Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Case For Owning Multiple Bikes

Ah, the search for "The One."

1892 wedding picture. Courtesy Pikes Peak library.

The One who will make your heart flutter, your insides tingle.  The One who will have you walking around in a dreamy daze. 

The One you will travel the world with, over smooth roads and rough terrain. The One who will be with you when you take in amazingly beautiful vistas. The One who will be with you during your most mundane moments, such as grocery-shopping, hardware store runs, and commuting to work. 

The One, for better and for worse.

Have you found The One?

I thought I had 10 years ago.  She was an Italian-made steel road bike, versatile enough to be my commuter, my century ride, my light tourer, my grocery-hauling do-it-all multipurpose bike (you knew this was about bikes, right?). 

The One.

But time and experience will change a man.

I still believe that steel road bikes make the best all-rounders.  But what if you want to do some fully-loaded touring or bike camping?  Then maybe the Surly Long-Haul Trucker is The One, or if you love vintage bikes maybe a 1980's Miyata 1000.

The 1983 Miyati 1000.  Credit:

What if you want to take in some dirt?  Then you may want wider tire clearance to allow for fatter tires, if not knobbies.  Of course, this point is arguable.  In a 1993 article in Bicycling magazine, Chris Kostman wrote: "I routinely dust every mountain biker I encounter on the trail. And I ride a road bike."  Of course, he is a cocky S-O-B: "More bluntly, a road bike is equal to or better than a mountain bike if ridden with skill like I have."

Grant Petersen pursued the dream of The One during his tenure with Bridgestone.  The result was the XO-1, which he touted as "the most versatile, the most exciting bike we've ever made; and under the legs of a strong, skilled rider, it can do almost anything."

An ad for the XO-1.  Credit:

The XO-1 became the Atlantis when Petersen started Rivendell, but the XO-1 has plenty of other progeny as well, including recent entrants such as the Rawland Sogn and perhaps Surly's soon-to-be released Troll.

The Troll (note to Surly -- please rename). Credit: Surly Blog.

Surly says "the idea behind this sucker is a commuter, tractor, off-roader, tourer, dethmachine."  By the way, Surly is quite serious about the "tractor" part - they're coming out with a trailer for 2011 that they claim can haul 300 pounds of cargo. 

There's nothing wrong with pursuing The One.  But I've found a special joy in owning a bunch of bikes and riding them all frequently.  I currently have five very different bikes: the aforementioned road bike, an XO-2, a mountain bike, a fixie, and a 60-year-old English 3-speed.  I find that I am riding more than ever. 

The 1994 Bridgestone catalog included an article titled "How To Ride A Bike Forever," which recommended owning multiple bikes:

Make your bicycles so different that your experience on one is unlike the other -- a mountain bike and a road bike, a multispeed and a single speed, or a clunker, or a recumbent.  For some people, even different handlebars are enough of a change.  It's worth a try.

How To Ride A Bike Forever - click for big if you want to read the whole thing. Credit:

So there you have it.  It's okay to be with multiple bikes.  And don't worry: they never get jealous.


Janice in GA said...

Hey, I LOVE the name "Troll". I'd almost buy a bike like that just for the name.

Yokota Fritz said...

The (in)famous Jobst Brandt lives and bikes in my area. You can think of him as the original minimalist, and he always scoffs at the idea that anybody would ever own multiple bikes. He famously says his single bike (and it's always yellow, because yellow is the best color for examining the frame for cracks) is his "racing, touring, MTB and commuter bike." He can only maintain a single bike at a time, and he can only ride one bike at a time, so why own multiple bikes?

That said, right now I have a fast road bike, a folding bike, an ancient & heavy mountain bike, and an absolutely fun around-town cruiser bike (probably the bike I ride most often these days). If I had to have a single bike, it would be the Urbana.

GeekGuyAndy said...

I couldn't live with just one. I currently have 3 that get used on a weekly basis.
1) 1998 Raleigh R700 for racing, centuries and ideal weather commuting
2) 2004 K2 Enemy cyclocross bike for commuting year round, touring, cx rides, and sometimes for polo
3) 1980s Centurion for bike polo, and errands around town when I don't care about locking it up

Tom said...

I always thought I could be a one-bike-person. My Cargo-T is a grocery getter, all-weather commuter, dirt road cruiser, and lock-n-forget bike. I'm feeling the need for something a bit faster for longer rides in nice weather. Then again a folding bike would be great. Hmm... I guess I'm not a one-bike-guy.

2wheel_Ted said...

The limit on bicycles you own depends on the limits of your cycling interests (and talent for selling things on Craigslist for cash). In my garage are:
- Trek carbon road bike
- GT full suspension mountain bike
- Specialized Tri bike (started doing triathlon just because I wanted the tri-specific bike)
- 1995 Gary Fisher steel hardtail MTB converted to singlespeed
- Schwinn retro town bike w/fenders, basket, bell, bags (my grocery bike)
- custom fixed-gear I painted and built
- SCOTT hardtail MTB for racing
- 2 misc. garage sale finds in various states of refurb
- wife's recumbent trike
- son's BMX bike

It's a sickness; not to mention the motorcycles...

Erich Z said...

I tried the one-bike thing, had the one bike that could do it all, but it doesn't work for me. My bike could easily go on singletrack, was great for around town, rode a 400 mile tour with no problems, and was enjoyable doing all of that. It's a Bridgestone XO-1.

Having said that, I worry about ruining the frame using it as a daily MTB, and it's a pain to change out wheels for each kind of riding. It's not the best at any one thing, and for around town, locking it up scares the crap out of me.

So I now have a camping bike, a mountain bike, an around town cruiser, and the XO. I'll still ride the XO for all those things including cross this season, but I've found "horses for courses" is not a bad philosophy.

Anonymous said...

OK - I could go for just the one...I just got a shiny new titanium Cyclocross bike . A Motobacane (hah!). It just might replace all the other bikes: a 90's KHS sport tourer (for long rides & commuting), a beat up stumpjumper (for trail adventure), and three others (not running). Gotta keep the Trek Electic for hauling the grocery and loads trailer, don't I?

I really, really have too many bikes. Maybe just two?

2whls3spds said...

Considering the costs of bicycles (relatively inexpensive) to many other items, I don't see a problem with having more than one.

As far as having a single do it all bike...depends on what you want to do! The two I have that came closest are my old Raleigh Sports or my old Giant Iguana MTB.

A bike is like a tool in a way, it will work for many different uses but will not excel at all of them.


BikeBike said...

The One, eh? Hmmm...not sure that I could ever be a one-bike guy, especially if you are living carfree.

I am carfree and firmly believe that more than one bike is necessary - especially if you have to transport kids. My current kids transporter is a Batavus BuB 3-sp with Bobike Junior seat - here is a photo -!/photo.php?fbid=432826513348&set=a.203036623348.130988.164831463348 - but I also have a 2-sp kickback Brodie Remus which is lighter/faster than the BuB. (I won't mention the other 9 bikes in my basement).

I figure if I don't have a car, than I need enough bikes for all of life's duties.

Can't wait for the Civia Halsted - that will probably become my new "daily driver" :).

Velouria said...

Thank you for re-posting the Bridgestone article! Amazing how true it rings.

James Fisher said...

Just one? Maybe my Big Dummy or maybe my Troll, perhaps it would be the SteamRoller or the Nature-boy. Guess I cannot decide so I will keep adding to the collection.