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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 01-05-11, 12:59 AM   #1
bragi
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How many bikes do you need if you're not car-centric?

I've noticed that many people on this forum seem to have a number of bikes, depending on their interests and/or weather conditions. Or maybe it's just a mass personality disorder. Some people have a winter beater bike, and a nicer bike for good weather; others have a garage full of bikes simply because they like things with two wheels.

So how many bikes are actually needed to live a car-free or car-lite life?

Answers will vary, I imagine, but I only have a single bike. I tried to keep a beater around for bad weather, but I quickly discovered that I'd much rather just ride the nice bike all the time and replace components as needed. I just can't bring myself to ride a crappy bike if you've got a nice one right there in front of you. I also only ride for a couple of purposes: riding around town, and touring. It's not like I'm trying to commute and do roadie-type club rides on the weekends as well, so a good touring bike pretty much satisfies all my requirements.
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Old 01-05-11, 07:07 AM   #2
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I have a winter beater (actually 1 and 2 spares I picked up since it was cheaper to buy old bikes than replace components on my 20 year old huffy), a 3 season commuter, and then a spare I'm going to turn into a 2nd 3 season commuter. My winter beater just isn't fun to ride in the dry, and I don't want to switch out the studded tires if I don't have to.

I could get away with 1 bike and be a little more meticulous about maintenance and cleaning in the winter, but I'm not. Although I will possibly replace components on my 2 spares (identical) since they seem to be better suited for winter commuting (no steel rims, and better brakes). Although at some point the salt will eat the frames.

I guess the short answer to your question is that I would consider 2 bikes to be the minimum ideal number. Since bikes to break and you can't rent one while you're repairing the other one, it's good to have a spare.
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Old 01-05-11, 07:40 AM   #3
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Need? One.

Want? Many.

I've got three.
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Old 01-05-11, 07:56 AM   #4
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If I had my way, I'd have about seven or eight, all MTB, all full suss -- except for the Surly Big Dummy and the Kona Ute.

But I don't get my way, so I have one, and it's a sweetheart.
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Old 01-05-11, 09:48 AM   #5
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So how many bikes are actually needed to live a car-free or car-lite life?
If you want the absolute minimum, it's zero.
For me, it works to have just one. If I were unable to borrow my friend's bike, I'd want to have two.
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Old 01-05-11, 09:59 AM   #6
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I think most everybody could get away with just one, but wheres the fun in that? If you count unbuilt up frames that have spent most their lives in boxes i have over 40 bikes, but i only have three that get ridden on a regular basis.
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Old 01-05-11, 10:42 AM   #7
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Although I own five bikes, three of them are used for 95% of the miles that I ride.

In order of use the three bikes are:

1) Everyday commuter bike - set up with racks, fenders, generator hub etc.

2) Utility bike - very similar setup to the commuter, with the addition of a trailer hitch for groceries, hardware store etc. Serves as a backup to the commuter bike in case there is an issue with that, and I need to get to work.

3) Fun, weekend bike - totally impractical recreational bike - pretty and fast.

FWIW the other two bikes are a folding bike that I use when travelling, and a tandem which doesn't get a lot of miles.

I could probably survive OK with just one bike, but I don't see the reason. In terms of storage space, my fleet takes up less space than 1 automobile.
In terms of cost, either purchase or maintenence, my fleet is far less expensive than an automobile.
In terms of reliability, my fleet is far more reliable than any automobile given the redundancy of the options that I have.

I could get by with fewer bikes, but why?
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Old 01-05-11, 10:59 AM   #8
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I have a transportation bike (built on a hardtail MTB frame) and two "hobby" bikes--a road bike and a mountain bike. I also have a second utility bike to loan to a friend.

How many do I need? Just the transportation bike, which is also adequate for most road riding and mountain biking.
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Old 01-05-11, 11:30 AM   #9
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If you want the absolute minimum, it's zero.
I actually thought of that.. then forgot to say it.
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Old 01-05-11, 12:10 PM   #10
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So how many bikes are actually needed to live a car-free or car-lite life?
Blasphemous as it may sound, you don't need ANY bikes "to live a car-free or car-lite life" - but at least one sure helps.
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Old 01-05-11, 02:08 PM   #11
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I think I need n+1 , but it ain't going to happen. Being in my second childhood, I see no reason to distinguish between my wants and my needs anymore.
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Old 01-05-11, 03:08 PM   #12
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I once knew a lady who had two Jaguars. She said that was the bare minimum for her as one was always in the shop. The same goes with bikes. If I have to be to work in fifteen minutes and I discover I have a punctured tire, it sure is nice to be able to grab another one.
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Old 01-05-11, 03:22 PM   #13
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I once knew a lady who had two Jaguars. She said that was the bare minimum for her as one was always in the shop. The same goes with bikes. If I have to be to work in fifteen minutes and I discover I have a punctured tire, it sure is nice to be able to grab another one.
+1 couldn't agree more, what sucks though is when you get two flats on two different bikes, has happened to me once i ended up riding my G/F schwinn to work
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Old 01-05-11, 03:31 PM   #14
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I will answer the question phrased as "how many do you *optimally* need if you're not car-centric?"

The answer then in my opinion is 2 primary / secondary bikes. Two bikes can cover a wide range of needs and back each other up in case one fails. Of course, having extra recreational bikes or whatever suits your fancy can be optimal if it leads to extra enjoyment!

I'm finding great success with one city utility bike, one folding bike, and am tacking on some recreational bikes next year.

The city utility bike is the all-rounder, a folder fills in for transit and travel plus can be used if your primary was broken down.

I'm buying an entry level recumbent next year for long distance rides to music festivals and things of the sort
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Old 01-05-11, 03:54 PM   #15
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One has to do in winter. I've got two bicycles but I won't ride one of them in winter. Occasionally I wonder what would be the best bicycle for me if I could have only one. It turns out it isn't possible. I prefer small wheels on pavement in good weather and I prefer twenty-six inch wheels to ride over snow. This means I need two bicycles or just keep one and not like it as much.

I'll be selling the small wheel bicycle soon because I'm moving. Until I live in an area without snow I'll keep a big wheel bicycle as my only ride.
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Old 01-05-11, 04:20 PM   #16
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I have two bikes, (or four, if you count my girlfriend's bikes).

One is a mid-90's Trek 2100 with a rack and panniers, and one is a cheaper fixed gear conversion. I usually use the fixed gear in wet conditions since it has a little more braking power when it's brake pads get wet, (meaning I can use my legs to stop too).

I too like to have two bikes just incase something breaks on my main bike and I need another bike to use for the week or so. I guess I could use one of my girlfriend's bikes though, but they're really too small for me to be comfortable on.
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Old 01-05-11, 05:01 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by bragi View Post
I've noticed that many people on this forum seem to have a number of bikes, depending on their interests and/or weather conditions. Or maybe it's just a mass personality disorder. Some people have a winter beater bike, and a nicer bike for good weather; others have a garage full of bikes simply because they like things with two wheels.

So how many bikes are actually needed to live a car-free or car-lite life?
I did it with one nice road bike plus a BOB Yak trailer for large loads and extra wheels for snow days with Vittoria 28mm cyclocross tires mounted.
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Old 01-05-11, 05:09 PM   #18
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Obviously the absolute minimum is none, as others have said. I did fine with one for a long time, but thinking back, I did ride my wife's occasionally.
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Old 01-05-11, 06:38 PM   #19
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Blasphemous as it may sound, you don't need ANY bikes "to live a car-free or car-lite life" - but at least one sure helps.
Yup. I was car-free for six years before I rediscovered bikes.

Five years later, I have four. I only need my one good all-rounder, but the other three make life fun and interesting.
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Old 01-05-11, 07:05 PM   #20
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When I was car free I had two. Bike number one was my daily rider and was set up for grocery runs and getting to and from work. That happens to have been a Raleigh Sports. My other bike was a 15 speed "tour" bike. It had been with me longer than the Raleigh, I used it for longer weekend rides and some weekend touring. Current crop of bikes is excessive, but I have the space, the money and I ain't hurtin' nobody. I actually don't know how many are out there, but according to the HBC (head bean counter) there are 26 and she is usually right.

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Old 01-05-11, 10:34 PM   #21
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If you want the absolute minimum, it's zero.
Smarty pants.
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Old 01-05-11, 11:05 PM   #22
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I figure I need at least two bikes. However, I have more.

I have a winter bike which is a reconfigured Bianchi hybrid, a Bianchi Volpe for summer commuting and longer rides, a 1982 Fuji road bike for summer commuting and backup to the Volpe. I rode the Fuji to work this cold winter morning.

As well, I have a 1972 Fuji Special Road Racer which I built up, but which doesn't fit me... I build up the wheels for this one. I may give it to my son. I also have an Mercier circa 1972 which doesn't have any wheels at presents, seatpost and a few other things. I like working on bikes.


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Old 01-06-11, 02:22 AM   #23
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I have one, I need two. Hopefully in a couple of months I'll be able to get my Raleigh mountain bike together.
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Old 01-06-11, 02:59 AM   #24
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Two is a bare minimum, IMO. I've gotten by with one but like Ekdog pointed out it's pretty bad when your one goes down and you can't get it running the same day. (And my bikes are more reliable than Jaguars.) My favorite one bike solution is probably a CX bike with two wheelsets. I've done pretty well with a rigid MTB and two wheelsets also. Having two wheelsets is the next best thing to having two bikes.

I'd ideally have 10 for all the different cycling styles I enjoy.

Classic road bike
Modern road bike
CX bike
Rigid MTB
Full Suspension MTB
Recumbent
Track bike
Cruiser
Tandem

I forget what the other one was, maybe a Bike Friday folder...

Last edited by LesterOfPuppets; 01-06-11 at 03:06 AM.
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Old 01-06-11, 03:13 AM   #25
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I think the beater bike concept really starts to make sense when you've got a "main bike" that has $75 chain, $400 crank, $300 rear derailer on it. Don't wanna be wearing out bits like that in the rain and grime. Figure bikes with parts like that on probably start at around $4000 complete and ask how many people would be OK with chaining $4000 up to a staple rack out front of the grocery store?
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