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How Many Bikes Do You Really Need?

Every cyclist dreams of having an amazing bike quiver. But can you have too many? Bruce discovered the life changing magic of tidying his quiver, and figured out how many bikes you actually need to spark joy.

Written by: Bruce Lin

Published on:

Posted in:Bikes

Great chefs need a quiver of knives. Talented painters need a quiver of brushes. So it stands to reason that serious cyclists will need a quiver of bikes too. Or do we? You have probably heard the tired old N+1 joke. (The correct number of bikes to own is N+1, where N = the number of bikes you currently own.) It’s a great way to add some levity to the fact that many of us probably spend too much money on bikes.

Over the years, my own bike quiver ballooned to seven bikes. I used to brag about it. I felt like I had achieved all of my dreams. Then one day it hit me — that is way too many bikes. Seeking simplicity in my life, I decided to purge. Through this painful process, I discovered that the ideal number of bikes is actually much, much smaller. I won’t tease you. 

The answer is three. You only need three bikes. Here’s why.     

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How many bikes do you really needMe at my worst. I couldn't park my car inside because I had a wall full of old, neglected, and unridden bikes.

I once thought that owning seven bikes was the ideal number: a bike for every day of the week. But I discovered that half or more of my bikes would end up severely neglected. They’d usually have flat tires, poorly tuned shifting, or other annoying maladies. I simply didn’t have the time or energy (or money) to maintain that many bikes, let alone ride them. 

Bikes are kind of like kids. If you have one or two, people won’t bat an eye. It’s perfectly normal and manageable. If you have three, it’s a lot, but still reasonable. You’re just on the high side of average. But accumulate four or more and that’s when people start raising eyebrows. This is not to say you can’t have more kids… er, bikes than three. But to regularly ride and take care of that many, you need to be truly exceptional. You’ll probably end up stretching yourself too thin.    


My perfect three-bike quiver

How many bikes do you really need?

1. All-around road bike 
2. Gravel bike 
3. Mid-travel mountain bike

With these three bikes, I have one to cover every cycling discipline I enjoy — road, gravel, and mountain. I also have enough range to comfortably tackle any group ride, race, or adventure that interests me. Plus, it’s fairly easy to keep every bike well-maintained. I also have backup options if one is out of commission. Overall, my garage feels less cluttered, and so does my mind. 

This is the zen of the bike quiver. It must be reduced to the fewest number of bikes necessary to accomplish your primary riding goals.

Depending on your riding preferences, your combo could look a bit different than mine. Dedicated drop-bar racers might want an aero bike, a climbing bike, and a gravel bike to compete in a variety of events. Pure mountain bikers could go with a full-suspension trail bike, a hardtail, and maybe a gravel bike for when the trails slosh up in the winter. 

No matter what, I find it hard to imagine that anyone can get full use out of more than three bikes. Even when I was unburdened by a career or fatherhood, only one or two bikes in my quiver would get ridden regularly. 

If a bike doesn’t see action at least a couple of times a month, it’s probably not worth keeping. 

How many bikes do you really need?Keep things clean and simple. 

This is the zen of the bike quiver. It must be reduced to the fewest number of bikes necessary to accomplish your primary riding goals. For some, one bike is enough. But for the vast majority of “serious” cyclists, three bikes should take care of everything. 

All that being said, bikes are a lot of fun, and they’re a hard addiction to kick. After doing a lot of soul-searching, purging, and becoming 100% sure that I would only ever need three bikes, I ended up relapsing and bought an XC bike. So now I have four bikes. Late at night, I sometimes find myself browsing TPC for another. I’m a damn hypocrite. Nobody’s perfect. But the path to enlightenment is rarely a straight line.   

What your bike quiver says about you

The number of bikes any rider needs is highly subjective. But I’ve experienced the full spectrum of owning zero to owning seven bikes. Here’s my take on what the size of your bike quiver says about you as a cyclist. 

0 Bikes - Bad. You’re not a cyclist — yet. Unless you’re in the process of searching for or buying a bike. Any conversation we have will quickly get awkward.

1 Bike - Good. You are now a cyclist. One of the chosen ones. With only one bike, life is simple. Ride the crap out of it, but take care of it, because it’s all you have. 

2 Bikes - Better. Congratulations, you’ve reached the next level. You’re clearly dedicated to the sport. You have options. Bike ownership isn’t too complicated or expensive. Enjoy it. 

3 Bikes - Best. Hey! Look at you, with three bikes. You have a quiver that many new riders dream of having. You can ride it all. You have it made. 

4 Bikes - Hmm, nice. That’s quite a collection, but do you really need four? I hope you ride your bikes a lot. Otherwise, how dare you neglect any of those poor, sweet bikes!

5 Bikes - Woah. That might be too many bikes. You’re going to make everyone jealous. How come you get to have so many? What, you think you’re better than us?! 

6+ Bikes - C’mon! Save some bikes for the rest of us. We’re all worried that you might have a problem. You’re letting the rest of your life fall by the wayside. 

What’s your take? What’s your perfect bike quiver look like? How many bikes do you think you really need? Let me know in the comments!

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