Category Archives: Rando Reflections

The Truth and Nonsense of the N+1 Principle of Bicycles

If you’ve been around bikes long enough, you’re likely familiar with the “n+1″ principle. Velominati describes it as follows:

The correct number of bikes to own is n+1.

While the minimum number of bikes one should own is three, the correct number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned. This equation may also be re-written as s-1, where s is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner.

I became quite caught up in the n + 1 principle in my early days as a bike enthusiast, although I did not know it had a name. My stable quickly grew from one Fuji road bike to a road bike + fixed gear + light touring bike + a commuter/touring bike + folding bike + single speed folding bike + you get the idea.

As cycling became one of my central activities, bicycles also caught my fancy. I justified my n+1 purchases in different ways. I need a bike for commuting. I need this one as a back-up bike. I need a fixed gear to work on my spin. I need a single speed because it’s low maintenance and easier to clean.

I need this bike for randonneuring, and that bike for summer vacations and future bike tours, a mixte just because, and I must have this bike because it’s a limited edition and this other bike since it is no longer made and this might be my very last chance to own one ever.

S-1 does not apply at my house. There are no furrowed brows when someone in my house says “Have you seen this bicycle? I think I may need it.” We don’t hide bike purchases from each other or lie about how much they cost (which I have my own thoughts about for those who do) and I don’t say that my other half “won’t let me” buy a bike (also something I have thoughts about). My spouse and I know all about the need for bikes. Our dining room is proof of that.

Over time I’ve realized that n+1 is truth and nonsense, but more nonsense than truth. That’s part of the ongoing joke, I know. Even though we may be able to concoct justifications for another ride and the bike industry would have us continue to purchase specialized bikes for all types of riding and road surfaces, who among us actually needs more than one bike?

Rivendell Romulus

I am proud of the bikes I own and it took some years and careful searching to acquire them, but it’s no feat to have a bunch of bikes. All it takes is disposable income, time, and a desire for bicycles.

Over the years, I’ve also learned that n+1 does not match my riding style. Generally, I ride three bikes: the Surly Long Haul Trucker, my Rivendell Quickbeam, and our Co-Motion Java tandem. While these are my everyday favorites, I think of my Rivendell Romulus, Bike Friday Pocket Rocket, and my Rawland dSogn as my preferred weekend single ride steeds. But I’m not riding much single bike on the weekend these days so they don’t see much time outdoors.

I’d likely ride my bikes more if I was doing more long rides by myself, but my current way of touring and randonneuring is by tandem. The other bikes are pulled out every once in a while, but generally they spend most of their lives in the Dining Room Bike Shop.

In contrast, Felkerino is more of an n+1 rider than I am. He frequently rotates through the bikes on his side of the dining room. He told me that he likes to switch his ride every two or three weeks. Felkerino gives all of his bikes equal love and attention, while I focus my affection on a few of the bikes I have.

I am happy with all my bikes and, with the exception of my torrid relationship with the Bike Friday Tikit, I’ve dialed in their fit and comfort so they ride well for short or long distances. It’s nice to have bikes that work particularly well for brevets, mixed surfaces, commutes, and touring, but it certainly isn’t necessary.

I don’t generally ride each of my bikes enough to truly justify owning them all. In the meantime, I keep the bikes I own as an indulgence. I already own them, and I aspire to ride them all more one day soon. Maybe tomorrow. Or next week. Or when it’s warmer outside.

I still look at bikes, admire them, and think about how they would ride and the ways they would complement my current bike family. Future bike is always out there and I want it. Practically speaking, though, my n+1 days are at a standstill. The dining room is far too crowded.

The Randonap

Since beginning my glamorous randonneuring career in 2005, I’ve not only ridden in places I never imagined, but I’ve dozed in an assortment of spots I never before would have considered comfortable or conducive to sleeping.

Ride long enough, sleep little enough, and you too will find yourself mastering the strategy of the perfect randonap. Continue reading The Randonap

Why Write About Bicycling

As I was padding around the Mall on a meditative lunch run, I pondered what keeps me writing about time spent on my bicycle. Continue reading Why Write About Bicycling

2015 Question Marks

January– a cold month prone to dreary days and shades of brown on all sides– is generally an optimal time for me to hang out inside and ponder big ideas for the year ahead.

Usually at least two or three appealing active undertakings grab me and won’t let me go. Last year those big doings were our two-week Colorado tour, the Appalachian Adventure 1000K, and my bike tour-marathon combination in Harpers Ferry.

A year falls into place under the umbrella of these bigger scale activities, and free time is dedicated to condition the body and mind so events might be enjoyed and not endured.

I like shaping years this way. Felkerino and I share a few common goals that we work toward together. Big activities give me long-term structure, and I have concrete milestones to anticipate and hopefully achieve.

Running at sunset

This year is starting out strangely for me, as I’m not seeing anything significant calling my heart and legs. I hope to ride the brevets, but I’m on the fence about PBP. I’d like to complete at least two marathons this year, but what else is out there? I don’t know.

I’ve jotted down a bike tour, but as to where it will take place? I’m not sure. I’m not setting any mileage goals, but plan to ride and run regularly and continue my commitment to active transportation.

Small goals occupy my mind, many of which have little to do with riding or running– eat healthy, prepare my own lunches, reduce sugar and alcohol consumption, return to regular strength training, and fully engage in my work.

These are not small goals, exactly, but rather the type that require more rigorous daily attention. They have a more general purpose of improvement to my overall health and well-being.

As I muddled through this post I had an “Aha!” moment. Maybe I don’t have to have grand bicycling or running goals for 2015. Who cares? They can be question marks for now, while I attend to the smaller-scale activities that demand my attention.

Felkerino and I will figure out PBP in the next month or so. We love being outside on our bikes and always manage to find places and time to bike tour. Running is my meditation. I will continue to do it, whether or not I write down a specific goal about it.

Question marks are okay. Question marks mean I’m taking my time. I’m open to possibility.

PBP 2015: To Go or Not to Go Again?

The turning of the calendar to 2015 also means the arrival of a “PBP year.” Paris-Brest-Paris, the most heralded, historic, and international of all grand randonnees now peeps its head around the corner and beckons to us randonneurs, a mere eight months away.

I thought that deciding on a return trip to PBP would take little internal debate. I would set my sights on it, no matter what. Yet, as of this writing, I feel mixed. Like the self-help books taught me, I drafted a list of pros and cons to aid my decision-making. Continue reading PBP 2015: To Go or Not to Go Again?

The Wheelman’s Song

Those of you who follow me on Instagram may have noticed that I’ve been perusing old issues of The Wheelman and Good Roads.

Both magazines were publications of the League of American Wheelman, which is now the Bike League, and date back to the late 1800’s, when people’s fascination with the bicycle was just beginning to take hold in the United States.

The excitement and novelty of riding a bicycle permeates these editions. From tour recounts to illustrations and poems, men (mostly men, as women are unfortunately largely absent from these publications) unabashedly adored bike riding.

An example of this appreciation for the bike is found in the poem below, “Wheelman’s Song, ” written by Will Carleton in 1884. It seemed a fitting way to end one year and help inspire the next. Continue reading The Wheelman’s Song

Hard Reset

I came over to this computer intending to write a Coffeeneuring Challenge update (entries due this Monday!), but instead I’m pondering other matters– small changes in my own life that have altered my daily routine and energy levels for the past few months.

One month ago– though it feels longer– I completed my second marathon of October, the Marine Corps Marathon. It was a stimulating event that turned out to tip my emotions and fitness into unexpected fatigue. I lost most of my enthusiasm for riding and running, and ate too much during the lull.

I fell out of balance, which sometimes happens to me after a period of intense activity.
Continue reading Hard Reset

Contemplative Fall

Recollections of the harvest and farmers working fields long past sundown. Walks across campus, heavy book-filled backpacks on our shoulders, feet drifting through drying leaves. The donning of long sleeves to absorb the chill of mornings that advise of even colder times to come.

Buggies and bike in Harrisonburg

It’s odd how this time can feel like a stopping point. The end of one cycle, and the beginning of another. Continue reading Contemplative Fall