Loving bikes in the time of coronavirus

Does cycling matter to you right now?

Cyclist with face covered

At times like these our little bike hobby can seem a bit trivial. I’ve written acerbic columns in the past about such esoterica as my least favourite bottom bracket standard and the evils of poorly thought-out cable routing

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Big issues, no doubt, but I’m not exactly expanding the realms of human consciousness with these essays and, in light of recent world events, writing pithy screeds on such topics feels a little off-key.

Ultimately, they are trivial concerns and I have to concede that nobody goes to their grave wishing they’d spent more time reading bicycle websites.

We’re lucky in some ways as cyclists. While a great many activities are likely to be severely curtailed by coronavirus in the coming weeks and months, simply going for a bike ride on your own surely poses minimal risks to yourself and others.

Riding offers the chance to escape the madness of the current situation, and it gives you the headspace to process things at a time when you’re otherwise likely to be cooped up indoors, compulsively checking your feeds for more bad news.

At the same time, taking unnecessary risks feels particularly foolhardy at a time when health services are being pushed to their limits, and it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that much more draconian measures will be imposed here in the UK and elsewhere, potentially putting a stop to all cycling. Some countries have already, it would seem, gone that far.

Thinking about it only makes it worse

If you decide riding isn’t the best idea right now but you’re desperate for a cycling fix to take your mind off things, there are plenty of ways to distract yourself. 

If you own an indoor trainer and hate yourself, you could do intervals and stare at the wall. Or try Zwift. Your call.

You could plan your next bike build or try to cobble something together from the bits you’ve already got lying around. 

There’s a lot to be said, after all, for slightly rubbish bikes built to suit your peculiarities with component choice steered by happenstance. I’m looking at you, bike hoarders.

Go on, build something dumb
Go on, build something dumb.
Matthew Allen / Immediate Media

You can stay home and shop if finances allow it. The economic consequences of coronavirus are likely to be catastrophic, so if you feel like throwing your favourite bike retailers a bone, they will doubtless thank you. 

That’s assuming the lights are on and anyone is home, of course. There are no guarantees at this point. 

If spending money is off the table but you need to tickle your bike tech pickle, there’s nearly always scope to rationalise the kit you already have and become a more rounded, self-actualised cyclist. Or something. 

I, for example, have a mini project in the works to address my propensity for pre-ride time-wasting (I want to call it “faff” but our inimitable editor, George, has banned this term due to overuse and potential misunderstandings). 

My proposed solution is a series of checklists for different types of riding, which I’ll stick to the wall of my garage. I ride road, mountain and gravel bikes and have a different (but overlapping) set of requirements for each discipline. 

Retro style mountain bike in woods
Sometimes it’s not even immediately obvious which discipline I’m engaged in. Is this gravel or mountain biking? Who knows?
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media

I’m forever forgetting to pack the correct sized spare inner tube, or getting a mile up the ride before realising I have no lights. I frequently end up tip-toeing into the house in my cycling shoes before a ride to grab my sunglasses, terrified lest I leave cleat marks on my wooden floorboards.

I’m hopeful that an aviation-style checklist might put an end to these woes and let me leave the house without enraging myself. We shall see.

What are you doing with your time in this brave new world of whole-nation lockdowns and toilet paper hoarding? 

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Do you care about bikes right now? It’s completely okay if you don’t. Stay safe out there.