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I see questions where people want a bike to commute, road ride, and take on trails. Not one bike will do it all. When do I need more than one bike. How many bikes is enough?

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There are two equations to establish the correct number of bikes to own. In both equations c is the correct number of bikes. The first is n + 1 = c where n is the number of bikes you currently own, or a - 1 = c where a is the number of bikes at which your significant other will leave you. –  jimirings Jul 26 at 1:17
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In all seriousness though, this question is bordering on being primarily opinion based. Personally, I'll wait to see what kind of answers it gets before passing judgment, but it won't surprise me if the community votes to close it. –  jimirings Jul 26 at 1:18
    
@jimirings I am OK if it get closed but managing a bike count is an issue a lot of us go through. And for first time buyers the point it is don't expect it to be your only bike. –  Blam Jul 26 at 1:36
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I think for most first time buyers, one bike is enough (its just for commuting or taking around the neighborhood on the weekend or for collecting dust in the garage). Most people I know have only one car for themselves, but enthusiasts might have 2. –  Batman Jul 26 at 1:45
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As with anything: Buy another when you have a compelling reason to do so -- and consider selling the one you're using least. –  keshlam Jul 26 at 2:42

4 Answers 4

up vote 11 down vote accepted

If you have n bikes, n+1 bikes is the right amount of bikes to have. ;)

Realistically, I think 2 or 3 is adequate - a cyclocross or non-racing road bike can do the first two tasks (road ride + commute) provided it has rack and fender mounts, and one mountain bike is likely good enough for the trails in one's area (if you go somewhere else where another type of mountain bike would do very well, say a fat bike in the snow versus your hardtail which is adequate for your area's trails or whatever, rent it for the trip). A third would be a winter beater (an old rigid mountain bike, most likely) or something to take to the shady parts of town.

Of course, enthusiasts can always justify more bikes (much like with lots of hobbies).

[There is also the community of monster cross'ers, who build beefed up cross bikes which you can take on lighter trails, so if the trails are light enough, you could do it all with one bike!]

Too many would be when it starts affecting parts of your life which you're not okay with,e.g. too much money in bikes, not enough space, not feeding your kids for a new bike, etc.

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It depends on the kind of riding you are doing. Personally I would go for a proper road race bike, then a cyclocross bike for commuting and light trails, and a beater for winter and going places where bike may be susceptible to theft. I don't go on trials that require a real mountain bike. –  Kibbee Jul 26 at 1:15
    
I think a race bike is more of a fashion statement for almost everyone - they aren't going to go faster or more comfortably than on a cross or touring bike, so I don't see why they should get one. FWIW, –  Batman Jul 26 at 1:17
    
n+1 more bike and I'll have just as many as I want to have. –  ShemSeger Nov 19 at 20:48

Aside from n+1, the other honest answer is: as many as your spouse will tolerate.

I have six (two road bikes, one mtb, two folders, one English cruiser). I have met the spousal tolerance factor. After this, I can only replace, not add. So if I really want that Brompton, one of the folders has to go.

Now, your question doesn't also get to another important question:

  • How many bikes can you hide / disguise from your spouse by breaking them into individual components (frame, wheels, etc.). I think I could build another bike or two from spare parts in my garage, but don't tell my spouse.
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There really is an argument for a cycling-specific dating site! shaven-legs.com? –  PeteH Jul 26 at 7:24
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Or as many as will fit in your garage, and in the furnace room, under the deck, your wife's side of the bed... –  ShemSeger Nov 19 at 20:51

I won't give my own question the check.

I have a few bikes and I see a bike I want and I am going through the can I justify to myself.

How many is too much?

  • If you don't have room to store them safely and sheltered then too many.
  • If you are not going to maintain them then it is too many.
  • You can't afford it.

When do you need more than one bike?

  • Range of conditions
    A bike can be pure road - speed.
    Or road and light trail.
    Or heavy trail.
    Cannot expect a pure road bike to handle heavy ruff trails.

  • Security issues
    You don't want to leave your expensive bike locked on the street. Pretty easy to justify a cheap second bike.

  • Use
    Ramble around town, shopping, training, racing, or touring.

Justify your next bike

  • What type of riding do you want to do that you are just not equipped for? Will you actually use the bike? If you will use the bike and will exercise more then go for it.

  • Can you upgrade an existing bike to satisfy the need?
    Would a second set of wheels let you bridge the gap. Like a set of road wheels for cyclocross.

  • Is it such a good deal that you could sell it for close to what you paid for it?
    For me that is the easy way. Watch for used bikes.

  • The equipment on a current bike is outdated. It is not worth replacing any major components. Like my cyclocross is not disc. I am going to ride it until it dies but I am not going replace any major components. It takes a really outdated bike to justify retiring a working bike - but if you are just plain not riding it because it is outdated and you would ride a new bike then go for it.

  • Could be as simple as tired of trading out pedals. I had have mountain I used for walking the dog and actual trail riding. I saw the mountain bike I wanted at great price and just retired the current to dog walker and short city rides with full time flat pedals.

  • Will it save you money?
    Can you avoid paying for park. Gas you don't need to buy for the car. Can you go so far as no car?

  • Not the same as another bike but a nice set of lights lets you extend a bike from day time use to day and night.

I want a gravel racer for exercise / speed in town but it is not enough different from by cyclocross to justify. And I put new wheels on the cyclocross two years ago and I will never wear them out.

But if you have road bike and if you had mountain bike you would ride just one more day a week then go for it. It does not need to be an expensive bike.

Some times you get first time buyers that want a bike the will do everything. Pick a bike that will do your primary task and don't break the bank. Start with a mid range bike. I see questions of I want in my first time bike and not sure how I will use it and I have a budget of $2000. My reaction is buy an $800 bike. Don't spend $2000+ on bike until you know exactly what you want.

As for a max. Unless you are a competition rider it would be hard to justify more than 5.

My collection and how I justify/use from oldest to newest

  • Trek 1500 road
    Not much use as it is 7 speed down tube
    Currently on loan to a friend riding it to grad school
  • Bianchi Cyclross Concept
    SPD pedals and 35 mm tires
    Training, road, and light trails
  • Specialized Tricross Singlecross
    Primary commuter
    Used great price
  • Salsa Vaya
    All round - shopping, leisure, touring, and commute when I can lock inside
    If I had to keep only one this would be the bike
  • Orbea Lonzo
    Single speed mountain with Niner carbon fork and downhill pedals
    Walking the dog and knocking around town
    Used great price
    My 7 speed Bianchi Grizzly just was not hacking it - the Concept was better mountain bike and the Vaya a better shopping bike
  • Niner Air Nine Carbon
    Single speed mountain with Niner carbon fork, tubeless, and spd pedals
    I like single speed and fixed fork for learning technique
    The price was so good I could not pass it up
    I would sell the Orbea Lonzo but I just put new tubeless wheels on it
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I'd like to add more granularity to the idea of matching bikes to road conditions. Most, or all, of my riding conditions are roads/paths but I "need" several bikes. Sometimes I want to ride for fun/leisure/speed without needing to lock the bike (my fast-bike). Sometimes I am doing errands that call for locking the bike in several different urban areas in a day (my beater). Still other times I am doing errands that call for carrying some load (my DIY hauler). Other times I am riding somewhere to meet up with others and will get a ride home (my next bike, a folder). –  Arbalest Aug 4 at 22:29
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My favorite shop is closing and they have a Sala Colossal on sale. As nice as it is. I put new chain, shifter cables and tires on my Bianchi Cyclross Concept is it just not enough different. You owe a bike a good tune-up before you demote it. And I don't even want a race style road bike. –  Blam Sep 24 at 20:58

I'd say n (or n + 1) where n is the number of riding styles you are currently and actively pursing is reasonable. The +1 formula is optional for people who race fairly seriously. So if you like to ride cross-country mtn occasionally, but seriously race road and commute, I'd say your n was 3 with the +1 option of an additional road bike for racing. I recently sold a full downhill rig because it hadn't been used in two years and I didn't see myself getting back to shuttle running crowd in my area. n = n - 1 for me. I have a nice full suspension all mountain rig that may go the same way at the end of next summer if it doesn't see any use.

When I started leaning toward a serious collection years ago, I thought an ideal number was 7. I actually had that at one point, but have now realized, having some really nice ride hanging around that I haven't used in two years only depresses me. On the spousal front, it's much easier to justify a new bike when I can claim that I rode every bike I own within the last year. I obtain a brief period of joy every time sell an unused bike (or two) and turn it into a new bike that I will ride.

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Then you have those guys that have their annual life-cycle replacement routines, and get a new top-of-the-line bike every season... I seriously considered becoming an eye surgeon when I worked at my first bike shop. –  ShemSeger Nov 19 at 20:57
    
The bike shop manager at my LBS had that action going on. It sort of exploded on him when he left the position. He had x bikes stored at home and y bikes stored at the shop. Sadly his wife was under the impression he owned X + 1 bikes. And y was not a single digit integer. –  Chris in AK Nov 19 at 21:06

protected by Gary.Ray Aug 6 at 13:18

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