How many bikes do you need?  Some say the correct number of bicycles to own is “N + 1", where N is the number you currently own. 

That’s a nice way of always justifying another bike! I can see a problem, though. That policy leads to an infinite number of bikes. Even if your house is huge, storing infinity will always be a problem!

But a couple years ago, despite out tiny house, I did add “+ 1" to my bikes, sort of. Really, it was more like “+ 1/10" because what I did was assemble a bunch of stuff from my junk boxes into yet another bike. 

See, way back in the 1970s at a weird junk shop in Georgia, I found a very fine, lightweight  custom Reynolds 531 frame with a minor dent. I bought it for $7. It hung in my workshop during all my working years, one of those “someday” projects. When I finally retired, I had time to build it up, using the following:

The nice 27" rims that came with our touring bikes. (I long ago changed to 700C.)

A cool old Brooks leather saddle Peg once used; a ladies version, nice and wide and springy.

A titanium bottom bracket someone gave me, and a nice crankset with double chainrings. 

A three speed Sturmey-Archer rear hub, 1970s vintage. Someone gave it to me after they couldn’t fix its complicated collection of gears and pawls and springs, but I got it running again.

A 1970s tick-tick-tick mechanical cyclometer that I saved after I went electronic.

Perhaps neatest of all: a 1955 Sturmey-Archer Dynohub front hub, bought new-old-stock along with its matching headlight, roughly the size of a softball. The chrome steel hub contains a collection of magnets and wire coils, and when you spin the wheel, it makes electricity. Cool!

And of course, there were things like the seatpost, stem, mirror, brakes and such. I had to buy only the rubber bits, some nice upright handlebars ($7 on sale) and a fork, for another $15. I adapted front and rear racks I had, did some serious engineering to hop up the ancient headlight and taillight with super-bright LEDs, and zip-tied a chrome wire office basket to the front rack for carrying packages. Oh, and I used plain flat pedals that work with absolutely any shoes.

The outer chainring got its teeth cut off, so it’s just a smooth disk chainguard. The riding position is upright and almost regal feeling. It’s my first 3 speed, and it makes me relax, take it slow, look around the neighborhood.  

It’s quirky and, I think, kind of cool. And there are others who agree! One guy at the post office drooled over it for fifteen minutes or more, examining every detail, saying he just loves three speeds. And some teenage girls once said that they really like my bike, claiming “It’s sexy!”  

But you know what I really like? This is the bike I can jump on immediately and ride. No clipping my pants cuffs, no eyeglass mirror, no funny hat, no cycling gloves - just jump on and ride. The front basket lets me just toss in my packages or library books, but I can use the bungees on the back rack if I need to. The lights are always ready if it’s dark out. It’s perfect for puttering around in Poland Village.

I think everyone should have a bike set up for quick utility! Maybe not as oddball as this new-old fashioned three speed, but a bike to pick up things at a store while wearing normal clothes and shoes. You shouldn’t have to rummage around for bungees or bags or mirrors or hats or gloves or headlight or taillight; they should be right there on the bike, ready to go. 

If you do that, your next trip to the convenience store might use just two wheels. Why fire up the car? Instead of losing gas money, no matter how cheap that stuff gets, you can gain a few more bike miles.

I think it’s a good reason to get just one more bike.  N +1.

- Frank Krygowski