A global pandemic and the prospect of weeks of lockdown. No riding with your buddies or being able to shred your favourite trails. It’s a scary time and no one seems to know when it’s going to end, but with new restrictions comes a chance for focus. For me this means a chance to really explore my local lanes and develop a fresh perspective on riding.
My brain is usually filled with half baked plans, possibilities, wishes, leading to endless and mostly fruitless, decision making. Which bike shall I ride? Where shall I ride it? Where has this person been riding? Will option A be as fun as option B? It makes life feel very short.
What happens when all of these choices are taken from you? In my case, some relief! I now know exactly where all of my rides are beginning and ending. I know how to prepare and pack for each excursion. I’m not worrying about flights, food, mechanicals or having a bad experience. Life is suddenly very simple and I’m going to make the most of it whilst I can!
I am very lucky in my situation; I can still work (bike shops are allowed to stay open), I do not fall into the high risk category and here in the UK we are able to leave our homes to exercise once a day.
Here are the things I have learnt so far in lockdown:
Is the new on road. Who bothers with roads now? Roads are just the gaps between the dirt. And there is so much dirt to be found! Byways, Bridleways and Back roads (?), the three B’s of route planning. I had no idea there were so many of these on my doorstep. My appreciation for my local area has grown and so too has my tyre width.
Take care of yourself
No bikes shop stops and no embarrassing lifts home. Tools, snacks and plenty of water. It’s only a few miles from your house, but don’t risk an annoying mechanical cutting your ride short, it’s the only one you’re likely to have all day!
I have flirted with front racks, quaint musettes, discreet snack pouches and now find myself in a stylish bum bag phase. All good ways to carry those snacks and camera, whilst making a bit of a fashion statement at the same time. If you have no concept of fashion, that is.
No bonking allowed!
With no option to stop off at the nearest cafe for the obligatory coffee and cake, I have had to seriously up my snacking game. So many experimental sandwiches and well thought out energy bars, like Outdoor Provisions’ delectable offerings. Cheese, mayo and sweet chilli sauce sandwiches compacted for half a ride is really doing it for me at the moment! You absolutely cannot beat a flask of home made coffee. Try it!
Slow is ok! (Inspiration from @Arafcc)
These routes are chock full of fields, abandoned tracks, broken roads and shaded lanes. Once you reach these hidden gems, you’ll quickly find yourself alone. No worries of social distancing, just you, your thoughts and the birds. This is likely a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience clearer skies and cleaner air. Just lay back on the grass and listen to the birdsong. Notice your breathing slow. Top your caffeine levels back up with that brew. Take time to capture the perfect bike shot (don’t forget the stick!). Repeat after me: I am a lucky little gravelier, I am a lucky little gravelier, I am a lucky little gravelier!