2022 Was the Least I’ve Ridden in Years, and That’s OK
My Strava Year in Sport isn’t all that impressive.
About five years ago, when we were working together at VeloNews, my friend Fred Dreier explained his cycling goal for the new year. Evidently a few of our predecessors at VeloNews also followed this simple but counterintuitive maxim. The goal: Ride less this year than last year.
As someone who worked for a cycling publication, who loved training and racing, and whose social activities were mostly conducted in the saddle, this was a crazy concept.
They’re just statistics that tell you how far it was, not where you actually went.
However, as 2022 turned over to 2023, with the Strava “Year in Sport” humblebrags constantly popping up in my social media feed, I realized that Fred might have been crazy like a fox.
My own 2022 Strava Year in Sport is quite underwhelming. I got a cheery, hilariously off-key notification from Strava that I was halfway to my annual goal … In early December. But that is fine. They’re just statistics that tell you how far it was, not where you actually went. These metrics aren’t a measure of success, at least not for me. Let me explain why.
Everyone looks at it differently, but for me, the tally of hours is the key metric that matters most. And in that respect, 2022 was an all-time low, at least in the Strava era. I rode 359 hours, about 30% less than my 2017 total of 517 hours.
Five years ago, I rode the Haute Route Pyrenees, a six-day gran fondo through the mountains that span the border of France and Spain. That was one of the greatest weeks I’ve ever spent on a bike, well worth the time and effort needed to train for a 30-hour week of riding. It’s no surprise that I devoted so much time to riding in 2017. But these days, it’s nice to have some of that time back for other activities and interests.
Take it from me: You don’t have to ride more to enjoy riding more.
Plus, I’ve actually found ways to ride and train more efficiently. In fact, 2022 was similar to 2017 in a significant way. This September, I took on another difficult stage race in Europe, Appenninica, which is a seven-day cross-country mountain bike event in Italy. That was also nearly 30 hours of racing over one week. By my reckoning, it was far more difficult than Haute Route, given the unrelenting nature of mountain bike terrain.
I wasn’t contending for the podium by any means, but I was completely happy with my form and the results. I credit two things for preparing me for Appenninica: Zwift and a training plan from TrainerRoad. In both cases, I maximized my time on the bike with productive (and hard!) workouts.
Caveat: I can fall back on the thousands of miles in my legs, race days on my results sheet, and hours of silly little drills that refined my skills.
As you’d expect, my total mileage in 2022 was also pretty puny: 4,935 miles compared to my all-time high of 7,530 miles in 2016.
Apart from what I already covered — taking back some time for other activities and training more efficiently — I live in the mountains these days. A quick, 20-mile lunch spin on the plains has been a distant memory since we left Boulder proper in 2020. While I can’t achieve an arbitrary milestone on Strava, mountain living has given me an opportunity to explore trails and roads that are remote and unfamiliar. This has refreshed my enthusiasm for riding in a place that’s become quite familiar in the 17-odd years I’ve lived here.
And to be fair, the arduous, unavoidable climbs right out my door helped me prepare for Appenninica.
Now, don’t take this to mean I’m opposed to Strava. Honestly, I can’t live without it, and I’ve used the tracking app for 10 years, since before I even had a head unit to record rides.
And I know there are some caveats to my particular situation. I’m fortunate to have decades of experience on bikes. I can fall back on the thousands of miles in my legs, race days on my results sheet, and hours of silly little drills that refined my skills.
However, I think the fundamental concept has merit. Life in general can be more enjoyable with a bit less time in the saddle. Personally, I’ve used the extra hours to pursue new hobbies and passions, like working on my vintage Land Cruiser, being more handy around the house, skiing with my dad, and obsessing over motorcycles (yeah, yeah, I know that’s not too different from riding bikes).
If you want to keep logging massive hours on the bike in 2023, I wish you well. Go fast, have fun, and be safe. But, if you’ve got a nagging feeling of inadequacy, or some of your rides aren’t as fun as they used to be, take it from me: You don’t have to ride more to enjoy riding more.
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Well said; echoes my experience as well, although I’ve also mostly stopped using Strava altogether and it’s been great in a similar way. Something I would have thought completely unimaginable just a couple years back.
After my stupid year and now scaling back from it, I have re-discovered joy in the 30-40 mile ride. It is an absolute treasure where everything just seems... better. I look forward to riding less and enjoying more in 2023. Happy New Year, Spencer!