I should be cycling in France right now, riding through some incredible scenery, blogging every evening and working on another Biking France eBook or two. That was the plan.
I’m not, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions. I’m explaining, not complaining, because: Overall, I’m doing OK. A bit bored, but healthy and able to continue to do my freelance work. Millions of people around the world are a lot worse off than Susan and me. We’re lucky. I hope you are too.
Nevertheless, this is a cycling blog, so let’s talk about cycling in the Age of COVID.
It’s been my oasis of normalcy in a world gone mad. I’ve ridden almost every day the past four months, and just went past the 6,000-mile mark for the year. And yet, it’s been anything but a normal or even a good or rewarding year of cycling.
No group rides for you
There are several cycling clubs and groups here in central Ohio that I’m connected to that hold regular rides. They were postponed initially, then several started back up again a few months ago. My friend Jeff texted to invite me on a ride, writing: “We don’t draft and stay at least 6 feet apart when stopped at traffic lights, etc. If there’s a snack shop, we eat outdoors.”
It was tempting, but I’ve decided I’m just not going do any group rides this year. Too risky. I’ve been so careful for so many months and don’t want to have it all be for naught by catching it now. And passing to on to someone else. Plus, riding so far apart kind of spoils one of the joys of group rides: the chatting while riding.
Hopefully I’ll be able to get back into the group ride swing of things in 2021. It’s the light at the end of this interminable, dark tunnel.
The same old same old
From my house, I now ride the same three or four routes day after day after day. I know every house, tree and squirrel by heart. A little variety would be nice, but at least I’m riding. But damn, I’d give anything for a change of scenery.
Carry what you need
I used to occasionally stop at local convenience shops for a Gatorade or a snack on a long ride or on a hot day, but now … too risky. And so, I carry everything I need for a 40-mile or 45-mile ride. Which is about as far as I can go with two water bottles and a pocket full of Clif bars and fig bars.
I’m a bit leery, as I’m not sure if you can spread the COVID through them. It seems possible. There’s one, on the Ohio to Erie trail, that’s designed for water bottles, and pours downward, which means nobody – or their dog – can put their mouths and germs on it. It’s 34 miles from my house, so when I do a 68-mile or longer ride, this is the way I go.
I gotta go?
On a ride of 30 or more miles I’m gonna have to pee at least once.
There are parks, porta-johns and convenience stores here and there, and that’s where I used to go. Now? They make me nervous. Too many people touching too many things. Now, I map out my routes with trees and bushes and quiet, secluded spots in mind and do what they do in the Tour de France: A discreet nature break. It’s much safer.
The masked cyclist?
I’d say about 20 to 25 percent of the cyclists I see out there are wearing a mask. And, they all seem to look at me – and my mask-less face – with an accusatory sneer. Then again, since they’re wearing a mask, I might be imagining this.
I freelance for the local cancer hospital, and have talked to several doctors, some of whom cycle. I’ve asked several the “should I be wearing a mask” question. They all say: It’s OK to go mask-less for now when you ride by yourself. You’re outside and only close to other people for a very brief period of time. Its safe. But, stay tuned if things get worse.
I’m going to keep riding five or six days a week. For as long as the weather allows. I need it. Every day during the pandemic seems the same, and my daily ride breaks up the monotony of working from home and interviewing everyone via the phone or zoom instead of in person. When I’m out cycling, things seems more normal.
Cycling is my form of meditation. And, in these crazy, unsettling times, I need to meditate more than ever. Cycling is when I feel the most connected to my body, to the beating of my heart, to the world around me. I was hit by an intoxicated, hit-and-run driver back in 2013 while on a ride, and suffered a fractured skull and traumatic brain injury (TBI). I still have several of my TBI symptoms (less so now) and, ironically, cycling is the best way to help me quiet down my brain and reduce my anxiety level. I need it.
And so, I’ll keep riding. And hope that we figure this damn thing out soon and we can all get back to normal. OK, I gotta go … time for a ride.