Upgrade is the new N+1

My bike is, as I’m writing this, eight years old, and has carried me over many thousands of miles. As you’d expect, it took a battering over that time, including a few crashes.

Most cyclists know the supposed formula of N+1 to determine the ideal number of bikes to own. In that formula, N equals the number of bikes you currently own. As a joke, it works really well, and from a bicycle manufacturer’s point of view, getting people to believe in that formula translates into increased sales, and therefore increased profits.

However, it really doesn’t fit in with trying to reduce the lifestyle of overconsumption we’ve become so used to, especially in the Global North. Climate change is real, and we all need to consume less. And yes, buying a new bike is extra consumption.

Upgrade what you have

My bike has seen several upgrades over the years. It started off as having two chainrings, but now has triple chainrings. That also required changing the shifters. It started life as just a gravel bike, but I added dynamo lights, full mudguards, a rack, and I even changed the saddle.

I rebuilt the front wheel around a dynamo hub, but that wheel was destroyed in a crash, and I replaced it with a new dynamo hub wheel. The rear wheel’s bearings acted up while I was cycling the bottom half of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, and I had that wheel replaced, too.

Of the original bike, what’s left is the frame and forks, the seat post, the stem and the handlebars. Quite literally, over the years I replaced every single other part, either because it was worn out or damaged, or because I needed the upgrade (eg 2 chainrings to a triple, so I’d have a wider range of gears).

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Upgrading again?

My bike’s a tad tired at the moment, so yes, it’s in for some replacement parts soon. Ideally, I want to strip the frame down, and respray it, at the same time. After that, it needs a new front derailleur, two new chainrings, a new chain and cassette, new headset bearings, and new bar tape, plus a major service.

I seriously considered buying a new bike, but then ended up wondering what I’d do with my current bike. A new bike simply seemed so wasteful. Another bonus is that I can replace multiple parts for the fraction of the cost of a new bike.

Aside from the savings, upgrading my existing bike also fits better with me intentions of leading a less wasteful life, and consuming less. After the upgrade, my bike will mostly look and feel like a new bike.

Upgrade is the new N+1

If you need a new bike, and you can afford it, by all means go ahead and buy it. However, consider instead upgrading your current bike. You will save money, and if you don’t do the work yourself, will help your LBS stay in business. You will also reduce your CO2 footprint, compared to buying a new bike.

The world desperately needs all of us to consume less. Stop listening to what the marketing agencies tell you to do, and instead upgrade your current bike. After all, upgrading is the new N+1!

4 thoughts on “Upgrade is the new N+1”

  1. Upgrading some components also has the advantage that the rest of the bike will probably still look a bit scruffy and thus potentially less attractive to be nicked.
    Of course, I’m also a big fan of fixing rather than buying in general (not just bikes) and the satisfaction that it brings.

  2. Timely article. As I’ve got older I’ve found cycling the Devon hills harder. I’ve just put a new bottom bracket and sub-compact chainset on my road bike along with booking a bike fit which lead to a new saddle and stem.

    My bike is a bit unusual, it’s. Titanflex beam bike which started out life 20 years ago when I built it up for long course triathlon with an aero front end and steep geometry, then switched it to standard drops with a more relaxed geometry and now subcompact gearing.

    It’s a wonderful road bike and one I’ll continue riding until I can no longer ride at all.


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