Cycling During A Pandemic

“May you live in interesting times,” is an old Chinese curse that I thought might be appropriate to this post.  I wasn’t sure if this was truly a Chinese curse and I didn’t want to impart incorrect information to you, Dear Reader, so I did some actual research. I’ve learned that nobody really knows where this phrase comes from, but its probably not from China. So, sorry about that, China.

I think it’s still a good phrase to ponder. These are most definitely “interesting” times.

For me, one of the first indications that Covid-19 was serious was when the Tour of UAE was cancelled. Most Americans (including Your Humble Author) aren’t avid professional cycling fans, but I knew enough about these things to understand a major disruption when I saw one. My friends jokingly talked about “a couple of Italian bicyclists” who tested positive in Abu Dhabi and I explained that this was actually quite a big deal. Then, like dominoes, the ensuing races cancelled. Finally, The Big One – the Tour de France – caved, placing the economics of the entire sport in jeopardy.

Shortly after professional sports shut down came the stay at home orders. My thoughts turned to local cycling events – charity rides and tours – all of which had announced cancellations or postponements. Tour operators are scrambling to salvage something of the season.  My email box is full of suggestions for the late summer and fall.  I wish all of them well.  If you haven’t been on a bicycle tour, you need to think about doing one when this eases up.

To pass the time, there is always television and the internet.  Where would we have been if this happened in 1990?  The mind boggles.  One of my favorite diversions has been watching the Tour de Quarantine, which is chock-full of comedic genius.  The “race” is now over, but you can find all 14 exciting stages right here.

Things in Northern Virginia have been far easier on cyclists than many parts of the world. Apart from an admonishment to maintain social distancing and to avoid activities of more than ten people, things remain largely the same for the average recreational cyclist.  Group rides are gone, except for the occasional gang of five or six scofflaws. Bicycles are (shockingly) considered essential, so the local bike shop is still open, carefully monitoring the number of customers allowed inside.  There’s curbside service for those ordering parts/accessories and you can drop off your bike curbside to have a mechanic work on it for you.  With over 30 million Americans now unemployed, its good to see them hanging in there.

When the parks closed, the trails inside those parks were left open. On one pleasant day in April, my wife and I cycled into Manassas Regional Park to enjoy the bluebell flowers that bloom there every spring. With cars banned from the park, most of the thousands of people normally there were not willing to walk the 2+ miles needed to get to the flowers. We had the place largely to ourselves.

Pandemic Manassas
  It’s been ten years and counting for the Specialized hybrid

And with most folks staying at home, there are fewer cars on the roads. This, of course, is a welcome development for someone who likes riding on roads. With the number of people walking/running on local trails WAY up, it’s nice to go onto the roads and not worry (too much) about fighting with cars.

It’s an odd atmosphere these days and the trails are no different than grocery stores and parking lots.  For the most part, people keep their distance.  Some are wearing clothes almost as safe as a hazmat suit, while others make no changes at all.  There are a few rule breakers, gathering together in outside settings.  Their numbers will increase as the waiting changes from weeks to months.


Pandemic WOD
Action shot on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail

Through all of my rides, I am very mindful that many people aren’t nearly as fortunate as I. In places like New York City, San Francisco, Italy, France, Spain, and many other places the simple act of getting on a bicycle outdoors is not possible. Here’s hoping the times we live in become a little “less interesting” and life returns to something approaching normalcy very soon.

Fun Blog Update!

I hope you are enjoying the new look to the blog. In a development that may be of interest only to myself, I’ve created a new page which captures most of my rides away from my home in the Washington, DC, area. It’s called Cycling Destinations. You can find it by going to the blog’s menu or just clicking on the highlighted name in this paragraph. Enjoy!

12 thoughts on “Cycling During A Pandemic

  1. I’d just like to reiterate how important it is to take a bike tour when this is all over. Full disclosure: I own a small stake (okay, 50%) in a bike tour company.

    Glad to see that you can ride outside and that the roads are safer than usual, Steve. Also, thanks for the new word – scofflaw!

    1. You’re very welcome, Gerry! And for added fun, I looked up French translations: contrevenant (nm), fraudeure (nm), and fraudeuse (nf). I have no idea if this is a good translation. Please try it out on the locals and let me know how it works!

      1. I’m going to add it to my repertoire when I am allowed to teach English again, hopefully in the fall. If you have any more old-timey words, let me know!

    1. From over here in the New World, it appears Britain is under one set of rules. Does Scotland have any leeway in implementing stay at home orders?

  2. Riding here in Northeast PA is only slightly different during this time. A lot of people are riding in NYC and surrounding suburbs as well. Things will get better eventually. I’m not sure they’ll go back to the normal we knew, but we will move on from this at some point.
    Thanks for a great read!

    1. I’m seeing increasing fatigue with being cooped up, as if to say, screw it just give it to me already! I have way too many travel plans for things not to get back to normal at some point. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Here the traffic is MUCH less than normal making cycling nicer on the Oregon coast The best spots to see the ocean are closed, but the gravel bike gets me places cars can’t.

    It IS an interesting time for sure.

  4. I’m really glad cycling is still allowed here in Germany — keeping proper distance, of course.

      1. It’s anybody’s guess what the situation will be next autumn. My personal rule is not to book anything that I can’t cancel, if the need arises.

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