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Road Culture

Groad Trip: Pete’s rules for riding right now

Ride alone, pack your own snacks, know thy spigots, and other helpful rules for those who can still get out.

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Here in Northern California, like most of the world, we are following a mandatory Shelter in Place order. I feel quite fortunate that our local officials continue to allow outdoor cycling. Their logic is sound: a dose of Vitamin D and exercise is good for your soul, your sanity, and your immune system.

There was a hiccup, though: That first weekend, as folks were adjusting to the new restrictions, our trailheads and beaches were packed. In an effort to escape and social distance, everyone headed to nature’s playgrounds. Not surprisingly, the following Monday night our health officials closed all state, county, and local parks and beaches. So MTB seems to be done for now, and I get it. Now can one responsibly give 6 feet of distance on sweet flow singletrack? Luckily, road cycling is still allowed, as is walking and running, with the idea that you can exercise from your place of residence for your wellbeing, not traveling for adventure.

As I hear of outdoor group rides still happening, I become increasingly nervous that restrictions will become tighter and I will be like my colleagues in Italy and Spain who cannot leave the house to ride and are stuck indoors on the trainer. Thus, I overdose on my rides leading into the weekend, half expecting they will be my last for a while. Luckily, every weekend since has been rainy, keeping the masses at bay, and buying me another week of outdoor pleasure.

If you are allowed to ride outdoors, enjoy the simple pleasure of a SOLO escape from the world’s drama. Bikes are great medicine. Just do so responsibly. In the grips of cabin fever boredom, I made a “highly instructive and professional” video outlining the best practices should you venture out.


Rules to ride by. Photo: Pete Stetina

To get my group ride fix, I have been joining the masses on the trainer. The folks at Zwift have helped me create a Gravelleurs ride. I noticed early on how my wife, working from home, seemed to be missing her daily routine, so I figured having a scheduled and constant exercise group to look forward to might be a mental aid. This ride is very much the gravel ethos: Social and communal. By all means go fast if you want, but a lot of us are just getting a nice 45-minute spin session in before returning to our respective home office stations. I can see all the comments and questions that crop up and message the entire group back. Plus, all of our avatars have gravel bikes and are on the dirt roads in Watopia, kicking up dust. So far the feedback has been positive; a lot of people are enjoying the non competitive and chatty vibe of the ride. I’ve even got a few of my gravel pro counterparts joining me as guest co-hosts for some of the rides!

One of the hardest parts of this time for me is the slow rollout of event postponements and cancellations. It’s like death by a thousand cuts. Being a goal-oriented person, when an event is postponed I look to the next event to find that flame of motivation that allows me to bite that stem for another hill repeat. When that following event is subsequently postponed, I feel like I’m staring into an abyss for a day or two until I recalibrate for the next date on the calendar. It’d almost be easier mentally if everything was conservatively cut further out than expected so we could have a concrete expectation for when to begin again rather than holding out hope for yet another disappointment.

Thus my motivation has become to just stay fit in general, knowing that maintaining that base fitness is much easier than building it up from the offseason low point that I just dug myself out of. I’m riding enough to stay sane and, when there is a firm race one month out, I can begin the sharpening process. Overall I think this season will be about peaking from August through November. If we are racing by June that will almost be like our typical early spring season races.

I use my elbow for the water spigot. Photo: Pete Stetina

I do try to focus on the silver linings of this though. I am seeing a lot of positives: How communities are supporting each other, how the air is cleaner, how we wave more at passing neighbors and strangers, and even how cars more often give me 3 feet of space when passing. It seems like everyone is slowing down and smelling the flowers. Personally this experience has resulted in my doing a few long soul-cleansing rides, going longer than most training rides would be under normal circumstances. A ride like this is like meditation for me, and adds another level of complexity when you adhere to my Covid-19 cycling rules 2 & 3 above. It’s given me motivation to get out the door and get some miles in. As a bonus, it makes the day go by fast, which feels like a treat lately.

I’ve also been doing a lot more home projects. I think our garden will match its all time peak, which flourished in 2015 when I was hobbling around on crutches with a broken leg and unable to ride. I’ve also created my own sourdough starter from scratch, perfected my personal recipe and am now moving into the realm of sourdough pretzels, which go great with those quarantine beers.

Stay healthy out there, stay sane, get creative, and I hope we can have 2-wheeled adventures TOGETHER again soon.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.