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N+1=So Dumb

This past week was Thanksgiving in the United States. It is a time when we are to reflect on the many things we have to be thankful for and spend time with friends and family. It has become a four-day weekend of frenetic shopping driven by the fear that if we are not first in line to buy, first on-line to buy, or both then our lives will be incomplete. We will have wasted the opportunity to buy something, anything, at this price and it may never come again. A veil of unhappiness will descend upon us and stay there until the next Black Friday sale. You can only remove it by buying more and more and more.

This madness of materialism has long infected the cycling community where cyclists regularly cite N+1 as the perfect number of bicycles to own. Think about that for a second while we review the formula: N equals the current number of bicycles you own, 1 more is the number you need to buy to be happy, and after you make the purchase, your new number will be N+1. Happiness is forever a bicycle away. You can never be happy.

All the research on happiness finds that experiences not things make us happy. Indeed, we often become unhappy with material purchases once we have them as we compare their value with other material purchases. In contrast, experiences often become richer and more meaningful over time as you remember a great ride with friends, a vacation with your partner, or travel with friends.

Not surprisingly, there is research that supports the claim. A good short summary can be found in “Buy Experiences, Not Things” by James Hamblin. He notes that experiences bring more happiness than possessions, experiential purchases tend to triumph over material purchases, and experiences are less likely to be compared in value to other experiences. It is the moment-to-moment experiences of life that bring us happiness.

None of this means you should not buy a new bike. Instead understand that your satisfaction from something comes in the experience you have with it not the item itself. New bike or old go ride with friends, join a cycling group, take a cycling trip, add an experience to your life and then share those experiences with others.

2 thoughts on “N+1=So Dumb

  1. Kayaking is just like bicycling it sounds like! Luckily most of the things bought for these sports are truly used! Not always true for other Black Friday purchases.

    I think an odd effect of Black Friday is that it gives those of us who feel guilty shopping for ourselves permission to buy that pair of shoes we’ve been needing, or the Christmas present for a loved one we might not normally buy. So – a mixed blessing? Or maybe I’m just weird.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. A very good point. Marketing and fear of missing out really have a hold on our emotions, where we always want something novel. I have a basic Triban RC120 road bike which I have mercilessly upgraded. It’s my commuter / fast touring bike and has just hit 10,000 km within 18 months, and I even enjoy gravelling on its 28 mm tyres. From various photos on Instagram it’s clear that 40 years ago, people used such road bikes for offroading and touring. In short – any bike can do a heck of a lot more than the owner is comfortable doing with it. The best bike is perhaps the one you already have.

    Liked by 1 person

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