WHAT CYCLISTS CAN DO ABOUT CORONAVIRUS
I’m writing this on Monday, my rest day when I’m off the bike. But, I can’t seem to rest today.
I rode 80 miles solo on Saturday, physically and socially distanced on a day I would normally do a group ride. We’re typically 10 to 20 people who have become friends riding together and having a great time.
There’s 3 to 4 times the number of cyclists and at least half as many cars as I normally see on the road now. That should be a reason to rejoice. Instead, it seems eerily odd.
While I’m feeling healthy and practicing my best social distancing and safe cycling techniques while biking outside, I’m also feeling useless at a time of incredible need on the part of so many during this coronavirus pandemic.
Instead of riding, shouldn’t I be home spending more time with my wife and kids when all of us are resetting our work and school and social habits and rhythms? Shouldn’t I be calling my Mom and mother-in-law more frequently? (Yes, regardless.)
Should I be checking in with other family, friends, and neighbors who I don’t talk with regularly? Say hi, see how they are doing, compare notes, share a memory or a laugh, and just try to help each other stay relaxed and upbeat amidst all the stress and downers around us?
I’ve already gotten over the reality that most of my cycling calendar for this season is out the window and have adjusted my training plan to build a bigger base than I’ll likely ever get to use.
Judging from the added number of kudos and comments added to our Strava reports, my cycling friends seem to be more in touch than ever. And my cycling club’s two-week-old #coronavirus Slack channel buzzes throughout the day with members sharing helpful articles and studies about what’s going on locally and nationally.
I check in on the latest news about the coronavirus frequently during the day – a necessary distraction I tell myself – and probably spend an hour a day of otherwise productive work or family time reading one study or another about what’s going on or what’s likely to happen or what went wrong.
All the while, I’ve been feeling totally useless knowing that I’ve contributed nothing to help stop this pandemic outside my own social distancing and supporting my little world of family and some friends.
So I asked myself today, what I can do as a cyclist who has this platform that engages thousands of fellow cyclists that would be useful beyond my world?
Here are four things I came up with and have begun to do. I ask you to consider either doing these yourself or doing something related that you are more comfortable with.
1. GIVE BLOOD – As regular cyclists, we enthusiasts are generally healthier than most. While blood isn’t required to treat coronavirus, there’s always a need for blood for people who have been in an accident, are heart surgery patients, and those fighting cancer. Except now, with so many people afraid to go out and more people likely to get sick in the coming weeks, there may be fewer willing or available to give blood.
Our spring events and have been canceled and our training schedules can work in a recovery ride or two if needed after we donate. If you live in the US, schedule a time to give blood, platelets or plasma at this signup link on the American Red Cross site.
2. DONATE CYCLING BUDGET – You know those races or centuries or gravel events we were planning to do? That hotel we had planned to stay at for that cycling weekend? That new jersey or bib shorts we may have been eyeing for one of those events or weekends? Unfortunately, as you know, they’re not happening this spring and perhaps not this summer. Fortunately, we’ve just saved ourselves some money and perhaps a lot of money because of it.
Where can we redirect that money to help out an organization that can put it to good use during the coronavirus outbreak?
Think about this for a moment. Most of us are being asked and some are being ordered to stay in our homes. But the homeless have no homes to stay in. Homeless shelters need more staff, more supplies, and more facilities for their guests who are more likely to have comorbidities that make them more vulnerable. Serving them takes more money during the coronavirus.
I’ve just given to a couple of shelters in my metro area. You can use this link to find a one in your community and send them that event fee you had refunded, that night’s hotel charge you didn’t spend or that expense for the kit you didn’t order.
We can also give to a local food bank, Feed the Children, or Direct Relief that helps equip doctors and nurses in the US and internationally with life-saving medical resources to care for the world’s most vulnerable people. Support whatever charity or non-profit you want to see keep afloat during this economic downturn.
I have read about all the trillion-dollar economic recovery programs in the US and around the world that are moving forward now but I can imagine that shelters, food banks, and a myriad of other worthy non-profits aren’t getting swamped with government support right now. Let’s help them out by donating the cycling budget we won’t be able to use this year to help them keep going.
3. RUN (OR RIDE) AND ERRAND FOR A NEIGHBOR – Got a cargo bike or a mountain or commuter bike with a rack on the back? How about a backpack you can wear while riding your road bike? Of course you do.
Let’s reach out to an elderly neighbor, an overburdened friend, a colleague in a higher-risk group and see how we can help. Is there something we can pick up for them at the store or pharmacy? Can we help them with some spring yard work or something else around the house? Is there something they need help doing that our particular expertise or goodwill can help them with?
My 75-year-old+ neighbor has three children who come from 1-2 hours away to see him regularly. But they’ve got more going on now due to their professions and more stress due to their kids being at home. They’re still coming but I’m their backstop and will be helping out where I can this spring. As a minimum, I know I’ve got some raking in my near future.
4. RIDE RESPONSIBLY – Most stay-at-home advisories or shelter-in-place orders still allow us to go outside and ride. That’s one of the privileges of being a cyclist. Riding certainly keeps me sane in the best of times. We need it now more than ever.
But, do we all know what we should and shouldn’t be doing when we ride outside now? In my best schoolmarm voice, here are my rules of coronavirus cycling.
The obvious stuff: Ride solo or only with those we live with. Ride in uncrowded areas or at times when our routes will likely be less crowded. Refill our glycogen stores by eating healthy carbs like rice or pasta within a couple of hours of a ride to maintain our immune systems.
The responsible stuff: Bring enough food and drink to make up for the cafe or convenience store stops we’d normally make during our rides. Be sure to carry the tools and tubes and supplies we need to fix something on the road. Ride closer to home, on roads and routes we know, around places we can easily and quickly return home from, and at times someone is available to pick us up if we encounter a mechanical or another issue that we just can’t fix en route. (No more 80-mile rides Steve!)
The get-real stuff: Now is not a great time to be going for it, setting personal bests, testing your limits or taking risks that we can’t recover from on our own. And don’t put another rider we might be passing or a car driven by someone stressed out about their health or job (or just normally distracted) in a position to have a close encounter of the wrong kind with us.
Yeah, I know we’re all great cyclists and nothing is going to happen to us. But, get-real and recognize that if it does, we may put an extra burden on our family and on health care workers and a system that is increasingly burdened and perhaps won’t have the capacity to deal with us.
We should treasure our time riding outside and, at the same time, treat it with the responsibility that goes with our freedom to ride.
In the comment section below, give me and all In The Know Cycling readers more and better suggestions about what cyclists can do about coronavirus. Tell us what you are doing or plan to do and what you’d like me and your fellow cyclists to do. And then let’s do it!