How Many Bikes Does a Cyclist Really Need?

Enjoy this brief excerpt from ROADIE: The Misunderstood World of a Bike Racer by veteran road race announcer, Jamie Smith, and nationally syndicated Frazz illustrator, Jef Mallett

How many bikes does a cyclist need? from Roadie by Jamie Smith and Jef MallettOn graduating from college in 1986, I bought my first new car for a whopping $6,200. That same year, I bought a new bicycle that cost $1,200. (If I had been making progress in winning my parents over, I lost ground here.) In the summer of 2006, I bought a new bike. It cost $6,300.

Here’s another little tidbit of information that causes some people to shake their heads in wonderment: The average Roadie owns eight bikes. Do the math. That’s a lot of money tied up in bikes.

I must be average because I have eight fully functional bikes hanging in my garage. Some cyclists keep their bike collection in a spare bedroom. Some keep theirs on display in their living rooms. Because I’m trying to appear somewhat normal, I’ll say that my eight bikes are in my garage.

In all honesty, I probably need only four. And yet I refuse to sell any of them. Each one has a different purpose, function, or story behind it. By definition, each bike is a road bike—not a mountain bike or a hybrid.

Take bicycle 1, for example. It’s the newest, fastest, coolest bike I own. Bike 2 is very comfortable. Bike 3 is quick and responsive. Bike 4 is very light, and the geometry places me in the perfect position to climb hills. It’s not the most nimble bike on flat land, but I have other bikes for that, so I only use this one in races that are hilly. Yes, bikes can be that specific. Bike 5 has knobby tires for use off road. Technically it’s a road bike, but I haven’t ridden it on the road in years. Bikes 6 and 7 are old and heavy. Bike 6 is one I’ve had since 1989. I only ride it when it’s raining because I don’t want to get my newer bikes dirty. Most Roadies refer to this type of bike as their “rain bike.” It’s several years old, but we hold on to it for sentimental reasons and/or rainy days. Yes, I said sentimental reasons.

My rain bike is the bike that I rode up Alpe d’Huez (a mountain made legendary by the Tour de France). I bought it at 10:00 a.m. on June 3, 1989, at the Turin Bike Shop in Evanston, Illinois. I accurately recall every detail. As unbelievable as it may sound, in the cycling world, I am as normal as pumpkin pie.

Most Roadies have different types of bikes to suit the many different styles of riding. They choose which bike they ride based on the type of race or training ride they are going to tackle. Most Roadies believe that the ideal number of bikes to own is one more than they currently own. This isn’t too strange, really. Steve Anderson, assistant principal trumpet with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, owns nine horns of varying cost and characteristics. The more advanced your ability, the more varied your tastes become.

Whatever the style, it’s important for a Roadie to have a bike that’s better than he is. In other words, his equipment should not hold him back. That’s easy enough to understand. An average guitarist will sound better on a better instrument. A chef will prepare better meals in a well-equipped kitchen. An artist will starve less with nicer brushes. The only realm where this doesn’t hold true is golf. Better golf clubs won’t make you a better golfer, no matter what the magazine article tells you.

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Roadie: The Misunderstood World of a Bike Racer is a light-hearted exploration of the world of road cycling, bike racing, and the people who love it. Good for belly laughs from veteran roadies and perfect for those puzzled by their road cyclist friends, Roadie explains all the curiosities of the sport of cycling so you don’t have to! From shaved legs to Lycra kits to how stage races work, author Jamie Smith and nationally syndicated Frazz illustrator Jef Mallett celebrate cycling and poke fun in equal measure.

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