How was your year in bikes?
Mine was fun. I had lots of fun riding around on the family cargo bike with my boy and finally got a new Wolverine frame to replace the one I broke years ago and built my first set of carbon wheels. An I actually sold/got rid of a couple frames, MiG’s Omnium and my Big Red Schwinn.
I somehow racked up what seems like a fair bit of saddle time despite only going on like four “recreational” rides all year. Here’s my stats at 9:00am on 12/29/23:
How was your year in bikes?
Best Bike: old Specialized mid-tail I got for hauling kiddo around Yosemite and South Lake Tahoe while on vacation. Ended up using it often for school and soccer practice runs, Mrs.thefly can ride it totally comfortably with only needing the saddle dropped. A+ improved life quality.
Regret: Half-assing following through on my plan of selling all my hoarded bike crap, and then if I need a part for a build or idea just go buy that part and be ok with the price.
Favorite bike accessory: Plain allen L-wrenches with one ball end. Despite my love of multi tools, mini ratchets with interchangeable bits, Y-wrenches, L-wrenches with plastic handles, etc, the humble L-wrench reigns supreme. Easy to drop a couple of the size you need in a pocket for mid-ride adjustments on a new bike. Long enough to reach where you need, easy to flip for final torque. Lightweight. Inexpensive. A++
longest ride of 2023: 62.5 miles
between hurting my knee in may and recent hip problems, I’ve been pretty irregular with riding, but i think i did ok, i think i even rode more than last year.
- completed a 50 mi 6k ft of climbing gravel race despite having spent nearly 6 weeks off the bike leading up to it
- did a mtb race and finished firmly mid pack, but was really happy with my time and pace
- worked as a ride leader for a women’s mtb club. in total i lead at about 20 rides for the season.
picked up a new bike, ibis ripmo. haven’t sold the old one yet.
i really want to get back into endurance stuff this year, if i can get my hip fixed.
Pretty weak year in bikes here
(that’s about half my usual mileage)
Spent most of the year figuring out how to find time to ride between having a baby and starting to work from home rather than commuting to work each day.
I think/hope 2024 will be better. The baby is starting daycare soon and I think that will make it easier to find time to ride when I’m not worried about paying for hourly childcare. And hopefully by summer time she will be big enough to fit in a Maxi seat and I can start doing some dad miles.
I kinda thought we’d move this year and I didn’t know what that would mean for bicycles. Would I be still be able to bike to work? Would I finally be able to start bike camping again? We didn’t move so I get to stay in my relatively bikeable neighborhood which I think will be good. Do wish i could do an easy S24O but you gotta take the bad with the good I guess
the year’s not over yet; I have a NYE ride planned that should push me over the 3,500 mile and 200,000 feet mark.
This is the most distance I’ve done in a year by a pretty wide margin, besting 2019’s 3,314 miles and 2022’s 3,015 miles. In terms of feet I think it’s going to work out to my second biggest year. No way I’m touching 221,296ft from 2018 but if everything goes to plan on the 31st I should top 2021’s 201,520ft.
This was a good year with a bunch of fun rides with great people. I’m super happy that I got to go back to Japan, and even though I DNF’d a few big events - Deathride, Gravel Worlds (for the third time lol) - I did manage to go and push my distance-in-a-day boundaries and do a few brevets.
Very little camping this year, which I’m a little sad about. I think I only got out there twice, for Irving’s Superbowl and Solstice campouts? Very little dirt riding in general. I really need to get out in the wilderness a little more in 2024.
I need to thin the herd and sell some bike parts in 2024. I literally have not touched the Black Mountain R+ since mid-september when I finally put the Romanceür together, I need to sell the titanium Vaya that I’ve been keeping around as a “loaner bike” for 5+ years, I have too many pairs of handlebars on the shelf and wheels/tires up in the rafters. I need to sell all the hoarded junk I’m not using, ESPECIALLY because I am thinking about moving north to SF to be nearer to all of my friends and there’s no way I’m going to find a place with as much space for bullshit as I have now.
Overall a decent year for me. Most of miles were commuting as always, but managed to do not one but TWO overnights on the bike. On the flip side, my recreational riding was an all-time low. I went on very few weekend fun rides this year.
2023 Doug Biking Highlight
- doing some tandeming, uncluding a weekend overnight, with Ada. Looking forward to more of that in 2024.
bad wheel year for me. basically wen through 2.5 sets of wheels for the polyvalent due to hub and rim issues. currently shopping for new rims though I don’t think I’m going carbon quite yet
did not crack any other frames. expecting the '91 tarckyon to crack this year as I expect to spend a lot of miles on it
crashed the fuck out of my second polyvalent frame and built up my third
skipped studs entirely and only wiped once on some wet ice in the late season, no hurts
also managed to wipe while filming myself doing a shred portal at night after chugging a THC beverage (tweaked the CETMA, bent the basket, no other issues)
one major crash is bad, it’s been approximately 9 years since my last one, but just two minor wipes is pretty good
Dumb Ideas Report
bought a CETMA rack for some reason. regret
bought a custom reload bag, stoked
drink less alcohol so I can get up earlier on weekends and ride more
more long rides on the tandem with ada
two or three solo overnights, at least two with ada on tandem
hahaha lose weight so I can ride like I did in 2013 lol lmao
bring my bike on road trip to Maine and do some sick east coast riding
A year of mostly chill rides. Also a bikepacking trip, a new mountain bike and one good 120 mile Lower Columbia loop. Could have ridden more…but a pretty good year that included bikes.
The world might be falling apart…but at least 2023 had some good moments:
High point: My buddy and I rode around the Olympic Peninsula in about six days this summer, met a ton of cool people, had great conversations, took the ferry from Bremerton to Seattle and rode the city’s amazing trail system to my friend’s house in Bothel. Incredible. Beautiful. Y’all in WA have it good.
Got to ride bikes in Kyoto again this past June. A damn fine place to ride. Love it!
Mileage and climbing was lacking this past year due to health issues, but it looks like the body’s in better condition for the coming year.
My riding buddy became a dad, so it looks like our trips will be mostly overnighters (when possible) and no multi-day trips with him this coming summer.
But I’m stoked for him, he’s going to be a great dad!
And last but not least, this was my first full year on the HG. Love this bike. Carries a load well, handles excellently, and is everything that I hoped it would be. This is my first new bike purchase since the 90s. I waited a long time for it, and it was totally worth it.
I apparently did a lot of riding in September, which was mostly commuting. The rest of the year was light for riding. I kinda took an extended off season while studying for the Fundamentals of Engineering and Professional Engineer exams.
- Received my Marino frame in February and rode it.
- Sold my old road bike for an eeb that I plan on doing much more commuting on.
- Did a bit of bicycle tourism on the Oregon coast
For 2024, I’ve got several XC races on the schedule again. I’m on the fence about doing any enduros. There was a series that did three spots along the coast that I’ll sign up for if the schedules work out.
yep did the thing
that was a much wetter ride than any of us expected. maybe i will finally fender a bike in 2024.
i can’t even figure out where to click to get these stat
Yeah I don’t understand. You guys Strava every ride?
I don’t record anything so the only good metric I have is:
- Bikepacking trips: 7
My loose goal is to do one a month. One trip was two nights so I could call it 8 and that’s pretty good considering the endless winter we had. 6 of the trips were in the Black Rock desert, and then we snuck in one last one in the Pine Nuts.
I got to ride bikes in Japan for a week so that’s worth something.
Next, a tale in numbers:
- Frames built: 1
- Crank lengths tried: 6
- New saddles: 6
- Frames in the queue for 2024: 3-5
This story starts back with a very progressive hardtail frame I built where I exaggerated everything. I never clicked with it since I don’t have the right type of dumb terrain here. I cut off the head tube and reattached it to reign in the reach and head tube but it still wasn’t working. It sat until I got the singlespeed bug again so I built it up but set up the bars really short and tall and the bike was kind of fun for once. One other irritating aspect of the geometry popped up: the super steep seat tube meant my XC saddle hit the back of my thighs when I climbed out of the saddle. Solution: the WTB Koda.
The Koda is the first saddle I put any time on that has any kind of cutout action. I’ve always ridden very traditional saddles and haven’t had any comfort problems with them. But dang this saddle felt great! I noticed I could ride with my back flatter or something. I bought another and put it on the only frame I built this year, the latest iteration of my gravel bike, which flirted with a steepish seat angle to open my hips.
Around this time I discovered a cadre of bike fitters that were bored at the beginning of the pandemic and started podcasts. Their approaches to fitting was so much more than trying to fit numbers and was deeply based on what the body was doing. And all of them - Colby Pearce, Greg Choat, Chris Balser, and Neil Stansbury, swore by those SMP saddles. They explained how the SMP supports your pubic bone and lets you rotate your pelvis forwards. On one long gravel ride it then clicked that I had spent the last 35 years of riding rolling my hips back to try to unweight my soft tissue and sit on my sit bones. The Koda gave me room to get a straighter back and sit slighly forwards of my sit bones, but I wanted more, so that led to some SQLabs with the funky step (better), and then I capitulated and started grabbing SMPs and I ain’t going back even though they’re ugly and expensive.
Meanwhile, as part of the podcast binge I also kept hearing that saddles are chronically too high and riders can lose control of their feet across the bottom of the stroke, so I started experimenting and paying close attention and what do you know, my left foot wasn’t staying in contact and I was compensating with my right rectus femoris to “kick” the pedals across the dead spot. That overworked rec fem has been a chronic problem and now I know why. So my saddle came down 2cm probably by the end. My hips were super stable and planted and climbing power felt way better.
Of course it didn’t stop there. 2023 was the year of Short Cranks. Everyone kept talking about going shorter. But I’m pretty tall, and even the 20% rule which runs shorter than other equations puts me on 175s, which is what I ran everywhere except the singlespeed which had 180s. Back in the Golden Age of Singlespeed, I was sold on 180s, but at about that time Jeff Jones was blogging on going shorter. The general physics of it all suggests its all ratios so if you drop your crank length you can drop your gear to keep the force the same and your cadence goes up a little to compensate. So I did that and ran 170s with the same gain ratio for a year, and that year sucked. Climbing was much harder. I figured that the higher cadence meant you had to do more core work stabilizing from one power stroke to the other and that ended up wasting extra energy.
In the following years, I’d try 170s on my geared bikes every now and then but always hated them, something just felt wrong. But this year not only could I not escape the message, the numbers for what constituted short had shifted. It’s undeniable that 5mm out of 175mm is a tiny percentage and the short-crank-aware fitters were recommending you drop 10mm to really notice things. And after the lesson of “maybe you shouldn’t have tried a cutout saddle sooner even though you think you don’t need it” I figured I should give short cranks a second chance.
So I binged on eBay and AliExpress and added 165s, 160s, and 155s to the mix. I started with the 165s on my trail bike and they were… pretty good? Maybe the 170s were too close to the 175s, while the 165s were 1 gear’s worth of change on the cassette keeping the general feel the same? The biggest thing I noticed is that climbing loose stuff it seemed like I was making more, smaller “bets” on traction. I then tried the 160s and the 155s, but they felt too weird. While the 165s disappeared after 10 minutes, the shorter cranks felt unnervingly short.
In all this crankset swapping, my bikepacking bike ended up without cranks. I tossed on the 180s, figuring they’d be good for low cadence noodling around in the desert, but now the 180s felt like jumping over hurdles. I had trip coming up in a few days so I put on the 160s instead. This trip was a rendezvous at “Meteor Camp”, an annual meteor shower campout in the Black Rock. The other bikepackers met up in the morning to ride out, but I didn’t want to sit around in the heat all day so I rode out just after sunset. Riding across the flat playa in the dark there’s not much outside stimulus so there’s lots of room to listen to your body, and surprisingly it felt GOOD. I was flying and my legs just wouldn’t fatigue. The 160s felt normal, even natural. These same cranks felt dumb a week ago, and this is the part of the story where bikes were ruined for me and I’ve never been happier.
You see, I built the bikepacking frame with a 71 degree seat angle so you could be upright and balanced. This was counter to my gravel frames that had 74ish seat angles so I could get over the pedals and open up my hips. With the 160s I also opened up my hip angle. With the SMP I could flatten my back into the extra hip space, and I room to run the saddle slightly low to get good power and foot control without it it feeling “low” across the top of the stroke.
Thanks to my podcast crash course I had a good idea what was going on - I was using my glutes - a nice big durable muscle - now conveniently getting preloaded by my low flat rotated back. Pedaling wasn’t pushing with my quads so much as just thinking about moving my knees down. On the next trip, two days with bigger miles and elevations, I again felt like I could pedal all day. I kept pedaling away from my trip partner even though we’re usually well matched. I asked him at one point if he was feeling OK, and he quizzically replied “what do you mean, we’re making great time”.
Next question was how this could work on my gravel bike. I put the 155s on in place of 175s and it felt kind of dumb for an hour, but in scootching around something promising was there if I could get the position right. Based on the bikepacking bike I knew I had to move back and luckily the SMP has massive rails so it got slammed back and I dropped the stem length 2cm. The short cranks started to “click” as I fined-tuned things but there was a new problem: the bike now handled like shit with my weight slammed back. The bike was designed around a much more forwards position and didn’t have enough weight on the front end.
While riding it I was brainstorming how I could keep the weight distribution and stem length the same on a theoretical new frame with a slacker seat angle, when I realized if I could move the bottom bracket forwards I would get a slacker seat angle without significantly changing my weight distribution. That led to this:
Two months later: no regrets. Still riding it, still loving it.
I took it up a local climb that previous to the modifications I would have ridden on 175s with a 38 ring and 11-46 cassette. With the 155s, I never got around to dropping the front ring to compensate for the shorter cranks, plus the only cassette I had in the box is an 11-42. In other words, a 20% loss in leverage. I went up the climb and it felt like one of the easiest efforts I’ve ever put it on it.
I’m not sure I can go back. But now that means all my other frames have seat tube angles that feel too steep and quad-dominant. So I guess that means new fatbike, trail, and gravel frames for 2024. You keep learning, I guess.
So it’s been a “hollow bone” year. I’ve been riding bikes for almost 40 years, building frames for 20, arguing with bike nerds on the internet since USENET, visited titanium mills deep in China, and this year I feel like I’ve had to throw it all out. Bike geometry now is tiresome, I roll my eyes about every little 1/2 degree change. What’s interesting is the rider. And 2023 has been quite the ride.
I’m getting better at logging rides, and I’d guess I got 80% of my saddle time captured here. Most of the distance is from my 26km (round-trip) commute in the second half of year, and Peloton power zone sessions. I’ve added in weight training, so I’m less focused on distance and hours of saddle time and trying to round out my overall fitness. Am digging Strava to track my progress on my commutes and usual trails - it ingests stationary sessions and is agnostic to the hardware brand I’m using.
There were a bunch of fun mtb rides with friends on local trails, Hornby Island and Squamish. Highlight was an overnighter to the Galiano Island.
For 2024, I’m headed back to Twisp WA area for another Angels’ Staircase trail ride - first one since 2018. I’ll hit the Gulf Islands again in the spring for another overnighter.
Statistics. But on mobile you can’t go back a year so you’re stuck in 2024 now. On desktop its on the right sidebar on your profile and you can pick years from the drop down.
Hell yeah I do. Fuck tha haterz
(Mostly becuse I like see how many miles my consumables get)
Thanks for the tip. My high point for riding miles since I started using Strava was 2016 — over 4,500 miles. Ada was finally old enough that I could regularly go on overnights & my daily commute was 16 miles or so.
Since moving to MPLS I haven’t really busted out of 3,000 miles. 12 mile daily commute + few or no recreational rides for half the year + a distinct lack of topographical inspiration to ride has had an impact.
I spent years “crossing off” interesting looking destinations around Seattle and barely scratched the surface. Nothing like that here, unless I want to see corn/soybean field #4,687
I do. I use the smallest cheapest oldest garmin I can get.
Dammit I guess I’m shopping for short cranks. About to overhaul the MTB so now is as good a time as sny to try them out. Currently on 175s, your experience suggests at least 165s if not 160s, no?