Among those of us whose passion for bikes has led us to amass large collections (stables, quivers, piles) of them, sometimes hung neatly from rafters, other times stacked against each other precariously in damp spaces, there are two odd but equal forces at play. First, there is the constant n+1 whereby the correct number of bicycles to own always seems to be one more than we have now. And then, there is the nagging suspicion that one bike might replace many, if not all of them, if only we were clever enough to design or curate that one bike.
Today I want to explore that latter idea, although I’ll leave room for the former as well.
The thing is, and as nearly as I can tell, this an immutable truth, you can only ride one bike at a time. Even if you’re the sort who switches easily between bikes, you’re not likely to. We tend to find a favorite style of riding and a favorite bike to do it on, and that becomes our primary thing. We keep the others, because you never know when you’re gonna wanna take the cruiser to the corner store, but most of us stick to one (or sometimes two) bike(s) for most of our riding.
So we’re riding one bike mainly and our thinking about bikes (which never stops) swirls around that one bike, and we figure out how we can make it better, and we upgrade it, and we alter it, and we’re always searching for that perfection. Occasionally we find it, and I suspect we’ll hear about a few of those in the comments section, but by and large we love riding our favorite bike and never stop thinking about replacing it with something better.
More often than not, in fact, we keep that favorite AND replace it, finding out later that the first bike was actually unimprovable OR the wrong idea all along. Either way, now we have two bikes and n+1 continues to exert its pernicious will on our frenzied cycling minds.
Also, there is a whole industry full of people trying hard to replace your favorite bike with your new favorite bike. Engineers. Artists. An army of them. You really don’t stand a chance.
What I’d like to do this week is propose a sort of doomsday scenario (as if we need another) in which the frenzy for bicycles continues unabated and the industry’s supply chains fail entirely. The cycling authorities impose draconian rationing on the supply of bikes, such that each citizen is only allowed one. As a hoarder, so to speak, you are required to surrender all but one of your beloved machines, forced to stand disconsolately at your cellar door as a crew of indifferent, jump-suited workers flings your precious bikes onto a teetering pile in the back of a truck and drives off.
I know. I know. I’ve lit a candle here in sad contemplation of this tragedy, which will likely never come to pass. Even the thought of it brings a tear to my eye, but also spurs the mental wheels to spin. Which bike to choose? Are any of them THE ONE?
This week’s TCIF asks, if you get to keep just one of your bikes, which one do you keep and why? Alternately, if you could only have one bike and you don’t have the putative “one bike” now, what would you get?