B’s Buzz: How Many Bikes Do We Need?

How many bikes do we need?

It’s often said that the correct number of bikes to own is “N+1,” with “N” representing the number of bikes you currently own and “+1” meaning that you could always use one more. For many years I thought this was just a way to sell more bikes. And while there might be a bit of truth to that, it’s not the only reason. The real reason the N+1 rule exists is that bikes are becoming more purpose-built to enhance performance in specific areas. Some bikes are actually polar opposites, such as a cross-country hardtail and a downhill bike with a triple crown fork. The hardtail is designed to climb with great efficiency, while the downhill bike is made to soak up big hits during a downhill run. If you’ve ever tried to pedal a full-on downhill rig up any type of climb, you’ll quickly realize your mistake. Not only does its squishy suspension kill any pedaling efficiency, the fixed saddle height tends to be the nail in the coffin. Meanwhile, riding a hardtail on a technical bike park trail would surely scare even the most advanced rider. No matter which type of riding you choose, there is probably a bike specifically made to excel at that task.

Do-it-all bikes

Many bikes are advertised as do-it-all bikes built to conquer both climbs and descents. These rigs do a great job balancing performance across an entire trail ride, but often compromise in a certain area. Riders unable to purchase a full fleet of bikes will find these balanced machines—categorized as trail bikes—a good option for them. A trail bike is the perfect daily cruiser to satisfy most needs. A capable, all-around bike is the staple of every rider’s fleet, but it might not be the best option for certain situations.

Right tool for the job

Today, there are numerous styles of riding—from cross-country and downhill to fat biking through snow or shredding local pump tracks. For every type of riding, there’s a bike built to handle that task. If you want to become a competitive cross-country racer, a lightweight, short-travel bike will reign supreme over a heavy duty enduro bike. A rider looking to ride the bike park or shuttle trails with friends will want a bike more focused on descending, with longer travel and a relaxed geometry to match. Other forms of riding, such as exploring snow-covered trails, often require the use of a fat bike, and riders looking to get a workout on a local pump track will likely find a dirt-jump bike the best option. Really, it comes down to figuring out what type of riding you wish to do and then choosing the right tool for the job.

Building your fleet

For most of us, the reality is that owning one of every type of bike isn’t feasible, so we will have to choose one or two bikes that will serve our riding style best. If you are a dedicated trail rider who often rides the same loop over and over, you may find that putting all your eggs in one basket isn’t a bad idea. In that case, owning one nice trail bike will allow you to have a blast riding your local trails. If you live in an area that has a downhill park but you don’t think you’ll go more than a couple of times a year, it may make sense to own an enduro bike capable of handling the park while still being able to pedal local trails in the off-season.

Riders who see light winter snow conditions may not need a full-width fat bike; instead, they might want a bike that converts from 29 inches to 27.5+. This could allow them to have a fun summer bike that can be switched up to handle winter conditions. Your fleet of bikes can consist of one or two Swiss Army-knife bikes or a rack full of purpose-built machines. The idea behind N+1 is not that you always need one more bike, it’s more about choosing the right bike for the type of riding you do. So, the next time you go out to purchase a new bike, think about what you plan to do with your bike and how it will fit into the fleet you may already have.


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