Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Operation N-1

Sayonara, Shogun.
There is a formula that is half joke but half truth, and commonly known among people who have or who aspire to have a lot of bikes. It goes along the lines of:

Optimum number of bikes to own = N+1, where N is the number of bikes you currently own.

Variations of this formula attempt to factor in an upper limit of the number of bikes a person may own; a ceiling which would trigger divorce or other undesirable relationship outcome.

Beyond the hazy calculation of a relationship-destroying bike ownership number, there are other practicalities to consider with having many bikes. While it is certainly fun to have a variety to choose from at any point in time, it can also be debilitating. It can take a lot of room to house a hoard of bikes, as well as copious time, money, and effort to properly equip and maintain them. The time to ride and enjoy each bike ultimately suffers.

I have a lot of bikes. I freely admit this. I certainly don't have the largest total of anyone out there, but I have more than anyone I personally know. The household number of bikes has reached peaks in the mid-30s as recently as last Fall, though I'm not certain how many are here at present. Regardless, for a while now, I've felt as though I've been getting close to my ceiling; not fueled by factors of relationship impact, mind you, but more by a sense of feeling bogged down. Thus, I've decided to make some changes.

Some of my bikes I ride a lot. Others, I don't. Some have irrational sentimental value. Others, not so much. Some were acquired for specific purposes or objectives. Others seem to have just appeared, through chance or apathy. Some, but definitely not all, I regard as essential. It is within this web of factors that I've begun to weigh the costs and benefits of retaining each bike.

So, I've embarked upon begun Operation N-1, with the goal of getting to a manageable number while still upholding my bike-centric ideals. Though I don't know what my personal lower-end threshold will be, I'm probably not quite ready to be a one-bike-to-do-everything kind of guy, though that does have some logical appeal.

The Shogun on the light rail going downtown to meet its new owner.
The first of my group of long-held bikes to leave was my circa 1987 Shogun Selectra, pictured above. It's always been a solid performer and imminently practical; a single-speeded Japanese lugged-steel classic that is low on frills and high on performance. I'd gotten the frameset for dirt cheap in the closing moments of Veloswap years ago, and had built it in many configurations. For a couple of years, it was on loan as the bike that helped my brother-in-law Larry get back on a bike as an adult. I searched for reasons to make an exception to keep the Shogun, and wrote a listing description that was more like a strong letter of reference for a valued colleague, but in the end, it was time to part ways. It's now the sole bike of a nice young guy who recently rediscovered biking, and who is eager to use it to commute and to continue to lose weight.
So long, 1981 Trek 710.
The second of my bikes to go was a 1981 Trek 710 sport touring road bike that was my equivalent of a budget Rivendell. With a serial number of 008658, it was from the days when all Trek bikes were hand brazed in Waterloo, Wisconsin. The frame and fork was built with full Reynolds 531 tubing, and was surprisingly light and had a very lively ride. However, I've increasingly drifted away from the idea of doing road touring, mostly because I just don't enjoy spending time with cars if I don't have to. I sold it to a heavily tattooed guy who was branching out from BMX bikes in order to ride with his roadie girlfriend. It has huge tire clearance for a road bike, so he'll be able to keep some fat rubber on it to help with the transition from BMX.

Adios, Zap Electri Cruiser.
The third bike that I've sold in the past couple of weeks wasn't by definition part of my household, but had been in my care for some time. My Mom's Zap Electri Cruiser helped to get her back on a bike after a hiatus of many years. At first she really appreciated the help of a 12-volt motor to spin the wheels for her when she needed some assistance, but she eventually realized that hauling around all that extra weight in the battery and motor wasn't as much fun as riding a lighter, nimbler standard bike. The Zap had been hanging out in her garage for a few years, ever since I fixed her up a 1984 Univega Rover Sport. The new owner of the Zap intends to use it to ride to work and appreciates its features for much the same reason as my Mom initially did.

So there it is. A reduction in my bike fleet, but only the start. I may list some of my bikes that are slated to go on this blog at some point. In the mean time, go ride some of your own fleet, whether that fleet is large or small.


  1. Exciting, now think about all the great new (old) bikes you can buy to replace these. Ha! Not so fast. Maybe with a few more sold that Krampus becomes a reality, or that nice dynamo setup, or even a new tent.

    I am glad to see you have embraced the path to recovery.

    1. Thanks, Nicholas. After years of accumulation, it feels good to be moving in the other direction. It'll take the departure of another several bikes and other stuff, and I don't know if it'll be a Krampus or another yet to be determined 29er, but there's likely a practical and capable all terrain bike on the horizon.

      In the mean time, a new lightweight tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad were just delivered. Plans to use them are brewing, to reap the benefits of my recovery.