The Virtues of Versatility
For a couple of months now I've been riding only one bicycle for transportation instead of switching between several, and I've got to say that I like it. Not only that, but I am realising that strictly speaking, the others I own are not really necessary, as this one is sufficiently versatile to do everything I need. I've never felt this way toward another transport bicycle before, which is why I've always had multiples: at the very least one IGH bike for local errands and winter cycling, and a lighter, derailleur-geared bike for long distance trips with hills. But now that division of labor is no longer neeeded.
The bicycle I am riding is a modified Bella Ciao Donna that I finally have all to myself again after it served as a guinea pig for a project I was working on. It is not perfect at everything. My other transport bike is a vintage Gazelle and it's a cushier, more luxurious ride with greater carrying capacity. I also have a Royal H mixte that is faster, lighter weight, easier uphill, and equipped with better lighting. But the Gazelle cannot be ridden long distances efficiently. And the mixte cannot be ridden in the winter, plus the frame can be a pain to mount and dismount in some outfits. Neither of the two would work as an "only bike." But the Bella Ciao can handle long distances, does a decent job of tackling hills, is suitable for winter, and accommodates any outfit. The 3-speed drivetrain keeps things simple. The powdercoat and chaincase keep it maintenance-free. The handling has a distinctly vintage feel that is not for everyone, but works well for me. Sure I've wished for more cush over potholes, more cargo capacity and more gears while riding this bike. But I can count on one hand the number of times that has happened over the past two months.
Versatility is not an exciting characteristic, because it implies compromise. "Jack of all trades, master of none" sort of thing. But I guess for transportation cycling I am finding that the jack of all trades is winning me over - at least for the time being. More than anything, I think the trick is finding that sweet spot of a bike - what one person considers versatile may not be sufficiently versatile for another. But if you do find one that does it for you, it can be such a relief! Getting around on the same bike regardless of destination has simplified my life considerably, giving me a new appreciation for versatility.