What a year for my bicycles. What an unexpected year. When I filed my “Looking ahead to 2021” post at the end of last year, my take on the fleet was this:
My fleet of bikes is as good as it’ll ever be, so no major upgrades. And probably no new bikes either.
Ha! How wrong was that! My “good as it’ll ever be” fleet of bikes got reduced by two, with the possibility of one more going, then I added one. I didn’t think I’d get rid of any bikes this year, but one by one I reduced the fleet.
What can I say, it was time for a change. Various issues presented themselves to the fleet through the year:
- I accepted the fact that the Raleigh Crested Butte was never going to fit me properly
- The donor Robin Hood frame that was at the core of my “path racer” presented issues
- The Schwinn Heavy Duti was just too heavy and became redundant. I still have this one but am looking to sell it in the spring.
And while each bike wasn’t necessarily easy to part with, I feel better with the purge. I’m realizing that my cycling needs and tastes have evolved. The above three bikes came about in my era of toying with lots of vintage bikes and trying to find my path forward. All of them brought me joy for much of their existence, but now they don’t. I no longer have room for bikes that I don’t love. I want to keep bikes I want to ride, bikes that are not only useful, but bring me enjoyment.
There was a time that I enjoyed finding decent used bikes and re-imagining them into new machines. My most intense period of bike restoration happened from about 2011 through 2016, during an era (2006 through 2016) where I acquired a new bike or two every year. In hindsight I realize this was a coping mechanism for dealing with the issues of my life, starting with the Rudge Sports. The renovation of that bike was a way to keep my mind off the fact that the return to Portland after The Big Tour wasn’t working out as planned: I was broke, had no real job, and my housing sitch was sub-optimal. Then came the one-two punch of the Crested Butte and Bridgestone XO-3, just as my relationship with April was unraveling. The Heavy Duti came about when I was in the funk between that breakup and meeting Emee, when I was also living in a place I really didn’t want to be in and working a job that I was long done with.
Getting the custom Bantam in 2015 was supposed to be the culmination of what I wanted in a non three speed bike. And it’s been a great bike to me. But it was hard parting with those other bikes, because they were cool, because I had done so much to them. Instead, I kept a bloated fleet, lessening my use of the Bantam, leading me to not embrace that bike. Looking back, I should have sold the Crested Butte when I got the Bantam (and I tried!) but I was just too emotionally attached. That emotional attachment is gone, now I’m moving on.
Falling out of love with bikes is natural when your bike tastes and needs change. I had a Surly Long Haul Trucker for five years. At the time I purchased it in 2008, it was the nicest bike I owned. The Long Haul Trucker was what I needed: a stout tourer good for long days in the saddle. After buying it I remember someone asking me when I would get a custom bike. I thought the idea was ridiculous: the LHT suited my needs, why would I need to go custom? Then the Crested Butte and the XO-3 came in the picture, and I decided to sell the LHT at the end of 2013. It wasn’t the easiest decision as it was made under duress. And I do miss it a little bit as it was the bike that took me across the continent. But that’s a chapter of my past. I look forward to making new chapters and with new bikes.
As for new bikes, when the Brompton entered the stable I thought it would be the “occasional” bike for specific needs: travel, sketchy areas where I didn’t want to lock up a bike, etc. It turns out that I like riding the bike more than I thought, and it’s become the everyday bike for the past couple months. No real need for a “beater” anymore, so now the Heavy Duti is on the outs.
And I start 2022 with four bikes:
- My Bantam, my all-rounder: commuter, tourer, road bike, and Rough-Stuff machine.
- My Raleigh Superbe, my classy commuter/utility three speed
- My Brompton, the go-anywhere folding bike
- The Heavy Duti, which I still want to get rid of
This fleet is well-rounded and fits most of my current bike needs. I hope to keep the fleet on the small side for a little while, as having less bikes means less maintenance, less money spent on bikes, and less mental burden having to worry about too many bikes.
Of course, despite what I said above, I know at some point another bike will come into my life. It’s inevitable, even if I’m not currently looking for one. What would that new bike look like? Here’s a few ideas:
- A cargo bike. This would be the easiest one to justify, as a cargo bike is very useful. I’ve had one cargo bike before, the Worksman Cycle Truck (aka Low-Gravity). I loved the big front basket and the aesthetic, but that thing was such a heavy beast it made the Heavy Duti feel like a lightweight road bike in comparison. I had used the Heavy Duti as a sorta cargo bike, but without a giant front rack or basket it’s not much better than hauling stuff with my Superbe. I would love to get a more modern cycle truck 1 at some point. I’d also consider an e-assist with a cargo bike, as it’s really helpful when you’re shlepping 100 pounds of stuff.
- A plus-tired “adventure” bike. Getting more into the fun realm, I have to say that I’ve been attracted to some of the bikes sporting plump tires starting at around 2 3/4″ wide to below 4″. Of course, I already have a bike with widish 2 1/4″ tires that I don’t use enough in the adventure category. So do I really need one? Probably not, but then I see that Rivendell got in another batch of Gus Boots frames…
- Something sleek and sexy. Also in the more “fun” than “practical” department. Even though the Robin Hood turned out to be a lemon, I like the idea of a path racer, at least for a while. Going back a little further, I did own a nice light and lithe single speed from Thanksgiving 2009 to right before The Big Tour. Another single speed could be fun. It’d also be nice to build up a proper “club” style three speed, something built around a nice 70’s/80’s Raleigh road frame.
- Another vintage mountain bike dressed up for city adventures. This is in the “I know I shouldn’t” category, as I don’t want to repeat the mistake of another bike that competes with my use of the Bantam. I’d also like to break the cycle of building up the same type of bike, again and again. But old mountain bikes are fun and plentiful. It doesn’t help that there’s been one on the local Craigslist for awhile, pretty much “all dressed” for what I’d want to do, and at a very reasonable price…
It’s food for thought. In the meantime I’ll be happy with my fleet of three. And I have a box of bits and bobs stored in the shed, ready for another bike if it comes along.
1 A cycle truck is a bike with a smaller (20″) inch front wheel with a giant front rack or basket directly connected to the frame.