real life cycling

N+1 is dead

Fundamental truths are out there, waiting to be found. The moment you look and listen they fall into your lap, so self-evident you wonder where they were hiding.

N+1 being a case in point.

The formula coined by Velominati to describe how many bikes you should own, where N is the number of bikes you currently own. What began as a smart-ass joke became a slurp of lube to the machinery of the bike industry, another cog in the frenzied engine of consumerism.

To own a new bike was enshrined as one of the immutable aims of the game. A perfect, organic boost to global bike sales, working hand in hand with easy credit and sexy advertising. We don’t need a new bike, we need. Italics.

As in, my God have you seen the new Pinarello Dogma…need!

But often we don’t.

I’m lucky, I own a lovely bike. A Wilier Zero 9, a Campagnolo groupset hanging off it, bits rubbed smooth here and there through the friction of five hundred bike rides. It’s five years old now and I caught myself cracking the usual gags: I’ve done well to get five years out of it (nudge, wink…).

Not about to buy a new bike but walking through the mental gymnastics required to justify a two or three grand purchase.

N+1, people would say to me, conspiratorially, like what can you do…this is how it works…buy a bike…an entirely normal response to the uncertainty of a global financial crisis…

Pinarello Dogma F12

I flicked obediently through the websites, narrowing down my options to a tiny handful of painfully desirable Italian machines. Footsteps down the road to inevitable purchase. And then a cycling buddy stopped me in my tracks with a truth-bomb.

A single raised eyebrow: ahem…this.


It’s lovely your bike, isn’t it? You don’t need a new one. Maybe a new set of wheels to spice it up? You should do that.

And I got all dewy eyed.

Not about my buddy – he’s not my type – but my bike.

I thought about the time we summitted the Galibier. That day when I lapped Mallorca. I recalled dragging myself up the forested slopes of La Planche des Belles Filles; ascending into the thin air of the Col de la Bonnette; criss-crossing northern England, leaving before sunrise and arriving at sunset.

Memories, heart, and soul.

I could get a shiny new bike and start with a whole new set of notches on the biking bedpost. Something shiny and Instagrammable. #N+1. Or I could avoid that massive and unnecessary dent in my finances and bask in the value of well-built things that last.

My own little protest against disposable culture and the insanity of eternal growth.

Yeah…I think I’ll do that.

(Wilier Image:|Pinarello Image: via Glory Cycles @ Flickr)

5 comments on “N+1 is dead

  1. I love consumerism. It’s why we all have jobs… I still don’t need a new bike. I did get the nice, new set of wheels. And I’m stoked for my friends who do enjoy “new bike day”. In fact, my buddy, Phill’s wife just bought him a new Roubaix Disc as a retirement gift. How cool is that? Consumerism, just to call it an “ism”, in its finest form.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My Principia Rex is 20 years old, my Scott Addict is 5 and a half years old, but was second hand. I don’t need a new bike either 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: I’m the village idiot and I’m ready to ride – road|THEORY

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