When is enough, enough?

Reading some of the comments from my recent posts about bike fit and the Brompton review it strikes me that the more one gets into cycling, the more reluctant one is to accept a one-size-fits-all bike.  I mean that both in terms of the bike itself and the set up.  We now need bikes for communting, for road cycling, for nipping to the shops and for long distance or sportive riding.  MTB,  cross, you name it, there’s a specialist bike for it.

I can’t decide whether that’s because we’ve been seduced by the advertising of the bike manufacturers or because we really do need them.  Are we so wedded to our triple chain rings that we can’t now cope a three-speed or single speed on a hilly ride.  Fixed gear bikes are all the rage, but only for the East London hipsters.  They don’t seem to be popular for the rest of us, perhaps because we can’t really be bothered with the skill it takes to make them work on anything other than a flat circuit.  Do they travel across the bike divide?  Are our ideas so fixed?

I’d be interested to know what people think about this conumndrum.  Can we make one bike work or do we really need a hybrid, a road bike, a Brompton, an MTB and an old-fashioned Roadster?  Or is it all just more fun with the right bike for the terrain?  How many bikes are in your shed?  Do you need them all or could you pare it down a little?

More importantly, where do you keep them all?

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39 Responses to When is enough, enough?

  1. Andreas 07/06/2011 at 12:43 pm #

    Good question Nicole. I’ve always forced myself to be a one bike person. Forced mainly through not spending any money on new bikes all the times (I save most my money for holidays). With a beat-up hybrid I think I’ve found as much of an in-between point as possible. It copes down muddy trails, it will get me around London quickly and without too much effort and I’m not scared to leave it anywhere as it’s got so many scrapes and chips that a thief will go for the prettier looking bike next to it.

    However, I’m not sure how long I can sustain one-bike-itus. As I write this there is a nice old Raleigh frame that has been sat waiting to be built into a beautiful bike. I’m also tempted by road bikes for those longer rides. I don’t think I’ll be able to hold out for much longer!

    Storage: For now the flat that I live in has plenty of storage in the communal but fairly secure hallway outside.

    • Paul R 16/06/2011 at 9:44 am #

      You cant have too many bikes. Just like picturres on the wall and books in the cabinet, one is never enough. I have four – a dutch around towner, a brompton for the train commute outside town, a tourer for the adventures away from town, and a cruiser for pulling the trailer when shopping within town. My car is going in August, so what better excuse to add to my stable………a Genesis Day One if you please!

  2. deadmanjones 07/06/2011 at 12:51 pm #

    Ee, you southerners n your fixed gears.

    I have one bike and it’s a hybrid. The chances of me not encountering a hill on a journey around Greater Manchester are nil, but the chances of me encountering a huge inescapable pothole are 100%.

    There is no journey I can make in my area that would require anything except versatility from my bike, whether it be ‘communting’, road cycling, or long distance.

  3. Tommi 07/06/2011 at 12:52 pm #

    I’ve cycled for 20+ years and I’ve never considered having more than one bike at a time. But then again, I don’t go to extreme trails or race so virtually anything with two wheels would work fine, any imagined performance benefits from multiple bikes would be overwhelmingly lost with the extra inconvenience, at least for me.

  4. daloriana 07/06/2011 at 12:53 pm #

    I too am a one bike person, again due to financial constraints. It used to be a (very) old Raleigh road bike, but due to a chain snap, its been converted to a fixie.

    Currently I commute from Tottenham Hale to W1, go out for family bike rides with the kids, and ride on my own round the Essex countryside.

    I’d like to have a bike for every occasion, but I think that’s just because secretly I’d like loads of different nice bikes. The reality is that the simple joys of rolling round with one gear constantly spinning, outweighs slogging up hills, having to stay on the road.

    Storage would be a problem, as we’ve a bike for almost every sized child between 2-12!

  5. Jackart 07/06/2011 at 12:56 pm #

    The correct number of bikes is n+1 where n is the number of bikes you currently own. I have a Brompton for London, A road bike for exercise, commuting & audax riding. I want an MTB for off road and a tandem so the bird can keep up…

    I like the correct tool for the job, but my road bike does me in most circumstances.

  6. Rob 07/06/2011 at 12:59 pm #

    I like to see my bike ownership split between ‘fun’ and ‘practical’. One for each. I have a track bike for blasting around the velodrome that is East London, and a nice practical town bike with baskets and such for shopping and carrying stuff.

  7. Guido 07/06/2011 at 1:03 pm #

    I am 3,500 miles away from my garden shed with 5 bikes in it, 2 are mine, the racer, and a fixed gear. I love them both for very different reasons but working away from home for the last 6 months my only stead has been a three speed rental bike.

    I love all bikes, I want to own more, the current decision is between a single speed mountain bike and a cruiser.

    The decision between bikes is always obvious for me, and watching a colleague prepare for a charity ride where he has gone from a newbie to a 200 km every weekend kind of rider i have seem the multi bike transformation. He started by marvelling at me having more than one bike, why not spend all that money on one good bike? Four months later he sheepishly admits he wants to ride other bikes, he is now part of the gang, soon he will be browsing the cycle shop websites trying to make a decision between bikes, a decision that even other cyclists won’t understand because your quiver of bikes is always a very personal thing…

    My thinking, I want to ride far and fast at weekends, but I don’t want to leave that bike outside of a pub on quiz night, oh and if I want to hop off the odd curb into a gully, well that’s three bikes already. All this means I don’t need the compromise, I don’t need the hybrid…

  8. Andrew 07/06/2011 at 1:10 pm #

    I think single-speed/ fixed bikes are fantastic for commuting/ living in the city and I think they can do pretty much anything.

    I recently got back from a trip to Germany, 6 of us flew out to Berlin with our bikes packed in cardboard boxes. We unpacked, built them up and over the course of 8 days rode them back to London. They were by no means specialist touring bikes but they did the job fantastically.

    In the end we covered about 1200km, and it was probably one of the best things I’ve ever done.


    • nicolep 07/06/2011 at 3:18 pm #

      That sound like my idea of heaven.

      Last summer I took my old Trek hybrid on holiday with me, touring around the South of France and Italy. Everywhere we wanted to go, we just picked a spot, parked the car, unloaded the bikes and rode to exactly where we wanted to be. It was the perfect combination. No parking worries, no traffic to contend with and a great way to exercise and get a tan all at the same time. Doing it again this year.

    • Andreas 07/06/2011 at 6:21 pm #

      Really nice pictures Andrew! Enjoying flicking through that album. Looks like you guys had an awesome time.

  9. bfg67 07/06/2011 at 1:27 pm #

    I have one bike (Cube LTD pro CLS), which i use for on road long distant riding, touring, mountain biking, commuting, so basically everything. It has hybrid tyres, which are far from ideal offroad – i would like to get a single fat grippy tyre for the rear wheel for off road rides, but for now i ride (a lot) off road on hybrids with a slight knobble. Only had one fall caused by them so far! And on road (when travelling to the trails) they are SO much faster than my friends fat tyres.
    If i could have another bike, i would put offroad tyres on the Cube, then get a racer for the road/commute, with slicks. I am intrigued by fixies, and would like to try one, though think they are not for me (outside a velodrome).
    p.s. i just became obsessed with the photo in this article ‘The Guvnor’. I want it!

    • nicolep 07/06/2011 at 3:08 pm #

      So do I!

      I currently have a cheapish hybrid, a very expensive road bike and an eBay special which cost me £50 but which is currently being transformed into something altogether more different. But I just want a show-stopper.

      I have many bikes on my lust list but this one is at the top. Who could resist The Guvnor? At the top of the list in order of want is The Guvnor, a Singular Cycles Osprey and a Cooper Aintree. I’m feeling a retro theme here but once you start, you can’t stop. I have an garage to keep them in so no storage problems for me, just money constraints…..like us all. I’d love a fixed gear but I don’t think I can justify the expense when I can’t see how much cycling I’d be doing on it.

      • Fabian 07/06/2011 at 5:10 pm #

        The Guvnor is an ace ride and is my steed of choice. I pretty much go everywhere on it – did the London to Paris rite of passage last summer where it performed admirably even with a relatively short gear range. Currently planning on a two expedition of France for summer…I also use it every day for gadding about town and any longer weekend jaunts. The benefit of those big tires are that you really don’t feel the city’s pot holes and country trails to hold too much fear either. The hub gearing is also perfect for the stop start sort of cycling for town…

        My one hesitation with it is that it lacks the means to attach a pannier for the lengthier treks (think I need to get someone to braise (sp) some extra holes on). I have a large saddlebag (27litres) but due to being a short arse the bag would drag on the wheel when filled.

        Anyway – the Guv’nor is a grand bike, and despite seeming to be a bit of a kit car in bike form, is a remarkably versatile ride.

  10. Nick 07/06/2011 at 1:40 pm #

    I don’t like being called a hipster because I ride fixed… I find it insulting and demeaning! Hipsters always come along and ruin things by making it trendy and then expensive!

    Anyway, I’m a firm believer in the right tool for the right job, there is no one size fits all approach and bikes are terrible for this. Yes I ride fixed, but for the distance I do on it, it’s the right tool and only the odd killer hill to contend with as most of London is pretty flat. I also have a road bike for anything which requires distance and speed. It just depends on what the majority of my riding would be, if I went off road a lot I would get an MBK, if I used it for commuting on a train I would get a Brompton, but alas my riding is mainly in London, so a road bike and a track bike are my tools.

    • nicolep 07/06/2011 at 3:12 pm #

      Sorry Nick

      Didn’t mean to insult! It’s only envy. I’d love to be riding around town all day, trackstanding to my heart’s delight, which is what I imagine you fixed gear owners do. Sadly I live in commuter land and have to spend my day in an office. No time to practice my skills…

      • Adam 08/06/2011 at 10:57 am #

        Also don’t live in East London and own a fixed gear bike. It’s light (Reynolds 531c) with minimal components and covered in rust spots so great for commuting Bristol as the tatty look puts people off.. Plus it’s simple and cheap to maintain.

        Not everyone is riding fixed for the look / image. For the right job it can be the right tool.

        I do worry about all the brakeless fixie kid 13 year olds that seem to have emerged over the last year though! They are definitely riding for the image. Not that that is a bad thing. Anything that gets kids on bikes is good. The brakeless image thing is definitely not good though, especially for young kids whose skills on a regular bike aren’t that sharp.

        • Nick 08/06/2011 at 1:21 pm #

          All is cool, it’s just the hipster tag is kind of annoying as not all of us fixed riders are hipsters… I also wish I had the time to practice track standing as I to work in an office… Wait I live in East London, ride fixed, work in media and have a moustache… everything tells me I am supposed to be a hipster… but I hate hipsters! But I love my bikes and I love riding.

  11. Gary Lake 07/06/2011 at 1:41 pm #

    I’d say the MTB was a pretty justified specialism, although it is guilty for having as many niches within as cycling does itself.

    That said, even the regular MTB and the Downhill MTB are pretty justified!

  12. Mitch 07/06/2011 at 1:44 pm #

    I have 3 bikes, my trusty commuter:- a 20 year old GT which takes the brunt of London’s potholed roads, often loaded with panniers. It lives outside with a cover on it. I also have a lovely old upright which was purchased to do the shopping and light commuting-this one never gets used. “My other Bike” is a Bianchi c2c, i love her to bits, she is wrapped in cotton wool, she lives in my dressing room and is generally pampered.
    Next bikes – I would love a cyclo cross for the winter and a fixie to use at the Herne Hill Velo!

  13. Reuben 07/06/2011 at 1:45 pm #

    +1 Jackart.

    I’ve 3 bikes and a frame I panic bought because it was cheap. Road bike which was to be my bicycle, then I built a fixed to see what the fuss is about (they are lovely, be it 2 miles or 90), polo bike (low gearing innit), and the frame will probably be a single speed or hub gear porteur type bike, for pootling about and especially for cycling for others who go at a slower pace. None of them are particularly flashy bikes but they all see good use.

    Benefits of having lots of bikes: if one is broke you can still get places, you can lend them to people, be it for a trip together or if their bike is in the shop.

    Cons: so much space… especially if you live with other people with multiple bikes (currently 6 bikes in our garden, can go up to 8 if people are visiting).

    I tend to think by riding everywhere I can spend about £40 a month on bikes (cost of bus pass), which is a reasonable budget for transport which sees a quick explosion in the number of bikes… While there is always the tendency to keep on expanding, I reckon 5 bikes will be the limit for me (road, fixed with brake, track, polo, porteur). Soon, soon I’ll be content… Now, to fix another set of brakes to the polo bike.

  14. Tim 07/06/2011 at 1:47 pm #

    Very interesting question and definitely something that can be partially blamed on the marketeers – just like sports shoes! While I know there are benefits of different equipment for different activity I think it has gone way beyond what is necessary.

    While I would probably like a second bike, I have issues in regards to storage (and keeping bikes safe) so decided to go for the Specialized TriCross (http://www.thebikefactory.co.uk/productdetails.asp?productid=53043) and have been incredibly pleased. It’s super quick on the roads around the city, hills are a breeze, more than capable of handling moderate off road rides, and is light enough to carry up stairs etc with ease.

    I also fitted some double sided pedals, one side clips and the other side flat so that I was comfortable regardless of which shoes I had with me.

    Gee this sounds like a massive plug, well it is but not for any benefit to me – I just like to see people spending their money wisely!

  15. Liz 07/06/2011 at 3:27 pm #

    I have 2 bikes. Both hybrid one is a Boardman, more road bike spec and the other has the thicker tyres and mudguards for my commute. It carries a pannier for all those essentials for work. My lunch etc and to be honest this is my favoured bike. She’s sturdy and takes the load. I hate things on my back. She copes with the Kent roads potholes and all. My boardman although a lovely bike doesn’t cater for these needs so is used less. Mainly for the long road rides. So to be honest one bike would do me. They live in a bike tent in my garden. Right outside my kitchen window.

  16. Mike 07/06/2011 at 4:35 pm #

    I have three. A full-on road bike for long distance leisure rides & sportives, a completely self-indulgent bike for pottering about locally, and a cyclocross bike for everything else.

    Cross bikes come the closest to “do-it-all” for me, especially the lower end bikes as they aren’t so focused on racing. You can fit skinny tyres and go fast, load it up with a rack, wider tyres and full mudguards for touring or stick some knobblies on and tackle off road terrain and London snow.

    If you made me only have one bike, it’d be a crosser, for sure.

  17. Andreas 07/06/2011 at 7:07 pm #

    That was a really interesting question Nicole – been fascinated by the replies to this post. Thanks to all who have commented 🙂

  18. cafewanda 07/06/2011 at 8:09 pm #

    Very interesting question! I have two bikes and a frame: 1 hybrid, 1 road bike and the frame has yet to be built into a singlespeed. Despite that, I’m still looking to get a Brompton and a Islabike (Luath small). I’m quite short so finding bikes that fit is a major problem. The Luath will be my ’round town/tourer’ bike and will replace the hybrid.

    I fully subscribe to the N+1 ideal.

    The Guvnor is beautiful. Does it come in miniature?

  19. G 07/06/2011 at 8:46 pm #

    I have recently got into cycling properly and have a nice hybrid (Marin San Rafael) which is just lovely and seems to work whatever I do – which is mainly 20-40min journeys in central/inner suburbs.

    But I hanker after a more ‘classic’ bike for looks and pootling – a Raleigh Chiltern or something. Nothing pricey and silly, just a nice-shaped frame, with a basket and big shiny mudguards. Hoping to get one soonish. Not because I NEED but because I WANT. Also want to do it up myself/personalise it – same for a lot of people I imagine.

    My nice big conservatory comfortably fits 6 or 7 bikes – currently has 3, mine, my one housemate’s Ribble racer and my other housemate’s 1947 Raleigh gents! Take that Guvnor!

  20. Pete 07/06/2011 at 11:58 pm #

    You can never have too many bikes, but if you commute 2 is probably the magic number.

    The best bike I have bought was a reconditioned singlespeed for commuting, there are fewer pieces to break replace during the daily grind and the old steel frame is as solid as a rock.

    I then enjoy less wear and tear on the road bike (and soon to be acquired MTB) when I head out for a weekend rides.

  21. Tejvan 08/06/2011 at 9:25 am #

    I have 6 bikes, so I just need one more for each day of the week. A good commuting bike needs to be fairly cheap in case it gets stolen but practical. But, if you really enjoy bikes why not buy top of the range bikes for your purposes. It’s still better value than spending thousands of pounds on car.

  22. Mike 08/06/2011 at 10:53 am #

    I’ve got just the one – a triple-chain-ringed hybrid.

    For me the problem is (apart from a severe shortage of money, of course) is that I live in Cornwall, at the top of a 15%, 900-metre-long hill, which is itself only half way up another long hill.

    Once I’m away from home, any ride longer than 1 kilometre involves more long steep hills – going and coming!

    Even if I could afford multiple bikes, a fixie is out of the question (you’d spin your ankles into a knot on the downsides), a single-speed would limit all but the toughest riders to about 1/2-kilometre in each direction, and a compact groupset road/audax machine would be no fun until I got an awful lot fitter (assuming my heart didn’t pack up first).

    My hybrid gets me around Cornwall in reasonable comfort, at a reasonable fitness level, it takes me into town/cities when necessary without feeling too ridiculously heavy, and it’s done me many multi-day, hundreds of kilometres charity rides with amazing reliability (in two 400-kilometre rides to Paris, for instance I had two punctures!).

    The one-bike-fits-all method may not work for everyone, but for some of us its the only option!


  23. Howard 10/06/2011 at 12:02 pm #

    Sorry, haven’t read through all the comments, so probably repeating other sentiments.

    My observations:

    If you want one bike to do it all, you’ll have to accept compromises. Surly Cross Check, or other CX bikes seem like a good place to start.

    There’s only been one hill that’s defeated me on my single speed (48/18) and that was on the South Downs. My SS gets most of the miles these days.

    Having N + 1 is great when N develops a problem and gets laid up for a few days. But you’ll need the space to keep them.

    I’ve just come across the Kenesis convert that allows a variety of different set-ups through an interchangeable drop-out system. Not sure it’s track legal, though. http://road.cc/content/review/6864-kinesis-decade-convert2-fixed . You could fit it with SRAM Apex for tripple-like ratios with a double chainset and have the option to run it fixed or SS in the winter. Nice.

  24. steve 10/06/2011 at 12:41 pm #

    I used to just ride my full suspension retro mountain bike everywhere, but got seduced into buying a road bike too, and the difference in speed and efficiency on the road is so big that I only use the road bike on the road now. the mountain bike has been relegated to weekend off roading. But I love both bikes so much that I dont like locking them up anywhere for very long so have bought a cheap raleigh trekking/city bike with a rack and panniers for pottering around in the evenings/weekends, as I know its unlikely to get stolen (I have a £60 abus chain lock for it). I even leave it locked up in the car park outside my flat as theres no more room inside. So 3 bikes, each performing very different roles. I love the variety it gives, which ultimately makes my daily cycling a lot more enjoyable

  25. Mark 10/06/2011 at 2:24 pm #

    when i was younger mountain bikes (full suspension) were my thing, i was taking them off road quite often and regulary rode accross dartmoor…..

    then i moved to london and a bmx fitted my needs, it obviously has one gear and this was amazing to me because comared to the south west london is VERY flat, coasting along is easy! i was cycilng 6 miles a day and the bmx realy was great for being a tourist and stopping to get off every 5 minutes.

    after a while my journey to work increased to 10 miles, so i changed back to a mountain bike , this time hard tail & no shock absorbers either. until recently this was my bike of choice – good for my regular 10 mile commute in london but also ok for the odd pothole and occasional rough riding in parks.

    after receiving a puncture i got new road tyres,,,, the mountain bike was becoming a hybrid….

    then i moved house and now my commute is more like 18 miles. it was obvious if i was going to cycle almost 100 miles a week i best have th right tools for th job!
    so now here i am with a nice drop handlebar racing bike. it is light as a feather and easy to get away at the lights. it feels like gliding on ice compared to all my previous bikes. going up hills is a dream too now that i dont have the extreme weight of the bike to haul up with me….

    regarding the “right bike” i think it is all about where u use your bike th majority of the time. if you find your routine steering more in one direction then pick a bike that fits those conditions. if you are a varied cyclist go for a middle of the road bike,,, and if you are in a hillly/pot-holed area then the mountain bike sort of thing is far more sensible 🙂 at the end of the day if you do something on a regular basis you should invest in the best kit – a builder doesnt wear cheap £10 shoes, they wear proper boots to protect and support their feet day in day out….

  26. Jim 10/06/2011 at 2:29 pm #

    I got myself a Brompton earlier this year to do a 6 mile commute into work from SE London to central London twice a day, my first proper bike for a long time. It’s handy for me as I live in a small flat so I can store it under my kitchen table, I stick it under my desk at work too. It is, pretty much, the ideal solution for me and I think it’s a superb bike.

    However I have recently found a few circumstances where the Brompton doesn’t come in handy, for instance I have often met with friends friends and been too paranoid to lock the Brompton up as they are great targets for thieves because of their sell on value. I end up taking it into the pub with me or into shops or museums (if they let me in with it). I realise that’s the whole point of Bromptons but sometimes it might make me not want to use the bike so I can feel a bit more freed up when socialising.

    As a result I recently decided to start looking for a cheaper and less stealable weekend ‘get around’ bike. I couldn’t decide between a geared or single speed so scoured ebay for something that tickled my fancy. I knew I preferred the idea of an older, possibly vintage bike. I wanted to get something cheaper and a little bit tattier so it didn’t stand out in a row of locked up bikes in central London or wherever I may want to leave it. Anyhow I ended up bagging a single speed converted Holdsworth. Living in SE London it’s wee bit hilly so was a tad concerned how it might affect me not having some gears to get me up the steeper hills…I will have to see, the bikes not in my hands just yet!….really looking forward to giving it a whirl though. I also liked the idea of the simplicity of a single speed, I am not super skilled with bike mechanics but I want to learn to maintain the bike myself, so having something that’s just one gear means I have less to worry about, plus I am quite a laid back cyclist so am happy to amble along on just the one gear.

    A few months back I thought the Brompton covered all my needs, but as I have gotten more into cycling I have wanted to use a bike as my first and foremost mode of transport, weekends as well as the week. I think this is why I decided on a second bike.

    Different for everyone I realise but that’s what works for me.

    • Mark 10/06/2011 at 2:41 pm #

      dont be paranoid about getting it stolen, get an abus steeloflex 1000! it easily goes round your waist when you cycle and u can be sure ur bike wont be stolen 😀

  27. Mark 10/06/2011 at 2:38 pm #

    storage – you must have enough space to keep them and easily access them, theres nothing worse than a pile of bikes all jammed up against eachother, pedals in the spokes all getting scratched.

    i got rid of my bmx – i didnt use it for a year so it had to go…

    i think that is the rule for th whole of life reall – if you havent used it for a year then sell it/get rid! (unless it’s purpose is purely ornamental)….

    so now i have a racing bike, and hybrid/mountain bike, with a basket for shopping.

    my mountain bike lives in th south west for those amazing off road coastal tracks

  28. Martin S 16/06/2011 at 1:27 pm #

    I have 3 bikes which I regard as an absolute minimum. Oddly my wife is mystified why anyone would have more than one. I have a battered hybrid for commuting and not being too bothered if it’s stolen (important in London), one precious road bike for doing those 100 mile rides and one mountain bike with Trailgator attached which clips my daughter’s bike on to the back of mine to make a tandem for journeys that are too long or too hilly for her 7-year old legs. The Trailgator doesnt permit a pannier rack otherwise I could possibly consider getting down to two bikes. As an aside I thoroughly recommend the Trailgator for anyone who wants to drag their child round the difficult traffic bits until getting to a safe spot where can unleash the child. I like having a “live” spare for when one of the bikes is being serviced, not all courtesy bikes (if one is an option) are ones I feel comfortable riding

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