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What does n+1 mean? Find out if you really need another bike

Are you team n+1, or is there really one bike to rule them all? We look at whether the perfect bike can ever exist or if you'll always need another

For many of us the dream is to have the right bike for every niche of cycling. If this is you, you’re following the long-standing rule of n+1: always looking to add another bike to your collection. It’s an absolutely brilliant concept for bicycle manufacturers, as it of course supports their aim of selling more bikes. But has the emergence of two-in-one (lightweight AND aero) race bikes with wider tyre clearances and do-it-all fast gravel bikes gone as far as negating the need of n+1. Is the term really relevant anymore?

2021 Wilier Rave SLR - riding 6.jpg

We take a look at what n+1 is and whether the perfect bike (or a very small collection of bikes) can ever exist. 

What is n+1?

Velominati who aims to “maintain the sacred text wherein lie the simple truths of cycling etiquette known as The Rules”, lists n+1 as RULE#12, describing it as:

The correct number of bikes to own is n+1.

While the minimum number of bikes one should own is three, the correct number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned.

The idea behind n+1 is that you should own one more bike than the amount you currently own. Basically, you should always be thinking about what your two wheel purchase is going to be - your bike collection is an ever-growing one. 

There are a lot of different cycling disciplines.and so there’s a lot of scope for continuing to add to your collection. But even if you just stick to roads, the demands can still vary so much it’s very easy to build up a collection to cater for each of your specific needs. 

> 13 of the best winter bikes — but do you really need a bad-weather bike?

You may want a winter warrior bike complete with mudguards mounts and lights ready to go for grinding through the grim and low light conditions, and then a fun race bike that’s lightweight for dancing up the climbs and aero for blasting it along the flat. 

How about a nondescript townie that you can look up with no stress in the middle of town. Then an e-bike for that particularly long ride to the office could be pretty useful for completing the commute on a more regular basis. What about a solid tourer that has a larger load capacity for the year’s cycling adventure somewhere new in Europe. That’s before even getting into bikes suitable for off-road terrain…

It’s easy to see why the rule n+1 came about; as well as different disciplines, cycling’s not just a performance sport, it’s a mode of transport too, for day to day tasks, for holidays. It’s so expansive, you really can get stuck into so many different aspects of the sport and we all get it, it’s great having the right bike for the ride at hand. 

Limiting factors

The two limiting factors with n+1 are often capacity and cost. But there are an increasing number of ways of overcoming these issues though, which all helps with following the n+1 rule. 

We’re all limited by the inside or outside space we have for storing bikes but brands keep on coming out with great solutions for making the most of the space you do have.

Check out our guide on the best ways of organising your bikes and keeping them out the way over here including wall mounting options and racks for high ceilings.

Next up, is the price. That said, bike brands such as Giant and Canyon, and retailers such as Tredz,  are now offering finance plans for spreading the cost of your bike over a set period of time with no hidden fees. It’s still going to cost you, but does mean you don’t have to save up first before adding to your collection.

But even with these space-saving and financing hacks for many of us even a second bike is a luxury. We started thinking about what would be the best second bike to have for a roadie, and the discussion quickly showed us two things. Firstly, we were never going to agree on what is the best second bike for a road rider; we’re all different and we each have our own ideas. Secondly, there are a huge number of options if you are indeed looking for a second bike, and they don’t all need to be an off-road bike. You can read more on the’s teams picks over here. 

Is n+1 still relevant?

However in recent years we have seen the emergence of two-in-one race bikes (lightweight and aero), carbon fibre bikes with mudguards mounts as well as gravel and all-road bikes. It’s a very different scene to when the rule n+1 came about. So, we decided it was about time we re-evaluated if n+1 is still relevant. 

> 11 of the best mudguard-compatible carbon fibre road bikes
2022 Specialized Tarmac SL7 Pro - SRAM Force eTap AXS

We all have different needs and goals with our riding and so I put the question ‘is there such thing as having enough bikes’ to the team to explore the matter. Yes, it's vox pop time: 

Liam Cahill, Tech Writer: 

How can anyone ever have enough bikes? Jokes aside, I think that if you have something suitable for each discipline that you want to do, you’re set. Those bikes don’t have to be absolutely perfect for what you’re going to be doing, but they do need to be close for you to have an enjoyable ride. If you want to spend the winter getting away from the road, a lightweight carbon road bike with 25mm tyres won’t be suitable for much beyond a dirt road.

And conversely, trying to put in some big road miles on an enduro bike is going to prove to be very dull…and slow.

Within the various disciplines, you’re always going to have niches based on the riding conditions and terrain in your local area. For me, I use an XC MTB for all of my MTB riding. It might not be great for some of the enduro runs I do, but I don’t feel that I go mountain biking enough, or ride those routes fast enough to justify another bike.

On the road side, however, I have a dedicated winter bike because I know I’ll be going out whatever the weather. My nice road bike doesn’t have to do those hard yards and I’ve got less cleaning to do.

A suitable gravel bike for someone in Scotland could be very different to one for the south west of England. Let’s not talk about my TT bike that sees an average of 1 race per year…

Mat Brett, Tech Editor:

I don't think that the bike industry needs to worry about the whole n+1 thing disappearing any time soon.

There has been a small amount of merging of genres in the road bike world lately. After many years of separate lightweight road bikes and aero road bikes, we're now in a period where the two have joined together. Loads of lightweight road bikes have taken on aero features over the past two or three years – the top level Trek Emonda SLR, for instance, now has aero tubing and a sub-700g frame, and Specialized launched the Tarmac SL7 as being 'one bike to rule them all', able to hit the UCI's 6.8kg minimum limit for racing while being as efficient as its Venge aero road bike.

2022 Trek Emonda SLR9 Dura Ace

Once a few big brands start going down that route, everyone else has to follow. Why would you buy a road bike that's just aero when you can buy one that's aero AND lightweight? So the desire for a second performance road bike might abate, but there's a lot more to cycling than that. 

2021 Wilier Rave SLR.jpg

There are certainly super-versatile bikes out there that can handle road, all-road, and gravel. The Wilier Rave SLR that I reviewed recently is quick on both asphalt and gravel, for example. You could have it set up for gravel with a different pair of wheels/tyres - and a different cassette – for the road.

Jack Sexty, Editor:

With ‘all-road’ and very versatile, gravelly, big tyre clearance-y things becoming ever more popular, I appreciate that for some people a bike loosely fitting this description might do everything they want it to do… but na, I’m still N+1 all the way! 

Every now and then I get tempted by one of the newer breeds of ‘do everything’ drop bar bikes, but then I start to think about all the things it couldn’t do for me. What about time trialling (TT bike of course), or if I just want to go out on a hard road ride and know my equipment will allow me to go as fast as I could? Only a road racing bike with deep rims would suffice.

I also use my bike a lot for generally getting about, riding to the shops, to the gym and so on; and if I was to have one bike and one bike only, it would be far too posh for locking up out of sight for longer than it takes a half-decent thief to cut through my lock. For this reason, I have a cheap road bike specifically for riding to the gym and the shops… although my gym is also accessible via a trail, so for this I also have a mountain bike that is pretty much exclusively deployed for going swimming via this muddy former railway line. If I wanted to actually start properly mountain biking this one probably isn't quite up to the job, so I'd need yet another bike for that.

I’m currently at four bikes – one of which is permanently used for indoor training at the moment –  and still feel like I’m about two or three short of having one for every occasion.

Anna Hughes, Tech Writer:

I think the relevancy of n+1 today really depends on what kind of person you are: are you someone who prefers the exact tool for the job or do you have fun pushing the limits of the bike, testing your skills. There are bikes out there that can be ridden fast, on gravel, and with mudguards such as the Orbea Terra and those that focus in on providing a bike that caters for a very specific rider or type of riding such as Ribble Ultra SL or Surly Disc Trucker.

2022 Ribble Ultra SL

Thanks to the latest technology, there’s even a lot of scope for expanding the remit of bikes that weren’t specifically designed to be mega-versatile. Clip-on mudguards have greatly improved and can convert your bike without eyelets into one that’ll cope with winter.

2020 Flinger Race Pro Clip Mudguards - rear wheel side-on.jpg

While brilliant inventions such as Tailfin’s aero rack allow you to carry loads efficiently on a bike that doesn’t have panniers. Locks such as Hiplok’s portable bike lock for resisting angle-grinder attacks means you don’t have to add a mount to a bike to make it practical for use around town and can also give you greater confidence when locking up a more expensive bike.

> Review: Tailfin AeroPack S
2021 Tailfin Tailfin Alloy Arch 12

Specificity certainly has its place when you’re racing it does make a difference at the tippy top end. Also for long bikepacking trips and touring it can make carrying loads a little easier and limit the chance of mechanical failures if you get a bike designed expressly for the task.

But for the most part I believe there’s a lot more crossover than there once was, so you can do all the sorts of riding you want on a much smaller collection. The most difficult part I’ve found is building your collection in the right order to achieve this!

The perfect one-bike collection? 

But, could there be a bike out there that does come close to meaning n+1 is no longer relevant?

Liam Cahill

The obvious answer here is gravel bikes as they’re fast and light enough on the road, while also being able to handle fairly serious off-road stuff. That said, they’re generally a bit meh to ride on the road (the new Crux being an exception) and go too far away from gravel trails and you’re going to take a beating so I don’t see N+1 being irrelevant any time soon.”

First Ride Review: 2022 Specialized S-Works Crux gravel bike

> First Ride Review: 2022 Specialized S-Works Crux gravel bike

Mat Brett

If I wanted only one bike, I'd go for something that's easily adaptable in that way... but I don't want only one bike. No matter how comprehensive the current range of bikes I own, there's always something else I want to get into. That's one of the beauties of cycling. You'll never get a perfect stable of bikes, but it's a lot of fun trying.

Jack Sexty

I think it depends on the type of riding you do, and if like me your riding is over varying terrain in lots of different scenarios, then your ‘one bike to rule them all’ would constantly be getting its wheels, tyres and accessories swapped over, wasting a whole lot of riding time and probably discouraging you from just getting out the door!

While there are certainly more options that do provide an overlap nowadays, and accessories to extend the use of each bike you do own, it seems we have all come to the same conclusion. Bicycle manufacturers need not be worried, as the concept of n+1 is not going away any time soon... 

What would you have in your ideal bike collection? Let us know in the comments as always. 

Add new comment


mark1a | 1 year ago

Thread bump due to n+1 on daily blog... it makes me chuckle sometimes when I see ads on eBay, etc for a bike for sale that says "making room for n+1" - so that's surely just "n" then? Also it should be "n+1 <= s-1" where n is the number of bikes you have and s is the number that could cause a separation from your partner...

My fleet currently is:

Best summer bike, comfortable and light

Best fast aero summer bike, not as comfortable as above and crap in crosswinds - but absolutely flies on the flat even with me on it

Winter sh*tter, go-to bike with cheaper consumables and mudguard mounts

Gravel bike,'s gravel innit and smooth as butter on tarmac 

Single speed steel pub bike, although not been to the pub for over 2 years, this may be moved on at some point 

Vintage steel 80s, hard to ride but fun, and Eroica keeps being cancelled - more enjoyable to source and build than ride it

eMTB, scratches both FS MTB & ebike itches

Brompton,  a folder for errands and commute, but makes me look like a circus bear

Plus, finally an indoor static bike that's not a Peloton. 

balbardie | 2 years ago

As an every-day-of-the-year cyclist I use all four of mine often; fine-weather road bike, foul-weather road bike, mountain bike, and my ancient 'town' bike - used daily and so scruffy it doesn't need to be locked.

But of course there is still room in the shed...

froze | 2 years ago

If I really had to, I could get along with just one of my bikes and be fine, and that bike would be the 2020 Masi Giramondo 700, factory stock mostly, it can do touring/camping, gravel, mild off road, and road.

But I have others, I use a 2013 Lynskey Peloton with a mix of 105 and Ultegra, and a Enve 2.0 fork, for my long weekend road rides; then I use a 1984 Fuji Club which I took off the OEM Suntour ARX crap this past summer and put on NOS Suntour Superbe I had for years instead, this is used for commuting to work and after work rides; I have a few other bikes that need some work done to get them up and going and then sold, but those are my retirement projects for fun, they're good quality bikes though, they just need maintenance mostly and some minor parts; one bike, a mid 80's Dawes will be getting a Shimano Deore Deerhead system I have setting around. 

PpPete | 2 years ago
  • Dawes Galaxy - Bought new in 1987, was the one & only for many years, now with Shimergo gears, rack, small panniers, mudguards, dynamo hub, lights it serves as winter commuter.
  • VanNicolas Yukon - new in 2011, this is my long distance machine on which I have covered over 20,000 miles of (mostly) audax riding.  Campag drive train, mudguards, dynamo hub & lights.
  • Fixed wheel, because everybody MUST have a fixie, right?   2nd hand Claud Butler 531 frame, hand-built wheels, Brooks saddle.
  • "unstealable" shopping bike, an aluminium frame Apollo rescued from the tip, decked out with components which I'd be ashamed to put on any other bike, rack and huge panniers
  • Decathlon single speed folder. Just for train journeys (and short trips either end).   Bought after a previous fixie stolen while locked up at station.
  • Giant 29er MTB   
  • Dawes Renown, 2nd hand frame. Probably from 1980s, now with STIs, rack & small pannier, commuter for summer/fine weather as no mudguards. A bit sprightlier than the Galaxy

    But N+1 is the law....  so treated myself last year to 

  • Planet X ProCarbon Disc F&F, handbuilt wheels, mostly 105 groupset, cheapo mechanical discs that will get replaced by hydros when I can find stock and have the £ to spare.

Better half only has six....

LastBoyScout | 2 years ago

I've currently got 8 usable bikes and 2 "projects":
1 - Summer race bike
2 - CX bike, bought mainly to replace #3, but still got #3. Been used bike packing.
3 - Old road bike, now commute bike, fitted with mudguards and SPDs. Still light and fast, though, even if it is technically an awful fit for me!
4 - Hybrid shopper/pub/errand bike - most used bike currently.
5 - Lunchtime shopper hack, lives in work bike shed.
6 - Old rigid MTB with Deore DX/XT kit, kept for sentimental reasons, occasionally ride with the kids.
7 - On One steel frame - built up as a touring bike, but also the MTB.
8 - Tandem - probably ought to get rid, as haven't ridden for a few years.
9 - Very old road bike that belonged to my Dad - one day I'll get round to restoring it.
10 - Alu/carbon MTB frame - nicked some of the bits to build the tourer. Only really needs a chainset and some shifters to get it going again but I did love riding it.

Would cheerfully add a full-sus MTB, if I had the funds/time to ride it.

CyclingInGawler | 2 years ago

Want? Need? In my case some of the reason for n=4 is circumstances. Loved riding my 1983 Orbit Gold Medal until changes in family circumstances meant I had to use the car for commuting, at which point the weight piled on. Eventually, to get back into cycling, I bought a lovely Specialised hybrid that I really liked but had it nicked out of the garage one night. Replaced that with a Trek hybrid that I didn't like half as much, and that was also nicked. Eventually replaced that with a Giant Cross City O that I picked up as previous year's stock for a bit of a bargain. Then Ribble sold me a previous-year's stock Gran Fondo (with mainly 105 group set with Sora rim brakes) delivered to South Australia for about GBP600 all up!  And then I decided I "needed" a gravel bike for trail riding, so bought a  steel Norco Search 12 months ago. That gives me a 531c commuter/fast tourer, an aluminium commuter, a plastic-fantastic weekend play thing, and a 725 gravel bike. 
As I've been unable to turn back time I'm currently pondering n=5 being an e-bike, but that's still TBD.

The good lady wife thinks I should stop buying bikes and spend more time riding some of them!

sparrowlegs | 2 years ago

There's a huge difference between need and want. Not many of us need another bike but how many of us want another?

I think we all go through the "want" phase at some point. Having more bikes (it's not just bikes too) than we know what to do with but invariably we tend to settle on the ones we actually need. That's my experience anyway. 

Rik Mayals unde... | 2 years ago

I have my Surly Ogre work bike with XT which has been in use every single day, whatever the weather, including snow and ice, for 10 years, a 14 year old and still mint Hewitt Alpine with Ultegra 11 spd which is now permanently set up on the turbo in the spare room, an Enigma Etape winter bike which I use in summer as well so had it built with 12 spd Record and Hope components, a Colnago C60 with Super Record RS and only goes out on dry sunny days, hence why my winter bike was built with top spec components, a Whyte 19 mtb with XT, and another Enigma coming, the Escape gravel bike which is having GRX and Hope and will replace the Surly as my commuting bike. 

My wife has two bikes, a Park Pre titanium mtb and a Hewitt Chiltern.

Have we got too many? You can never have too many!

Tom_77 | 2 years ago

I have a bike shed that will hold 4 bikes, my wife has 1 bike so that leaves me with space for 3 bikes.

I have:

a gravel bike - winter commuting and light off road

eBike - transport, shopping with a trailer

road bike - summer rides and indoor training


I don't think I need any more bikes. But each bike is serving 2 purposes, so if money and space were no object I'd probably add a mountain bike, an electric cargo bike and a smart bike.

mdavidford | 2 years ago

This whole article seems to be based on a misconception that n+1 is about how many bikes you need...

chrisonabike replied to mdavidford | 2 years ago

The calculation seems to hold for those who say they'd never cycle?

Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago

I went One Bike to rule them all last year.   Sold a folder, an All Road and a Steel MTB to buy a Ti Reilly Gradient with DI2 and a set of aero wheels and a set of gravel wheels.   Haven't regretted it I'm not a hard core rider but it does everything well from the weekend group ride with friends, to the mid week 1hr blast to a 130mile sportive to a bit of bridleway and single track.

With the aero wheels it's as fast as my old summer semi-aero endurance jobby but far more versatile. I've sacrificed a bit of weight as I normally ride with a gravel set of spares but I can live with that.

Still havent quite got rid of the old summer bike though.... inspite of riding it just once last year....


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