Never Enough: Conversations at Lunch


For years and years, I had just the one bike. I raced, trained, and rode to work with it. Periodically the one might be replaced - replaced being the optimal word - it was always just The One. It wasn't until I started mountain biking that I considered, having, needing, or even wanting, any more than one. 

Yesterday afternoon I went to lunch with Rockin' Johnny, a coworker who, as the nickname suggests, is indeed a former musician (Farmer Tan). [I am hesitant to use the word former as, I suspect, the phrase "once a…, always a…" applies equally to musicians as it does to cyclists, or Mafioso.] Anyway, John recently bought a new (used) vintage bike and, this past Friday, commuted to work on it for the first time. A solid-built bike, if a little heavy, a little slow. He was / is very stoked about the whole thing and admitted that he already envisions getting something faster. When, soon afterward, the topic of mountain bikes entered the conversation his response was predictably, "oh, and one of those too."

I saw immediately where he was heading. It is a path that took me a decade to discover, yet the same path that he is contemplating after just a few months.

I suggested that he be wary, that the path he was on the verge of treading was a tricky one, full of pitfalls, and that once chosen rarely afforded an opportunity to change course. I could have saved my breath. As a guitarist, he had followed the N+1 years ago and was already well aware of the paths' twists and turns, of its co-tempations - pleasure and danger. 

The warning given, my civic duty done, the fantasy of being able to willfully ignore the N+1 path was, like the greasy napkin that had just wiped my mouth, crumpled up and cast aside. Are we ever satisfied? Is 'N' ever enough by itself? Excluding the group of collectors for whom each new bike is like a trophy, it is more likely that most of us reach a point of saturation where we must first divulge before we can indulge. Like the economy, and for a multitude of possible reasons, there is a limit to growth. This is a modified form of the equation recognizing balance, I am just not sure what it looks like in mathematical form.

I hear of people who go the opposite way, who rather than seeking a distinct and different bike for each distinct and different type of riding, instead quest for the one bike that does it all. Sometimes you read reviews of purported "all-around" bikes; almost always those reviews end with the admission - "as close as you will find to a bike that does it all." Close but no cigar, as the say goes, is not good enough. And so N+1.

As little as two months ago, if you had asked me, I would have said I was done with N+1, that I could ride out my days satisfied with what I have. But then, I would certainly like that hand-built, custom-fit bike designed specific to my requirements and tastes. Oh and that lighter-than-air mountain bike I tested a couple months past is still on my mind. That striving for something just a little better than what I currently have (or believe I have) keeps me following N+1. In its modified form, that is.

A Friday query, if you so choose: Once you began cycling as an adult, how much time passed before you turned onto the N+1 path? Did anyone turn onto it as a kid? Just what does the modified form of N+1 look like?

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