road bikes: does speed really matter if only used recreationally? Recreational use implies getting to a destination in minimal time is not a priority.

    For this reason I sold my road bike. I never really used it anyway, since 99% of my riding is commuting (especially since kids). The rush of speed on a road bike is great, but for me at least it was not reason enough to store a hardly used bike.

    I have multiple bikes more for redundancy purposes. I can change out parts when they fail and put a down bike into service while I hop on the other on short notice. Most of my bikes are good commuters year-round (except my one vintage bike, which I do not ride in winter due to narrow tires and keeping salt/sand off).

    • March 25, 2011 20:54

      You’re right in that speed wouldn’t matter in just recreational use but since my husband and I like to do bike touring events that mean covering a ton of mileage in one day, I can’t see myself doing that on a commuter bike while he’s on a roadbike. A roadbike just allows you to cover long distances more efficiently and quickly and I really do enjoy that. We want to do a week long bike tour that would be impossible to do on a commuter or hybrid or anything like that because it would require so much more effort to cover that distance. Since those kinds of weekend events are important to us, I plan on keeping my road bike.

      I think I would get rid of my mountain bike first and hope that I don’t have to choose between my two commuters: my Raleigh 3-speed and my Peugeot Mixte. In theory, they serve about the same purpose so I wouldn’t need both, but in practive, they’re quite different bikes, so I’d like both.

      Ah, the decisions we face! :)

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