A state of the bike fleet at the end of 2021, and what the future might bring

The current fleet

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:

  1. My Bantam, my all-rounder: commuter, tourer, road bike, and Rough-Stuff machine.
  2. My Raleigh Superbe, my classy commuter/utility three speed
  3. My Brompton, the go-anywhere folding bike
  4. 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.

Like my stuff? Go to my Ko-fi page to buy me a coffee!

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.

19 thoughts on “A state of the bike fleet at the end of 2021, and what the future might bring

Add yours

  1. Emotional attachment is the hardest thing to surmount when getting rid of personal stuff such as bicycles. As attached as many of us are to our bikes we would rather trip on them on the way out the door than clear the clutter. You are supremely strong in actually getting rid of your personal stash bikes. I’ve never had a problem selling a bike that didn’t fit me or I didn’t like. But personal stash is another matter.

    1. I hear your fears….
      …in which case rather than another bike for load carrying – what about, a trailer?

      That way you could use your existing fleet (depending on rather type of hitch that the trailer used) to carry stuff without the additional strain and stresses on the wheels or bearings, and without doing too much in the way of affecting how tge bike handles (depending on the model of trailer).

      Plus you’d have the flexibility to use your existing stable of bikes in other ways – meeting some one from the station? Trailer your brompton to meet them and cycle back together.. thinking of a big 3 speed camp out – use your trailer to carry the camp stuff (fire wood, axe and bbq, and everything else) to the site. Picking up a new bike or dropping off an old one, or evening canoeing- if its big enough use your trailer…

      …okay, it sounds like I’m in the bike trailer business.. but I’m not, okay. We’re just batting ideas about bikes, getting around and hobbies and stuff.

  2. I went through a period from about 2010 to 2015 where I bought a couple bike-boom bikes or frames every year. I was going for a good 650b conversion frame to fit my desire for an all-road. I had a VO Polyvalent that was fine for a lot of things but just felt like an anchor on hills. It died in a collision, but I salvaged and sometimes still use the fork with the next frame I picked up, a new Velo Toussaint 650b road frame. So far that does everything I’d like to do on pavement and gravel. I’ve since sold off my other bikes and frames in order to live smaller and on the road as necessary. However, I still have a VO Camargue touring frame for whenever I get enough spare income to build a new wheelset for it simply because it has a higher bottom bracket for trail use and can fit wider tires.

    I’m set up now so that the one functioning bike I have left is ready for a quick flat bar swap (still using downtube friction shifters) and will easily mount my racks and baskets for cargo. The only remaining problem is that I’m still stuck with one good wheelset that I definitely cannot afford to replace–Son and White Ind. hubs, so yeah.

    So for 2022 I hope to at least pick up or build a reliable but cheap 650b wheelset for commuting and shopping, and if my job hunt works out well to build the Camargue back up for trail and gravel touring. If I have the space and opportunity for a dedicated cargo bike I think I’d like to choose the Bike Friday Haul-A-Day or perhaps a Crust cargo fork to use with my Camargue frame.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Aaron. I’ve thought about getting another wheelset for the Bantam, so that the bike could be “two bikes in one”. The second wheelset would be 650B and with “sporty” tires. I’m not fancy when it comes to the rear wheel, but would need another SP dyno front wheel to make it work out. I’ve thought about swapping the bars to “flat” bars, but it’s a pain and the geometry was optimized for drops.

      1. An SP Dynamo is on my must-have list for commuting or touring. The bar swap geometry issue is challenging if the frame has a short effective top tube. I mostly solved that with a 120mm stem. It helps that my reach is somewhat short for the drop bar frame size I ride.

        1. What happens if you combine aspects for your next bike(s)?

          …such as building up a vintage mountain bike as a load carrier, thus taking advantage of more or lower gears and a strong braking?

          ….or sleek and sexy with wide tyres with a 3 speed rear wheel and a single speed wheel as a spare (perhaps also using a vintage mountain bike frame (depending on the width of tyres) or as suggested above several different wheel sets…

          1. It’s tempting to get another mountain bike, but I want to avoid the “do all” bike again. What happens is that all my bikes then look the same. And if I want a cargo bike, I want a cargo bike. I’ve done the whole “slap a giant rack or basket to a mountain bike” and it’s not as good as a cargo bike, especially when it comes to handling.

  3. Actually while we’re batting ideas around..

    ..I’m part way through collecting stuff for building my next bike, and I’m thinking of buying into a great piece of American Bicycle History and purchasing a Wald basket.

    It looks like you’ve really got some great use from yours, – what’s your take on them? How heavy were your loads and was the basket secure? Did you ever take it off road with the basket fully laden?

    Sorry to bombard you with questions

  4. Shawn – I’m reading your stuff out of order (solved with a subscribe :-). I completely understand the relationship between getting bikes, and a coping (and sometimes avoidance) mechanism. That certainly played a part in my life.

    -Wilson

    1. Thanks for the comment, Wilson. It’s hard to know that this can be “a problem” when you are deep in it, only in hindsight. And I think the whole “futzing with bikes” was truly fun and educational at the start, it didn’t become a coping mechanism until a few years later.

      I guess the same can be said about getting back into film photography. But we all needed a coping mechanism these past couple years. And I feel like I’ve learned lots of things. Not only that, cameras can be creative tools. Bikes, not so much (but they are fun to ride!)

  5. I believe that constructing or restoring a bicycle (or even building a collection) can be experienced as a creative endeavor. In fact, I’m certain that was the bulk of why I was engaged so heavily in it. With no other creative outlet at the time, this became a proxy for creation, maybe also self-expression in my life. Of course, all I ended up creating was a big pile of stuff. And that’s not said with any regret. It all served a purpose. I did learn that in the future, I want to invest my resources into less objects. I know I would have been happier to have had fewer but better bikes. But the time and money spent served me nonetheless.
    -Wilson

    1. Let me clarify: The process of “visioning/revisioning” a bike can be creative. I’m talking more of the bike as a creative tool in itself, which is a bit harder. A camera as a creative tool is sort of the point.

  6. Fully understood. If I appeared to suggest that finding bicycle mechanics in any form to be creative was unique to me, I apologize and retract that sentiment. I was trying to express how, for me at the time, it was probably the only way I was expressing creativity – something I believe we all need to do.

  7. I can agree on the Heavy Duti. It looks like the ’80s clunker, which was, I’m sure a tough and durable bike, but without the grace of the Heavy Duti from a mere ten years earlier. I just love the looks of the old cantilever Newsboy frames.
    If you’re thinking of a cargo bike, Virtue Bikes in San Diego offers a cycle truck for $700. Although I would prefer a remote steer bike like the Bilenky or Omnium to move the weight directly over the front axle.

    1. I like the look of my Heavy Duti. I prefer the “straight” tube look to the more swoopy old Schwinn cantilever style.

      And to note: I still haven’t gotten rid of the HD and probably won’t at this point.

      I’ve seen that Virtue. Aesthetically I just can’t get into it. I want a cycle truck to be more “step through” than a high top tube, and hate the look of that rear platform rack.

      1. I agree on the Virtue. The rear rack can be unbolted, but I still think they should have made a long rear rack like a mid-tail instead.
        I also want to be able to reach the ground from the seat while the seat is raised to the best pedaling position. It’s the best way to brace a heavy load. Like a crank forward comfort bike for heavy lifting.
        I have some ideas for a remote steered cycle truck made for dual loading. A plywood frame would join the wheels together in the prototype. If it works I can hire a frame builder to recreate it in steel tubing.
        Or buy a welder.

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