Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Eighteen and a Half Bikes?!?!?!?!?!?!?

So, in a recent post about my "new" Fuji track bike, I let slip that I have eighteen and a half bikes. For those of you that missed it, the "half" bike is a unicycle, which I'm still figuring out how to ride. Anyway, in response to this post, I had a few comments from readers (dear pal Beth asking yet again, "you have one butt... and how many bikes?") about having that many bikes and if I actually ride them all, have a favorite, etc. Well, heck, that sounds like an invitation for another post, doesn't it?

To start with, the list, in approximate order of when I got them, first to most recent:

1980 Trek 414 road bike (shown above)
1966 Raleigh Sports 3 speed
1951 Raleigh Lenton Tourist "club" 3 speed *
1978 Centurion Professional road racer
1986 Miyata 1000 touring bike
1987 Bridgestone MB-1 mountain bike
1993 Bridgestone XO-2 sorta hybridy bike
1994 Bridgestone RB-T light tourer
1992 Bridgestone RB-2 road racer
1978 Raleigh Professional road racer
1951 Dawes 3 speed *
1985 Miyata 210 touring bike (set up as commuter)
2006 Dahon Hon Solo folding bike
1973 Schwinn Paramount P15-9 touring bike
1973 Raleigh Competition road bike
2007 Sun Unicycle
1975-ish Proteus road bike *
1981 Fuji Intermediate Track bike

Why do I have so many bikes? Well, obviously I'm a cycling enthusiast, and a bit of a collector. However, I am NOT primarily interested in the pure "collecting" aspect of the bike world. By that I mean I don't view them as some sort of display item, or an investment, or a prize. Sure, each of those things is an aspect of why I have them, but primarily I have them because I like riding and working on bikes. I've never gotten a bike simply because it's a "collectible", although a number of mine are in some respect quite collectible.

So what drives me to get (and keep... bear in mind I've had some for a while then passed them on to someone else) a particular bike? Well, probably two of the bigger criteria are ride quality and aesthetics. While it's not always been possible to assess the ride quality of each of my bikes before purchase (a number being bought long distance, thanks to the 'net), I do try to get some idea what to expect through research and my own and others' experience with that model or style of bike. And generally speaking, the bikes that I didn't keep were bikes whose ride quality or fit just didn't suit me. That's why there really aren't many bikes that feel like "one that got away" for me.... although there are a couple I wouldn't mind having back! As for aesthetics, yes, that's a consideration for me. As you can probably tell, I am fond of old, lugged steel road bikes. There's just something about them that just "looks right" to me, and some of mine are truly lovely to look at, due to the frame details and/or paint work. But I honestly wouldn't keep a pretty bike that I hated to ride. For me, a bike is meant to be ridden.

So yes, I ride all of my bikes, or at least all of those that are currently complete and in running order. In the list above, that's all but the ones with an asterisk, so you can see it's the vast majority of them. Sure, at any given moment, one or more of them may be laid up needing some work, but by and large, all but three right now are "operational"... and I plan on getting those three running soon! I don't really see the point to owning a bike I never ride. And since each of my bikes is unique, I pick and choose which one to ride day to day based on my mood and what sort of ride I'm taking, along with weather and such. And yes, some get more miles under their tires than others.

Now, a related question that I've seen come up on the internet from time to time... is there such a thing as a bike "too precious to ride"? For me, no, not in my collection, and honestly, I wouldn't want to own one that I felt I couldn't ride. If somehow or other I came into say, one of Fausto Coppi's (http://www.cyclinghalloffame.com/riders/rider_bio.asp?rider_id=13) bikes, I'd probably baby it and not be foolish about it, but yes, I would want to ride it, at least a little. One good example kind of says it all for me... a friend owns a late 30s Schwinn Paramount track bike, with period wood rims and mostly original parts... a true classic and collectible. But he rides it... he doesn't hang it on a wall as a prized possession, he rides it! And when I first went over to his house, and expressed amazement at the bike, his response was "wanna ride it?"! Did I? Wow! Very, very cool to have the chance to ride such a piece of history. But that's just it... bikes are meant to be ridden.

I've also been asked if I have a favorite. Well, yes, sort of... and that ties into the related question of "what would you do if you couldn't keep them all?" My answer to that question is "if for some reason I had to pare the collection down to two bikes, I can tell you right now which two it would be... but anything between that and the total number I have now would be tricky to sort out." Here's what that means... I have two clear favorites, my "never part with" duo... the Trek 414 and the Miyata 1000. Why those two? Well, the Miyata is just a great, versatile, all-around-good-riding bike that is beautiful to boot, and perfect for loaded touring, something I love to do, and that also makes it good for daily transportation purposes. The Trek, well it's a great riding jack-of-all-trades "sport touring" bike... and the sentimental favorite of the whole bunch. I've owned that bike since I bought it new nearly 30 years ago, and I can't imagine EVER parting with it. It would be very, very hard to choose between those two, but the years and miles the Trek has shared with me would win out, I suspect.

Any other sort of culling... you know, "pare it down to an even dozen"... would be hard. Each of my other bikes has something unique about it that makes it hard to part with. Some of them it's that they are just great riding bikes, and really pretty (Centurion, Paramount, Bridgestone RB-T and RB-2 for example). Others are the bikes I dreamt of owning in my youth, and now finally own (Paramount, Raleigh Pro and Competition, Proteus for example) , some are both great riding and at least semi-rare or valuable (any of the Bridgestones, the Paramount, Raleigh Lenton, and Proteus). I'm sure if need be, I could do it, but it would be really hard. Then again, as I look at what I just wrote, it's clear to me that the Paramount is pretty high on each list, and thus a "keeper". I just hope I'm never faced with having to make those choices!

But that does bring me to one final question... how many bikes do I NEED?

Well, the short and simple answer is "one".

Didn't see that coming? Well, if I'm totally honest and totally pragmatic, it's true. Pick a good, solid, versatile bike, and bingo, you don't NEED any others (assuming you don't ride a really wide range of conditions, like road racing and mountain biking... but that's really outside the realm of "need"). And plenty of folk, even bike enthusiasts (I hate the term "serious cyclist", but you hear it a lot... sounds too grim to me), manage to enjoy either a single bike or a MUCH smaller assortment than mine. I currently have the luxury of being able to own this many, and I really, truly appreciate that, and the fun of having such a "squadron" at my disposal. It's given me many, many hours of pleasure, riding and working on these bikes, as well as fine-tuning their specific configurations... making each of them somehow uniquely "mine", as discussed in other posts.

So while I COULD have simply one bike... I'll stick with my little squadron for now. And actually, before too long I hope to have a Brompton folding bike... and then there's...

Photos of many of my bikes can be seen at:


And a write up (which needs to be updated!) of my various bikes is here:



Jerome said...

Great Post. I've said it once and I'll say it again, I totally admire your collection of bikes. I think you've done a great job of getting so many great bikes on the road. Someday I hope to have a stable as capable and as large are yours! Very, very nice!

beth h said...

You STILL haven't got the Lenton up and running?

= o


Tim said...

Beth -

Yes, isn't that pathetic? Not sure why that one particular bike has been lagging like that. Must resolve to get her rolling here shortly!

beth h said...

Or sell her.
To me.
Just an idea.

; )