Friday Group Ride #494

Friday Group Ride #494

We woke to steady drizzle on this n-teenth day of the zombie apocalypse. The dog went out the backdoor but didn’t leave the porch, preferring to sit quietly and watch the falling rain. A raw wind stirred the trees and dampened the spirit.

But you know, screw that.

This isn’t a time for self-pity, inertia, or freeform catastrophism. In fact, those things are the enemy of health and progress (although they are admittedly intoxicating). As an introvert, I’m feeling the negative effects of social isolation far less than many of my friends, but even I have seen how maintaining connections and imparting structure on my days has a positive impact on my frame of mind.

What we are watching is a long-form tragedy, people falling ill, some dying, and I don’t want to minimize that in any way. This thing will touch us all in one way or another before it’s substantively over. We will all suffer consequences. But I’ve seen my father and brother both die in the last 9 months. I’ve helped my mother through chemotherapy. I’m living in the shit storm, even independent of the pandemic, and I frankly don’t give a shit.

Good things are happening, too.

I’m writing more, which feels great. I’m reading more. I’m spending more time talking with my wife and kids, more time with my dog in the woods. Far flung friends have been calling me on the phone. TO TALK. My wife has her job still, and we’re spending our money on things that support our community. We are thinking about that community more. We are exercising. We are dreaming of future travel. And I’m building a new gravel bike, a sanity machine.

Of all my friends, the cyclists seem to be faring the best. They’re out and about, mostly on their own or in pairs, in off hours. They’re tuning up their bikes or shopping for new ones, now that they finally have the time to research. I have 3-4 friends or neighbors currently texting me questions about bikes they’d like to buy. I think it’s not just commerce or need either. I think people are realigning their priorities and mostly coming to the conclusion that they want to ride more in whatever phase of life comes next.

This week’s Group Ride asks what new structure you’ve added to your daily life to preserve sanity and forward progress. Have you been reprioritizing riding? Have you spent time daydreaming of (or web searching for) a new bike? Or have you succumbed to the collective mood of fear and retreated into some smaller version of yourself? If so, what do you think the way out looks like?

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  1. Jeff vdD

    Great series of questions. And nice header pic … solid climb to get up there.

    As a cyclist and an introvert, and one who was fortunate to sneak in a getaway vacation during Bonkers Week (Mar 14-22), I haven’t been hit particularly hard. And thus far, no family members and only one friend with a confirmed case, and last I checked, he was on the mend.

    1. REPRIORITIZING RIDING: No, and yes. My winter training plan (Tue and Thu morning on the trainer) is unchanged. Fewer outdoor rides, and because I’m only riding solo, they tend not to be for as long (also in part because I’m temporarily limited to MTB. Plus, trails that are more crowded yet not suited for social distancing make off-road a challenge.

    2. NEW BIKE DAYDREAMING: No. Sure, I’m reading the reviews of gravel and MTB bikes, but not retreat, just no real need and no real lust.

    3. THE WAY OUT: Tough one. I don’t think we know. My spring and summer was full of gravel rides and van-camping plans. Maybe I’ll do some of them solo, but missing out on sharing with friends loses a lot. My fall was full of CX. Is it optimistic to hope that CX will happen as planned? Or fantasy? Are we in for 6, 12, 18 months of this? (Sorry, I know you’re the one that’s supposed to be answering the questions!)

  2. Staying anonymous this time

    I’ve been working from home and trying to maintain a similar routine. I virtually meet a colleague for coffee each morning. Work my usual hours. Take my lunchtime walk. I’ve lost the YMCA so I’ve been sleeping in instead of getting that exercise. I’m two days into my #30daysofbiking goal. I’m shit for productivity on work stuff, though I keep plugging away. I’m stiffening up because I’m in my desk chair for far too long. We’re managing. So, my non-work routine is shot.

    I’ve been lusting after a new ride for a couple of years now. Thinking combo Gravel/Travel bike. I’ve done a little research. I’m not spending any money, though, until I know for sure I’ll be gainfully employed when this is over in 6/12/18 months. So, back-burner the bike lust. Front burner finding motivation.

    That all sounds like retreat, now that I write it out. What’s the way out? Positivism and hope. I’m not aware of anyone I know being infected. Though I have heard that two colleagues have it, I don’t know their names and they’re supposedly getting better. I have hope that the business will recover and be healthy through summer and fall. I’m worried about next winter but, with a good summer, I can prepare – TP anyone? My personal life is in a transition and was before the Pandemic hit. I think that tints my glasses as well. When things are sorted, HOPEfully, there will be more of the positivism I feel I currently lack. And, then, maybe there will be an opening for that bike lust to return!

  3. Michael

    I have been taking advantage of the fact that most meetings have a later starting hour now, so it leaves me time to go for a run or ride rollers before I have any appointments (all done virtually from home). I do get dressed, but I don’t worry about whether the colors clash. Today was the first day I rode my cross bike off through the forest. Still a lot of mud, but it was frozen on the way out and only beginning to thaw on the way back, so only one muddy stretch in the last 100 m before the neighborhood pavement. A lovely way to start the day! So, perhaps that is one answer, Robot – the getting out running or riding is something I am able to prioritise right now. A friend in Dublin said he is riding 2 km max from the house, so he does every imaginable loop. We are not there yet.

    I just had a new bike made, a world tourer capable of riding with any amount of weight I am capable of riding with, and tire sizes from 32 mm to 2.5″, with couplers and mechanical discs and brazens for lots of things. So, I am not jonesing for a new bike, just waiting for this to come back from eh painter and then hoping we are eventually allowed to go on long tours again.

    Coping mechanisms: virtual cocktails with friends, long whatsapp calls across the sea, tomes over email. Glad at least my daughter lives within a mile… We’ll get out of this, and many will re-assess life. Like you, Robot, many people are thinking of their community more. Of course, others are hoarding and thinking a bit more separate than community, so I suppose it could go either way.

    1. Shane Glackin

      Your friend in Dublin is ignoring the actual government advice, which allows *brief* exercise within 2km, not to take every loop he can for hours on end. I suspect he knows this perfectly well, too.

      And the rest of you, riding in pairs; unless you share a home with your riding partner, for the love of God, stop. You are breathing heavily, you are sweating, you are drafting easily within 2m, you are 100% exposing each other to potential infection. Stop. I know it’s more fun, so is going out and living your life as normal. It’s not normal. It kills people. Stop.

  4. Quentin

    riding more? This week, yes. It’s too early to tell if it’s a trend.

    thinking about new bikes? Yes, but I have for a while now. As a long-time roadie I still haven’t gone tubeless on my gravel bike because I’m reluctant to mess with what I know. But, a recent flat on a gravel ride led me to thinking about tubeless, which led me to thinking about a new set of wheels, which led to thoughts about a new bike. I’m sure this line of thinking will be familiar to many readers of this column.

    The way out: right now my take is that we need a month or two just to see if we can get past the peak of the epidemic, and then the path forward may be a bit clearer than it is now. When we’re past the peak, at some point it might be possible to incrementally relax some restrictions, but I don’t see life returning fully to normal this summer. In cycling terms, that means: no Giro or Tour, and maybe a 50/50 chance of some kind of modified Vuelta. I hate to say even that might be too optimistic, but I’ve got to hold out hope for something.

  5. Hautacam

    Like Robot my world was turned upside down by other family matters before the virus hit. It’s one of many hurdles we have to get over in my house, but not the only one and not the biggest. I don’t mean to minimize it; it has already killed people around me. But I am grateful that if our family plays by the rules we *should* be ok. My riding is minimal but a pleasant and welcome relief — and entirely solo. I hope all of you RKP folks are doing ok and stay healthy.

  6. Shawn

    The serendipity of time: spending it with my older children who’d otherwise be studying in their dorms far away; puzzles with the family; in the kitchen making real food; that pile of books; riding when I can, wrenching when I can’t; being a maker of things; being where I belong rather than where I have to be.

  7. David B

    I’m brazing a fresh stem for the (also made here) gravel bike to tune my position a little better. Maybe whan it’s done it will stop raining and make it more pleasant to try. We all have to stay busy, and feed our brains!

  8. Matt C

    I don’t see any way we can go back to “normal” until there is a vaccine, and all the smart people say that’s 12+ months at best. Even if as a country if we ALL truly quarantined ourselves for 3 weeks and stopped the spreading in it’s tracks, you still can’t go back to normal, as it only takes ONE person traveling into the country with it and it starts all over again. The scary part is that you don’t know who’s got it, so that even if we were to stop it entirely in the country, unless EVERY traveler coming into the country is automatically quarantined (and I mean detained , not ‘self quarantine’) then everybody in the country who hasn’t had it yet is at risk. Sorry to be all doom and gloom…they call me “Mr. Sunshine” at work. But I am big on the social distancing…I ride alone… don’t really see any risk there. And being as there is exponentially less traffic right now, even that threat (of being hit by a car) is WAY down! I’d say it’s less risk than ever right now riding a road bike (Normally I’m much more of a mt biker just for that reason). . Anyhoo…just my 2 cents worth (however I don’t live in a big “city”…so have no idea how that would be).

    1. Stephen Barner

      Matt’s post got me thinking that this must be a “drafting free” year. Matt is correct that the only way out of this problem is a vaccine and, since that’s not going to happen this year, there’s no way to stay safe while hanging on someone else’s wheel. We’re going to have to put the kibosh on all pack and paceline events this year, I’m sad to say.

      I’m looking forward to the salt getting washed off the roads so that I can ride my new bike: a 1966 Fejus Professional that truly is new, since apparently no one has ever ridden it. 49 – 52 rings and a 14 – 26 freewheel–climbing gears for that era. Real men didn’t need anything lower.

    2. Jeff vdD

      Stephen, 52-49 chain rings? Wow! That reminds me of the 10-speed cassette that Jens Voigt allegedly ran:


    3. Stephen Barner

      Yes, Jeff. I thought about trying to find a suitable, smaller ring (pretty much impossible for the old Campagnolo 151 mm bolt circle), but running the gear ratios revealed that there are only two choices, a 44 x 52 with a straight block freewheel, or the half-step setup it has. Them’s mountain gears for the old-time “hard men.”

  9. Parker

    In terms of new structure, my wife and I now open food and other deliveries on the porch before wiping items with disinfectant and then washing our hands. Her idea. Am also fortunate her background involves what’s previously struck me as somewhat obsessive hygiene about indoor surfaces. If we escape, she gets the credit. I keep disposable gloves in the car for pumping gas or fetching prescriptions.

    Since I’m retired and normally ride solo, there’s been no reprioritizing of riding during this health crisis. Well, except for emphasizing Padraig’s 16 March reminder about immune systems as responding best to tempo and lesser efforts.

    No daydreaming about a new bike for me. But did notice that three of the four other soloists I saw on yesterday’s ride were using aero bars, as did one of the two guys riding side by side. I’m with Shane Glackin above in thinking we should encourage solo riding.

    Yes, I’ve a nagging mood of fear. The bright side is that it makes sheltering easier than it’d otherwise be. That includes helping to postpone till September the meetings of two semi-formal monthly discussion groups in which I’m active. Six of the twenty members of one tried a ZOOM meeting last week. It wasn’t nearly as engaging as our regular meetings; felt like a retreat from them.

    Ways out? Among those suggested above, I especially like treks in nearby parks, nature preserves, and botanical gardens. Perhaps, where legal or otherwise safe, with a toke’s assistance.

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