I used to go to this ice cream place near my home in Memphis where half the staff made amazing milkshakes and the other half could not. This latter detail never stood between me and my desire to enjoy a butterscotch milkshake. However, when one of the less talented members of the crew did it, inevitably I’d get about half way into the milkshake when a big glop of un-blended ice cream would clog the straw. Great progress … and then nothing.
Recovery from the fires in Sonoma County last fall has, in some quarters at least, been much the same way. Despite allegedly “streamlining” the permit process, many homeowners are clogged in the upstaffed office. People are suing the government contractors that cleaned lots because in many cases they removed the foundation for the home. Why? Because the contractors were paid by the ton and it was more profitable for them to develop a reading comprehension problem on the line that said, “Leave foundation.” And nevermind the law, people are back to smoking as they hike on trails that wind through brush drier than the chain on a bike at Burning Man.
So many cyclists lost homes here (with 5300 homes burned, that translates to at least a few dozen cyclists), that the community now has something of a track record for what a cyclist does when starting from scratch. In most instances I’ve heard of, riders went with a gravel bike, reasoning that in losing a road bike, a mountain bike and a gravel bike, a gravel bike was the one bike that could more or less fill the role of all three, the needs of a pinch being what they are.
A source tells me that our local Specialized Concept Store, NorCal Bike Sport is the biggest seller of Diverges worldwide. I’ve watched as friends started with a gravel bike, added a second set of wheels and then waited a bit for some of the ash to settle before adding a mountain bike.
It’s seemingly natural to be a cyclist and ever-aware of the N+1 quiver challenge. It’s like a tool set; you’ve got all the tools you need until you need to do something for which you lack the proper tool, right? I’ve known very few cyclists who were simply acquisitive in the way a collector is. Nearly always I see people buy a new bike so that they can ride in a way that their current equipment won’t allow.
The transition to a gravel bike with two sets of wheels—one set up with 35s or 38s, the other set up with 25s or 28s—was a dance move people around here were already picking up on prior to the fires. For some, living in households with a spouse prone to outbursts of, “What the hell?! Another damn bike?!” Buying a gravel bike was a way to make a transition to more modern componentry and disc brakes when their existing road bike still had plenty of life left in it.
But sweetie, I can’t ride the bike I have on dirt roads.
So while our man Robot is enjoying the last of his summer vacation, this week’s ride asks, have any of you gone N-1 and eliminated a bike from your quiver only to replace it with a bike that wears two suits? And even if you haven’t, is that an idea that resonates with you?