I sold a bicycle today.

Some old bikes in need of new homes

About a year ago, I decided I wasn’t enjoying my hoard of bicycles. I probably realized that well before this point, but it was a year or so ago when I decided to take it down to a single bicycle. and (if I feel so inclined) add back only the ones I really want in my life. I still have a ways to go. Selling things isn’t fun, at least not for me. But it’s been well worth it. Every bicycle I own represents a future drain on my time. Every single one. Even my every day bike – the one I know I’ll keep. It needs some work. Nothing major, but I’m tired of working on bicycles (no doubt due to the self-imposed commitment of working on bicycles). Hence the deferred maintenance, repairs, or improvements. So it is, with every sale, I’m reclaiming a bit of future time. I’m releasing myself from a self-imposed obligation. In some cases, I’m even able to put a bit of money back in the bank. But money is a renewable resource, time is not. Time is the real gold here. In a former life, time spent tinkering indeed was the point. But somewhere between having kids, and deciding I didn’t want to wait until I’m 60-something to retire, the tinkering lost it’s appeal.

This is not a condemnation of collecting things. Nor is it a recommendation to try to downsize. I can’t tell you what will or won’t work for you. And even if I could, it’s none of my business. But I am calling out the N+1 mentality: If we have to justify our acquisitions by way of a mathematical equation (one can never argue with the math, right?), perhaps our reasoning lacks conviction. Perhaps (as it was with me) we aren’t even clear on what the reasons are. And when said equation implies a potentially infinite quantity, this by-and-large guarantees that satisfaction will never be attained. 

Truth be told, I don’t expect to actually pare down to one solitary bicycle. I’ve been able to identify the number which makes sense for me. And that number is subject to change. Not because I’m uncertain, but because a persons needs and desires are ever changing. In a future post, I’ll divulge my ideal number, and how I got there. For now, I’m going to spend a bit of time to decide and prep which bicycle (and camera) I’ll be using for Three Speed Adventure April.

– Wilson

8 responses to “N-1”

  1. Yeah, I’m with ya, Wilson. N+1 sometimes seems like an excuse, a way to justify unsustanable behavior.

    I’ve been somewhat downsizing my fleet as well. I realize that I don’t want to have a lot of bikes to worry about and maintain. I want to keep the fleet to what I can use. Will I get more bikes? Eventually. But I want to be strategic with acquisitions, like a cargo bike. I don’t want to go down the road of “a cool vintage mountain bike that I can fix up and put a basket on” again. It’s easy to keep on buying/building the same bike.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, but that Crested Butte was very cool, Shawn! Seeing bikes like that always got me wanting one myself. I like to think I’m immune to the influences of social media, etc. But what I’ve learned is that belief actually makes me the most susceptible. Having obsessive compulsive disorder probably magnifies the issue, as well, since I get really engrossed in my interests, and they consume me for a time. I don’t even think that’s necessarily unhealthy, but it needs to be kept in check.

      – Wilson

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, it was cool, and that was the problem. The “coolness” hid the fact that it never really fit me. It’s a bike I should have gotten rid of in 2015, when I got the Bantam. (And I actually tried.) The Bantam is everything my Crested Butte was, and more.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. For me, I think I had to get over needing a cool bike. My Big Dummy was mostly thrown together from parts I had lying around. That’s in stark contrast to the Clem it replaced (where I hand picked each component new or take-off). Yet I’m more content with the longtail. No doubt it’s a better “fit” for me, referring to how it fits my lifestyle. But all that to say there’s something comforting when I realized I can strip away the ideals of what I want, and focus on utility. Of course this is seems to be the obverse of your Bantam, where you did pick each and every bit of it. But I imagine commissioning a custom built bicycle encourages a completely different mindset. Have you read Robert Penn’s It’s all about the bike?


      3. I don’t think that “cool” bikes in itself is a problem. But it should follow two simple rules:
        1) It should be cool to you. If it happens to be cool to others, fine.
        2) The coolness should not override fit or functionality. If the bike doesn’t feel good riding it, coolness should not override that.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I completely agree, and appreciate that clarification.

        On a related note, I’ve realized I am happier with “pre-loved” equipment, and this applies very aptly to bicycles. I don’t know if it’s a manifestation of OCD, or I’m just too precious with my stuff, but when I had a new bike (the Clem), I lamented over every nick and scratch, and this kept me from using it in the way I would have preferred.


      5. I can get that. For me, having nice bikes in itself was difficult, as I felt like I didn’t “deserve” it. I’ve gotten over that mostly, but it was hard dealing with that when I got my custom Bantam.


      6. How interesting! I’m dealing with a similar feeling about how I spend my time. For some reason, I have this subconscious notion that spending time doing things not for the direct betterment of my family is somehow indulgent – especially if I could be spending time with my kids. So I’ll spend time building a bike when the kids are at school, but never take it on an organized ride, because they tend to be weekend affairs. It’s not exactly guilt. I’m doing what I most want to be doing in that particular moment. However, it probably isn’t conducive to being a well-rounded person.

        As for owning fantastic things, I think I fully get where you are coming from. I don’t think I would feel that way myself, but I also don’t own anything outstanding at the moment. Perhaps save for a couple of old Leicas. But they are more trouble than they are worth (to me), so I don’t even feel like they are mine any more. They probably won’t be for long. The funny thing about those, is, they’ve completely spoiled me. If I happen to take a great photo, it’s mostly luck. Yet somehow, I’ve become too good to have to listen to the sound of a leaf shutter. I think that snobbery bothers me more than the fact that they are perpetually broken. Gee, maybe I know EXACTLY how you feel…

        Liked by 1 person

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