Tuesday, 21 August 2012

N + 1

Stuff I don't get: celery, sprouts, N+1... I don't understand that thing where cyclists seem to have a perpetual appetite for owning ever more bikes, the thing where 'N is the number of bikes you own', so the ideal number of bikes is N+1.

It seems quite wrong on so many levels. Surely, bikes are about riding, not about owning? If your bike limits your riding in some way, viz, you have no road bike and therefore cannot ride on the road, then fair enough, but the endless acquisition of new bikes that basically duplicate the function of what you have already - why?

I ride to escape from the awful, competitive, materialistic, 'more, more, more' society we've built. To be in the moment, not in the future or the past, but there in the now feeling tyres rumbling over rubble or skimming silently across freshly-laid tarmac or splashing wetly through summer rain.

And I don't notice what bikes other people ride. 'He was the guy on the purple Cotic tells me nothing'. Try, 'He was the fella with the massive grin whose eyes lit up like catherine wheels at the bottom of Jacob's on the other hand tells me everything I need to know.

How have the basic precepts of capitalism leached into cycling so thoroughly? Of course it's obvious: we have an industry and a media which is founded on selling new stuff - 29ers for the win, you need a whole new bike along with those wheels - and a mind-set which believes a good business is one that creates steady growth in profits every year rather than one that produces outstanding products and has happy, fulfilled employees.

And we have a world stuffed with people looking forwards instead of at where they are, who need the illusion of motion to feel 'not static'. And in that cycling doesn't seem so much like golf as like obsessive DIY: 'If only I had a new sofa, nicer wallpaper, a Bosch washing machine, a new Cotic Soul, my life would be better...'

There's no end to it. Well actually there is. Here's the alternative N+1, where N is the number of bikes you already have and N+1 is the number of bikes that'll push your partner over the brink and create another 'forum regular with a new log-in so no-one knows who I am' post along the lines of 'my partner has left me for a DIY enthusiast' STW thread.

Of course the joy of the alternative N+1 is that it seamlessly morphs into the original. You no longer have a partner, so suddenly the optimum number of bikes is whatever you want it to be. Which brings us neatly back to the start. Stuff I don't get: celery, sprouts, etc...


No comments:

Post a Comment