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How Many Bicycles do Cyclists Need to do Everything and Go Everywhere?! And the Bike that Revolutionized Cycling

October 2017
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Two months ago I had all of the bikes I’d ever need.  I’ve got a mud bike, a mountain bike, a racing road bike and a rain road bike,  and a tandem (for rides with my wife or daughters).  I could go anywhere and do anything.  Or so I thought.

Then we, my wife and I, bought gravel bikes and our cycling world changed for the better…

Yesterday, we took my wife’s gravel bike in to have a few items looked over and she started talking about fat tire bikes for winter cycling and I almost fell over.

I actually feel like I’ve got too many bikes.  Me.

To go anywhere and do anything, an avid cyclist can need up to… let’s see, carry the one…  Six bikes.  A road bike, a gravel/cyclocross bike, a time trial bike, a mountain bike, a fat tire bike, and an all-arounder or touring bike.  Figure an average cost of $2,000 each and you’re really talking about some money!

There is one glaring problem with the whole “how many bikes” mess:  If you want to do any one thing well, you simply need a bike specific to the discipline.

  • I can do a triathlon on a road bike, there is no doubt.  If I want to do my best at the sport, though, I would need a time trial bike.
  • I can ride my mountain bike in the snow but if I really want to be as stable as possible, I need a fat tire bike.
  • I could ride a time trial rig in a group but I have to be at the front of the group or slightly off the back at all times (because all but a few highly skilled cyclists can pull off a TT bike in a group – call it 2% of all TT cyclists.  The problem is, the other 98% all think they belong in that 2%).  No, you need a good road bike for group rides if you’re going to be good at it.
  • The gravel bike could be thought of as a luxury, until you try to put 28mm tires on your road bike, only to find that the sides of the tires rubbed all of the paint off of your chain stays (today’s road bikes are beginning to allow for wider tires, but not the aero bikes, because clearance has to be tight to keep the bike aerodynamic).
  • You obviously need a mountain bike with suspension for those tough trails.
  • The touring bike is necessary for the zombie apocalypse and commuting – so that obviously can’t be done without!

Six bikes…  And we haven’t even cracked the necessity of rain bikes yet.

We can narrow this down though.  I think I can get this down to three or four.

  • Dude, you don’t need a triathlon bike because the run and the swim mess up a perfectly good bike ride!  A bike ride shall never be proceeded or followed by a swim or a run.
  • Take the fat tire bike and give up the mountain bike.  You can ride the fat tire bike on trails or in the snow.
  • Road bike, rain road bike, and gravel bike….  That’s four.

Now hear me out (or read me out, but that seems rather odd, written).  As a roadie, the gravel bike is one of the most versatile bikes on the market – and it is completely revolutionizing cycling.  A decent gravel bike can be a mountain bike, a cross bike, a road bike, a commuter, and a touring/zombie apocalypse bike.  The gravel bike should be one of the most important on the list of bikes one needs.  With a decent gravel bike, you can put knobby or slick tires on it, add some aero bars for a triathlon, or panniers and a rack or two for touring.  The gravel bike can do almost anything well.

Had I to do it over, knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t buy either mountain bike, nor my rain bike, nor my first road bike (my Cannondale).  I’d have gotten the gravel bike first, then the Venge, then the tandem.  Instead of all of the bikes I now own, I’d be down to three.  Well, maybe the first mountain bike for a mud/muck bike.

Of course, they didn’t have gravel bikes back then, so there’s that.  The point is, I thought I needed a lot of bikes to do everything from ride single tracks to ride with the club.  The reality is, if done conscientiously, all of those bikes can be narrowed down a little bit to keep the clutter and cost to a dull roar.

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26 Comments

  1. SimplyAmyLynn says:

    Great post! I have NO idea what I want for cycling right now and for next summer. I can’t run anymore, so triathlon is out and Gran Fondos are too expensive. I would love to try a gravel grinder next year, but don’t want to spend $2000 on a bike to try one event.

  2. fastk9dad says:

    You forgot vintage bike. 😉

    Seriously, though, besides my old steel Schwinn, I’m with you on your last paragraph. I have 3 bikes, road/race, mountain and rain/gravel/touring. The gravel bikes are very versatile, different set of wheels, 28mm road tires and it’s a rain bike, 33mm CX tires and and it’s a CX race bike, 30mm semi slicks and it’s a gravel bike, and then pick one of those tire/wheel combinations for touring as my bike has the bosses for all manners of racks as well. It’s like the swiss army knife of bikes.

  3. […] via How Many Bicycles do Cyclists Need to do Everything and Go Everywhere?! And the Bike that Revolution… […]

  4. Sheree says:

    Surely, you can never have too many bikes!

  5. I love this post! There is no such thing as “too many bikes,” though! Bikes are the only thing our family collects and now with another boy on the way, we need to invest in a high security bike shed, LOL!

  6. Hope you don’t mind, we shared on our family blog and gave you creds!

  7. Brent says:

    I have a gravel bike (which I ride mostly as a road bike with 37mm slick tires), a full-suspension mountain bike and a fat bike. I’m a slow-ish road rider so I don’t need extra speed and aero effects from a road race bike. And I can’t imagine ever deciding to become a tri-dork (as famed bike blogger Bike Snob NYC calls them) so I don’t need aero bars.

    Yes, the fat bike is essential for riding in the winter because you don’t need the suspension of the mountain bike and because the bigger tires give you traction and flotation.

    Riding 10 miles in 2″ of fresh powder on a fat bike in the winter will be a much harder workout than an entire afternoon at 20 mph on your trainer in your basement. I average about 16 mph on my road bike in hilly New England but about 5-6 mph on those same roads in the middle of a snowstorm on the fat bike, and I’m way more tired on the fat bike afterwards.

    In the summer, the fat bike is lots of fun on easy double-track but not as forgiving on technical terrain as a mountain bike. The trails in New England tend to feature lots of big roots, and there are tons of good-sized rocks everywhere due to the glacial moraines from the last Ice Age. You spend a lot of time bumping over roots and rocks on a trail and you need easier turning than you get on a fat bike.

    For me, the overlap between fat bike and full-suspension mountain bike (an enduro rig with 170mm of travel) in the kinds of terrain each can tackle is actually narrower than I thought, so as I get better at trail riding, I’m glad I’m not restricted to only a fat bike. But if your trails are less rooty and rocky than mine, and if you’ve got a hardtail mountain bike with relatively low-travel suspension, you might indeed be able to give up the mountain bike for a fat bike. But if you ever plan on hitting single-track somewhere other than the upper Midwest, you might regret giving up your mountain bike.

    As long as you’ve got the basement space, enjoy adding new bikes to the stable, just as long as you keep riding them. My next bike will probably be a steel touring bike as you can’t really bolt racks to a carbon frame (my gravel/road bike) — I want to tackle either the GAP trail (Pittsburgh to DC on a historic rail trail/canal towpath) or the Erie Canal from Buffalo NY to Albany as a way of getting back into cycle touring.

  8. I have a CX bike which is similar to a gravel bike I guess, just no discs. With knobby tyres it’ll do trails and with skinny slicks it’ll do road. Very versatile! Even got di2 groupset! I hardly ride it (it’s currently strapped to the turbo) because although it’s a serious jack of all trades, it’s a master of none…

  9. Sandra says:

    Get the Fatty!!! At least for her—she will feel like an eight year old again! I ride mine year round and I LOVE IT!!!

  10. Ahhhhhhh. We’re in the market for gravel bikes! We are currently pairing down over here. I’ve got +4 and my CX racing other half?? Yeah. I’d prefer not to disclose. It’s obscene.

  11. MJ Ray says:

    Cargo bike? Recumbent? Velomobile? 😉

  12. Richard says:

    lf we only knew is right but l don t regret any of my bikes since l have stories for each But l can say my 84 miyata sport with new rims/32×700 wider bars and better gears is my all rounder; touring comuting gravel rain/winter bike l ve got .My old trek 5200 is for fast days 🙂

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