It is a long-standing tradition in one of the many online forums (fora?) where I prowl to compile annual lists of things that were tried each year and found to be acceptable -- nay, even likable. While these lists often focus on stuff (and I have a list of just stuff forthcoming) there's room for ideas, experiences, and whatnot. So, without further ado, here -- in no particular order -- is my compilation of general things that made me smile in 2012.
OWNING A GO-FAST BIKE: I actually took possession of my Raleigh Clubman late in 2011, but she didn't see real riding until 2012, so I'm counting it. After several years of fat-tired all-rounders (pshawing and harumphing all the while at those "one-trick-pony" road bikes), I finally put skinny tires under my wide arse again. And it was good. Sure, 700x28 with fenders isn't exactly cutting edge racer stuff, but still. Felt nice. And fast. And not uncomfortable or one-trick-ponyish at all. (Disclaimer: Calling anything pedaled by me a "go-fast" bike is probably grounds for pants on fire.)
TANDEM HAMMERING: The tandem (and tandeming in general) was nothing new, but my stoker lost a jaw-dropping 50-plus pounds in the last year or so. The result? The tandem got a massive upgrade in power/weight ratio with no extra effort from me. We did long rides, we did fast rides, we did long fast rides. From the captain's chair, it felt like astronaut training... I swore my face-skin was being pushed to the back of my head. If I ever drop the 25 pounds of bonus features I'm carrying, we may have to put bigger gears on that thing.
QUASI-MODERN BIKE TECHNOLOGY: With the new go-fast(er) bike came an influx of non-retro parts... threadless headset, STI, external-bearing bottom bracket, modern crankset, blah blah blah. While my decidedly Luddite internal monologue again wanted to pshaw and harumph these supposed advancements, I have to say that (with the exception of a quickly-toasted Tiagra BB), they have all performed admirably so far. It's also nice to be able to walk into a bike shop and get a replacement part that isn't a freaky "do they even make that any more?" special order -- though given the speed of planned obsolescence in the bike industry, that should last for about two more months. (Aside: The fact that I'm calling threadless headsets and STI -- two breakthroughs from the grunge era -- "modern" should tell you just how far behind the curve I am.)
MAKING VAGUELY MUSICAL NOISE: All the bikers in the house are shouting "digression!" at me, but one of the things that made me happy in 2012 was the time I spent rebuilding my bass-player calluses. I haven't actually shared this "gift" with anyone (save my long-suffering spouse) or attempted to perform with anyone else, but it felt good to knock the dust off a few musical synapses that hadn't fired since the last century.
THE DREADED LYCRA: I've been a baggy-shorts guy pretty much since I became a chubby desk jockey. However, with the purchase of the go-slightly-faster bike (see above), I figured it might be time to pull the old sausage casings out of storage, at least for the occasional longer ride (alone, in complete darkness, where there's no chance of anyone seeing the abomination of me in Lycra). It didn't take long to remember why I used to wear that stuff. I'm still a baggy-shorts guy for most of my riding, but if I know I'm going to put in a long and slightly faster day in the saddle, I reach for the girdle. If I ever become that guy who clomps around the farmer's market on his cleat covers in full kit with his RAGBRAI jersey stretched over his beer belly, take me out back and shoot me.
Next up, the bike-related products that I added to my quiver (and found good) in 2012.