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  1. #1
    bragi bragi's Avatar
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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.
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

  2. #2
    Senior Member chandltp's Avatar
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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.
    There are 10 types of people, those that understand binary and those that don't.

  3. #3
    Heretic Caretaker's Avatar
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    Need? One.

    Want? Many.

    I've got three.
    History is the future

  4. #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.

  5. #5
    put our Heads Together cerewa's Avatar
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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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  6. #6
    Stealing Spokes since 82' Fizzaly's Avatar
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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.

  7. #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?

  8. #8
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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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.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  9. #9
    Senior Member chandltp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cerewa View Post
    If you want the absolute minimum, it's zero.
    I actually thought of that.. then forgot to say it.
    There are 10 types of people, those that understand binary and those that don't.

  10. #10
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bragi View Post
    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.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  11. #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.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Ekdog's Avatar
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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.

  13. #13
    Stealing Spokes since 82' Fizzaly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ekdog View Post
    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

  14. #14
    Hooligan Abneycat's Avatar
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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

  15. #15
    Senior Member Smallwheels's Avatar
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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.
    Smallwheels

    Take my stuff, please. I have way too much. My current goal is to have all of my possessions fit onto a large bicycle trailer. Really.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Carley P.'s Avatar
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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.

  17. #17
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    Quote 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.

  18. #18
    Cyclist storckm's Avatar
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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.

  19. #19
    tsl
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    Plays in traffic tsl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chipcom View Post
    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.
    My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything.
    The perfect day: Riding a bike to the library.—Peter Golkin


    Lucky for me, I work at a library and bike to work.

  20. #20
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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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.

    Aaron
    Webshots is bailing out, if you find any of my posts with corrupt picture files and want to see them corrected please let me know. :(

    ISO: A late 1980's Giant Iguana MTB frameset (or complete bike) 23" Red with yellow graphics.

    "Cycling should be a way of life, not a hobby.
    RIDE, YOU FOOL, RIDE!"
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  21. #21
    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cerewa View Post
    If you want the absolute minimum, it's zero.
    Smarty pants.
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

  22. #22
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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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.



  23. #23
    Grillparzer Grillparzer's Avatar
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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.
    People are broad-minded. They'll accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic, a dope fiend, a wife beater and even a newspaperman, but if a man doesn't drive, there's something wrong with him.

  24. #24
    Quirky Grifter LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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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 02:06 AM.
    1980ish Free Spirit Sunbird fixed * 1996 Mongoose IBOC Zero-G * 1997 KHS Comp * 1990-ish Scapin * Lemond Buenos Aires Triple

  25. #25
    Quirky Grifter LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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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?
    1980ish Free Spirit Sunbird fixed * 1996 Mongoose IBOC Zero-G * 1997 KHS Comp * 1990-ish Scapin * Lemond Buenos Aires Triple

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