Friday, April 24, 2020

ride solo. please.

Dear bikey friends:

There is still so much that we don't know about the coronavirus.
And it will take a long time -- perhaps as much as a year or even TWO -- before a viable vaccine might be developed.
So we need to settle into a new normal that includes taking extra precautions.
Along with frequent handwashing, serious distancing from people you don't live with, and limiting visits to essential places like stores and such...

If you choose to ride a bicycle during the shutdown, you need to ride alone.

There really is no wiggle room around this.

First of all, if you ride with your kids, they need to be old enough and disciplined enough to hold their line and to ride close to you at all times. Kids are known for wanting to race ahead and then let their parents catch up. They like to swerve wide, usually without warning and often while they're looking somewhere else besides in front of them.
You simply can't let them do this kind of riding right now.
If they can't handle more disciplined, careful riding, then they are too young to ride their own bikes and need to be on a tag-along or in a trailer. Or you need to find something else to do outside that keeps them safer.

Secondly, riding in a "socially distant" group where every rider is somehow spaced six or more feet apart is delusional. Pedestrians are walking in the middle of the street to avoid getting too close to other pedestrians on the sidewalk. Kids on foot are having the same issues with staying close to their folks as they would on their bikes. And on many quieter residential streets there's not enough room to stay safely distant.

If you're riding in a group you also run the risk of catching someone else's vapors from heavy breathing and sneezing. A mask isn't a guarantee.For now, ride only with the people you live with.
And if the people you live with don't ride, ride alone.
Solo riding all the time is hard.
There's no one to talk with to help shorten the miles.
There's no one to share lunch with, or to help you fix a flat.

Solo riding in this time of COVID-19 is also risky if you try to stick with you pre-virus riding habits and goals.
Mental and emotional fatigue has taken its toll on all of us and we are all processing the challenging, difficult differentness of this time. We are grieving for the way things were only weeks ago. And we are struggling with the uncertainty of how long this could actually last -- and how things might be permanently changed when it's safe to come back outside and embrace our loved ones again.

So if your old norm was kicking out a 20-mile ride, stopping for lunch and restrooms along the way, that's not going to happen now. And it shouldn't happen. Because the whole point of staying home is to flatten the curve and keep everyone safe -- and a live.
So adjust your riding goals and habits.

Recognize that a shorter ride closer to home will make more sense. Recognize that public restroom access is basically done for now, and if you need a bathroom you will have to turn around and go home to take care of business.
Recognize that your lunch option for now will mean a sack lunch prepared at home. (And of course, if you pack it in, pack it out.) There shouldn't be any stopping at a convenience store to grab something just because you have a hankering for a Charleston Chew. That is not the point of having shops stay open! The shops are open to allow people to buy necessities they need, like milk and toilet paper. Don't take risks by taking advantage of the situation.

Riding solo and closer to home means you need to adjust your mindset about why you ride. These shorter, slower rides can get stale, true; but if you remain open to possibility they can also be a way to slow down and observe the life in your neighborhood on a micro-level.

I notice flowers a lot more on my rides these days. Little riots of color pop out with every dogwood flower and iris. Trees are leafing out into their rich, green fullness in preparation for the longest, chlorophyll-making days of the year. Birds are nesting now and before too long their eggs will hatch and you'll hear the sounds of their babies overhead. If you live in the city, notice how quiet it is when the streets are emptier; breathe cleaner air and marvel at bluer skies. Listen closely for the whrrr of your freehub, and the hum of tires on pavement.

Adjusting our expectations during this time can give us time and space to calm down and recharge while we ride. And that's a good thing.

So please, please ride alone, slow down and stay safe.
So that one day we can all ride together again.


Unknown said...

Some good thoughts here. Gawd, I don't remember the last time I had a hankerin' for a Charleston Chew! ;-)

What I've been doing to keep my limited-distance solo riding fresh is to seek out places off the beaten path. They don't necessarily have to be obscure places, just places you don't normally go. There's a lot of options in a city the size of Portland.


bikelovejones said...

Thanks, Shawn!
I love your work and if I had a million bucks I'd commission you to create a beautiful bike-happy mural. Meanwhile, I'll content myself by subscribing to your tint art zines.
My next ride goal: begin exploring more alleyways and side streets marked "Roadway Not Improved."

Happy riding!

Jay said...

Very smart and well written piece. I find now that road riding, given less traffic, is much safer than trail riding, given the sudden influx of people. I also ride my single speed commuter bike. It is intentionally not as efficient as a sleek roady type bike. So more energy (to get rid of the nervous energy) to propel forward, and more likely to observe all around me too.
Best to you,
Jay. Demarest, NJ

anniebikes said...

All good points, Beth. I'm very happy to be living in a smaller city as generally, we have more space to spread out. But it's interesting/scary to see masses - normally only during summer that would include tourists - descending on our waterfront trail. It's the faster, non-bell ringing crowd - that's not taking the SD seriously, so I've avoided the MUP for less crowded areas. I'm riding more roads, not my usual preference.