Your bikes are gone. What now?

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Here’s a little thought experiment:

You come home one day and all of your bikes are gone. Stolen, burned — the specifics of their horrible fate is less relevant than the fact of their absence. You have insurance. It will cover the replacement of most, but not all of your collection.

Your bikes were accumulated over years. They are a mix of machines that are right for you now, or were right for you then, or that you barely ride anymore. You can rebuild, but it will take some time. Where do you start?

Which bike do you replace first?

Second?

Last?

Not at all?

This hypothetical was posed by our own Iain Treloar on our internal messenger earlier this week. We then asked our VeloClub WhatsApp group the same. As the responses came back, we realized that this simple question holds up an interesting and honest mirror. It reflects who each of us is as a bike rider in this particular moment. Not who we once were, or who we will be, but what type of cyclist we are right now.

It’s more useful than a question we’ve asked each other plenty of times — What would your next bike be? — because that question is a function of the bikes you already have.

With a blank slate, what couldn’t you live without?

Iain would first pick up a gravel bike, with an extra set of nice road wheels. Something to do it all. Very modern of him. Then he’d get a drop-bar commuter. Then an e-cargo bike. Also very modern. Iain is a human metaphor for the growth currently occurring in the cycling industry, which exists almost entirely in the gravel and e-bike sectors.

Garry Timms, a VeloClub member, would replace his newest rim-brake road bike with another new rim-brake road bike. That’s very traditional; it’s also a response we got quite a lot. His current cyclocross bike would be replaced by a disc gravel bike. The two are similar, but a gravel bike is more versatile. It has more tire clearance and more stable geometry.

Stephen Garland’s first replacement would be a gravel bike, titanium, with a couple of wheelsets to swap out and disc brakes. “So I can ride on the road when wet and explore other times,” he says. Very practical. Then a carbon road bike.

Some VeloClub members said they just don’t understand the appeal of gravel bikes. A few said they’d never buy another pure road bike.

The answers shifted with location. This is something we all know somewhat intuitively — that if you live in a city surrounded by pavement, you’re likely to be into bikes for pavement, and if you have a plethora of trails nearby, a mountain bike is likely more appealing — but it’s interesting to see the data play out, even in our small sample size.

James Huang, our tech editor in Boulder, Colorado, would replace his gravel bike (also with two wheelsets) first, and then his e-cargo bike, as it’s been his family’s primary mode of in-town transportation for the past several years. After that would come his enduro mountain bike, with a disc-brake all-road bike in a very distant fourth.

Matt Wikstrom, our tech editor in Perth, says he over-indulged in gravel bikes, and a road bike would be the first back in his stable.

Me? At first, I said I’d replace a mountain bike before anything else, then a gravel bike, then a road bike with couplers for travel. But the more I thought about it the more I realized I’d actually go gravel bike first. That’s because it’s what my friends have, and riding with them is valuable to me.

We live in turbulent times, from an equipment perspective. Drop-bar bikes didn’t change much for decades. Now they’re changing every season. It feels a bit like we’re all scrambling to catch up. That’s perhaps why this question is so interesting to me: What would you do if you had to start over?

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