I’ll be honest. At first I didn’t think my relationship with cycling would change dramatically during this time of physical distancing and COVID-19. After all, I’ve worked from home for more than 20 years, ride alone often, and though I love racing and events, I was feeling burned out on a relentless schedule of both for a while now.
Well it turns out, I was wrong. For the first time ever, I didn’t feel like riding at all. For a few weeks, I pushed myself out the door because my mental health depends on it. But my heart wasn’t in it. So I started doing something I never do—I put in a single earbud and listened to podcasts on my rides. At some point, it occurred to me that the audio entertainment was a way to distract me from what I was keenly missing: the process.
三九电影网I’m goal- and process-oriented. I love cycling, but the process of training and preparing is a big part of what excites me about getting in the saddle and turning pedals. More than ever, I love cycling for the mental clarity it provides, and I’m enjoying stopping and taking photos more often. But the deeper we get into this thing, the more I appreciate what we had and will be all the more grateful when we finally get it back.
Here’s how others on the Bicycling staff and in the professional cycling industry ranks are feeling about what cycling means to them now.
, Former World Tour Pro, Gravel Racer
I feel like social distancing has become a good test of what someone’s motivation is toward the bike. For me, it’s been completely reinvigorating. Through my entire career, from collegiate ranks through the pros, I embraced training alone. Squeezing in a ride between classes or having training rides that were so busy with intervals that it was often impossible to train with others, it was just often easier to go it alone. Now with a calendar facing a potentially nebulous future for events, I realize that my motivation to ride is simply that: to embrace the ride. I’m not training for results; it’s a way to enjoy the means themselves rather than a means to an end. I appreciate and understand people who are forced to train indoors or who don’t enjoy the process of riding in social isolation. But with roads relatively so quiet from a lack of traffic, it’s hard not to embrace the peacefulness that comes with the solo ride.
, Elite XC Mountain Bike and Cyclocross Racer
三九电影网These past few weeks have been unexpectedly challenging for me. I have felt scattered, frustrated, and I have wasted a lot of time judging myself harshly for not being okay. In my mind, there are many reasons to be okay: I can work from home, I am healthy, and I have more time to sleep and ride bikes. Yet, as an engineer, I’ve been laser-focused on seeking an explanation—why do I feel so unsettled? The truth is, these past few weeks have been different.
“Different” has always carried a negative sting, but that’s just a construct born out of my love for habit and certainty. Language is funny in that way. So I’ve been working on embracing “different” and reshaping the word’s connotation in my life, using cycling as my change agent. “Different” now means finally learning how to build a GPS route and exploring new local gravel roads. It means buying a set of flat pedals and shoes without cleats (gasp!) and refining my mountain biking skills in my backyard. It means experimenting with new foods for fuel while training, something I always avoid once race season begins. It means slowing down during a time when life would have been ramping up with travel and racing. Because of cycling, “different” is starting to feel a bit more inviting and a lot less unsettling, like pursuing opportunity.
, Test Editor, Former Olympic Track Cyclist
It’s pretty simple for me. Riding is my release, it’s how I process thoughts both good and bad. I don’t have to commit conscious energy to the physical act of riding a bike, so it frees me up to let my mind go. I can be a passenger in the world of my mind, going along for the ride wherever it takes me. I don’t force my thoughts, rather take note of what bubbles up, what my mind gets stuck on. Sometimes it’s a word, sometimes a phrase that runs on a loop as I ride. Sometimes I come home with clarity, but not always. But I always come home with a postworkout high and more insight into what is actually bugging me and what is just noise. And I can’t deny the satisfaction of the postride beer(s). That said, you don’t need to ride to achieve the same thing. You can get to the same place with anything from knitting to yard work to running and riding.
., Department of Health and Human Services, Competitive Cyclist
Back when things were the usual battle rhythm, I had my entire summer planned—races paid for, travel booked, saving my precious Annual Leave for stage races and adventures weekend to weekend. My bike served as both my transportation to and from work daily (no matter the conditions) as well as an outlet for travel, fun, and adventure. Now that we are teleworking, races are canceled and parks are closing, my thoughts about my bike are very different.
The bike is no longer my competition machine. I have no races to look forward to, meaning there’s no reason to stay in shape, so it has become something I only do purely because it is so darn fun. And if I don’t feel like riding, there’s no reason for me to convince myself to get out there in crappy weather because I have to “stick to my training.” It’s purely a vessel for fun and stress relief and there’s no pressure whatsoever, which is honestly wonderful. Also, my relationship with my partner was very centered on races and where we would ride, but now we get to focus on the other parts of our life, confirming that it’s not just a relationship out of convenience or based on one common hobby. It feels like life is difficult in some ways, but my relationship with my friends, my partner, and my bike is healthier than ever.
, Pro Mountain Bike and Gravel Racer
三九电影网The Mid South race [March 13-14] left me drained physically, mentally, and emotionally, both from the effort to get through those conditions and all the conflicted emotions I had surrounding it. I took a little break, but then dove right back into training as I normally would for the next race. But there was no next race. After a while, I was like, “What am I doing?” So my coach and I agreed to treat this time as extended base building—I can push it with my strength training and ride as long as I want when I want. I’m really enjoying the process again. I’m mountain biking more because I don’t need to be on the road getting volume, which allows me to push my off-road skills. I’ve also realized that my relationship with the bike has been very narrow—trying to optimize performance for a specific type of bike riding. It’s a necessary part of my job, but such a narrow slice of what the bike can offer. So instead of being crazy focused on all the little details I generally need to focus on to maximize performance, I’m taking a step back and really enjoying simple rides like taking the bike path to pick up take-out dinner in my street clothes. This pandemic has been an interesting magnifying glass on what those little moments can really mean.
Pro Mountain Bike and Gravel Racer
It’s not that self-quarantine and COVID have drastically changed my life. I’ve always worked from home and done a lot of solo riding. However [suddenly], my coffee didn’t seem so enticing; my social media filled me with anxiety and FOMO. Every time I got on the bike, I wondered what I “should” be doing. Deep breaths were becoming harder. Why do I not want to do every at-home workout or chore I see? Then it hit me: I was scared, a little anxious and sad, and not giving myself enough grace during this time period.
I needed to recognize the adversity in my life (all our lives), and use my bike as a tool to deal with it. Life just isn’t normal right now. Just because we work from home does not mean that we are able to do multiple workouts a day and century rides alone every weekend. This is a time to be compassionate with ourselves, and I am using my bike to do just that. It’s not about the power I’m putting out on the bike, it’s simply about being able to pedal out some stress. Some days that might mean heavy legs, no motivation, and a shorter ride. Other days, the pedals can bring an outlet for my feelings, an escape from all my fears, and a feeling of hope. This time period in life is a lesson in patience, gratitude, hope, and solidarity.
, Former World Tour Pro, Gravel Racer
I’m in an odd spot in that cycling is my livelihood, so in the absence of racing, I am both not able to do my job and struggling to find motivation to adhere to a training regime without the carrot of a goal in the near future. I guess this has made me take a more holistic approach to the bike. I am trying to provide fun and alternative content to followers, to foster stoke of two wheels and to counterbalance the drama in global news. Secondly, the bike has become more of a form of mediation for me. I am getting out on solo rides, often without a plan, where I can clear my mind of all the mental shrapnel. Bikes are great company for going solo.
, Former Pro Road Racer, Gravel Racer
Cycling is my expression, meditation, and release. I learn something worthwhile about myself on each ride. It is therapy on two wheels, and it sparks creativity and ignites imagination. The current time has taught me more than ever about what inspires me and what I value most. It isn’t about events, training, or superfluous stuff; it is connection, health, love, and sharing those things with others, even if that sharing looks different right now. I am fortunate to still be able to ride my bike outside and find connection within myself and nature. For the safety of myself and others, I am limiting longer rides to stay closer to home. I miss my long group adventure rides with a bakery and brewery destination. I miss the hugs and my bike family community, but I still feel connected with them while I am on my bike. We are connected by so much more than group rides and races. We are still together on two wheels. The bike becomes the universal voice of kindred spirits doing our best, as one, for a greater good.
, Community Manager for GU, Gravel Racer
When your job literally revolves around cycling events, races, camps, media engagements, and managing athletes like mine does, it’s quite unsettling and scary to have it all vaporize in a matter of weeks. It shouldn’t be a surprise then, that the bike is where I’ve turned to help me process and deal with the fear and uncertainty that have been haunting me the past month, and—as ironic as it may sound in these physically distant times—stay “connected” to my community. The bike has been my therapist of sorts. Lately, I start many rides full of angst, worry, grief, fear, disbelief, and sadness only to find that the simple act of turning the pedals over helps me turn my mood around. The fresh air, the headwinds, the blue skies, the poppies, the rain, the wildlife, the bucolic scenery of Northern California, along with the endorphins that come from the physical exertion, allow me to move my mood. I can feel the dread and despair begin to peel away as the miles go by. Yes, I dearly miss the social connection to my cycling tribe, and look forward to a time when we can all ride together again, but for now, my pedal strokes, even in isolation, make me feel connected to them, make me feel better again, and remind me that we all need to keep chasing those patches of blue sky out there even when we’re riding into a storm.
, Pro Cyclocross Racer
Honestly, this hasn’t changed much for me since I don’t usually race during this time of year anyway. I’m still tired off and on from the intensity of the season, so I don’t mind riding easy on my own. I’ve always enjoyed alone time while riding, I get to listen to podcasts and explore at whatever pace I want to ride. I’ve never needed specific goals or people to ride with to motivate me since I simply just like riding my bike. I do miss our Saturday group ride for the intensity and social part, but it’s only temporary, so not having that option right now allows us to appreciate it more once it starts again.
, Test Manager
Cycling means control. A pandemic challenges the notion that we rule our own lives. I’d love to go to work and see my coworkers, go visit family, or even just sit in a coffee shop and people-watch over an espresso. I’d love to know, with the certainty of a test, that I don’t have COVID-19 and that my dad doesn’t have it, and that I’m not endangering him by staying with him as he recovers from back surgery. But mostly, I just sit inside and watch the world battle the virus from OLED screens and try not to think about selfish things like how much I miss my bike friends. Then I put on all the appropriate spandex bits and turn the pedals on my bike and it moves and, briefly, I feel in control again.
, Fitness & Health Director
Cycling has always meant freedom to me. Now, more than ever, it’s still that. It’s freedom from the confines of the tiny studio apartment in which I work from home all day. It’s freedom from the daily briefings and news reports that weigh on my mind. It’s freedom from relying on mass public transit for transportation. It’s freedom from the fear and uncertainty that cloud my thoughts daily. It’s freedom in a way to move my body safely It offers me some solace from the stress and anxiety that creep into each day. Sure, I miss riding with my friends and going on all-day epic adventures. In fact, I almost never rode alone before this. But now, I am just so grateful for the freedom the bike offers me, I’ll take it any way I can get it.
, Social Media Editor
三九电影网Right now, cycling is a tool for me to keep my sanity through all of this rather than a way to train for races. Over the winter, I was building up fitness to do crits and track races this spring, but with everything canceled, it’s actually taken a ton of pressure off. It’s also saved me some money that I might spend on a few upgrades for my bike. I now have more time to ride so I am setting goals for myself to spend more time on the bike but not forcing myself to do intervals. Getting out to ride is a crucial part of how I take care of my mental health. On days when I’m overloaded with work, I just go out for a short spin. It’s just enough for me to clear my head without stressing that I’ve been out too long and will be behind on work. I try to stay active every day whether that means getting on the bike or doing some yoga. I don’t try to force anything; I just observe what my body needs at that moment.
I spend most of my rides alone even when we are free to ride in groups but now that the option to ride in groups is gone, it really hits home how much I do enjoy the social aspect of riding or how much I took it for granted. I have no problem riding for one to three hours alone during the week, but those long three- to six-hour weekend rides that I occasionally do with a couple of friends and a coffee stop are dearly missed. I still find myself out there riding but often missing my friends and sharing the moments that happen on a long ride together.
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, Associate News Editor
Being out riding has eased some of the anxiety I feel surrounding everything that’s going on right now. I was also really surprised at how connected I felt to my neighbors by just merely passing them on the sidewalk. I was on a leisure ride the other day, and a few people were doing the same, and everyone seemed so happy to just see each other. I passed a couple of people who were just taking in some sun from their yards and every single one greeted me warmly. I can’t stress how important it has been for me to just get out and let the sun hit my face while I ride with my partner.