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?
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.
Aside from (n+1), the other honest answer is: as many as your spouse will tolerate, often written as (s-1).
At the time I wrote this answer, I had six bikes (two road bikes, one mtb, two folders, one English cruiser). I had met the spousal tolerance factor. After this, I can only replace, not add. So if I really wanted that Brompton, one of the folders had to go. You can click my profile to see what I currently have.
Now, your question doesn't also get to another important question:
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?
When do you need more than one bike?
Justify your next bike
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
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.
protected by Gary.Ray♦ Aug 6 '14 at 13:18
Thank you for your interest in this question.
Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.
Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?