Maybe that do-anything, go anywhere machine you’ve always wanted is one you already have
Generally speaking, I avoid New Year's resolutions for the same reason I avoid goal-oriented cycling: Why set yourself up for failure? Commit to that dry January or accept that Strava challenge and it's all too easy to come up short. On the other hand, if you have the good sense to say "screw it," every day is a guaranteed success.
Nevertheless, even a committed slacker like myself must occasionally test his resolve and strive to become a better person. It is in this spirit that I hereby vow to undertake the following hors catégorie challenge:
To ride only one (1) bicycle for all of 2018.
To the layperson, this may not seem like much of a challenge at all. Indeed, millions of people all over the world make do with just the one bicycle, and millions more wish they had even one. Then there are the unicyclists who only have like half a bike, but that's another issue entirely.
The American sporting cyclist however will immediately recognize just how daunting this whole single-bike proposition is. Limiting ourselves to just one velocipede is like Anthony Bourdain eating the same meal day in and day out, or like Keith Richards committing to a single intoxicant, or like Coco Chanel never changing her pantsuit. (Though she’s been deceased since 1971, so presumably she's been wearing the same pantsuit for close to 50 years now.)
Even so, bicycle monogamy is something I've been wanting to experiment with for awhile now. Whereas some cyclists are in a constant state of coveting just one more bike, the whole N+1 thing simply fails to resonate with me. Instead I've been fantasizing about returning to the simplicity of my youth, when I had just one trusty steed to which I turned for all my two-wheeled adventures. Yes, in those days, when the road came a-callin', there was nothing to think about. I just grabbed my bike like Woody Guthrie took up his six-string fascist-killer and off I went.
Now I cannot tell you how many bicycles I own without first taking 10 minutes, all of my fingers, and at least some of my toes to figure it out. Do I manage to ride all these bikes? Sure. But I also probably lose like two weeks worth of riding time a year to fleet maintenance alone, and that's reason enough to simplify my cycling lifestyle.
Of course, making the decision to ride just one bike for a whole year is easy. The hard part is deciding which one it’s gonna be. It has to be one you can ride on and off road, and be reasonably enjoyable in either scenario. And while that might seem to imply some sort of cyclocross bike, the truth about bikes like that is that they're really best for one thing—cyclocross. Oh sure, you can ride your cross bike on mountain bike trails, but it's kind of like cleaning your toilet bowl with a toothbrush.
No, what I need is a bike that can really go anywhere, and to that end I've decided to go with my rigid, 27.5+ mountain bike. It's steel, it’s capable, and it carried a retail price of under $1,000. Not only can it handle pretty much anything, but now that I've fitted it with some Jones H-Bars it's comfortable for longer, non-technical rides, too. Really, the only situation I can think of where it might be truly awkward would be a road race, but the odds of my doing a road race at any point in 2018 are roughly zero percent so I don't anticipate this being a problem.
Still, as the new tax plan goes to show, even the most sweeping pronouncement has its loopholes. Also, as we've already established, I’m a non-comittal slacker. This is why I'm including some modest contingency clauses in my resolution, to wit:
- In order to accommodate different conditions I may change or reasonably* modify my primary bicycle as often as I'd like and in any way I see fit;
- Inasmuch as writing about bicycles provides me with something resembling a livelihood I may utilize any bicycle that has been loaned to me for evaluation purposes or while traveling;
- For purposes of child-schlepping and local errand running, I may continue to use my cargo bike. (Inasmuch as my cargo bike is as much a household appliance as it is a bicycle I feel this clause does not undermine the spirit of the resolution.)
- Citi Bike.
At the same time, given the high likelihood I will backslide, I'm also giving the deal some teeth. Specifically, in the event that I do cave and ride any of my other bicycles, I must run a distance of three (3) miles for every violation. If this sounds like a mere slap on the wrist, then it's only because you don't appreciate my fraught relationship with running. (And no, I can't roll over miles I've already run to cover future violations.)
Finally, if there are any un-run penalty miles remaining at the end of the year I must either double those miles or else get rid of one (1) bicycle from my bloated fleet per un-run mile.
As for what I’m looking to gain from all this, I’m hoping the simplicity will improve my riding life. I also want to remind myself of something that's all too easy to forget in our gear-oriented culture, which is how to make the most of our equipment. In an industry that endlessly supplies us with increasingly specialized bicycles, we often make the mistake of thinking we need things we already have, and if you’re not maxing out the potential of every one of your bikes then sometimes more is less.
Hey, worst case scenario is I get some running in.
*By “reasonably” I mean swapping wheels or handlebars, not taking it to a framebuilder to have it customized.