Cycling In A Pandemic
Bicycle, bicycle, bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle, bicycle, bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride it where I like
Cycling has quite definitely kept The Ericle more sane/less insane during the Covid crisis. I have always been a keen cyclist but The Pandemic has taken my pedalling to a whole new level and I can truly say that, for me, cycling has embraced an existential dimension. During lockdowns, when one’s world inevitably become inside-centred, in both senses of the word, cycling has more-than-ever delivered a reframing of The Everyday. It does that at many levels; perhaps most significantly as lockdown routes – despite having, by definition, to be circular – are freeform and, thus, have enabled a reconnection with my ‘various’ worlds; one day cycling through the city centre, the next along a canal and on others into the countryside.
The idea for setting myself a target to ride 2021 miles in 2021 occurred to me as December ended when I realised – thanks to the Strava app – that I was just short of having cycled 1000 miles in 2020. Given that I had only cycled a total of some 350 miles in the previous 2 years, this milestone of 1000 miles in a year seemed too magnificent to ignore; so I made sure I completed my Mille Miglia by the end of the year. As I was completing this target, and with another year of lockdown in prospect, I pondered what target I should set for the coming year that would take my cycling to the next level. Given that during 2020 I cycled an average of 3 rides a week, albeit that I really hadn’t got going till April, my initial thought was to aim for a 50% increase in distance. This seemed challenging but also probably do-able. But that word ‘probably’ bothered me. Every good challenge should have a reasonable amount of uncertainty about it and ‘probably do-able’ wasn’t that. And at that point in my musings I realised that only a Doppio Mille Miglia would meet the criteria. The extension of this by 21 miles followed as night followed day to a Mad Man, as myself.
I switched over to an e-bike in September 2017; a 68th birthday present to myself. Until about the turn of the century, my principle recreational sports had been distance-running (I ran the London Marathon in 1992 & 1997) & tennis. Though I’d always owned a cycle, my use of it was majorly for good-weather commuting. When in 1997, after my 2nd injury-plagued marathon, having been forewarned off running by the medical specialists, I bought a touring bike and began participating in mid-distance (up to 40 miles or so) rides. In 2005, attracted by the prospect of seeing the Tour de France arriving on the Champs Elysees, I participated in a 4-day London to Paris charity bike ride and, in 2013, I rode in the first Ride 100 over the Olympics route. Sadly, this ride was the last significant one on a traditional bicycle for me, as age was taking its course and the inclines were proving too challenging over longer distances. That was when I started looking at e-bikes. Unfortunately, they are not of trivial expense. These days the entry level price for an e-bike is about £500 but this is for a bike of limited range and bog-standard type. The bottom end for a decent touring bike will start at around £2000; so not an impulse purchase by any means. However in 2017, with my tennis also becoming increasingly injury-prone, I took the plunge and ploughed the proceeds of the sale of my increasingly under-used motorbike into an e-bike.
Now for those of you who don’t know much about e-bikes, they are definitely not motorised vehicles! You have to pedal and e-assistance kicks in only upon request. In fact, on the flat an e-bike really has no point to it as by law the motor disengages at 15 m.p.h. So it’s all about getting a bit of help going up hills – which is just what I need. Most e-bikes have 4 settings: off-economy-normal-power. For most of my cycling, I ride without any power assisting and will engage the lowest setting, (economy), for hills and the mid-setting (normal) for serious lumps. With this sort of minimal engagement of power, I managed to cycle 160 miles to Lymington over 2 days in August, using 90% of my battery. The way I describe e-cycling experience is that it’s like being on an exercise bike with an extra facility of an extra gear when the resistance gets too tough for you. Except, of course, that with an e-bike you get outdoors and get to go places.
I will post monthly updates on my progress and rides, which can be followed on Strava (here). AND if you are so minded, it would be grand if you could sponsor me. Every penny raised will go to Macmillan Cancer Support. (£20.21 would work very well!) You can donate via my fundraising page:
(You can avoid paying Just Giving fees by choosing the ‘Other’ & £0.00 options)