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Adjusting to New Realities

In uncertain times, it’s good to remember what is important to us and how we can continue to enjoy our lives. Cycling is what we do, and, fortunately, it’s something we can continue to do.

Yesterday, I pulled an old magazine from our archives, published in 1944 by the French Cyclotouring Federation amidst war and German occupation. With beautiful photos and inspirational texts, it reminded cyclists that there was a beautiful world out there, waiting for times to get better. It’s a symbol of resilience in the face of difficulty, and it’s helped me cope with the current situation.

Here is Seattle, we’ve been living with the new realities for a while. Just over two weeks ago, during a bike ride, Mark shared the news that the virus was spreading in our community. The same strain that had infected the first U.S. case two months ago also caused the first death six weeks later. The virus had traveled undetected for six weeks – it was clear that we were seeing the tip of the iceberg.

While our local, state and national leaders dithered and procrastinated, we began taking measures on our own. Social distancing was the first, obvious step. Implementing workplace precautions was the next. Checking with our suppliers and examining which of our outstanding orders might be affected – mostly by a slow-down of transportation – was last.

Beyond that, life has continued. We have been doing what we can to minimize the risk to ourselves and others. And once we had taken these measures, we stopped worrying. We no longer follow the news every hour, because it doesn’t affect how we live.

What does this mean in practice, as we ride our bikes? Not much, really. Now I prefer to ride alone or with a single friend. Drafting in close quarters and breathing hard is something that I’d rather avoid.

As the wind carries micro-droplets away to the back, riding in close quarters isn’t a problem as long as we ride two abreast. Fortunately, our favorite routes see little traffic, and there is no need to ride ‘single file.’

Coffee stops have become picnic stops instead. I bring a thermos with hot tea in my handlebar bag… We sit a little further apart as we drink our tea.

The emotional impact of the rapidly changing situation has been hard for many. I am reminded of the French cyclotourists, who continued to cycle during the war. When curfews and travel restrictions made long cyclotouring trips impossible, they turned to competition in Paris and its environs. Events like sprints in the Bois de Boulogne and cyclocross races on Montmartre provided much-needed distraction. Cycling clubs became support networks during the difficult times.

For us, it’s the opposite: Competition is no longer on the cards, but long trips to the solitude of the mountains are the best way of social distancing. We may not be able to travel to foreign countries for a while, but there is plenty to explore close to home.

Compared to the German occupation of Paris, the restrictions associated with the virus are manageable. And just like the occupation, this will not last forever. Let’s stay strong and do the right thing. And let’s support each other, even if we can’t ride together for a while.

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