As mountain bikers, most of us love bikes and all the associated gear. We tend to check, nay, drool over the latest offering from the local bike shop, and sometimes even go as far as buying a product ‘just coz it looks cool’.
And some of us collect bikes. We tend to try to justify it by telling others (and ourselves) that we need this bike for this situation, and that bike for another.
But the question most people ask is how many bikes do you really need? And what sort of bike should I get?
And my answer (well it is for the moment) is 2. You only really need 2 bikes. More is nice, but only if you get to use them or you have lots of money to spend. And I’ll be setting up the ‘Help Pauly buy lots of bikes’ fund for those people to donate to.
Now people are going to ask, how can you pick 2 bikes out of all the different types of bikes out there? Walk into any shop and you will find DH sleds, XC full suspension bikes, XC hardtails, freeride bikes, road bikes, BMX’s, cyclocross bikes, trials bikes in 2 different sizes, jump bikes and more. That’s a lot of different specific bikes to boil down to 2.
However, I have a cunning plan.
You can partake in all the above forms of cycling with just 2 bikes. And those bikes are a full suspension MTB with 3-5 inches of travel, and a rigid hardtail.
Ahhh, I can hear the coughs of ‘bullshit’ now. But please, hear me out.
Most people ride. Yup, they just ride. They don’t race downhill, or for that matter XC. They don’t spend hours riding in bike specific conditions. They do a little bit of everything.
So most people don’t need a DH bike. But for the times when they feel the need to do some DH style riding, a low-mid travel bike will do the trick. An adjustable travel bike is best here, such as the Giant AC series, or the new Gary Fisher Sugar, but it’s not necessary. The Sugar probably isn’t the best bike for dropping off 6 foot ledges, but most people will only do that if they can use some rope.
That same low-mid travel bike will be light enough for you to go out riding all day. Maybe do a 12 or 24 hour race. If you are silly keen, or not worried about the result, you can even do an XC race. But you might want to use the hardtail for that. Swap the suspension forks over from the FS bike, and away we go. Especially if your forks have adjustable travel.
But what about the other forms of riding? Road, cyclocross, trials and jumping?
Well that’s where a nice hardtail comes into it. With rigid forks, and a strong yet light wheelset, you can slap a set of slicks on it for all those road bashes. Sure, you can’t race with a Cat 3 bunch, but then again, do you really want to? Put the knobbies on and it’s damn close to a cyclocross bike, perfect for those really muddy rides. And there is no suspension to foul up.
If you get a smaller frame than you probably should get, then it’s going to be sized pretty nicely for jumping and trials. But I’d swap wheels off the FS bike for this. They are probably stronger than what you have on the rigid. And it saves swapping the slicks off. Just make sure you have a strong frame and forks.
So there we have it, 2 bikes, for all occasions. Sure, you might need to spend 30 minutes before a ride swapping bits about, but it’s not that big a problem. At least not a few thousand dollars worth.
So what bikes do I have? I have the bikes described above. A Schwinn Rocket 88, set up as a general off-road bike, and a Merida rigid, for all other occasions. With a wheel, tyre or fork swap I can pretty much end up with a bike that will do whatever I want. OK, whatever I have the guts and skill to do.
Yes, I do look at new bikes and wish I had one, and there is a bigger travel bike I have my sights set on, but I’m not sure if I can really justify owning 3 bikes. I tried once, and my little brother ended up with a free MTB as a present out of it.
* N+1 is the number of bikes you should have, where N is the number of bikes you currently have.